Beetroot made classy in Borscht
If not for Hollywood we would never have known about Borscht, a simple peasant soup which, from Ukraine and Eastern Europe, has today spread its wings of popularity all over North America. It is usually made with beetroot as the main ingredient giving it a deep reddish-purple colour.
For decades puritans have haggled over the correct way of preparing Borscht. Should it be cooked only with vegetables as after all, it is primarily a beetroot soup, or should it contain meat? Given that it is a meal by itself and is ideal for rainy days and wintry evenings, we will go with the latter group.
8 cups chicken broth
300 gm mutton or chicken with bones
1 large onion, peeled, quartered
4 large beets, peeled, chopped
4 carrots, peeled, chopped
1 large potato, peeled, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 cups thinly sliced cabbage
3/4 cup chopped fresh dill
3 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 cup sour cream
Salt and pepper to taste
In a heavy bottomed saucepan, boil half the broth, add the meat and onions and cook covered on low heat for about 90 minutes if mutton or an hour if chicken.
Remove the meat from the liquid and debone. Cut it in strips and store in the refrigerator. Strain the broth once it has cooled down and refrigerate for a few hours.
Discard the layer of fat that will form on the broth. Bring it to a boil and add the remaining stock, beets, carrots, and potato. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer until the vegetables are cooked, for about 25 minutes.
Stir in the meat, cabbage and 1/2 cup dill; cook until cabbage is tender. Add salt and pepper and the vinegar.
Ladle soup into bowls. Top with sour cream and the remaining dill.
Serve with thick rustic bread or a French baguette.