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Benvenuti al Tutti!

Welcome to Luigi's Tastes of Italy

This blog is my small dedication to Italian cooking, and is abolutely 100% free of pretentiousness, complicated ingredients, or any effort to present Italian cuisine as anything other than it really is, very simple.

Hope you enjoy reading my posts and maybe trying out some of the recipes.

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Russian Bortsch (World Cuisine)

Having visited Russia a couple of times in the past, I am quite familiar with a few of the foods which Russia has to offer.

I encountered, things such as Blini, Pelmeni, Piroshoki, Plov, Shashlik.

However it is the soups that got my attention the most.

I like the sour tasting soup containing lemon, and black olives called Salanka, and a summer favourite is the "no cook" cold soup called Okroshka, which is made from a drink of fermented rye bread called Kvass and a variety of chopped raw fresh vegetables, such as gherkin and radishes, and is full of lots of fresh dill. Its infinitely better than Spanish Gazpacho in my opinion, and is very refreshing like a liquid salad.

However on this occasion we made a Bortsch, I think it is fair to say, that this soup is very well known universally, across the world. And that there as many variations of this soup, as there are variations for something like an Italian Lasagna.

Essentially though, the soup is a peasant type affair, (as the best dishes are) and is made from a broth made from meats normally beef or lamb, with the addition of roots such as white cabbage, beetroots and carrot.  The beetroots in particular give bortsch its traditional red colour and taste. Personally I adore it.

Normally as I understand it, bortsch is served with sour cream dumped in the middle, although I usually have it without. Instead choosing to drizzle some very Un-Russian peppery extra virgin olive oil over the top.

For the meat part of this bortsch I decided to use a leftover roast leg of lamb we had in the freezer.  If we have a roast leg of lamb, we normally have at least another two seperate meals from the leftovers. To eat the same thing two days in a row, would be a sin in my view, and it simply does not happen in our home.

I have made things like curries, shepherds pie (to be blogged), or a ragu style Italian sauce from left over meat. And usually the actual bone goes into the freezer to be used at a later date.

I am pretty sure most people just discard the bone after most of the meat has been carved off, however it is an absolute sinful waste if you do.

At the very least a stock could be made, or alternatively as a flavour giving base for something like a soup. So in the unlikely event that anyone reading this is one of those food wasters, then please stop!

With regards to the ingredients, the only worthy note to make is the recommendation to use fresh beetroot. And not the vacuum packed varieties, as the difference in flavour is immense. However if nothing else is available, then it can give a satisfactory result.

(serves 4)

1 bone-in piece of beef, or lamb, or at a push a piece of rump, or stewing steak could be used. Use enough to provide a portion of meat for each person. Quantity depends on your preference.

1 tablespoon of Vegetable oil
1 onion finely diced
1 sprig of fresh dill, chopped include stalks
2 medium sized beetroot, raw, grated
2 carrots grated,
1 tablespoon of tomato paste (puree, or concentrate)
4 large tomatoes diced up,
1 small white cabbage,sliced thinly
1 sprig of parsley, chopped
1 potato diced, peeled first
1 pint vegetable stock
1/2 pint water,
salt and pepper to season

To serve,
sour cream (optional)


-Add the meat, onion, dill, into a heated deep sided pan, together with a tablespoon of vegetable oil, stir and if using raw meat, rather than leftovers (as I was), then colour the meat until a nice nutty brown.

-Next you simply add the vegetable stock, the fresh tomatoes, and some water and bring to the boil. Once at the boil, simmer and cover for around  one and a half hours.

-At this point you can add the sliced white cabbage, the parsley, and season the cooking liquor to your taste.

-While the cabbage is cooking, in a frying pan, lightly fry the raw beetroot, carrot, and add the tomato paste. Once this has softened slightly add the whole lot into the main pan.

-Continue to cook for another 30 or so minutes, remove from the heat, and then serve hot.


Normally Bortsch is served with a large dollop of sour cream added to the center just before serving, it is quite delightful served that way. However as can be seen below I didn't have any. I have to assure you, it does, taste better than it looks. Although I will wager that yours would look better!

So on this occasion, being Italian I made it to my taste by drizzling some extra virgin olive oil over the top. I would however urge you to try it in the authentic manner and use the sour cream, or alternatively creme fraiche. The hot bortsch, with the flavours of the beetroot are really countered by the cold smooth sour cream, and it is lovely. Enjoy!


Lady Boheme said...

Ciao Luigi, la ricetta è gustosa e saporita, proprio adatta per la fredda stagione! Un caro saluto

Renata said...

Hey Luigi, this Bortsch looks delicious and cousy! Is that some kind of soup!?!?!

Jennie said...

I was thinking about making this recently but decided on a simple beetroot soup. This recipe sounds great! I will bookmark it for when I make Borscht! I love the sound of olive oil drizzled on top!

Kim said...

Believe it or not, I have never had a beet before! People seem to love them, so I need to give them a try. Russia would be a very interesting travel destination, so nice that you've been a couple times. Great recipe.

natalia said...

Ciao ! Deve essere squisita ! Al mercato hanno delle rape rosse bellissime !!

Micaela said...

è una ricetta che non conoscevo!!! sono curiosa di provarla!!!

Donna-FFW said...

Ive never made my own bortsch but Id love to, it sounds wonderful!

Fausta said...

uno di quei piatti che ti scalda il cuore! complimenti

Tien said...

Why have I not visited your blog yet! I have been looking for a recipe for Russian Bortsch. Thanks for sharing! Tien:)

Mari said...

Che sembra così bene! Sarà perfetto per queste fredde serate invernali! La ringrazio per il commento sulla mia pagina su le donazioni ... è bello sapere che si sente lo stesso

are you impressed?????

Luigi said...

Thanks for the comments on this soup, you are all much too kind.

Mari i'm Amazed. Just don't expect me to say anything in Dominican. lol.

Joanne said...

This is my brother's absolute favorite soup! I know he would love it if I made it for him sometime and at least now I have a recipe I know I can trust.

Mo Diva said...

I'm missin out... I have only had beets in canned form and those are gross!

might have to try this!

3 hungry tummies said...

we are on a soup diet so this is perfect!

il ramaiolo said...

Hi Luigi!!! Ho trovato il tuo blog per caso...Piacere di conoscerti! ripassarò! Ciao

Velva said...

Luigi, I don't think I have ever had a quality bortsch. I love beets, and I know I would enjoy this hearty Russian soup. I have put this soup on my list to make-

Erica said...

That looks rich, comforting and delicious!

Chow and Chatter said...

oh wow this is fab my neighbor is Russian and I had shee (can't spell) at their house last week, my baby loved it thanks for the recipe love your cooking

Antonella said...

Hi Luigi.
Nice to meet you and your kitchen :)

tasteofbeirut said...

It has always been part of my plan to make borsht and I keep forgetting! Now you have reminded me! I will use your recipe, it looks perfect.

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