I remember reading once somewhere description of Bortsch as a Russian beetroot soup. No wonder , that many westerners will not even give it a thought.
Wrong! Wrong! Wrong!
Bortsch is our winter vegetables soup (including beetroot alongside with potatoes, carrots, tomatoes etc…) , more stew like. In Russia we do not blend our soups into a puree, we like it chunky, we also like to see what we eat.
I’ve seen many recipes of Bortsch in cookery books and on the internet, but none of them even come closer to the one that my mother-in-law taught me . She comes from Kozaks ( or Cossacks) of Don, and I don’t know anyone who can cook better than she does. Her food is traditional , simple and very delicious. I am so lucky to have met her and learned one or two things about cooking and preserving food.
There are many vegetables used to cook Bortsch, including red beetroot and tomatoes, which give it a rich red color. You can use beef, chicken or duck stock as a base. But whatever you prefer, please please do not use cubes or powdered stocks, they will spoil the true taste of this wonderful hearty dish, the meal on its own. I cook it very often without stock and believe me, it is still absolutely yummy. The only thing is that you cannot cook small quantities of Bortsch. The smallest pan should be used is 5 liter one, which will serve the family of 4 for good 3 – 4 days.
It is one of those dishes that requires quiet a few ingredients and is the best eaten next day, as the mix of flavors works its magic and finished soup is so tasty, that when you eat it you want some more.
It’s only sounds complicated, but in reality, once all the ingredients are prepared , the rest is easy. In fact, despite many things to slice and chop it only takes about an hour to cook.
3 liters of Water or beef or poultry stock
1 medium Parsnip cut into matchstick julienne
2 Large Carrots cut into matchstick julienne
1 Large Onion ( white or yellow) finely chopped
2 Large or 3 medium red Beetroots raw cut into matchstick julienne
Potatoes – 0.5 kg, peeled and cut in 1.5-2 cm cubes
White Cabbage – 300 g finely shredded
1 large ( approx 850 ml) can of chopped tomatoes or tomatoes in tomato juice, or fresh tomatoes finely diced or
Salt , pepper
Sunflower Oil – 3-4 tbs
1 large Red Pepper sliced in julienne
1 large Yellow Pepper sliced in julienne
Dill 1 bunch or 3tbs of dried
Parsley fresh 1 large bunch ( do not use dried parsley!)
Dill seeds 1-2 tbs or 1 large rosette with seeds on
Concentrated Tomato Paste 3 tbs
2 Bay leaves
4 –5 large cloves of Garlic
50gr of Butter
½ medium heat fresh Chili green or red* optional finely chopped
Prepare all the vegetables. Set aside.
Note: at no time cover the sauce or the soup with a lid until it’s cooled down!
We start with a sauce:
In a large frying pan heat oil and fry the onions on a medium heat until just start changing the color. Add carrots and parsnip, cook on a medium heat for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add beetroot and cook the same way for 10 minutes. Add finely chopped garlic, stir, then Red and Yellow pepper. Cook for about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, blend the tomatoes into a tomato juice and add it to the vegetables. Bring the heat up and cook until the liquids in the pan almost evaporated.
Meanwhile, in a 5 liters saucepan bring 3 liters of water ( or stock) to a boil , add diced potatoes, a little salt and simmer for a few minutes. Add cooked sauce. Bring to a boil. Add shredded cabbage, chili , tomato paste, pepper and gently simmer for about 10 minutes. If using dried dill, add it at the same time with cabbage.
Add bay leaf, chopped fresh parsley and dill , dill seeds. Taste for salt, add some more if needed. Before turning off, add butter. Stir. Serve with crème fraîche/sour cream and more chopped fresh parsley or dill.