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Borsch, The Tsar Of Soups

Posted By Alina On August 12, 2009 @ 18:50 In Russian, Soup | 16 Comments

Borsch is absolutely the king, or better say the Tsar of soups in Russian/Ukrainian cuisine. It’s red, hot, spicy, garlicky, and only a spoon of sour cream (Smetana) can tame it!

You can never have too much Borsch: make it in a large saucepan and serve in hearty portions. Borsch can be stored in the fridge for 2 and more days,  it will just infuse more and more.

Traditionally, Borsch is based on beef broth, but we’ve always made it without meat – first, because of me being semi-vegetarian, and second – just because we believe the taste of meat kills all the vegetable and spice flavours. So, try this vegetarian version of Borsch first and let us know if you still think meat is necessary here!


1 large beetroot
½ small cabbage
5 medium-sized potatoes
3 medium-sized carrots
2 onions
2 parsley roots
2 large sweet peppers (preferably red)
1 Chilli pepper
2 bay leaves
4 cloves garlic
Fresh parsley and dill leaves
1 full tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon vinegar
Vegetable oil
Sour cream (Smetana)

Serves 8

Peel and chop the beetroot into small, rather thin pieces (max 1cm thick). Place them in a medium-sized skillet, add 4-5 tablespoons oil, season with salt, stir well and cook under lid on a medium low heat until you can cut a piece of beetroot with a fork. Add some more oil if necessary, remove the lid and fry on a medium heat for 5 more minutes. We also recommend that you drizzle a teaspoon of vinegar onto the beetroot right after you’ve begun to fry it – vinegar will intensify the red colour, turning your Borsch into a true piece of art!

While the beetroot is cooking, chop the onions finely (really finely!), wipe the tears and place the onions in a skillet. Peel and finely chop  parsley roots (Parsley root is just that essential secret ingredient). Add them to the onions and fry, adding oil generously. Don’t forget to add some salt here too, of course. The onions should be golden brown and the parsley roots should be relatively tender.

Or, you can fry the parsley roots separately, or even together with peppers and carrots. It’s up to you. This picture shows the beetroots and onions that we mixed together after frying.

In the meantime, chop the carrots and sweet peppers finely. To give you an idea of what we mean by “finely”: take a carrot, cut it lengthwise, then cut each half lengthwise once again, and then cut it into small, thin pieces. The same goes for the peppers, as you’re going to cook these together and you don’t want any of the pieces to be under- or overcooked.

Place the carrots and peppers in a large skillet, add oil and salt to taste, cover with a lid and cook over a medium heat until tender. Then take off the lid and fry until some golden-brown edges start to appear. You might want to add parsley roots here too, unless you fried them with the onions. And, once again, better use red peppers. We used those light-yellow ones this time just because they were fresher. Add a full handful of chopped parsley and dill leaves when the vegetables are almost ready.

The beetroots might be ready by now. If they are, just set them aside.

When all of the vegetables are ready, mix them together in the largest of the skillets you used, stir well and simmer under a lid for about 7 minutes.

While the vegetables are cooking, peel the potatoes and cut them in large pieces. Potatoes should differ in size from all other vegetables, so don’t be afraid to cut them in really large pieces.

In a large saucepan, bring to a boil 2.5 litres water. While the water is heating, quickly chop the cabbage. By the way, I strongly recommend using only white cabbage for Borsch, as I’ve used red cabbage once and it gave the soup a weird purple colour.

When the water starts to boil, add salt, bay leaves and place the potatoes into the water. 5 minutes later, add the cabbage. Cook for about 10 minutes, depending on the sort of the potatoes: they should be half-cooked by the moment you add other vegetables. So, remove the bay leaves (unless you want to leave them as a surprise for somebody who’ll find them in their bowl) and add the vegetable mix.

Add tomato paste, stir well, close the lid and cook over medium low heat for about 10-15 minutes, until the potatoes are ready and the broth turns red. In the very end, just a couple of minutes before the Borsch is ready, add squeezed garlic and stir well.

Let your Borsch infuse for 10 minutes before serving. Serve with thin slices of Chilli, Sour cream (1 tablespoon per dish), and whole grain bread.

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