Russian Borscht

This recipe has been keeping me warm this winter. As there is no central air-conditioning here, you can bet we don’t have centralized heating. We have a couple splits that warm well when there is good electricity. But for the winter they have put us on a schedule of 4 hours national electricity, 4 hours with the community generator and a few hours here and there with nothing at all. So needless to say, other modes of heating have become necessary.

Most Kurds use kerosine heaters and most foreigners use propane ones. Each group rags against the other heater as “the most dangerous thing you can have in your house” so we have settled in the middle and have one of each, plus a quartz heater that warms the bathroom nicely. I remember my parent’s house having a propane tank for something and using kerosine lamps when we went camping but I’m pretty sure these methods of heating haven’t been popular in the States since WWII, so we’ve been learning lots. Also about how hot water can keep you warm, in bottles in the bed, buckets in the bathroom, mugs of tea in your hands, and soup in your belly. This borscht has been a winter staple in our house. The recipe has a lot of steps, so I’ve made a video to walk you through it. Enjoy!


Russian Borscht

adapted from Sergei Svetloff’s recipe

  • 1/2 head fresh green cabbage
  • 2 lbs beets
  • 3 medium carrot
  • 1 large onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 Tb vinegar (acidity 3%)
  • 2 Tb tomato paste
  • 1 Tb fresh dill
  • 2 Tb fresh parsley
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 peppercorns black pepper
  • 2 Tb oil
  • 12 cups chicken broth
  • 2 TBSP honey
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
How To:

1. In a large heavy pot boil the stock, add the bay leaves and the peppercorns and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add the shredded cabbage and cook on a medium heat for 8-10 minutes.

2. Wash the beet and peel it. Do not throw away the skin. Cut the beet into julienne. In a large pan heat some oil, add the beet and cook until half done. Add 1 tablespoon of the tomato paste and stir, keep cooking for 3 to 5 minutes. Add 1 cup of the stock and cook for 10-15 minutes. Take off the stove.

2.  Put the saved beet skin in a small saucepan. Add two cups of water and some sugar. Cook over medium heat for 15-20 minutes. At the end add 1 teaspoon of the vinegar. Strain and discard the beet skin and save the liquid.

3.  Cut the onions and the carrot into julienne, heat some oil in the pan and cook the vegetables until half done, add the rest of the tomato paste, stir, cook for 5-7 minutes.

4.  Slice the potatoes, shred the cabbage and finely mince the garlic.

5.   Add the beet and cook for 3-5 minutes. Add the carrot and the onions, return to boil. Add the liquid left from boiling the beet skin and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add sugar, salt, ground black pepper, finely chopped dill and parsley and the garlic. Bring to a boil. Add the rest of the vinegar.


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