Borsch: A Hearty Soup with A History

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I took take a bit of a break from this space and social media.

Although it was mainly family matters that stopped me from posting for over a month, I just found that the state of the world had pushed me (and many others) to the brink.

Yes, we’ve all been through so much these past two years.

But, this last February, Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine seemed to be the straw that broke the camel’s back. Of course there has been war throughout our history and, yes, there have been acts of aggression and refugee crises due to war all over the world in the past. But, this war, coming on the heels of a worldwide pandemic and more political divide than we’ve seen in years, just made so many of us feel helpless beyond belief.

I began to think that what I do in this space was trivial and not at all helpful to what was going on in the world. I just couldn’t find anything of value to share that would make things better.

I knew I had to get out of this funk.

I was speaking to a good friend of mine who is a chef, cookbook author and blogger (the lovely Aimee Bourque). She is of Ukrainian decent and when I shared my feelings, she said, “maybe you just need to share a traditional Ukrainian recipe and, in doing so, you might shed some light on what’s going on in the world…maybe just make your audience more aware through food”.

I saw that she shared a recipe on her blog for traditional Ukrainian Easter bread called Paska (you can find her recipe here), and was thinking of reposting her recipe but the Italian Easter bread on my site (you can find the recipe here) is pretty similar.

I began researching the foods of Ukraine when I remembered that I had developed a recipe for a grocery store years ago and it was indeed a food from the Ukraine.

Or was it?

Borsch, the beet and cabbage soup we all (or at least most of us) connect to Russia has, stronger ties to Ukrainian gastronomy (this is what I found in the research that I did). If you’d like to take a deeper dive, this article from the BBC explains it in more detail.

Borsch likely entered the Soviet mainstream when Stalin’s Commissar of Food, Anastas Mikoyan (right), established a Soviet national cuisine (Credit: TASS/Getty Images)
Borsch likely entered the Soviet mainstream when Stalin’s Commissar of Food, Anastas Mikoyan (right), established a Soviet national cuisine (Credit: TASS/Getty Images)

The original version was made with meat but the version I made in 2017 was vegetarian. The only change I made was adding some apple cider vinegar, as I noticed some versions add a fermented liquid to add a bit of ‘zing”.

Adding the vinegar was a game changer!!

This is a super, delicious soup that is:

  • Hearty
  • Healthy
  • Makes a big pot
  • Gets better after a few days

Borsch: A Hearty Soup with A History Just Crumbs Blog by Suzie Durigon

Grating the beets helps speed along the cooking process.

Borsch: A Hearty Soup with A History Just Crumbs Blog by Suzie Durigon

Such beautiful colours!

Borsch: A Hearty Soup with A History Just Crumbs Blog by Suzie Durigon

I used white cabbage but, I believe the traditional recipe calls for red cabbage. Either will work.

Borsch: A Hearty Soup with A History Just Crumbs Blog by Suzie Durigon

As I’ve written in the recipe below, if you’d like it a bit ‘less chunky’, feel free to insert an immersion blender and puree for a minute, leaving some chunky bits. I prefer to use a potato masher which gives you a finished soup with some beautiful textures!

Borsch: A Hearty Soup with A History Just Crumbs Blog by Suzie Durigon

Not only is this soup delicious but it feeds a crowd and is so healthy (and filling!)

Borsch: A Hearty Soup with A History Just Crumbs Blog by Suzie Durigon

So, there you have it.

A beautiful soup that hails from the incredible people of the Ukraine. A place with incredible history and delicious food that is worthy of being brought into the forefront…especially during these trying times.

I know that posting a recipe will not end a war, but making a small donation will indeed help. I asked Aimee about all of the different places to donate and she pointed me in the right direction. Sending funds to a place that needs so much aid made me feel like my small act might help a mother who is struggling to feed her children. If you feel that you could do the same, I will share an excerpt from Aimee’s post:

“I respectfully ask that if you use this recipe for Paska, and are able to spare some money, please make a donation to our fundraiser. Today I am partnering with Olia Hercules, Alissa Timoshkina and hundreds of cooks and bakers around the world in their Cook for Ukraine movement.

All proceeds will be directed to UNICEF UK’s Ukraine appeal, supporting children and families.”

Borsch: A Hearty Soup with A History Just Crumbs Blog by Suzie Durigon

Ukrainian Borsch Soup

This hearty soup is a great lunch with a side salad and a thick slice of fresh dark rye bread!!
Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 28 mins
Total Time 48 mins
Course Soup
Cuisine Ukrainian

Ingredients
  

  • 2 900ml cartons vegetable stock (or chicken)
  • 3 medium beets, peeled and shredded
  • 3 large carrots, peeled and shredded
  • 3 medium baking potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 1/4 head cabbage, cored and shredded
  • 1 793 ml can diced tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 156ml can tomato paste
  • 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • Salt and pepper
  • ½ cup sour cream or Greek/thick yogurt
  • 2 tbsp fresh dill, chopped
  • olive oil, to drizzle optional

Instructions
 

  • In a large pot, pour in the stock and bring to a boil over high heat.
  • Add in the potatoes; cook for 15 minutes
  • Add the beets, carrots and cabbage as well as the diced tomatoes and continue to cook for about another 10 minutes.
  • In a medium pan, heat olive oil and cook onions and garlic until softened (for about 5 minutes); add tomato paste and water; cook for a few minutes until combined.
  • Add the tomato/onion mixture along with the vinegar, to the pot and combine. If desired, place an immersion blender into the pot and purée a bit of the soup (but leave some chunky); season with salt and pepper.
  • Pour into serving bowls, dollop with sour cream/yogurt and sprinkle with dill and drizzle with olive oil if using.