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Recipe for Russian Borscht (or at least my version)

When I'll fly to Seattle in September to visit my family, I'm nearly a 100% sure there will be a large pot of borscht in the refrigerator.

What can I say? Growing up in Russia, we ate a lot of beets, and I've always loved them. In salads, soups, or simply roasted, not only do they have a vibrant deep purplish/pinkish color, but they have a natural sweetness to them that pairs so well with many other ingredients.

I've been lucky to grow up in the family where everyone cooks. I know I've mentioned it several times on this blog, but it's not a bad thing to repeat for my new readers. Both my parents, my grandmother and my dad's parents have always been home cooks, and rarely used a cookbook. That's how I cook now too.

But back to borscht. This Russian beet soup, which also typically consists of cabbage, potatoes and carrots, is definitely my dad's specialty. Even my grandma, his mother in law, claims that his version is better than my mom's. Can you get higher praise than that?

My dad's version of borscht varies every time he makes it depending on the season, ingredients available, and what he feels like adding or leaving out. When I got together with my friend Wendy this past weekend, she asked if we could make borscht. I called my dad, asked him to give me a basic run down of the recipe, and we started cooking.

This particular version has carrots, onions, garlic, beets, potatoes, cabbage, tomato paste, sugar, lemon juice, dill and parsley stems and is served with sour cream and dill. My dad also adds celery, red peppers, sometimes zucchini, and root of the parsley plant. You do what you want when you make your soup: feel free to use chicken or beef broth and even include shredded chicken or beef in the final dish.

{According to @katenthekitchen, these are are Chiogga Beets or Candied Stripe Beets. They are gorgeous, but because of the predominance of white color, did not result in the deep purple colored soup I was expecting.}

olive oil
1 cup peeled and cubed beets
1 cup peeled and cubed carrots
2/3 cups chopped onion
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
3 medium potatoes, peeled, quartered {I used the red ones}
1/2 small cabbage, sliced
parsley and dill stems
3 tablespoons tomato paste
sugar to taste
lemon juice
1/2 small beet peeled and shredded
sour cream


1. In a large pot {I used my 5.5 quart Le Creuset} heat olive oil. Add cubed beets and saute till soft. Add carrots and continue sauteing till they've softened. Add an onion and garlic clove and saute for a few more minutes till aromatic. Remove from the pot.

2. Add enough water to fill 1/2 of the pot. Add cabbage and potatoes and cook till they are almost tender. Add back beets/carrots/onion, parsley & dill stems and bring to a boil.

3. Meanwhile, in a small pot caramelize the tomato paste with a bit of sugar and parsley stems. The parsley stems will add a bit of flavor and can be removed later.

4. Add the tomato paste mixture to the soup and mix. Add in the uncooked shredded beet and let everything simmer for about 10 minutes.

5. Taste the soup. You may add more salt and pepper, sugar, and/or lemon juice. This will take a few attempts at getting the flavor right, but it'll be so worth it. Fish out parsley and dill stems.

6. Serve the soup with sour cream and dill {or you can use mayonnaise and cilantro. My dad is one of the cilantro haters though}.

The soup will only get better after sitting in the refrigerator overnight. It's great hot or cold.

I really hope you will give this recipe a try. Don't be afraid to add some of your own favorite vegetables to the soup. And let me know what you think!


Elena said...

great recipe! but Borscht isn't Russian, it's Ukranian! :)

Sarah said...

Family recipes are the best...I wish my Dad had the cooking gene like yours! Can't wait to give this recipe a try!

Olga @ MangoTomato said...

Elena, my dad actually grew up in Ukraine, but my mom's family who lived in Moscow always made this soup too. So I don't think it belongs to either place a 100%.

Sarah, can't wait to hear what you think of this recipe.

Unknown said...

Dad needs to see this! He'll be very proud

Maris(In Good Taste) said...

I always thought of borscht as Russian too. This looks really delicious

Bianca @ Confessions of a Chocoholic said...

This soup sounds so appetizing and it is so pretty! I have actually never had borscht but I like all the ingredients so I know I will like it as well! And topped with sour cream? No one can go wrong :)

Lori said...

This looks delicious! I have yet to find a way that I enjoy beets, but this might be it. Thanks for the little piece of food culture!

Erin said...

Such a pretty dish. I wish I shared your love for beets. They make for such good looking food. The rest of the dish sounds super tasty though. Maybe I'll give it a try in an attempt to curb my pickiness!

Rachel @ Not Rachael Ray said...

This looks really good! I've never had Borscht, but I love beets. Is it sometimes blended/pureed or amy I thinking of something different? I've never seen that type of beet, they are pretty! I bet they don't stain your hands as badly.

Meister @ The Nervous Cook said...

I'm embarrassed to say I've never had borscht before, though I love beets so, so much. (My current go-to lunch is a beet-and-boiled-egg sandwich -- everything I need in the world!)

It's always so great to learn of something that tastes even better the next day. I'm going to have to try this one out this Sunday for Monday's supper!

fundygirl said...

Here is the borscht I ate every time we went through Grand Forks BC , Russian but from the Doukhobor Sect in Canada Delicious, creamy and it really does freeze well. And yes you boil the cream with the tomatoes, and this stuff freezes beautifully.
• Yield: 18-20 servings

7 quarts water

2 quarts canned tomatoes

2 cups tomato juice

2 cups onion, chopped

10 medium potatoes, peeled and halved

1/4 lb butter

1 medium beet, quartered

1 3/4 cups carrots, chopped

1 3/4 cups celery, chopped

8 cloves garlic

1 green pepper, chopped

3 tablespoons salt

18 cups cabbage, shredded

1 pint whipping cream

1 1/2 cup potatoes, diced

1 cup green onions, chopped

1 cup fresh dill, chopped

Cook tomatoes and juice in pot for 1 hour. Sauté onions lightly in 1/8 lb. butter then add 3 cups cabbage and sauté. Add water to tomatoes and bring to boil. Add beet and halved potatoes. Cook until done. Remove beet and discard. Remove potatoes and mash with butter, add 1/2 pint whipping cream. Add remaining cream to water and tomatoes in the pot.

Add carrots, celery, garlic and green pepper to water mix. Cook till done then add mashed potatoes and diced potatoes. Bring to hard boil. Add shredded cabbage and bring to a hard boil. Add dill and green onions and bring to hard boil, add sautéed onion and cabbage and bring to hard boil. Take off burner and let stand uncovered till half cooled.

Do not use margarine or omit any ingredients. If using dry dill use 1/4 cup. Have all vegetables peeled and chopped before starting.

Olga @ MangoTomato said...

Thanks for sharing this recipe. It's definitely not something I've seen before, but that's the beauty of cooking: the variety! I just posted another borsch recipe today :)