I was hesitant to try Borscht the first time I had it. When I was growing up my mother would sometimes serve beets as a side dish, and I didn’t like them at all. So when I learned that the beet was a primary ingredient in Borscht, I was sure I would not like it. I had no idea how wrong I was! It rewards a person with a great tasting meal that leaves a person wanting more. It can be served hot or cold, thick and hearty or thin, meaty or vegetarian, and they are all good!
My wife, who is Ukrainian, gave me my first recipe for cooking at home. We like it so much that we typically make it about once a week, with leftovers going to other days as well. Borscht is good fresh, but it seems to get even better after a couple of days in the fridge. It is thought to be originally from Ukraine, although that is not certain. It dates at least to early medieval times. There are so many versions that one could spend a lot of time trying them all. I prefer mine with meat, usually we use chicken or pork. I detest onions, so we make ours without it. To some purists I am sure that will seem sacrilege, but I just can’t bring myself to like the onion.
The recipe we use the most is fairly simple. Start with a large cooking pot. Fill it about half with water, place your meat in, and boil long enough to skim the froth from the top. I use a pack of six chicken thighs. Then add 3 beets, peeled and sliced. Next put a small amount of olive oil in a frying pan and slightly fry four or five carrots, sliced thinly. As soon as they begin to brown, add 1 can of tomato paste with the same amount of water to your frying pan. Heat this slightly, then add to the main pot. Peel and cut 4 potatoes, then add them to the mix. The pot should be cooking the entire time you are doing this. Let it boil for about 30 minutes, then add about one half of a large head of cabbage, chopped. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Cook a further 20 minutes or so, then add 1 can of light read kidney beans and 1 can of dark red kidney beans. (You can also add peas or green beans, whichever you like) You can also put some chopped garlic in at the same time as the carrots, if you like. Dill or Parsley can be used to top when served. Serve with sour cream or mayonnaise, dolloped into your bowl. I also like to splash some Tabasco sauce into mine.
As I said earlier, there are so many kinds of this special soup that you may well want to look for your own recipe to try. Once you try it, you will have a very tasty dish with a great tradition to add to your family’s dining options. Mmmm…I am going to go start some cooking now!