Borsjtj – The Russian Beetroot Soup

Sweet beetroots add flavor and color to dishes. Now it is root vegetable season in Sweden. Carrots, white cabbage and beetroots are very low at price. I always cook a beetroot soup at this time of the year. A rich and healthy soup with lots of fibres, minerals and folic acid.

My husband is a big fan of this soup and if there are any leftovers, I put them in the freezer.

serves 8-10

* 2 ½ l beef stock
* 500 g boneless beef
* 1 yellow onion, cut into chunks
* 1 carrot, cut into chunks
* 10 pepper corns
* 1 bay leaf
* 1/4 head white cabbage
* 1/4 celeriac
* 3 cloves garlic
* 1 bunch parsley
* 2-3 tablespoons butter
* 4-6 raw beetroots
* 4-5 potatoes
* ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
* lemon juice to taste

1. Bring beef and stock to the boil, skim off scum.
2. Add onion, carrot, leek (green parts only), parsley stalks, pepper and bay leaf.
3. Simmer slowly for 1 ½ – 2 hours, or until beef is tender.
4. Meanwhile shred white cabbage, celeriac and potatoes.
5. Cut the remaining leek into rings.
6. Chop the parsely, peel the beetroots and coarsely grate them.
7. Fry all the vegetables in butter without browning them.
8. Add pressed garlic.
9. Add strained stock and cook for ab. 10 minutes.
10.Cut beef into small cubes, remove all visible fat.
11.Add beef to the soup and simmer for 5-10 minutes.
12.Taste with salt, pepper and lemon juice.
13.Finally add the chopped parsley.

Serve the soup hot with crème fraiche, sour cream or whipped cream.

Beetroot is a popular ingredient in East European cookery. The ingredients of a Borsjtj (Borscht) vary depending on its origin – Russian or Polish. Sometimes this soup is served as a side dish. If you want it to be completely vegetarian, omit the beef and use vegetable stock.

I happened to be in Leningrad, Russia, in 1991 (The Soviet Union collapsed in 1991). Then Leningrad had not changed back its name to St. Petersburg. It was not a holiday trip. No. The purpose was to study another culture, and to bring some school things to a school. It was an overwhelming journey, but I hardly remember any food at all. The hotel I stayed in served breakfast, lunch and dinner.

The only dish I can remember is a cabbage soup. They served cabbage soup every day. At the end of my stay, the soup resembled diluted dish water, if you know what I mean. I also remember a side dish. There were some shredded beetroots laid crosswise on a plate.

Now, a lot has changed, I suppose. For the better, I hope.

A Russian-theme dinner party idea: Invite your friends and make borsjtj, (borscht), pasties and buckwheat pancakes.


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