Every Russian family has their own borscht recipe. Some are complex two-step meat and cabbage soups, some are a combination of fried and boiled vegetables, and so forth. Over the last ten years or so, my mother stopped making the traditional meat borscht but continues to make the all-vegetable version that can be eaten hot or cold, which is great for the summer. My great-grandmother’s borscht was an all-day affair, that included beef stock and simmering for hours. Her indication of that the soup was thick enough is that when you put a spoon into the pot to taste it stayed upright.
My recipe is vegetarian and oil-free, so you can eat it hot or cold, depending on your liking. If you wanted to go more traditional, you would start by cooking some beef bones and meat in bouillon. The choice of vegetables is also up to you – beets, carrots, cabbage, and potatoes are the mainstays, but you can also find sweet peppers and celery as ingredients.
3 medium sized beets
4 large carrots
4 Russet potatoes
1 small white cabbage
salt, to taste
Peel the beets and the carrots and place into a large pot filled with cold water. Bring to boil and cook until the beets are soft. Remove the vegetables from the pot and let cool, then grate. Return to pot. If you are pressed for time, you can grate the beet and the carrot first and then cook it. The vegetables will cook faster.
Peel the potatoes and cut into 1 inch dice, add to the pot and cook until done.
Thinly slice the cabbage and add to the pot. Salt to taste, and cook until the cabbage is just cooked – you don’t want to overcook it or it will become mushy.
Serve with a dollop of sour cream and minced dill.