>Clarissa’s Real Ukrainian Borscht

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I seem to be placing recipes in a way that highlights each part of my complex identity. First, there was my Canadian split pea soup with bacon that symbolizes my Canadian identity. Then, I shared the recipe for the Peruvian fish soup that represents the Spanish-speaking part of my identity. Now the time has come for me to offer you a recipe of the most traditional and time-honored Ukrainian dish: the borscht. (Why I seem to be stuck on soups for the moment is a mystery.)
If you only tried borscht in restaurants, then you never tasted real Ukrainian borscht. Every Ukrainian has their own recipe of borscht which can’t be mass produced while preserving the quality. This is why I’m now offering you my own recipe of borscht. Enjoy!
You will need:
  • a piece of meat on a bone (either pork or beef). I have also made borscht using chicken in the past, and it was a great success. Feel free to skip the meat for a vegetarian version of the borscht.
  • dry white beans (1 cup). This is often skipped too but I find it makes borscht much heartier.
  • 1 medium sized onion.
  • 1 bay leaf.
  • 2 medium sized carrots
  • 1 large or 2 small beets
  • 1 small can of tomato paste
  • 2 large potatoes
  • 1/3 of a head of cabbage
  • 1/8 of a bunch of parsley or cilantro
  • sour-cream to serve
1. Wash the meat and place it in a large cooking pan. Pork is normally used for borscht by real Ukrainians but I don’t like pork. For me, it’s a good, beautiful piece of beef. Fill the pan with water and add the onion and the bay leaf. Feel free to add some peppercrons too.
We only just started cooking and
it already looks beautiful. The
visual component is crucial in Ukrainian
cuisine. Food is supposed to look festive and fun.
2. Bring the water to the boil and reduce the fire as soon as it starts boiling. Don’t let it stay boiling! Add some salt to the water and leave the stock simmering on a slow fire until the meat is ready (1,5-2 hours). Every once in a while, remove the foam that gathers on the surface with a slotted spoon. The more foam you manage to remove, the better your stock will be in the end. If you have decided to use the beans, now is the time to add them to the pan. Don’t use canned beans: they will kill the borscht. It’s better to add no beans at all than to use canned ones.
3. While the meat and beans are cooking, peel and cube potatoes. Wash and dice the carrots and the beets.
4. When the meat (and beans if you are using them) is ready, discard the onion and the bay leaf. Remove the meat from the pan. Let it cool. Cut some of the meat into small pieces and add them to the borscht. Reserve the rest of the meat for another recipe. Add peeled, cubed potatoes to the cooking pan.
5. In a small frying pan, heat some olive oil. Add the diced beets and carrots and fry them on medium for 5 minutes.
6. Add some of the prepared beef stock to the frying pan. Pour in 1 can of tomato paste. If you want your borscht to be of a darker color, add some beet juice. If you want it to be sweeter, feel free to add some fresh carrot juice. Leave the pan simmering for 7-10 minutes.
The choice is yours whether to use more beets and less carrots,
vice versa or an equal amount of both
7. In the meantime, shred cabbage. The cabbage should normally be green but it so happened that I only have red cabbage in the house, so I decided to use it instead.
It’s up to you how much cabbage to use based on
how much you like cabbage. Some people who are really
not into cabbage have been known to skip it altogether
8. Add the tomato sauce to the cooking pan with the stock and the potatoes. Then, add shredded cabbage to the pan as well.
 
9. When the cabbage is almost ready, add fresh parsley or cilantro. Keep tasting the cabbage to determine whether it’s ready because it takes different kinds of cabbage a very different amount of time to cook. The cabbage should be “al dente”, so to speak. Make sure it is not mushy. As soon as the cabbage reaches the desired degree of softness, take it off the fire and let it stand for 10-15 minutes.
 
This is how the borscht looks when it’s almost ready
10. Serve borscht with a table spoonful of sour-cream. True Ukrainians stick a really hot red pepper into their borscht and eat it with wooden spoons.
Borscht is served with sour cream.
I don’t drink vodka, but it makes the picture
look more authentic
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