Monday, August 12, 2013

The Ultimate Beet Borscht

When I was a kid my grandparents used to make an amazing beet borscht.  If you are the kind of person who thinks beet borscht should basically just be beets and maybe onions or something and only the teensiest smattering of dill, go home now please.  Sometimes at work there is beet borscht and everyone is all "this is just the deadliest beet borscht ever" and I'm like "you guys, no" because you haven't had beet borscht until you've had the kind that uses the whole beet and also ALL THE VEGETABLES.  And no meat, please.  Let the vegetables shine on their own.

My grandma stopped making borscht a few years ago because it is too much work for her to tackle anymore so I've been getting my borscht fix from the Farmers' Market - one of the vendors makes a good one that is pretty close to what I remember eating and loving as a kid.

We got a bag of beets in our latest PayDirt Farms CSA box and Brahm said "we should make borscht" and by "we" he meant "Robyn".  My mom had a couple of different recipes from an old Ukranian cookbook that she said she thought was close to what my grandparents used, but just to try and combine the recipes and use trial and error.

These instructions might sound daunting to some ("sort of combine these two recipes and use trial and error") but I consider myself to be a fairly talented soup-maker so I gave it a shot.  And it WORKED. 

I wasn't totally sure what was going to happen but as soon as I tried the first spoonful out of the stock pot and the familiar flavour I had been missing for so long came back to me, it was possibly the highlight of my week.

Knowing you can create something that you thought might be lost forever is kind of amazing. 

And now, the recipe for the ultimate beet borscht.  Try this and you'll never go back to your wimpy "beets only" borscht.

Please note that quantities are EXTREMELY APPROXIMATE.

1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, pressed
1/2 head cabbage, shredded
10 cups of weak chicken stock (or 5 cups water, 5 cups regular strength stock)
~15 young (small) beets, including leaves and stems (not optional)
  •  Chop the beets, stems, and leaves but keep each section separate
3 medium potatoes, cubed
4 carrots, chopped small
~1/2 cup fresh peas
1 lb green or yellow beans, cut into bite sized lengths
1 can navy beans, drained and rinsed (I forgot to include these but good idea for protein)
~1/2 cup of fresh dill, chopped but not too small (or even more if you want but don't skimp on the dill)
~1.5 cups of diced tomatoes (canned is okay)

Heat oil in a large stockpot and add onions and garlic.  Cook for about 3 minutes, add the cabbage and stir until cabbage is starting to get cooked.  Add the water/stock and bring to a boil.  Add beets, turn heat down to medium-high.  After about 5 minutes, add the carrots.  After another 5 minutes, add the beans, peas, potatoes, beet stems, and tomatoes.  When the potatoes are basically done, add the dill and beet leaves.  Cook for a few more minutes until everything you try is cooked through.  Salt and pepper to taste if desired.  This makes about 4-5 litres of soup.

As long as you understand cooking times and stuff, you really can't go wrong.  Use the whole beet and use a ton of dill and dump in every vegetable you can find and you'll have yourself a bowl of amazing beet borscht.  The cooking time of this soup was really quick but the prep (working alone) took a couple hours.  Worth it though!

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