Lately I’ve been eating more meat than I usually do which is not really a problem as I am not following a strictly vegetarian diet but I usually feel better when I increase my intake of veggies and green salads and cut out meat and chicken. At the same time I was craving meat these last couple of weeks. This might be the effect winter has on me, so I gave in to these cravings as I think it’s important to listen to our bodies.
But am I now feeling that the bumblebees are soon arriving? Because this week I want everything meatless! Hence my earlier quote today from Michael Pollan.
I’ve already told you about my obsession with soup which is partly cultural, partly I find a bowl of warm soup so comforting in colder weather. And soup can be so much more varied than the ol’ chicken noodle soup or bone broth (of which I have had quite a few servings this winter)!
Borscht is very popular in Slavic countries, mostly in the Ukraine, Poland, Russia, Lithuania, Belorussia and Estonia. As for its origin, difficult to tell if it’s Ukrainian or Polish and in any case everyone in the region claims it their own. As a non-Slavic country among all our Slavic neighbors, this soup is not often served in Hungary. Growing up, borscht was never on my grandma’s or my mom’s repertoire and on the rare occasions when I had ‘borscs’ (this is the Hungarian spelling, looks funny, right?) I found the sweet and sour flavor of the soup rather particular. (By the way, talking of spelling, I actually don’t understand the ‘t’ at the end of the English spelling – in Russian it’s Борщ with no ‘t’ in sight. But hey, let’s leave linguistics behind and concentrate on taste!)
There are many different variations to the recipe, but whatever you choose you have to have a liking for sweet and sour dishes. Beetroot has such a dominant flavor that a generous amount of lemon juice, garlic and sour cream are a must, otherwise you end up with a sweet soup. So don’t be stingy with these ingredients! You could eventually replace lemon by vinegar if you want the sour taste without the citrus note. As always, I added a little bit of pepperoncino in mine for a kick and also to counteract even more the earthy sweetness of beetroots. Go ahead, give this hearty winterfood a try before those first, early-spring veggies take over your kitchen!
What you’ll need to serve 4:
- 1 tomato, diced
- 1 large beetroot (about 250g), peeled and grated
- 2 medium-size carrots, peeled and grated
- a good glug of olive oil
- a cup of water
- 3-4 medium sized potatoes (about 200g), peeled and diced
- 1/4 of a large white cabbage (about 375g), cut thinly into shreds
- 1 small onion, cleaned and diced
- 1l vegetable broth
- juice of 1 lemon
- 2 large cloves of garlic, cleaned and halved
- a couple of bay leaves
- Himalaya salt
- freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tsp chili powder or peperoncino (optional)
- a large dollop of crème fraîche
- fresh parsley
- a heaping cup of good humor
What you’ll need to do:
- While you heat up a small pan with water grate the beetroot and carrots. Put tomato in boiling water and cook for about 30 seconds, then remove and once slightly cooled peel the tomato skin. Dice the tomato.
- Add a good glug of olive oil in a large pot and heat over medium high heat. Add grated beet, carrots and your diced tomato.
- Add the lemon juice, 200ml of water, give it a good stir and simmer covered on low heat for about 20 minutes.
- Add a liter of vegetable broth to the pot. Season with salt, pepper, bay leaves, garlic and optionally chili powder or peperoncino and bring to a boil.
- In the meantime clean and dice the potatoes and thinly slice the cabbage. Add the potatoes and shredded cabbage to the soup and cook for 10 minutes.
- Sauté the onion in a separate skillet over a little olive oil until softened then add the onions to the soup and cook for 15 more minutes.
- Serve soup in bowls with a large spoonful of sour cream and garnish with fresh parsley and some more freshly ground black pepper.