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Borsch


You'll need

1 beef shin (about 1.4kg), halved (see note) 30 gm lard 1 onion, finely chopped 1 carrot, diced 1 celery stalk, diced 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped 1.5 litres (6 cups) good-quality beef stock 1 Desiree potato, cut into 1cm dice 4 beetroot (about 150gm each), scrubbed 150 gm white cabbage (about ¼ small), cut into julienne To serve: sour cream, dill sprigs and rye sourdough

Method

  • 01
  • Place beef shin in a saucepan, add water to cover, bring to the simmer over medium-high heat and simmer for 2 minutes. Skim scum, drain (discard stock) and set beef aside.
  • 02
  • Heat lard in a large casserole over medium heat, add onion, carrot, celery and garlic and stir occasionally until translucent (4-5 minutes). Add stock, bring to the simmer, add beef, reduce heat to low, cover and simmer until the meat starts to fall from the bone (1½-2 hours), adding potato in the last 30 minutes of cooking. Remove beef, set aside to cool, then when cool enough to handle, shred meat (discard bones and sinew) and return to soup.
  • 03
  • Meanwhile, combine beetroot, vinegar and 2.5 litres water in a saucepan over medium heat, bring to the simmer, season to taste and simmer until beetroot are tender (50 minutes-1 hour). Drain, set aside to cool, then when cool enough to handle, peel beetroot, cut into julienne and set aside.
  • 04
  • Add beetroot and cabbage to soup. Simmer over medium heat until tender (10-15 minutes), season to taste, divide among bowls, top with sour cream and dill and serve with rye sourdough.

Note Ask your butcher to cut the beef shin for you.


Borsch. Borscht, bortsch, borstch. However you choose to spell it, there's no question this deep magenta-hued beetroot soup is an eye-catcher. The jury is still out on borsch's origins, but most food historians agree that the cold climes of Ukraine - where it's regarded as the national soup - are most likely where it was first supped.

Many Central and Eastern European countries have since added different ingredients to make this soup their own. In Poland, borsch is a clear broth, while in Belarus it's a chunky soup made with the addition of tomatoes. But in Ukraine there are more kinds of borsch than anywhere else in the world, with variations documented from Kiev to Odessa and almost everywhere in between. One version contains dried white beans, another is flavoured with spicy sausage or chopped ham. It can be made with beef, pork, chicken or goose stock, and then there's the vegetarian version, based on mushroom stock, that's made on religious fast days.

Common to all variations, though, and playing a major role in imparting colour and an earthy flavour, is the key ingredient of beetroot. The traditional slightly sour taste of borsch comes from pickling the beetroot, and you can increase the intensity of the sourness by adding a little of the pickling juice to the broth at the end of cooking.

Our recipe, based on one of the many Ukrainian variants, is rich with gelatinous slow-cooked beef shin, flavoursome beef stock, cubes of almost melting potato and chunks of cabbage. While we've sautéed our vegetables in plain lard, it's also common to add yet more flavour to the fat by pounding it with garlic, onion and parsley. Many countries serve this soup with smetana (sour cream) and pampushki (little buns topped with garlic).

Making borsch takes time because it requires long, slow simmering to extract maximum flavour and richness. That said, it's one of those dishes that's just as good, if not better, the next day, because the flavours develop over time. And while it's common to serve borsch chilled, our money is on serving it piping hot during the cooler months.

At A Glance

  • Serves 6 people
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At A Glance

  • Serves 6 people

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May 2012

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