29/08/2012

Borscht

Classic Russian/Ukrainian beetroot soup.

Borscht is a big part of the culinary heritage of much of Central Europe and as such, so many combinations and versions exist - Borscht can also be eaten hot, or cold.

All manner of ingredients can be included, herbs, roots; cold, cucumber, radish; some stir in soured cream for a vivid pink, others, a dollop on top.

This one is quite pure and makes the most of the beetroot. Chilled, it would be superb, hot, still gorgeous!

Begin by peeling, cubing and boiling a beetroot per person and get it boiling away to soften.

Soften a chopped onion in butter or olive oil along with a couple of cloves of garlic.

Peel a couple of large plum tomatoes. You know how to do this, right? Cut an X into the end and immerse in boiling water for a few minutes - the skin will then just fall off.

Once the beetroot is softened, put the lot into a blender and purée to a pulp.

Back in the pan, let it out with a little water or stock - the soup should still be more a slurry than liquid.

Taste? It's bitter! Sugar is often added. If you really must, honey would work. Personally, I like the bitterness, but it does need the edge taking off. The solution is vinegar, which lends just a little sweetness in the back taste - cider or wine vinegar. I went with red wine vinegar.

Ready to eat? Final flavours - maybe some sea salt, some black pepper.

Into a bowl with some fresh herbs - dill or chives are perfect. I went with chives, since dill was going to feature heavily in my main course.

Crown with a good dollop of smetana, a Russian soured cream which has a more creamy flavour than the soured cream we are used to here in the UK. If dairy is not within your dietary template, just leave it out.

Taking this basic formula, the addition of cucumber and radish would give a cool peppiness chilled, adding in roots, turnip, swede, even potato, would produce a heavier, warming winter soup.

Have fun with combinations ...

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