Borscht or Borshch was once enjoyed by the Romans, with beets and cabbage grown specifically to be enjoyed in the soup. The modern version as we know it started to appear in the 15th century. Did you know that beets were prescribed as an aphrodisiac?!
An unproved food legend revolves around a story of the Cossacks at war in the 1600s. Feeding four thousand Cossacks in a camp was problematic, so everything edible went into the soup pot, resulting in a enjoyable mixture of vegetables and meat.
Over the centuries there have been a number of varieties of developed. I have included most of the ingredients used, and you can pick and choose. In my family we don’t use cabbage, and we julienne our vegetables (cut into thin strips) while others shred them. It is just as enjoyable without meat. I love mine with vinegar at the end along with the dollop of sour cream. All have the distinctive red color, and are best prepared the day before to let the flavours blend.
Hearty Russian Beef Beet Borscht
- 12 medium Beets
- 1 tbsp. olive oil
- 2 small to medium turnips, unpeeled grated or jullienned
- 2 medium to large parsnips, unpeeled grated or jullienned
- 4-6 medium carrots upeeled grated or julienned
- 2 large onions, chopped
- 1 medium cabbage head, shredded or julienned optional
- 3 tbsp. unsalted butter
- 2 large potatoes, cubed
- 8 ounces tomato paste
- 1 - 2 cups cooked/roast beef cubed
- 12 cups beef stock*
- 1 sprg parsley or dill
- 1 pinch Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 large lemon optional to taste
Prepare the Beets
- Preheat the oven to 400°F/200°C/Gas 6 and prepare a lined baking sheet with parchment paper. Rub each beet with a bit of olive oil, pierce a few times with a fork, then individually wrap each beet in tin foil. Place the beets on the baking sheet and roast for for 1 to 1.5 hours or until easily pierced with a knife. Remove from the oven, allow to cool. They can now be easily peeled by rubbing. Grate or julienne the cooled beets and set aside.
Start the Vegetables
- Melt butter in a large french oven. When the butter begins to foam, add the prepared root vegetables (except for cabbage and potatoes) and saute until they have softened. Reduce the heat to low and stir in tomato paste.
Add the Stock
- Add the beef stock and bring to a boil (skim off the scum on the surface). Then add the cabbage (if using) and the potatoes. Reduce to a simmer and simmer for 10 minutes. Continue simmering gently, partially covered, for 40 minutes, adding more stock to thin the soup if needed.
- Add the beets, cubed meat, and more salt if needed. Add lemon juice to taste. The exact amount of lemon juice will depend on your taste, but the goal is to strike a perfect balance between sweetness and acidity so your borscht is neither too sour, nor too sweet. Simmer for another 10 to 15 minutes, or until the beets are no longer dark-red and the garlic has mellowed out. Remove from heat and stir in the parsley or dill