Simple Ukrainian Borscht

Easy healthy recipe for a nutritious hearty meal - beet borscht

Essential ingredient of this simple Ukrainian borscht is red beetroot – to give borscht its taste and color. Cook this borscht using light (or white) beef stock (or broth), so called because the meat is not roasted before it is simmered in liquid. Serve meat along with borscht.

When cooking Ukrainian borscht, it is equally important to process the vegetables separately as to add the ingredients to the pot in a proper order. This helps to preserve maximum vitamins and minerals, and you don’t end up with undercooked potatoes or soggy cabbage. Beets, carrots, parsley, and peppers should be cut into uniform matchstick-size pieces or shredded coarsely.

Ukrainian Borscht

Preparation time: 1.5 to 2 hours

Ingredients:

  • 1½ lbs beef brisket
  • 3 quarts water
  • 1/4 head of cabbage, shredded
  • 4 potatoes, cubed
  • 1 large red beet, peeled, julienned
  • 5 tablespoons lard
  • 5 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup tomato paste or 2 chopped tomatoes
  • 1 carrot, julienned
  • 1 parsley root, julienned (optional)
  • 1 bell pepper, red or orange, cored, seeded and julienned
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons sugar (optional)
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 4-5 garlic cloves
  • 3 allspice
  • 5-6 peppercorn
  • 1 tablespoon green parsley
  • 1 tablespoon fresh dill
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/2 cup sour cream

What to do:

  1. Prepare the broth: In a large soup pot, bring cold water and the meat to a boil over medium-low heat, skimming off the scum and fat periodically, as it rises to the top. Keeping the pot uncovered makes it easier to remove the surface scum and will give the stock a more intense flavor.
  2. Add one chopped onion and reduce heat to low. Simmer gently, partially covered, until the meat is tender, from 45 min to 1 ½ hour.
  3. Remove meat from the stock, discard the bones, cut the meat into bite-size pieces and set aside.
  4. While the broth is cooking, peel and wash the vegetables. Keep them in a bowl with cold water to prevent from turning brown until ready to cut and cook.
  5. Heat the butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium-low heat. Sprinkle the beets with vinegar or lemon juice and add to the skillet. Add sugar if desired. Cook for about 15 minutes stirring from time to time.
  6. While the beets are cooking, peel and cut the carrots, parsley, sweet pepper and onion, and sauté with butter in a separate skillet over medium-low heat for 7-8 minutes until they begin to soften. Add tomato paste or crushed tomatoes and cook for another 3-4 minutes.
  7. While the vegetables are sautéing, add the cubed potatoes and shredded cabbage to the stockpot, and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low, cover and cook for 15 minutes. Add sautéed beets, vegetables and cut meat to the pot. Simmer for another 10 minutes.
  8. Meanwhile, chop the garlic with dill, parsley (and lard if desired). Add spices first, and then chopped garlic, parsley and dill to borscht and simmer for another 2-3 minutes. Taste for seasoning.
  9. Turn off the heat and let the borscht stand on the side of the stove for up to 20 minutes. Ukrainian borscht is traditionally served with a dollop of sour cream.

4 to 6 servings

Variations:

  • Bell peppers are not the usual inclusion in the traditional Ukrainian borscht recipes, but I like to add them anyway because of sweet peppers’ delightful aroma, lively color and powerful antioxidant qualities. On the other hand, I don’t like the texture of a cooked parsley root, and I think it could be safely omitted without affecting the taste or quality of borscht.
  • You can add a blanching step for the meat before making the broth. It will help remove surface impurities so that they won’t cloud the cooking liquid. Wash the meat thoroughly and put in a pot of cold water; bring to a boil, then remove and rinse; transfer into the soup pot. Or, if using the same pot to cook borscht, wash it thoroughly and follow the recipe for a light stock from the start.


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More borscht recipes? Try these recommendations:

Meatless borscht with mushrooms
Cherry beet borscht
Cold beet borscht


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