Tuesday, 20 May 2014

The Best Borscht

Well it's May 13th, so it's technically been "spring" for almost two months now, but it's going below freezing tonight, with a risk of snow flurries. Solution: Borscht of course! It's warm and comforting but with the colour, flavour and freshness of spring. I generally cringe at the thought of cabbage soup (perhaps from many attempts at the horrible diet of the same name that I used to suffer through before I saw the light). However, this version of borscht for some reason doesn't produce that cabbage stench - and for that reason alone you should try it.
I have made many different borscht recipes over the years, some very simple and some more complex, and this one is the winner. I was largely inspired by a favourite blogger Coffee & Quinoa in her post here. She caught my attention when she noted her Grandma Jane's similar search for the perfect borscht recipe. Her recipe was adapted from Mollie Katzen's The New Moosewood Cookbook. My only substantial change to her recipe is the addition of Paprika - a flavour I fell in love with honeymooning in Austria and Germany, filling my face with goulash (romantic). I bought some delicious Hungarian Paprika as soon as we came home because I think it's a great secret ingredient for adding savoury depth to a dish. It goes so nicely with the caraway seeds.
There are a lot of ingredients and a few extra steps in this recipe than most soups, but all the ingredients are cheap and easy to find. There is a fair bit of chopping, which I find therapeutic. The extra bit of time and steps are worth it. There is a real richness to this soup that is shocking when you consider there's only one tablespoon of butter.

The Best Borscht
Serves about 4-5 large portions
6 cups vegetable stock
1 large or 2 small beets, peeled and chopped
2 small red potatoes, chopped
1 tablespoon butter
1 large yellow onion or 2 small, chopped
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons caraway seeds
1 teaspoon paprika (hungarian is best)
1 large carrot, peeled and chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
half a small head of purple cabbage, chopped
1 small can crushed tomatoes (about 1 1/2 cups or 14 fluid ounces)
1 Tablespoon cider vinegar
1 Tablespoon honey
2 teaspoon fresh dill, chopped

Bring vegetable stock to boil in large pot or dutch oven. Chop beets and potatoes and add to stock. Bring back to boil then reduce heat to simmer and cover. Cook for 10 mins until beets and potatoes are just tender. Chop the rest of the veggies now. Once tender, pour into a sieve over a large bowl, reserving stock.
In same pot, melt butter over medium heat. Add onion, kosher salt, caraway seed and paprika. Cook until onions are tender and shiny, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. Toss in cabbage, carrot and celery and cook until a bit wilted, about 10 mins. Add back in reserved broth and bring back to a boil, then simmer, covered for about 10 minutes. Add in potatoes and beets, crushed tomatoes, vinegar, honey and dill. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes.

Ladle a generous helping into a bowl and top with some light sour cream and chopped dill. Then enjoy while dreaming of sunnier days when the veggies in this very soup might come from ground closer to home.

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