Borscht (Beet Soup – Russian)

There are so many reasons to love beets; they’re delicious, are easily grown yourself, are packed full of betacyanin (the pigment that makes them purple), as well as folate, potassium, manganese, magnesium AND vitamin C. They’re cheap, you can eat the whole plant (greens and all)… need I go on?! In this recipe, beets are combined with other nutritious vegetables, such as carrots and capsicum, and dill, which, as well as tasting amazing, also helps to improve digestion.

I went to my local Farmer’s Market this morning, and was able to obtain some beautiful spray-free produce. I got some fantastic beets with the greens still on (more often than not, the supermarket removes them), some giant carrots, and a beautiful capsicum that was a lovely combination of red and green colouring.

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I haven’t been able to figure out if Borscht is or is not traditionally made with beef, but I’m always one for one-pot-wonders, so I have used the cheapest cut of beef I could find at my local butchers for some added protein.

Also essential to this dish is a fantastic stock, as it forms the base. I make stock almost every weekend – normally beef or chicken – and either would work as a base for this soup. Homemade stock is also a nutritional powerhouse, packed full of calcium (for you Paleo followers out there who generally eschew dairy) and collagen, as well as numerous other vitamins and minerals. I can get three chicken carcasses from my local butchers for $1. I boil these together with 1-2 onions, halved, 2-3 carrots, snapped in half, 2-3 bay leaves, a few cloves of garlic, a generous sprinkle of salt, about 20 whole peppercorns, and a sploosh of vinegar (normally raw apple cider). If I have the tops of celery lying around, I’ll throw these in too. A bit of a vague recipe, I know! I simmer all this together on low heat for about 12 hours, occasionally topping up with water as I see fit. Once I think it’s ready to go, I strain it out, and store it in a 2 litre jar. It freezes well, so could be divided into smaller portions. (Stock pictured below, pre-straining).

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I think this dish is going to be a mainstay in my house as we move into the cooler months…

Ingredients:

2-3 cups fresh beets, chopped (save the tops)
1 white or brown onion, chopped
2 big carrots, cubed
A few small potatoes or 1 large, about 1 cup chopped
1 tsp salt (I used kelp salt for some added iodine)
1/4 tsp black pepper, coarsely ground
3/4 cup fresh dill, chopped loosely
2 bay leaves
1 tsp dried dill
1/4 tsp fennel seeds
3 cups chicken (or beef) stock
3 cups water
1 tbsp fresh squeezed lemon juice
2 tbsp olive oil

Extra salt and pepper, to taste

Garnish with fresh sour cream or Greek yogurt, and some more dill.
Directions:
1. Chop your veges as directed, leaving the beet greens aside. Place into a slow cooker, and drizzle with the 2 tbsp olive oil.
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2. Add the salt, pepper, fennel seeds, and bay leaves. Toss the chopped dill on top, and take a moment to admire your creation thus far. Isn’t it pretty??
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3. Chop your meat, and place it on top of the veges.
4. Pour over the water and the stock. Mix everything together, and set the slow cooker to high.
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5. After a few hours, give it a stir, and chuck in the chopped up beet greens. Stir through.
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6. Cook covered until the root vegetables are soft, and the meat is tender – about 5-6 hours should do it. Squeeze in the lemon juice, and readjust salt and pepper to taste.
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7.You can serve this as it is, or use a masher to lightly squish the veges to make the texture a little more interesting and to blend the flavours further.
8. Garnish with a healthy dollop of sour cream or yogurt, and throw on plenty more dill.
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Bon appetite!
Paleo-ize It! Omit the potato, and instead add more beets and carrots, or add cabbage. However, many now consider potato to be a safe starch.
Either leave off the sour/cream yogurt garnish, or use Coyo (coconut yogurt).
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