When other kids hung around the kitchen and asked to lick the icing beaters or the cake batter bowl, I was off in the nearest sun-warmed window reading books. It’s not that I didn’t like icing or cake batter or cookie dough. It’s okay. And I’ll readily admit that on more than one occasion, I ate an entire batch of freshly baked cookies in an afternoon.
But when Granny made borscht, she couldn’t keep me out of the kitchen. I would beg to be permitted to peel potatoes or carrots or crush garlic. I would pull the stool over to the stove and stir the softly boiling red ambrosia. There was a deal.
If I helped make the soup, I got to lick out the bowl. WITH MY FINGERS.
The bowl in which the potatoes got mashed with garlic, sauteed onion, tomato, and dill. Seriously. Things don’t get better than that. Sitting at the dining table with the cool winter sun streaming in the big southeast-facing window, dragging my fingers along the concave side of the bowl, and licking the salty, dilly, tomatoey potatoes from my fingers.
To this day, beet borscht is my favourite vegetable soup. But it’s always a challenge as to whether the mashed potatoes will make it into the soup, or whether I’ll just eat them all first.
Okay. I’ve been asked a few times for the recipe. I don’t really do recipes. But here is, in general, how I make borscht:
4 medium beets, shredded (YAY, MANDOLINE!) or grated (or diced)
4-5 potatoes: 2 in quarters, the others diced
3-5 carrots, chopped
4-5 green onions, tops and bottoms, chopped
2 or more quarts turkey or chicken stock*
white beans or string beans**
garlic, crushed and chopped (as much as you want; I use about 1 whole bulb). Divide in two parts
pinch of celery seed
bay leaves (2-3)
parsley (dried or fresh)
dill (fresh is best, but dried is okay). Divide in two parts
salt (to taste)
butter or coconut oil***
medium onion, shredded (YAY! MANDOLINE!) or grated
2 tomatoes or 1 tin tomato paste
You’re going to need a big stock pot or soup tureen.
Put beets, quartered potatoes, beans, carrots, half the green onions, celery seed, parsley, half the dill, bay leaves, and half the garlic into pot and bring to boil. Reduce heat to low and cook at low heat for about 20 minutes (until the veggies are cooked, but not too soft). Remove the quartered potatoes and mash with sweet cream. Add diced potatoes.
Melt butter/fat in a separate pan at medium heat. Add shredded onion, the remaining dill, remaining garlic, and salt. Cook until the onions are golden and opaque. Add tomatoes and cook until much of the fat is absorbed and it begins to steam.
Add onion/tomato mixture to mashed potatoes and mix well. The really hard part here is to not just eat all of the mashed potatoes.
Once well mixed, add the mashed potatoes to the borscht.
Toss in a little bit of sauerkraut for good measure.
Serve with sour cream.
*to make a purely vegetarian borscht, just use water. The cooking veggies make their own stock.
**I don’t usually put beans in my borscht, but they can be really good. If you use white beans, soak them for 2 hours before beginning the soup.
***Never use margarine or olive oil. That’s be grody. I often use salt pork fat or bacon fat for this step.