RECIPE: Russian Borscht

People & Culture

Russian Borscht in White Bowl with Dill and Bread Slices

Borscht is one of those dishes that has many variations. Originating in the Ukraine, this sour soup is also served in neighbouring Eastern European countries like Russia, Lithuania, Romania, Poland, and Latvia, to name a few. The most common variation includes beetroot as its main ingredient.

Borsch can be served hot or cold, thin or thick, with meat or without. There are endless possibilities to making this nutritious dish, which can even be enjoyed by vegans. Plus, given its rich, garnet red colour (thanks to the beets) it can work nicely as a starter for any holiday meal.

This Russian version of borscht is a hearty vegetarian soup which includes a somewhat unusual addition of cider vinegar and honey.

Church on Spilled Blood in Saint Petersburg, Russia
Church on Spilled Blood in Saint Petersburg, Russia

Makes 8 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups thinly sliced potatoes
  • 1 cup beets, thinly sliced
  • 4 cups vegetable stock or water
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 1/2 cups roughly chopped onions
  • 1 celery stalk, chopped
  • 1 large carrot, sliced
  • 3 cups red cabbage, coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup tomato puree
  • 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon caraway seed (optional)
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh dill weed
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • black pepper to taste
  • sour cream, for topping (optional)
  • chopped tomatoes for garnish (optional)

Directions:

  1. Place potatoes and beets in a medium saucepan over high heat. Cover with stock/water and bring to a boil. Simmer until vegetables are just tender. Using a slotted spoon, remove the potatoes and beets from saucepan and reserve the stock/water.
  2. Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Stir in onions, caraway seeds, and salt. Cook until onions become soft and translucent. Then stir in celery, carrots, and cabbage. Pour in the reserved stock/water and cook, covered, until all vegetables are tender – approximately 10 minutes.
  3. Add potatoes and beets to the skillet. Season with black pepper and dill weed. Stir in the cider vinegar, honey, and tomato puree, and cover.
  4. Reduce heat to medium low, and simmer at least 30 minutes.
  5. When ready to serve, add a small dollop of sour cream, fresh dill weed (or sprigs of dill for added festivity), and the chopped tomatoes. Serve with  soft, crusty, or garlic bread.

Note: You can substitute the vegetable stock for a beef or chicken stock, but you may need to adjust the amount of salt added.