My uncle in Moscow would often be asked by his Russian friends: ‘Is it true that Ukrainians eat borshch three times a day?’ He answered, ‘If you guys could make a proper Ukrainian borshch, you would get up at night to eat it.’ Stock is very important here, as with every other broth recipe in this book, and the meat that you use should be well marbled, otherwise it will never become meltingly soft.
The most authentic of borshches should include pork salo (cured pork belly) minced with garlic and added at the end. A skinny, old boiling chicken also makes a flavoursome borshch.
- 200 g (7 oz) beetroot, peeled and cut into matchsticks
- 200 g (7 oz) potatoes, peeled and chopped
- 2 tbsp sunflower oil
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 1 carrot, peeled and roughly grated
- 1 red pepper, cored, deseeded and chopped
- 1 tbsp tomato pure
- 1 beef tomato (skin discarded), roughly grated
- ½ small white cabbage, shredded
- 400 g (13 oz) can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
- sea salt flakes and freshly ground
- black pepper
- 500 g (1 lb) oxtail or fatty beef short ribs
- 1 onion, peeled but kept whole
- 1 bay leaf
- 2.5 litres (4 pints) cold water
- 100 ml (3½ fl oz) soured cream
- ½ bunch of dill, chopped
- pampushky (Ukrainian doughnuts)
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
To make the stock, simply place the meat, whole onion, bay leaf and measurement water in a large saucepan. Season the water lightly and cook over a low heat for 1 hour. Skim off the scum with a spoon from time to time.
Add the beetroot and potatoes to the stock, season well with salt and pepper and cook over low heat for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat the sunflower oil in a frying pan. Add the onion and carrot and cook over a medium heat, stirring, for about 5–7 minutes until the carrot is meltingly soft and is about to start caramelising. This is a distinctively Ukrainian soffritto technique called smazhennya or zazharka.
Add the red pepper and tomato purée to the onion and carrot and cook it out for 2 minutes, then add the grated fresh tomato or fermented tomatoes, stir and reduce slightly before adding all of this to the broth.
Finally, add the shredded cabbage and beans to the broth and cook for about 7 minutes until cooked through.
Serve with a dollop of soured cream, chopped dill and pampushky (Ukrainian doughnuts).
Recipe and image from Mamushka: Recipes from Ukraine and beyond by Olia Hercules (Hachette Australia, $39.99, hbk). View our Readable Feasts review and more recipes from the book here.