I went for comfort food tonight. If you’re Polish – or any Slavic nationality, actually – borscht/barszcz is part of your structural DNA. This version is from Ukraine and is part of a massive collection of Polish recipes by Robert Strybel. You don’t buy this book unless your name ends in -ski and vowels are not part of your way of thinking.
Ready for a shot at this? Let’s go! Here’s what you’ll need:
2 lbs beef stew meat, with or without bone
3 – 4 medium beets, fresh
2 potatoes (peeled or not)
2 cups green cabbage
1 can small white beans (or make from scratch)
1/2 tsp marjoram
Salt and pepper, to taste
1/4 cup white vinegar
1 tsp white sugar
1 cup sour cream (one of the four food groups of Poland)
2 tbs flour
Use a food processor for this recipe, if you have one. It will cut time and labor. Beets leave a lot of red behind, but that washes out with water.
Wash and cut stew meat. Add to soup pot with 6 – 8 cups of water. Bring to a boil, skim off foam, and simmer for 1 and 1/2 hours.
While the meat mixture is cooking, prepare the vegetables. Wash and trim the beets. Wrap in aluminum foil and bake at 400 degrees for an hour. Cut potatoes into small dice and keep submerged in water to prevent browning. Shred cabbage and set aside. Open can of white beans, rinse in colander and set aside.
When beets are cooked, remove from oven and let cool. Slip off skins and shred beets.
Add vegetables and beans to meat mixture after 1 1/2 hours. If necessary, bone meat before adding vegetables. Add marjoram, salt and pepper. Cook mixture for another 40 minutes. Add vinegar and sugar, salt and pepper. Taste for balance.
Prepare sour cream. Spoon into a mixing bowl and add 2 tbs flour. Whisk until creamy. After 40 minutes, scoop a little bit of the soup broth into the sour cream mixture, whisking after each addition. Add broth until sour cream is pink and the mixture is no longer cool or cold. Then, slowly add the sour cream to the soup, stirring vigorously to prevent clumping.
Let the soup cook for a while longer, below the boil. to dispel the “flour-y” taste. Adjust seasonings and serve hot.
The sweet-sour thing may be confusing for some. It’s very Eastern European, and works particularly well with beets. My family makes a different version of this recipe. I guess there are as many recipes for barszcz as there are Polish people to make it.
Here are some pics I took along the way. And, I even made a little video for you. Enjoy!
Start with good veggies!
Drain and rinse your white beans. Navy beans are good in this recipe. I wouldn’t recommend cannellini. They’re too soft.
Here’s your shredded cabbage. I did this in the food processor. Big time saver.
And here are the grated beets. Isn’t that pretty???
Here’s the soup on the first boil. By the end it’ll be ruby red.
This part might be a little tricky. Add the hot broth, a tablespoon or so at a time, whisk and keep doing that until the sour cream is warm and has had a chance to combine with the broth a bit. If you don’t do this, the sour cream will separate in the soup. You don’t want that. You want this:
From ruby red to hot pink! Cleanup isn’t that bad, either. It just looks like the aftermath of a slasher movie. Just rinse out everything and you’re done.
And, here’s the video I promised!
Ukranian Beet Soup.wmv