It’s definitely here. As winter creeps upon us and chills our insides, it is important to stay warm from the inside out. This is the time of year that I reach for thick leggings versus pants, as I need extra layers of warmth like I need extra heat in my belly. This borscht recipe is one of my all time favorite ways to seek comfort, and I’ve been making it for the family ever since I’ve been lucky enough to have one (it’s been a few years).
A frugal favorite that is loaded with healthy veggies, this recipe stands the test of time by a mile. Some might argue what actually makes borscht its authentic Ukrainian self (if that is actually its true origin). The cabbage? The beets? The dill? In fact, I can never really decide what is even the best part of this soup. At the end of the day the combo of comforting soft potato, sweet and tender green cabbage, roasted sweet beets, zingy tomato, chopped carrots, and fresh dill make me swoon. Not to mention the sight of such a combination is about the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.
An elderly Ukrainian friend (who we bought our house from) once shared her recipe with me and that is where I learned the best trick ever to making a great borscht: not too much beet, and what you do add, make sure they are sweet. So we roast them. Of course!
Bright & Lively Beet Borscht:
(2) small-medium red beets for roasting, or one larger one
(3) tbsp olive oil
(1) tbsp salt
(2) cups yellow onion, chopped small (2 small or one large)
(3-4) medium carrots, peeled or unpeeled & chopped small (2 cups chopped)
(3) medium yellow fleshed potatoes, peeled and chopped small (3 cups chopped)
(3) cups canned tomatoes (1 796 ml can)
(4-5) cups water
(4+) cups chopped green or savoy cabbage, washed & chopped small
(4) tbsp honey
(1) tsp salt
(1/2) tsp black pepper, or to taste
(2-3) tbsp apple cider vinegar
(1) bunch fresh dill, or (2) tbsp dried dill
To start, heat the oven to 350 degrees. To roast beets, simply wrap them in foil one layer thick (no washing required) and prick them with a fork several times. Put the in the heated oven for 45-60 minutes or until tender when pushed. This step can be done days in advance of making this soup and the beets will keep well in the foil or in a container for up to a week or more.
Once the beets are done, put them in a bowl in the sink, unwrap each as you go and one by one with cold water running, rub the skins off the beets with your hands. They will simply slide right off under the water! Chop the beets into a 1/2 to on 1-inch dice and set aside. To prepare the vegetables, peel and chop each veggie before starting, taking care to chop into a small dice, about 1/2 inch if possible, or bigger as your patience, skill, and desire dictates. Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large soup pot. Add the onions and (3) tbsp salt and cook the onions until soft, about 6-8 minutes. Add the potatoes and carrots and cook, stirring, for a further 5 minutes.
Add the tomatoes & (4) cups water and turn the heat to high. Bring the water to a boil and turn the heat down. Simmer the soup for 8-10 minutes, or until all the vegetables are just tender. Add the cabbage and cook a further 6-8 minutes, until all of the veggies are soft and starting to meld together. To finish, add the chopped beets, honey, black pepper & remaining salt to taste. Stir and cook a few more minutes on medium heat until well blended and tasting amazing.
Next, using a blender, blend up to half of the soup to a smooth consistency (feel free to add up to a cup more of extra water to get the blending going), leaving the rest in its chunky form. Pour the blended soup into the pot and stir all to combine. Stir in the chopped dill & cider vinegar at the end and taste to correct seasonings, reserving some to sprinkle on each bowl. To serve, scoop into bowls and garnish with dill and more freshly ground black pepper & a small drop or two of cider vinegar. To me, the zing of the vinegar adds the most wonderful flavour boosting acidity and I highly recommend trying it this way.
That is one thing I did not learn from my Ukrainian friend, but I am sure I picked up that little tidbit somewhere or from someone along the way 😉 Enjoy this super cosy and super nutritious soup on a cold night when you need a little love in your tummy. Snuggle up with a hot bowl and enjoy, these cold nights won’t last forever, and we want to remember them fondly when we are picnicking in the grass next summer 🙂