Ask any Ukrainian about Borscht, and they’re likely to tell you that the only version worth its salt is Ukrainian Borscht! In fact, so highly revered is Borscht in the Ukraine, that it is their national dish, and one of which they are unashamedly proud.
However, ask ten Ukrainians how to make Ukrainian Borscht, and you probably won’t get the same answer from any of them!
The reason for this, is that there are so many variations on the basic Borscht theme, there is no exact method of preparing it. Over the years, a number of regional variations have developed – many with their own special name – and with Ukrainian women further personalizing their own recipes, it is unknown as to precisely how many different versions of Ukrainian Borscht exist today.
Much like the Borscht to be found in other part of central and eastern Europe, Ukrainian Borscht can be served cold, but more often than not, it is ladled into bowls from a large pot, steaming hot, and fit to warm the recipient to the very core.
Ukrainian Borscht With Chicken Broth
Taken from an old Slavic word for beet, “br’sch”, or Borscht, is essentially an earthy, unpretentious, home-cooked meal. Ukrainian cuisine is well-known for the large number of ingredients in its dishes, and Ukrainian Borscht is no exception.
Either made with a vegetable or meat-based stock, this thick and wholesome soup can contain pork (which is most traditional in the Ukraine), sausage, chicken or beef, together with beets, potatoes, carrots, a selection of whatever beans are available, e.g.; runner beans, broad beans, green beans, white beans, etc., cabbage, celery, mushrooms, tomatoes, fresh herbs and garlic. Of course, if preferred, the meat can be omitted completely for an equally tasty vegetarian version.
Because of the diversity of ingredients, it’s important to ensure that when cooking Ukrainian Borscht, the beans, vegetables and meat are added to the stock in order of which takes longest to cook, to prevent the finished dish from containing a mixture of perfectly cooked, undercooked and overcooked ingredients. As time consuming as it can be, cutting everything into small, similar sized pieces is the best way to avoid this.
Vegan Ukrainian Borscht
In the Ukraine, the following accompaniments are traditionally served alongside a bowl of Borscht;
Pampushki – delicious tiny bread buns which are tossed in garlic infused oil whilst they are still warm
Smetana – an wonderfully tangy sour cream, and
Chopped chives, parsley or dill to scatter on top of the soup
In my opinion, Ukrainian Borscht is best enjoyed with plenty of freshly ground black pepper, a handful of freshly chopped chives (yes, I know it’s a lot, but I love their flavor in this!), and a generous dollop of cold sour cream swirled into the steaming hot soup – I haven’t been able to get hold of Smetana, but I’m told that regular sour cream is pretty similar.
However, I have made the Pampushki, which were surprisingly easy and totally amazing – just perfect for dunking!
When people talk about food tasting better the next day, it certainly is the case with Ukrainian Borscht, so if you make too much to finish, put it into your refrigerator in an airtight container and it’ll keep for up to three days.
Give it a try if you can – as a first course, or a main meal, Ukrainian Borscht is a sure-fire winner!
- 1.5 – 2 pounds of beef or pork with bone
- 0.5 cup dry beans 1 medium beet root
- 0.5 cabbage
- 4 potatoes
- 3 carrots
- 2 onions
- 2 parsley roots
- 2-3 bay leaves
- 2-3 table spoons tomato paste
- 2 green peppers
- 5-6 black peppercorns
- 1 garlic
- 0.15 – 0.25 lb salted salo
How to cook Ukrainian borscht
- Soak dry beans for 2-3 hours.
- Cut the meat into pieces (and place them in a pot filled with cold water. Bring to a boil and skim off any fat on the surface. In 30 minutes add the soaked beans, cover and cook for about 1 hour.
- While the meat is cooking, chop the beet as thin as you can. Place the beet slices into a frying pan with sunflower or vegetable oil and fry until soft (but be careful not to make it too soft!). You can add 1 tea spoon of vinegar to save beet color if you’d like.
- Chop the cabbage (also trying to make the slices thin), peel and chop the potatoes and just leave them alone for now.
- Chop 3 carrots, 2 onions and 2 parsley roots. Fry them until the onion is becoming golden.
- Now the fun part of the borscht recipe. Time to put it all together to make a master piece. But be patient, just focus on one step at a time.
When the meat is ready add some salt, your 2-3 bay leaves, peppercorns and potatoes.
- In 5-10 minutes add your fried carrots, onions, parsley roots and beets. Also add the chopped cabbage. Now slow cook for about 10 minutes.
Add 2-3 table spoons of tomato paste, wait until it boils. Now add a little bit of sugar if it is too sour for you. Turn off the stove, but your borscht is not ready yet.
- Cut the salted salo into tiny cubes. Chop the head of garlic and the dill. Grind them together in a deep bowl with a wooden spoon and throw it into the cooked borscht. Wait for 10-15 minutes more, even if you find it hard to resist all of those delicious smells.
- Add a table spoon of sour cream in your soup bowl; sprinkle with a little bit of chopped parsley and dill.