Borscht, a deep red beet and cabbage soup, is popular all around Ukraine. The recipe might slightly differ by regions, but the main ingredients still remain the same – cabbage, beets, potatoes, onions, garlic, sour cream, and dill. Depending on a season, borscht can be served hot and cold, with cold varieties often being light or vegetarian.
Hot borscht is a staple hearty lunch meal in the cold months of Ukrainian autumn and winter. It is usually a meal by itself and is accompanied by a few slices of dark and dense rye bread. In order to make it, you will first need to cook a stock. Beef bone marrow, meaty pork bones, or chicken, with an addition of root vegetables, such as onions, carrots, and parsley stalks, should be simmered for at least three hours. After that, the stock is filtered, and the cooked meat is separated from the bones and returned to the pot, while the bones and vegetables are thrown away. Meanwhile, thinly shred 1 medium-size cabbage and a few small beets, and cube about 4-5 peeled potatoes. Shredded beets have to be sprinkled with lemon juice not to lose their deep colour. Add potatoes, beets and cabbage to the pot, and simmer for about 15-20 minutes, until potatoes are soft. While the vegetables are being cooked, prepare “zapravka”: in a heavy skillet, sautÃ© in lard or goose fat 1 thinly sliced onion and 1 chopped carrot. Add about 2 tbsp tomato paste, salt, sugar and pepper to taste, and sautÃ© for about 10 minutes more. Add to the pot and simmer for additional 5 minutes. When the borscht is almost ready, check again for the spices, and add a bunch of chopped dill and a few cloves of minced garlic. Remove from the heat and let stand for about 10-15 minutes.
Serve borscht hot with “smetana” (home-made sour cream), sourdough bread or “pampushki” (hot rounds buns with chopped garlic), and a tiny glass of “horilka z pertsem” (Ukrainian vodka brewed with hot pepper). For the Ukrainians, a pot of borsht usually lasts a couple of days, and it is especially delicious on the following day.