I live in New York City. I was born in Los Angeles and have spent my entire life in the United States. My parents, both born in this country, spent their entire lives here as well. Of my four grandparents, some were born here and others in the “old country.” The stories on both sides change slightly each time they are told. There was a village near Kiev in the Ukraine or maybe it was in Romania. The family business was shoemaking, or maybe it was tin smithing.
One of these days I’m going to sit my elderly family members down and get the stories on all sides straight. This much I know: all of family, both sides going back two generations came from Eastern Europe. Most from what is now the Ukraine. In the 1800s it was the Pale of Settlement, a large geographical area allotted by the various monarchies for the unwanted Jewish population. Whatever you want to call it, it’s where my great grandparents lived and chances are, there was some form of borscht consumed.
This isn’t a family recipe. It’s not from any book. In fact, I found the internet surprisingly lacking in straight forward borscht recipes. Ukrainian borscht often included stewed pieces of meat but I wasn’t in the mood. I used beef broth instead for the meaty flavor. I like my borscht a bit hearty, so if you’re after a pretty clear pink soup…go elsewhere.
Ukranian-Style Borscht Recipe
You will need:
4 small beets
1 quart beef stock
1 tablespoon salt + more to taste
1 teaspoon white pepper
1 bay leaf
1 cup water
3 medium potatoes
1/4 head cabbage, about 2 cups roughly chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 14 oz. can chopped tomatoes (drained)
1 small onion, chopped
4 tablespoon sour cream to serve
4 tablespoons chopped dill to serve
1. First prepare all your vegetables. Peel 3 of the beets and 2 of carrots and either grate by hand on a large box grater, or shred in a food processor. Reserve 1 beet and 1 carrot, peel and chop into small 1/4 inch pieces. Peel and chop the potatoes and onions.
2. In a large soup pot, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions, bay leaf and garlic and cook for 5 minutes. Add the shredded beets, carrots and tomato paste and continue to cook. Then add the remaining chopped beets, carrots, potatoes, beef stock, 1 cup water, canned tomatoes, cabbage, pepper and salt. The liquid may not cover all the ingredients. Stir a few times and turn the flame up to high and bring the soup to a rolling boil. Boil for 5 minutes, then turn the heat way down to a simmer, cover and cook for 40-60 minutes.
3. Taste the borscht and add salt as necessary. Fish out and discard the bay leaf. You may need to cook it longer if the cabbage is still tough. Ladle into bowls and serve with a dollop of sour cream and a hearty tablespoon of chopped fresh dill.
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