úterý 25. srpna 2009

Borsch - Борщ - Boršč

When I was younger (14-18 years) me and my mom often went shopping in town and of course such shopping sprees always ended with a nice lunch. Once, many years ago we decided to try a Russian restaurant located on Na Příkopech. It was a long long time ago, maybe even 15 years. The restaurant was probably a survivor from communist times and has been closed down for good soon after we ate there.
We ordered borsch. What we got made us wonder whether they understood our order correctly and so we asked if this stuff they brought us is borsch. The waiter said - "Yes, it is, and if you don't like it go back to where you come from"...:-) Oh well, we ate, paid and left. This incident persisted in my memory not because of the hateful comment, which was actually my first and most importantly only encounter with hatred towards my origin, but because this borsch included frozen peas, corn and a smoked sausage.

Here is how I cook the Ukrainian national soup -
0.7kg beef, chicken, pork or duck - with bones, excess fat removed
2 medium beetroots
2 medium carrots
0.5kg cabbage
2-3 big potatoes or 2 handfuls of soaked white beans
2 VERY ripe tomatoes or tomatoe puree (if you want to keep it simple)
salt, pepper
some vinegar - about 1 tablespoon

First of all you need a proper meat stock. Not the one made from stock cubes! Make some real stock from the meat. Tradition tells to use pork, dietary issues say the opposite, so I mostly use beef or chicken. Duck makes fabolous borsch! Let it simmer for several hours with a few bay leaves, peppercorns, whole onion, carrot and celeriac root. No need to strain the stock for borsch, you are not looking for transparancy here.
Once you have the stock peel the beetroot and carrots. Grate them on a grater, heat a pan with a little oil and add the grated vegetables. Let them simmer for a while, add grated tomatoes (or the puree). Season the mixture with salt and pepper and add about 1 tablespoon of vinegar. Pour into the broth. Cube the potatoes and add to the soup, I sometimes add beans instead of potatoes. Thinly slice the cabbage. Turn off the flame under the pot, add meat if you still haven't done so. Add salt and pepper to taste. That's it. No pickled, frozen or canned stuff and no smoked meat or sausages.
Serve with lots of sour cream!

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