Making borscht

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So I thought it might be nice to actually post one of my own recipes, rather than just my experience with other people’s.

My dad used to make borscht a lot when I was little, and then it kind of went off my radar for years. I think that a lot of people’s only experience of it is getting rid of skunk-stink in Rugrats, but a while back I decided to try making it and, after some refinements, this is the recipe I’ve settled on. It’s probably not strictly authentic, or correct, but it has the taste that I’m after with borscht, and is visually appealling.

Ingredients
(Serves four)

1 large onion (or 2 small)
2 sticks celery
2 large potatoes
5-6 fresh beetroot
1 tbsp caraway seeds
1 tbsp fennel seeds
1 bunch fresh dill
1.5 pints stock
Sour cream to serve

Method

First, finely chop the onion and, in a large heavy pan, fry it off in a little oil until soft. Roughly chop the celery, and add it to the pan, along with the caraway seeds, fennel seeds and chopped dill, reserving a little dill for a garnish.

Fry this mixture gently for a few minutes, stirring occasionally, and meanwhile dice the potatoes (you can leave the skin on). Top and tail the beetroot, and peel off any rough patches. (You can peel the whole thing if you like.) Chop the beetroot into rough chunks and add it to the pan along with the potato. You probably could use pickled beetroot here – it would save on some preparation – but I really prefer fresh. The vinegar in pickled beetroot takes away some of that lovely earthy flavour in the beetroot, and could leave the soup a bit acidic.

Stir the potato and beetroot through with the onion and other ingredients for a minute or two, to make sure that it is all well mixed together.

Add the stock to the pan. I tend to use pork or ham stock, because that’s strictly speaking more traditional it, as I understand, but chicken stock works too, and you could of course use vegetable stock if you wanted to keep the soup vegetarian. I think beef stock would be a bit overpowering, though.

Bring the soup to the boil briefly, and then return to a simmer. Cook for around twenty minutes, stirring occasionally. Avoid overcooking it, because the colour will start to leach out of the beetroot and you’ll lose that lovely purple colour.

At this point, you’ve got options. You can either blend the soup in a food processor to make it smooth, or you can keep it more chunky. I tend to go halfway. I take a potato masher and roughly mash some of the potatoes and beetroot in the pan, to break them up and thicken the soup, while still leaving some good chunks. Make sure you turn the heat right down when you do this, and avoid splashing yourself because, well, beetroot stains wonderfully.

Make sure that the soup is heated through thoroughly, and serve with crusty bread and, if you like, a generous spoon of sour cream and a sprig of dill to garnish.

The soup keeps up to three days in a sealed pot in the fridge, and is just as good after a day or two, as long as you make sure it’s piping hot when you serve it.

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