Borsch to Eastern Europe and Russia is like hummus to the Middle East. We all eat it, we all love it yet we simply can’t imagine that the other country does it better or is the ‘mother of borsch”. Some say it was invented by Russian Cossacks, other, more trustworthy sources, like Pokhlebkin, have confirmed that it is of a Ukrainian origin. I would say, let’s embrace all of these stories and celebrate our shared love of this simple beetroot soup. Here I am taking a bit of a creative license offering my own take on this iconic dish, which in fact, does embrace a few different cooking traditions, like the Ashkenazi and the Ukrainian ones, and offers a few alterations. Lovers of traditional borsch recipes, look away, this one is pretty iconoclastic!
1 large yellow onion
1 medium red onion
6 small-medium beetroots (raw)
2 red bell pepper
1 tbsp of tomato paste
1 medium red cabbage (fermented)
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tin of red kidney beans
a bunch of dill
a bunch of parsley
salt and pepper to taste
black pepper corns
unrefined sunflower oil
Heat 2 tbsp of oil in a medium pot. Finely dice the yellow onion and grate the carrot. Fry in oil until slightly golden (5 minutes). Meanwhile, grate 4 beetroots and thinly slice 1 red pepper (removing the seeds). Add the beetroot and pepper to the pot together with the tomato paste. Season with salt to taste. Fry for another 5 minutes.
Top with 1 litre of water and add a bayleaf as well as some black pepper corns and some coriander seeds. Bring to boil.
Lower the heat and add 1/2 of the fermented red cabbage with the brine. Bring to boil again.
Chop the herbs and grate the garlic. Stir through the soup and leave to simmer for another 5 minutes.
Take off the heat and let it sit for 30 minutes to let the flavours develop more (this soup, like any other Eastern European classics involving fermented vegetables taste even better the next day).
While the soup is resting prepare the vegetables that will go into the final version of the dish.
Peel and chop in wedges. Dress with oil, salt and a dash of pomegranate molasses.
Kidney beans: if using tinned, drain and rinse. Dress with oil, salt, pepper and smoked paprika.
Red onions: peel and chop in wedges. Dress with oil, salt and a dash of brown sugar.
Red pepper: deseed and chop in thin strips. Dress with oil and salt.
Arrange in small baking trays or oven friendly dishes and roast until cooked and crisp.
Drain the borsch, you will be only using the rich and tangy broth, while the vegetables can be discarded, as they have lost their crunch and given all the flavour to the broth.
In soup bowls add a handful of red cabbage kraut and divide equally all the roasted vegetables and beans, top with the hot broth and add a dollop of sour cream and a generous sprinkle of fresh dill. The intensity of the flavours and textures of this dish is beyond words!