Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Ukrainian Beet Borscht

At my favourite farmer's market stand, this beet was the size of a sugar pumpkin. 

A little personal history here: My parents were divorced before I was born (I was obviously not planned by my parents). I grew up without my paternal extended family, who were Ukrainian and Polish. Thankfully, genes carried the Ukrainian and Polish traits to me. How? Keep in mind through these points that I am an old soul, and it will make more sense. Point one, I love to garden. Most Ukrainian women do. Point two, I can be a penny pincher. Point three, I love sour cream, which just so happens to go great on cabbage rolls, perogies and borscht. Point four, the smell of dill puts me into a happiness coma. Point five, I could very well live off beet borscht.

Borscht is a super easy soup to make for winter, as it is made of winter vegetables; beets, carrots, potatoes, cabbage. It is also healthy and surprisingly low in calories (I was shocked!). One serving provides your whole day's worth of vitamin A. However, don't be shocked when your bathroom visits are not the normal colour (everything will take on a purple hue).

As for a recipe on how to make borscht, there is no Holy Grail recipe for borscht. It changes between regions, as well as between seasons. It also changes based on the ingredients on hand. Here is my guideline recipe for borscht.

1 cup beets (shaved or cubed)
1 cup carrots (shaved or cubed)
1 cup onions (diced)
1 cup beet tops
Half a head of cabbage (shredded)
1 cup parsnips (shaved or cubed)
2 cups of tomatoes
4 cups of water or broth
Dill (season to your liking)

Add it all to a pot and simmer. If you've shaved the veggies, you serve as is. If you cubed the veggies, you need to blend it (blender, food processor, etc). Tomatoes are not a requirement for borscht, but it still keeps in line with a traditional borscht. You can also add meat, but I think that would just take away from the awesomeness of the beets and cabbage. If you don't have beet tops or parsnips, don't add them. The backbone to borscht is simply cabbage, beets, carrots, water/broth. When you serve the soup, add a dollop of sour cream or homemade greek yogurt.

Talking about borscht brings up a funny moment that happened this past summer. There was a family get together at a cousins house, and she made 'borscht' as our starter. I was ecstatic as I love borscht. I was severely disappointed when I was served a tomato 'borscht' (in my mind, tomato soup). I made sure that everyone knew that this was not true borscht as it was not purple and I could not taste any beets what-so-ever. Some day, I'm going to have my family over and serve a Ukrainian meal, filled with cabbage rolls, perogies, beet borscht, ukrainian meatballs, and sour cream.

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