Wednesday, 11 November 2009


After my recent trip to Russia, I have been craving borscht. I've made it once before a few years ago (and stained practically everything I owned red in the process) but it wasn't as good as the stuff I had in Russia.

After reading multiple recipes, and even tweeting about it, I picked the Valentine Warner recipe from "What to Eat Now". It was in two stages, firstly making a meat broth from vegetables, stewing beef and ham hock, and then adding in roast beetroots, parsnips and apples.

Borscht with Sour Cream

The soup should take about 3 hours to make, as the broth and the roasted beetroots both took 2 hours of slow cooking. However, I ended up taking more like 5 hours, as about 2.5 hours in, there was a power cut. Not only did all the lights in the houses go out, the street lights and traffic lights also went out. It was really strange to look out in to the street and see complete black. A couple of stairwells had emergency lighting, but apart from that the only lights I could see were flickering candles or torches. As both the hob and the oven are electric, I just had to abandon the borscht until the power came back on an hour or so later.

I'm not sure if it was this enforced hiatus or the recipe that meant the soup was a little lacking. The initial stages of frying off onions and garlic with dill smelt fantastic, as did the roasted beetroot and adding the meat. I was less convinced about the apples and parsnip and I would skip this if I was making the soup again. Krysia Boo suggested on Twitter to add the juice from re-hydrating dried mushrooms, which I didn't get the chance to this time but will definitely bear in mind in future. I also think next time I would grate the beetroot instead of cubing it, as I didn't like the thin broth with massive chunks in. I prefer my borscht more texturally homogeneous.

Not Quite Up To Russian Standard

I won't bother posting the recipe, as it needs a lot of work before I'm happy with it. I think next time I'll make the meat stock as a stock rather than a broth, and add the dill and onions later on. However, the soup did tick a lot of boxes, and I enjoyed it for my lunch with a good piece of bread and loads of sour cream. It didn't have an overly earthy flavour, and the sweetness of the beetroot was highlighted. A definite starting point for further adventures in borscht.