Monday, July 1, 2013

Ukrainian Red Borsh Recipe

My husband served a mission in the Ukraine for two years and one of the members there made a bunch of recipe books for the elders to take home, full of some awesome traditional Ukrainian recipes. The only drawback about this for me is that it's all written in Russian/Cyrillic.
So, every time we've wanted to make our favorite Ukrainian Dish, Ukrainian Red Borsh, I've needed my husband right there to translate for me, every ingredient and step of the way.

It's been about 9 years since he left the Ukraine and so this last time that we made it, the translation seemed to take a bit longer for him than usual and in the end he finally decided to write it all down in the margins in English as he went. The soup itself turned out really well, (seriously, even if you think you don't like beets, this soup will change your mind!) so we of course were sharing pictures and accolades all over facebook for a couple of days. Which, of course, inevitably resulted in people asking for the recipe. I've been intending to post it here ever since, and now, over 3 months later, it looks like today is finally the day!

Ukrainian Red Borsh*


1-3 fresh beets shredded or grated. (depending on size. If large, one is usually sufficient, but if small you may even want three. You really can't go overboard with this ingredient as it is. After-all, it is beet soup.)

2 lbs of potatoes cubed or about 4 regular potatoes (about the size of an index card) We chose to use smaller red potatoes this time around so we used  more. Once again amounts can vary without ruining anything.

2 large carrots grated.

2 onions grated very fine. (sweet red onions are our favorite)

1 cabbage cut into long, thin strips, (sort of like noodles. We used red cabbage but green will also work)

1/2 cup of cooking oil, your choice.

3.5 oz tomato paste (That amounts to about half of a small 6 oz can, but I'm thinking we used the whole can.)

1 sweet pepper, sliced. We prefer red bells, though yellow or orange would be yummy too.

2 bay leaves

Salt and pepper to taste.

4 liters of meat or veggie stock. The original calls for beef stock or bullion, but we used the organic chicken stock from Costco. You can also make your own stock. 

  1. In your largest pot, bring stock to a boil.
  2. Add half of the grated beet(s) into the boiling stock. (We used the food processor to shred the beets this last time and it was a so much faster than grating it by hand, though not necessarily less messy.)
  3. Once the beets have turned white add the potatoes.
  4. Add half of the carrots and half of the onions after the potatoes have come to a boil.
  5. Once carrots and onions come to a boil, add all of the cabbage to the stock. Cook for 15 minutes.
  6. In a large skillet or frying pan, place the remaining beets, carrots and onions in the oil and cook for 5 minutes.
  7. Then add to the pan, the sliced pepper, the tomato paste and 2 cups of water. Cook for 5 more minutes.
  8. Add everything from the pan into the pot of stock with the bay leaves and boil for 5-10 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  9. Can be served with sour cream or Greek yogurt as a nice condiment.

    This soup in incredibly tasty and healthful. I've begun to refer to it as prenatal soup because it's so chock full of iron and other important nutrients. Also, it is so much better the next day. This batch turned out really good even for the first day (during which I ended up eating 5 bowls of it.) but during the following days the flavors continue to blend and mature and it just gets better and better!

    Also, this makes a LOT of soup. When I said use your largest pot, I wasn't kidding. We almost couldn't fit everything into the one we have (8 quarts) when it came time to add the skillet veggies to the main soup. Our stove was a huge mess due to the effects of the ruby red soup boiling so happily near the edge of the pot. It was so worth it though! In fact, I believe I will have to enlist the hubs into another Borsh making session soon. If only it weren't so hot outside. Hmm . . . 

*P.s. I would like to note that while Borsh is usually spelled as 'Borscht' in English and your spell checkers will not approve of another spelling, my Russian speaking husband feels that this is completely erroneous and only encourages people to mispronounce a rather simple word.
The Cyrillic spelling which looks like this:
борщ, contains 4 characters, one of which equates to our letter 'b' another to 'o' another to 'r' and the final one to the 'sh' sound. There is no 'ch' or 't' sound in Borsh.
I am simply noting this to explain my spelling of the word in order to avoid a lot of unnecessary comments about it later. Believe me, it is completely intentional and not done in ignorance. Thanks!