Borscht is probably the most internationally recognised iconic Russian dish.
Origins of Borscht
There is some irony in that because, as popular as it is within Russia, Borscht (or shall we say, Borshch) is a soup that the Ukraine strongly identify as their own. This may make for a controversial clarification, but the Ukraine has a great sense of pride associated with the dish, and rightly so, as the dish is said to have originated there some 700 years ago!
Can’t we all just eat veg and get along?
If there’s one thing that I and indeed most all of East Europe can agree on, it’s that whoever invented Borscht, we are glad they did! It’s a dish that is widely popular across the Eastern European nations. Many are likely to claim it as their own, and there are countless slight variations on the recipe. The iconic soup is famous in America as well, where, though loved by many, it is received with a notably more mixed enthusiasm. Like beets themselves, some people love them, some people hate them, and a few people fall in the middle.
Borscht in America
To most Americans, Borscht is synonymous with Beet Soup. Borscht is a soup made with beets, and a soup made with beets in Borscht. Of course, there’s a little more to it than that. In truth, there is a lot more to Borscht than just beets. And of course, there are types of Borscht which use no beetroot at all! Namely, Green Borscht and Clear Borscht.
Is Borscht Vegetarian?
For those of us on plant-based diets, it’s important to know that sometimes Borscht has meat in it, and sometimes it is completely vegan. So read the ingredients, or ask your Waiter if you’re eating out, just to be sure. If you ask me, the best thing to do is make your own!
Here is my recipe that I’ve been ‘perfecting’ over the course of Russia month. It’s a healthy, hearty, warming bowl thick with rich vegetables and beans. It might not be a bad idea to make a large batch to ensure you survive the imminent assault from The Beast The East.1
- 1 Litre of Vegetable Stock
- 700ml Tomato Puree
- 3 Medium Potatoes, peeled and julienned
- 340g Cabbage, sliced thin
- 1 Tablespoon Vegetable Oil (I used Rice Bran Oil)
- 2 Beetroot, peeled and julienned
- 2 Carrots, peeled and julienned
- 1 Onion, peeled and julienned
- 1 Red Pepper, peeled and julienned
- 1 teaspoon Salt
- 1/2 teaspoon Black Pepper
- 2 Tins Butter Beans (or ~470g cooked and drained beans)
- Juice of 1 Lemon
- 4 Cloves of Garlic, minced
- 1 Tablespoon Fresh Dill, minced
- Prep the veg as directed in ingredient list. I julienned all the vegetables around 2-2.5 inches long, leaving the potatoes a little bit chunkier than the rest.
- Add the Stock, Tomato, Potatoes, and Cabbage to a large pot. Cover with a lid and place over high heat.
- Place oil in a large skillet over high heat. Add the prepped Beetroot, Carrots, Onion, and Red Pepper. Season with Salt and Pepper. Reduce both burners to a medium heat and cook for 15 minutes, stirring the vegetables in the skillet occasionally.
- Add the sautéed vegetables to the soup pot, along with the Beans, Lemon, Garlic, and Dill. Simmer for 15-20 minutes (just long enough to soften the root vegetables)
This recipe is for a very thick and chunky soup. Feel free to add a bit more stock, if you like more broth to your Borscht!
- Yeah, that sentence is totally not going to make sense to anyone outside of Ireland and the UK, or anyone anywhere beyond this week. Basically, as I write, Ireland is all worked up about a bit of snow in the forecast. http://www.thejournal.ie/beast-east-explainer-3872877-Feb2018/