Thursday, 4 August 2011


This is really a post about leftovers, especially garden leftovers.  Whilst (very sadly) unable to grow my own vegetables, I was bequeathed some home-grown things by the boyf's mother what was probably weeks ago now.  The potatoes and beetroot have kept well in the fridge, being roots which could traditionally keep a whole winter in a freezing Lithuanian cellar.  It is time they were used up.

It was (as usual) stepmother N who introduced me to borscht as a concept for home cooking; having previously thought of it as something foreign to be perfected by restaurants, I have now realised it to be as perfectable and yet homely as Momma's Apple Pie.  A quick search for a basic recipe on the Good Food website turned up some VERY angry commenters, each of whom had a different 'authentic' take on what is a national dish for about 9 different nationalities.  Given how little I have left in the fridge of any suitability, and my woeful lack of Eastern European ancestry, I present to you my riff on borscht - or what might be called Boish - 'almost Borscht', for the purists.  All nine of them.

You Will Need: Large pan, wooden spoon, large-hole grater, kettle and measuring jug, chopping board and sharp knife, potato peeler, apron or unfavourite clothes to wear (beets are super-purple), large dinner spoon and bowl :)

Knob of butter
Red onion
Two beetroot
Three potatoes, medium-sized
One sad tomato (as opposed to very fresh, happy tomato)
Remains of head of savoy cabbage
One teaspoon Bouillon veg stock powder (from all good retailers)
750ml boiling water
Approx. tablespoonful tasty vinegar
(sour cream optional serving suggestion - I didn't have any)

1) Peel and grate the potatoes and beetroot; chop the remaining nubs finely.  Set the striplets aside.  Peel and finely chop the onion.
2) Gently fry and soften the onion in the pan, with the knob of butter.  I use lightly salted butter for all my fat requirements nowadays, as it goes with pretty much everything, especially toast.
3) Boil the kettle.  Make 750ml of stock in the measuring jug with the Bouillon powder (that's a brand, and a good one, but it doesn't matter what you use.  It's best of course just to always have stock left over, but that's another story.)
4)  Add the beetroot and potato to the onion, and let the potato go purple before adding some of the stock.  Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to simmer.
5)  Finely chop the cabbage and tomato.  Add to the soup.  If it looks too chunky, add more stock.  SImmer for approx. 25 minutes, or one episode of 30 Rock.
6)  At the last 5 minutes before it's ready, add some red wine vinegar to taste.  Borscht is characterised by a sour taste, which is what the optional cream is for taking the bite out of.
7)  Serve hot or chilled, blended or chunky - although chunky is more authentic, and involves slightly less washing-up.  If you're feeling really posh, put some dill or lovage on the surface and get admiring cheffy glances from your co-diners.

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