My dad had a large veggie garden when I was growing up, and one of the vegetables we always had great success with was beets. So we'd harvest a bunch, boil 'em up, and eat them warm with a really simple serving of white vinegar, salt, and black pepper. This has somehow resulted in a strong fondness for beets.
So when I saw a large bag on sale, I decided to take the plunge and buy 'em. Now I'm stuck with > 10 lbs of beets and I pretty much only like them served in the way of my childhood. Sooo now I have the challenge of trying to figure out what to do with beets. Enter borscht.
I've never made borscht before. In fact, I've never even tasted borscht before. I don't even know what it's supposed to taste like. But this morning I searched the internetz and stole some ideas from four different recipes I found, and came up with my own borscht recipe. And whadda ya know, it tastes pretty good. I don't know how "authentic" it is, but it's pretty damn yummy (if you like beets, cabbage, and potatoes). So here it is, for your viewing pleasure.
Some notes: This recipe is slightly different from what I actually did. I was such a fan of the mashed potato step that I increased the amount of mashed potatoes below (today I actually only used 3 small potatoes for the mashed amount whereas below I suggest you use 2-3 medium potatoes). Additionally, if I were going to make this soup again, I would probably add 2 cloves of garlic when I add the carrots/celery/potatoes. I love my garlic. Lastly, I don't have cheesecloth, so I created the below (somewhat convoluted) way of flavouring my broth with spices. If you are cooking in a well-equipped kitchen and actually have cheesecloth, by all means stuff the first 6 ingredients into a little bundle of cheesecloth and save yourself the step of scooping potatoes and then draining broth. (see this recipe for how that works)
Ease: 3 somewhat easy
Time: 4 somewhat time consuming (lots of chopping, two different pots going on, three major steps. but worth it for a soup that is a whole meal!)
Ingredients: easy to get
Source: Inspiration from the following four websites, in approximately the order of importance:
- 1 bay leaf (or more, if you like)
- 1 tsp black peppercorns
- 1/8 tsp mustard seeds
- 3 sprigs fresh parsley
- 3 sprigs fresh thyme
- 2 cloves of garlic, crushed with the side of a knife
- 2-3 medium potatoes, very coarsely chopped
- at least 7 cups of water/veggie broth, divided (4 cups plus 3 cups); the final amount will be up to your personal taste.
- 3 Tbsp + 1 Tbsp oil (I used olive)
- 1 onion, sliced
- 2 carrots, julienned
- 1 stalk celery, diced
- 1-2 potatoes, diced
- 1 cup of canned diced tomatoes with juice
- 6 medium-large beets, peeled and julienned
- 2 Tbsp red wine vinegar (plus more to taste)
- 1/2 a head of green cabbage, finely sliced
- 1/4 cup cooking cream
- 1 Tbsp margarine
- 2 tsp salt
- 1 Tbsp sugar (I used a mixture of half brown, half white)
- 1 Tbsp dried dill
- 1 Tbsp dried parsley
- 1 tsp black pepper
- Sour cream (optional)
- Fresh dill (optional)
- In a large pot, boil 4 cups of broth with bay leaf, peppercorns, mustard seeds, parsley, thyme, and garlic (use the cheesecloth bundle if you have cheesecloth!). Add potatoes and cook until soft.
- Meanwhile, in a LARGE frying pan, fry onions in 3 Tbsp of oil until brown. Add carrots, celery, and potatoes and cook for 3 more minutes.
- Add diced tomatoes and beets to the frying pan. Add the vinegar right away ("to keep the colour and taste of the beets", whatever that means). Cook while you do the next step.
- Scoop out your boiled potatoes into a separate bowl and mash with the margarine and cream. Drain your flavoured broth through a strainer into a bowl (i.e. RESERVE THE BROTH because you're using it in your soup!). Pour the reserved broth back into the large pot and add all the veggies from the frying pan into the pot. (If you were using the cheesecloth method, all you'd need to do here is remove the cheesecloth bundle and scoop out the potates to mash. no straining involved).
- Add a bit more oil to the frying pan and cook the cabbage until it's a bit tender.
- While the cabbage is cooking, mix the broth & veggies, then add the mashed potatoes and the salt, sugar, dill, parsley, and black pepper.
- Add the cabbage to the pot (yes, you can put your frying pan in the sink now. We're done with it). Stir the soup well and cook, covered, for approximately 20 minutes until you see how much liquid the veggies release.
- After the 20 minutes is up, check on your soup and add extra broth/water until your soup has the veggie:liquid ratio you like. Put the lid back on and cook for at least 1 hour.
- Optional step (I didn't take this step): Remove some of the soup and blend it, then return it to the pot. This will yield a thicker soup.
- Serve with sour cream. And fresh (or dried) dill if you like.