Borsch is the first thing that most people think of when they think of Russian and Ukrainian food, and it’s no wonder. For the Slavs, borsch isn’t soup, it’s borsch. There are hundreds of recipes, some quite different, some very different. Traditional red borsch is prepared with meat and vegetables: cabbage, beets (to give it its signature ruby color), carrots, potatoes and parsley. Meat isn’t mandatory, however; during the Christmas and Easter Lenten fasts, meatless borsch is just as filling and delicious. Borsch should be eaten with a dollop of sour cream, and most importantly: the most delicious borsch is one made yesterday.
1 to 1½ pounds of beef (or pork or chicken), diced into approximately 2-inch squares
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 potatoes, diced
2 small onions, diced
2 teaspoons salt
1 large carrot, diced
1 cup beets, thinly diced
1 (8-ounce) can tomato paste
1 tablespoon sugar
3 tablespoons vinegar
½ head cabbage, coarsely chopped
½ teaspoon dill, chopped
Sour cream, for topping
Make broth: add meat to 5-quart pot about 2/3 filled with water. Bring to a boil and simmer, covered, for about 1½ hours. After the broth is done, remove meat from soup; set aside.
Add one tablespoon of vegetable oil to a large skillet, add potatoes and onions and sauté over medium heat until the onion develops a light golden color, about 10 minutes.
Add about ½ cup of broth, salt, carrot and beets and cook over a low flame, covered, about 10 minutes.
Add tomato paste, sugar and vinegar. Cook, covered, about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add cabbage and cook, covered, another 10 minutes, stirring occasionally until all the vegetables are tender.
Transfer the vegetables from skillet into the pot with broth, cover, turn heat to medium-low, and simmer about 10 minutes. Add meat.
Sprinkle dill into the pot, cover the pot and turn off stove and let sit for 30 minutes.
Serve borsch topped with sour cream. Traditionally served with black bread, salo (frozen, salted lard), onion and ice-cold vodka.
Vegetarian and vegan alternative
Prepare borsch with water or vegetable broth, without meat (try mushrooms!) and do not top with sour cream.