Russian Borscht

I learned this recipe from a Russian friend when I lived in Finland. It was a family recipe. She said her grandmother told her that a Borscht did not have soul if it did not have meat. The meat her grandma used was not 'beef for stew' as it is in my recipe. However since I got this recipe I wrote down 'beef for stew' as I adapted for my taste and I do not remember what she used. Her grandma also used to make her own beef stock. I am sure my soup will never taste like hers but it tastes pretty good. Good enough for my kids to ask for it over and over again. Enjoy!

What You Need:
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 lb beef for stew seasoned with 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon salt for the carrots
  • 3 medium beets washed (I wash them with the rough side of a dish sponge)
  • 1 potato cubed (keep it in a bowl with water so it will not brown)
  • 4 tomatoes chopped with no seeds
  • 3 carrots shredded or chopped in very small cubes
  • 1/2 head of red cabbage cut into thin strips
  • 1 medium onion finely chopped
  • 8 cups water
  • 6 cups beef broth (or 6 cups water and 3 cubes of beef bouillon)
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill (it really needs to be fresh)
  • crème fraîche or sour cream or if you are lucky to find 'smetana'
FYI: Smetana* is a dairy product from Central or Eastern Europe but many think it is from Russian origin. It will not curdle when added to hot dishes so its cooking properties are different from its cousins sour cream and crème fraiche. If you go to a Russian restaurant they will have smetana and believe me it is different and I like it so much I could eat it by the spoons. I have read that to imitate the real 'smetana' taste you could mix sour cream and heavy whipping cream. I have never tried maybe because I am conformed that I will never have real smetana unless I find a place that sells it. A thick good smetana might have up to 70% fat content and it is absolutely delicious.

What To Do:

Put the beets to cook in a pan with enough water to cover them completely. Water level should be 1 inch or more above the beets.

Let the water boil.
Reduce heat allowing the beets to cook for 45 minutes.

Put 1 tablespoon butter in a large saucepan and when the butter is bubbling add the meat. Fry the meat in high heat until you cannot see any red on the outside.

Add the beef bouillon and the water. Turn the heat up.
After it boils reduce heat to low and let it simmer for 40 minutes.

While the beets and beef are simmering prepare the carrots and tomatoes.

Melt 1 tablespoon butter.

Sauté the onions.

Add the carrots and sauté for about 5 minutes. Add 1 teaspoon salt.

Add the tomatoes and sauté for 5 more minutes.  Turn off of the heat. Reserve.

The beets are ready when you pierce them with a knife and there is no resistance.

When the beets are cold enough to be handled peel them and cut them in strips. Reserve.

After the beef simmers for 40 minutes add the potatoes and let it simmer for 10 more minutes.

Add the cabbage and let it simmer for 10 more minutes.

Add the carrots/tomatoes.

Add the beets.

Add the dill and the lemon juice and let it simmer for 15 more minutes.

Serve with a spoonful of crème fraîche and decorate with a sprig of dill. In this picture I used sour cream.

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