Let me start off by saying, if you are not a beet lover, Borscht may just not be the soup for you….but then again, it just might. I didn’t really do beets growing up. But more because I just don’t think we know how to serve beets very well. Let’s just say we didn’t have beets a lot at my house – like next to never. And when we did, well, they were forgettable. But this soup, this soup does it for me to create some good beet memories. It looks beautiful, has such an original taste, and it’s pretty easy to make.
I got the general recipe for this version of Ukranian Borscht from my brother-in-law, whose wife is from the Ukraine. I changed up a few of the cooking methods to try to make some of the veggies a little more caramelized as well as save on time and dishes (in my book, a big plus!). Plus I added some beef medallions and beef base to, well, “beef” up the original recipe as well. I like my soups extra hearty and filling and this does the trick for me! Easily eliminate the beef medallions if you are not so into that though.
This soup, like most, is really flexible. If the thought of making your own beef broth intimidates you, don’t. Just use pre-made stock. I’m still working on a good beef stock purely from scratch, and as you see, I still end up using beef base in this recipe just to give it a little more flavor.
If you like it hearty, go light on the water. Soupier, add more. I always like to start with more concentrated broth and go from there. It’s always a bit easier to simply tone down the flavor than to have to keep adding more and more “stuff” to something that tastes a little bland to you.
There is a lot of shredding and dicing involved with this soup. Although you can do it as you go, I recommend getting that all out of the way upfront. I am the first to be guilty of not always having my ingredients prepped all the way and am always cursing at myself when I get to a step in a recipe and have to put everything on halt to play catch up.
Last, a word of caution. Beets stain everything! This recipe calls for grating the beets. If you have a food processor, I highly recommend using it! If not, just be prepared for beautiful pink hands for the rest of the evening! And please please please, don’t wear a white shirt to the dinner table (sheepish grin).
- 1 beef soup bone
- 2 leaves bay
- 8-10 cups water
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 large onion diced
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 1/2 pound beef medallions
- 3 carrots or about 10 baby carrots, shredded, peeled and shredded
- ½ small can of tomato paste
- 3 potatoes peeled and cubed
- 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons beef base about 1 teaspoon for each cup of water used
- 1/2 head of cabbage cut into strips
- 3 beets beets stain everything, so take caution, peeled and shredded
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 tablespoon white vinegar
- 1 tablespoon dried dill
- Salt and pepper to taste
- One bunch of parsley or dill for serving, chopped
- Sour cream for serving
Boil soup bone and bay leaves in 8-10 cups of water for about 30 minutes.
Meanwhile (while soup bone is boiling), heat a large skillet with 1 tablespoon olive oil to medium-low heat.
Add onion, garlic, shredded carrots, and beef medallions. Cook until all starts to brown, about 3-5 minutes.
Add tomato paste and about 1/4 cup of the broth that is cooking (should be thick but able to stir). Cook for an additional 7-10 minutes until tomato paste starts to turn a little darker in color.
Remove soup bone from the broth.
Add beef base to broth and stir until dissolved.
Add tomato and beef mixture to broth.
Add potatoes to broth and simmer for about 10-15 minutes or until firm, but just starting to soften.
While potatoes are cooking, return to your skillet and add the shredded beets and cabbage, adding more olive oil if needed to help them fry.
Add the sugar and vinegar, stirring until evenly coated, and cook until browned, about 10 minutes. (No need to clean skillet in-between uses.)
Add fried cabbage and beet mixture to the broth.
Add dill and salt and pepper to taste.
Cook 10 more minutes, or more, as needed, to allow flavors to blend.
Throw in a garnishment of fresh dill or fresh parsley right before serving to give a great colorful effect and fresh edge.
Top with a dollop of sour cream, if desired.
Dress it down (simpler):
Substitute pre-made beef stock instead of using the soup bone and beef base for the basic broth.
Eliminate the beef medallions for a more veggie-ized version.
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