Red Russian Borscht ~or~ Cooking from the Heart

Today is a brilliant, but cold and windy day. It is a day for hats, gloves and scarves, for pink-cheeked, red-nosed people to come into Stella’s Cafe for warmth, good food and companionship. A large pot of Stella’s famous Red Russian Borscht is on the stove, simmering away and scented with fresh dill. Stella has loved borscht herself since her father used to take her to the Russian restaurant in her hometown. She remembers the brimming white bowls of hot red vegetarian soup served with a generous slice of homemade bread with lashings of real butter. She has worked on her borscht recipe over the years after begging for and receiving a rather vague written recipe from the Russian restaurant’s cook; just a few ingredients, no measurements. A real ‘cook from the heart’ recipe, ‘and you will get it right,’ she said.

The borscht is today’s special at Stella’s, written up on the black board in coloured chalk, the letters embellished with Savannah’s Russian inspired flourishes. ‘Served with locally baked whole wheat sourdough bread and small house salad.’  “Mmmmm…looks good! I’ll have the borscht,” says customer after customer. At precisely 1:30 pm the pot is empty and the cafe is full of satisfied, warm customers.

A good day!

Red Russian Borscht

  •  Peel 2 medium sized beets, boil and reserve beets and beet water (if desired). Let cool.

In large pot add:

  • 4 peeled potatoes cut into large chunks
  • 1 liter of pureed canned tomatoes
  • 2 liters of water
  • 1 tsp of salt
  • 1/4 tsp of pepper

Bring to a boil and cook until potatoes are soft enough to mash – about 15 minutes

Meanwhile:

  •  Peel and grate 3-4 large carrots
  • finely dice 2 onions
  • finely dice 2 long stalks celery
  • finely dice 1 green pepper
  • finely chop 1/2 large cabbage

In a large wok or frying pan, fry in 1/2 lb of butter (there is no place for low-fat dishes in cold weather as far as Stella is concerned) in the following order:  onions, celery, green pepper, large cabbage, carrots, and let cook, covered until all the veggies are tender.

Take the potatoes out with a slotted spoon and mash them with a few large dollops of sour cream.

Grate the cooked beets.

Add the potatoes to the large pot and whisk until the mashed potatoes are incorporated.

Add the grated beets to the cooked veggies in the wok and mix together. Add the veggies to the soup pot and stir gently.

Add a few sprigs of fresh dill, or dried dill weed and more salt and pepper to taste. Let sit for a while before eating if you have the time, in order to let the flavours mingle. If you like your borscht extra pink, add a bit of the reserved beet water.

Enjoy, and freeze some for a rainy day.

Makes about 5 liters.

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