Classical Borsch

Borsch, a vegetable soup of a deep-purple colour is probably one of the best-known Russian classical dishes. It is thought to originate in Ukraine, long ago, but was already mentioned in ‘Domostroi’, a practical guide for running Russian household, written in the 17th century. Today it is a traditional dish everywhere in Russia, as well as in Eastern Europe.

In its classical form Borsch is much more than just a beetroot soup but a delicious stew in which the flavours of different meats, root vegetables and herbs are combined together.

As with French cassoule, many places in Ukraine will dispute the recipe of a ‘real Borsch’. About twenty varieties of vegetables are used in preparation including carrots, parsnips, peppers, onions, potatoes, courgettes etc. , as well as different meats – beef, pork, goose, chicken and meat dumplings. Almost all Ukranian borshes, however, are spiced, in the end of cooking with garlic crashed with salt.

The following recipe was given to me by a lady in St.Petersburg who spent her student years in Ukraine and used to go to a Ukranian market on the day her stipend was paid to buy Borsch ingredients: beetroot (boorak in Ukranian) with tops (botva) which is also used in borsh, and other vegetables- potatoes, carrots, onions and parsley. All these were finely chopped and fried in the mixture of oil and salo. The latter ,which is known as the passion of a real Ukranian ( as well as the object of many jokes), is equivalent to German spek, which is underskin pork fat, salted or smoked. Cut in thin stripes, salo can be eaten on its own with black bread. When fried, salo turns into delicious shkvarki and vegetables fried in skvarki absorb the salty and smoky flavour. Bacon fat, however, can be substituted for salo in this recipe.

Beetroot for the Borsch should be boiled unpeeled, for about 20 min until tender and added in the last 10 min of cooking as being boiled for longer, the beetroot turns from deep-purple to rather less attractive purple-brownish colour. Garlic can be grated together with the beetroot or added later, crashed with fat.


500g of beef chuck or beef shin with bone to make 2 liters of stock
1 large raw beetroot with tops, about 350g
2 onions
1 carrot
1 parsley root or ½ pasnip
350 g potatoes
¼ of a small cabbage
30g of bacon fat
30g of oil
3 cloves of garlic, crushed and chopped
2 bay leaves
salt and pepper
30g of bacon fat
2 table spoons of tomato puree or 2 tomatoes


1.Make a stock with beef chunks or beef shin, onions and carrots, bay leaves, salt and pepper.
2.Boil beetroot unpeeled until tender.

3.Shred carrots, onions, parsnips , chop finely beetroot tops and sauté the vegetables in a mixture of oil and bacon fat

4. Peel the potatoes and cut into small [~1cm) cubes.

5.Add the sauteed vegetables and the potatoes to the stock and simmer for about 15-20 min.

6.Grate the beetroot with garlic and sauté for 5 min..

7.Add tomato paste and simmer for about 5 min.

8.Leave to stand for about 20 min.

9.Serve with smetana (sour cream) and chopped parsley

More recipes are coming!

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