Unlike some other similar versions, Borscht Russian Beet Soup is traditionally a hearty, cold-weather soup, intended to be served very hot. (Read the story of borshch).
The Russian version of Borscht contains a veritable feast of ingredients. Along with the obligatory beets, vegetables such as onions, cabbage, carrots, celery, turnips, parsnips, celeriac and garlic, are gently cooked in a little butter, before being simmered in a flavorsome bone-made beef broth, together with tomato paste and tender pieces of beef.
Extra seasoning is provided by salt and pepper, and some versions of the Russian Borscht recipe will also call for lemon juice to be added to the pot. The soup is cooked for around an hour, at the end of which, a handful of vividly green chopped parsley is stirred through the deeply rich magenta soup.
Although the Borscht can be eaten immediately, it is best left until the following day, when the flavors have had time to develop and intensify. However, whenever the soup is served, it should be adorned with a generous spoonful of sour cream, a sprinkling of crushed garlic and a scattering of chopped parsley or chives.
Not for the faint-hearted, tradition dictates that a steaming bowl of Russian Borscht should be served with black rye bread and ice-cold vodka shots. To comply with this tradition, all diners must be served with a bowl of the soup, which incidentally, should contain sufficient ingredients to enable a spoon to stand upright in it.
Alongside the Russian Borscht, black rye bread is served, either with or without butter, and of course, the ice-cold vodka, poured from a bottle which has been kept in the freezer, and which is returned to its icy depths after each and every shot is poured.
Borscht Russian Beet Soup
In keeping with tradition, a shot of the tantalizingly ice-cold vodka should be followed by the wonderfully contrasting heat of a warming spoonful of Russian Borscht, together with a morsel of the rich, black rye bread. To follow tradition to a tee, it’s important that the vodka is served straight-up, with no ice or other ingredient to dilute it.
Although there are certain ingredients that you will always find in a Russian Borscht, as with many classic recipes, different households often have their own family variations.
For example, some cooks will prepare the soup using potatoes and/or tomatoes, others will use various herbs and spices to flavor the stock and some will serve the soup with natural yogurt instead of sour cream.
Just as a matter of interest, the first time I cooked this soup, I made the stock from scratch, which took around three hours. In addition, as most of the vegetables need to be shredded or finely chopped for the best results, it was a pretty labor-intensive process from start to finish, which almost put me off making it again.
However, it was so yummy that I did make it again, but the next couple of times, I used readymade stock or a stock cube, which hugely reduced the preparation time. OK, so I still had to take some time with the veggies, but they say that the effort you put into something is rewarded by the results you get, and I have to say that, in the case of Russian Borscht, that’s so true!
If you ever get the opportunity to try this wonderful soup, don’t pass it up. You’re bound to agree that, whichever way it’s served, Russian Borscht is absolutely delicious!