It was a Thanksgiving Day 2011. We were somewhere in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, sharing a table for six with four other travelers. Once we sat down and introduced ourselves to each other, we agreed that we would be a new-far-away-from-home- family for this Thanksgiving. It was a quite unique international family, I would say. Mother and daughter from California, having roots in Jordan, and two travel bloggers, Jackie and Joel Smith (http://www.travelnwrite.com/), husband and wife from Washington State, USA.
At some point we started talking about Ukraine, its culture, politics, history, and… borshch, rich beet based soup. Jackie said: “Hey, Galyna, you should put a borsch recipe in your blog. Promise me that you will”. “Of course”, I said. And I know I should. How can I have a blog about Ukraine, and not write about its favorite world famous beet soup? It’s been there for centuries, and has traveled to many countries, becoming a favorite dish for so many families, including ours. My husband is American, but he says that his spirit is Ukrainian now. And, yes, he loves borshch. He eats it for breakfast even. Sometimes three times a day. And let me tell you, it’s a good deal for me too. I make a big pot of borshch, and I don’t have to worry about cooking any other soup for few days. How cool is that! And borshch actually gets better the next day, and even better the day after.
Many Ukrainians cook borshch with beef. But you can use any kind of meat; it depends on what you like. My husband and I prefer chicken. And whatever else I can find in the fridge and the kitchen cabinets. When I cook borshch in the States, I use pasta sauce instead of regular tomato paste. It adds a special flavor. I also add canned beans to my borshch- just love the way it tastes. And I add bell pepper. Sometimes, I add diced fresh tomatoes and chopped basil. By the way, I like cabbage to be a little crisp, so I add it in the end. When you are making borshch you have to taste it several times in order to balance that sweet and sour taste. It takes about 1h 45m before it is ready. If it’s not sour enough, you can add a little bit of lemon juice in the end. My grandma, for example, adds a little bit of flour to the sauce mixture- it makes borshch a bit creamy. So, it’s totally up to you how you make your borshch.
Here is my recipe.
What you need:
- 3 chicken thighs
- 2-3 medium peeled beetroots
- 4-5 peeled medium potatoes
- 1 large onion
- 3 medium carrots
- 1 can of kidney beans or white beans
- 4 tablespoons of tomato paste
- ¼ white cabbage head
- 1 bell pepper, seeded and diced
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1 tablespoon of unsalted butter
- Salt, pepper, spices, and herbs to taste
- Boil 3 quarts of water in a big pot.
- Add 3 chicken thighs. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer gently. Skim foam, until all the impurities are gone.
- Add 1 sliced carrot, and half an onion. Simmer, covered, until meat becomes very tender (about 40 minutes). Remove meat, slice it, and put back into the pot. Add some salt, 2 bay leaves, and few peppercorns (to your taste).
- In a meantime, shred or chop the beets as thin as you can. Add them to the pot. Cook for 15 minutes.
- Peel and slice potatoes (the way you like). Add to the pot. Cook for 15 minutes (before adding the sauce mixture).
- In a separate skillet combine few tablespoons of cooking oil, chopped onion, 2 shredded carrots, and let it cook for few minutes. Then add tomato paste. Add diced bell pepper. Stir and cook for about 10 minutes.
- Add beans to the pot.
- Add cooked tomato paste mixture to the pot. Mix everything well. Add a little spice if you like (not too much though).
- Slice cabbage very thin, add it to the pot.
- Let it all cook for another 15-20 minutes.
- Add 2 garlic cloves cut in four. Cook for 5 minutes.
- Add herbs and 1 tablespoon of unsalted butter.
- Turn off the heat.
Let borshch sit for about 1 hour before serving. Though, they say, and we agree, that borshch is the best on a second day. Serve it with a sour cream, if you like.
Bon Appétit! “Smachnoho” in Ukrainian; “Priyatnogo Appetita” in Russian! Enjoy your meal!
And let me know what you think!