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Red as Red Can Be – Borsch


Borsch (also known as borscht) is one of the  most popular soups across the vast region of Eastern Europe. Originating in Ukraine, it traveled to Azerbaijan during the Soviet reign and has been ever since wholeheartedly embraced by Azerbaijanis. I haven’t had a chance to sample different versions of borsch but I know that Russian and Ukrainian variations are the closest to what we make in Azerbaijan.

Borsch is a vegetable soup. It includes beets, cabbage, carrots and potatoes. It is, however, not vegetarian as the vegetables are cooked in beef stock. Typically, beef stock is prepared from large bony chunks of beef, but here in California I resort to boneless beef pre-cut into stew size pieces.

Borsch is a red soup with the color coming from beets, which thanks to their natural coloring ability turn the soup into one bright feast to the eyes. Those who don’t like the taste of beets much reduce its amount, but not  me. I like my borsch as red as it can be.

If you have time, let your cooked borsch rest for a few hours before serving it. This will give the ingredients a chance to blend and will allow the flavors to develop better. When ready to serve, heat the soup up, ladle it into bowls and serve with a dollop of plain yogurt on top, the way it is typically served in Azerbaijan.

BORSCH

Serves 6

1 pound boneless beef, cut into serving size pieces (if you can find large bone-in chunks of beef, even better)
5 tablespoons butter or vegetable oil
1 medium onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 medium beet (about 1/2 pound / 300 g) , peeled and grated on a coarse side of a box grater
2 medium carrots (1/2 pound  / 300 g), peeled and grated on a coarse side of a box grater
2 tablespoons tomato paste
3-4 dried bay leaves
4 cups shredded cabbage (1 1/2 pound cabbage / 700 g)
3 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into wedges or cubes
2 cups chopped fresh parsley (make it more or less, to taste)
salt, to taste
ground  black pepper, to taste

1. Make a stock by boiling beef in a large saucepan filled with about 20 cups water. Remove any froth that may surface to top. Cook until the meat it tender (depending on your beef, it will take from 20  minutes to 40 minutes). Strain the stock. Rinse out the saucepan and put the stock and the meat back in it.

2. In a medium frying pan, heat the butter or oil over medium heat. Add the onion and saute for about 5 minutes, or until soft.

3. Add the grated beets and carrots and cook, stirring frequently, for about 10 minutes, until they are just tender. Add the tomato paste, salt and pepper to taste, then stir to mix and cook for 5 minutes more.

4. Add the cooked vegetables to the stock with meat and toss in the bay leaves. If there is not much stock left, add water to it. There should be about 12 cups of liquid in the pan.  Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium. Add the cabbage, potatoes, and chopped parsley, and cook until the cabbage is soft and the potato is cooked, about 25 minutes. Remove the bay leaves. Adjust seasoning to taste.

5. Ladle into intividual serving plates and top with a dollop of plain yogurt or sour cream. Serve with bread.

33 Comments
  1. Feride, it sounds so rich and filling. Never heard this soup before, I love all those ingredients in it. Also the the yogurt on top is a great idea!

  2. So beautiful color and rich soup Feride. Will it be good if I replace it with minced meat. Pls let me know.

  3. ZERRIN: Thank you. It is a very healthy soup and delicious too.

    RAJEE: Typically, borscht it based on beef stock, and minced meat will not make a stock. But it is never bad to experiment with something new. Why not. Let me know how it turns out with minced meat if you make it.

  4. I love the color of your borsch! Looks delicious.

  5. gorgeous colour!!!

  6. Looks delicious and the red color is amazing :)

  7. Wow awesome and tempting color. Looks yum.

  8. Farida:
    This reminds of the borscht that my polish friend made all the time! She always had some on hand ( frozen) and made it vegetarian for me as I do not consume any beef.Now I have moved and visit her only once a year but will be able to make this wonderful dish at home – thanks to you!

  9. The colour is so vibrant and inviting. Thanks for teaching me.

  10. The color of the soup itself is very inviting. I have some lonely beets in the fridge, perfect to try this one out.

  11. Farida, the soup looks so comforting. Feel like dunking in a good crusty bread for a hearty meal.

  12. What a brilliant colour and no doubt bursting with flavour!

  13. hey Farida! lovely recipe! is that a GS spoon!?!? I have a full set (the avalon, I believe); love that brand. can the soup be made in veggie broth ?

  14. Farida

    I am going to make this soup finally. Your recipe done the trick!
    Thank you!

  15. Hello my friend :)
    I love barszcz :)))) We make it in Poland for Easter, Christmas… and all other occasions.

    How is life? Haven’t hear from you for a while.

    Have a nice day and don’t forget about the Mayan Magic Chocolate-Making Kit Giveaway on my site, closing date April 22nd!

    Margot

  16. THANK YOU FOR ALL YOUR COMMENTS, FRIENDS.

    Bren, traditionally it is prepared in beef broth, but I don’t see why you can’t try it in veggie broth for change.

  17. Lovely borsh! Mine hasn’t turned out that well (yet), but following my mom’s recepie it’s coming along. Added your lovely blog to my blogroll!

  18. Finally, a site with food from my childhood and dreams… Although my dad still makes the best borsh I have ever eaten (my mom decided to make it “diet” style and took the meat out of her recipe), I really wanted a recipe to follow and its impossible to actually get it out of them unless you actually do it with them, by then, you forget.

    This is a really amazing collection of recipes and I will definitely try them this summer.
    J’adore, Thank you !!!!

  19. Borsch (or borscht) is a staple in my house. Though, as much as I love beets, I could just never learn to love it. During the summers, my mother makes a lighter, cold borscht, but in the winters, she swears by the traditional recipes. I’ll have to tell her to try it with yogurt (our family eats it with sour cream).

  20. It’s “beets” darlin’, not “beats”. God save us!

  21. Brilliant, in color, as it is in taste, I’m sure!

    Fari, I’ve never had Borscht (I hope this admission won’t get me ousted from your site), but I love beets, both, red and golden.
    I usually just roast them, but have never tried doing anything else with them. But, it looks like a trip to market is in order.

    Have a great weekend my friend!

  22. THANK YOU FOR TAKING THE TIME TO LEAVE COMMENTS. LOVE READING THEM:)

  23. borsch and i htink my home dishwasher!!! LOL. oh but this looks fab and i could do with some soup now. love the colour. :) x

  24. Feride, bu harika gorunuyor. Ellerine saglik. Bu corbayi duydum, hatta bir tarifi bile var ama hic denemedim henuz. Bir ara denerim.

    Nihal

  25. Love borscht – puts the pink in your cheeks. Yours looks particularly healthy and tasty, Farida.

  26. Borscht is very popular in Estonia as well – and just like in your case, it travelled here during the Soviet time. I love the beefy versions, but for years I’ve made a lovely vegetarian version of borscht. Much lighter and quicker to make, with no sacrifice taste-wise (see recipe here: http://nami-nami.blogspot.com/2007/09/recipe-for-healthy-and-delicious.html )

  27. wow farida!! vat a lovely color :) this soup sound delish and comforting. a must try :) thanx for sharing
    cheers!!

  28. That is what I am planning to cook tonight, and couldn’t find what lavrovi list is in english and was sure I’ll find it here. Hope my borsh will turn out this way, thanks again for your posting, Farida. You are awesome.

  29. Hello Farida,

    I would like to see more soup recipes.

    Keep up the good work you do!

  30. Hello Farida,

    love your site, love the recipes and love the way you present your creations. My mom learned how to make borsch from her old friend and here is how she got the vibrant red color: add the shredded beets at the very end, let them cook for a few minutes, the let it stand. The color doesn’t change at all! Try it next time and you’ll see. Every time I make borsch it turns out the same color!

    Good luck and I’ll be waiting for new yummy ideas.

    Nargiz

  31. Hi Feride,

    Firstly I really want to thank you for this amazing website about Azerbaijan’s cuisine. It’s very informative and helpful especailly for Azerbaijanis like me who lives far away from Azerbaijan and miss so much our cuisine. It really helped to cook soups such as borsh – my favorite. Thanks for that and all the best.
    Just one suggestion to all others in some part of Azerbaijan people add little bit garlic on that top yogurt. Some people might really like it.

  32. Hello Farida,

    I’m from Belgium and always curiously looking into foreign recipes.
    This one was absolutely delicious !!!! Super red color and great taste. And it is indeed true, it is even better the next day.
    One to remember, I’ll be making this more than once !

    Thanks for the recipe
    Sven

  33. Thank you, Feride. After the borscht is ready we usually toss in some parsley in it, it makes it even more delicious.

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