It’s funny, really…
Out of all the countries I have visited so far, [everyone in my life knows] Russia is by far my favorite. I studied there for a semester 4 years ago, fell in love with the culture, the people, the city in which I lived, and much more. Someone brings up the subject of Russia and my eyes light up, eager to hear more.
It’s funny, really…
So why hadn’t it ever crossed my mind to try out all my old favorite Russian dishes? I had only eaten them before – never once helped prepare them! Instead of always dreaming of going back to visit one day, why not, for an evening or two, bring Russia to our kitchen? Of course! What a great idea!
There are countless recipes on borsch [Борщ] – I’ve read some from friends, books, and websites. There are simple ones and ones with more steps/ingredients. I tried the latter for my first attempt at Russian Borsch…And no wonder my host mom didn’t always want to make it – it takes a long time!
But it was definitely worth it…
Note: The tanginess of the sour cream absolutely completes this soup. Don’t make borsch without it!
Here is my recipe I compiled from a mixture of several I read:
Meat (beef shank - if can't find, 1 t-bone steak works well)
Olive oil for sautéing
1 small onion, chopped
Baby carrots, chopped
1-2 celery sticks, chopped
4-5 small beets (totally based on preference)
1 small can tomato paste
1/2 small cabbage head
2-3 small potatoes
1 T. vinegar
1 1/2 T. sugar
1 large clove garlic, chopped
1 T. salt
2 bay leaves
1. Cover meat with water (about 12 cups for this recipe) in large pot. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer until the meat is tender (approx. 1 – 1 ½ hours).
2. Sauté onion, carrots, and celery. Some recipes call for sunflower oil, but I used olive oil this time. Keep pan on stove for later use.
3. Take meat out and discard the bone. Chop the meat into bite-sizes and put it back into the pot along with the sautéed ingredients.
4. Slice beets into strips. Add some of the broth to the pan; then, add beets to pan. Add tomato paste. Cover and let it cook for 5-7 minutes on medium heat.
5. While the beets are preparing, cut the cabbage and potatoes. Put them into the large pot and bring to a boil.
6. Sprinkle the beets with vinegar and sugar. Mix well. Transfer to large pot.
7. Add garlic and salt to pot.
8. Add bay leaves and let simmer.
Best served the next day! A tablespoon of sour cream is a must in each serving for increased tastiness and tradition.
At the last minute, when I was totally in the Russian mode, Russian (the language) was flying around in my head and I decided to make name places with its letters. I already had cut pieces of green cardstock and there you go!
I’m not an artist but I also couldn’t resist drawing little flags on them, too. J
Tips I learned:
· Do not try to shave off time by using beef broth or bouillon cubes. It’s not as good and it’s not as authentic.
· It probably also goes without saying to never use canned beets – always fresh everything when possible!
· When friends and family give a little verbal “blech” when you tell them you’re cooking beet soup, you can prove all of them WRONG with this amazing stew-like dish. Afterwards, they can’t help but say “Mmm, dee-lish!” and “Well, now, that wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be!” J
And, just to commemorate a little bit more, I must share a few of my old Russia photos:
Dostoyevsky's grave / Peter and the girls.
Sign for our wonderful city, Nizhnii Novgorod.
On the university campus.
In front of the university campus.
Shopping with the roommate!
Door to my apartment building.
My host mom and sister.
The famous apartment from Master and Margarita.