A few weeks ago, we had a bunch of red beets from our farm share. I asked M if she'd like to make borscht and she agreed. Only when we finished did she tell me "I come all the way to America to learn to make Ukrainian Borscht." Ha!
Borscht is basically a beef-vegetable soup. The really unique part is the addition of shredded red beets which adds a bright purple-red color and a sweetness similar to roasted carrot. If you aren't accustomed to using shredded cabbage in a vegetable soup, you'll probably love this addition, too. Cut it very thin and it simmers in. It adds a mild flavor but provides an almost noodle-like texture to the otherwise fairly soft soup.
Here's the basics: (video link)
We skipped a few steps by starting with a watered down beef broth rather than making that from scratch; and we added peppers to the vegetable mix:
1 qt beef broth + 4 cups water
1 pound roast beef cubes (uncooked)
3 potatoes, peeled and diced
2 bay leaves
1 onion - diced
1 carrot - shredded
1 small red pepper - diced
1 small tomato, chopped
1 Tbsp tomato paste
1-2 Tbsp oil
2 medium or 3 small red beets -- boiled and peeled then shredded*
1/2 a head of cabbage, shredded
1 tsp sugar
2 cloves garlic - crushed
3 tbsp parsley, chopped
salt and pepper
sour cream for serving
1. Add to a large soup pot: broth and water, beef, potatoes, bay leaves. Bring to boil, reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes or so.
2. Meanwhile, saute carrots, pepper, and onions in oil until browned. Add tomato and tomato paste and simmer until thick. Add beets.
3. Stir the vegetable mixture into the soup. Add cabbage and stir. Simmer 10 minutes (until cabbage is wilted).
4. Add sugar, crushed garlic, and salt-and-pepper to taste. Serve with sour cream. We actually added about 1.5 cups of sour cream directly to the soup and served it that way.
* To prepare beets: cut the greens off about 1 inch above the beet. Gently scrub off loose dirt. Put beets in saucepan and cover with water. Boil for 15-20 minutes or more depending on the size of the beet. "M" insisted that you had to pour off the water 1/2 way through and finish with fresh water. If you plan to do that, consider having a tea kettle or second pot of water boiling before you drain to save 15 minutes. Our beets were about baseball sized and took 35 minutes. Then drain and cool (can drop into an ice water bath). Once cool enough to handle, the skins should slide off. They will dye your hands red, so wear gloves if you prefer non-red hands. Shred.