Monday, 9 September 2013

How does Ukrainian Borsch differ from the Russian?

(can be Vegetarian if using vegetable stock)

Borsch is such a traditional Eastern Slavic dish, that every family has its unique recipe. There are several 'official' types of borsch including 'green borsch' which is made with sorrel, but this one is for the spring, as that's when fresh sorrel is first available. This recipe is based on my babushka’s way of making borsch. Though born in Russia she made it Ukrainian way. There is a joke that a Russian borsch is a bucket of water with one cabbage, two potatoes and three beetroots. Ukrainians, being blessed with rich produce, put pretty much all the autumnal vegetables in it. But the basics, what makes borsch - borsch and not just a vegetable soup, are the same: stock, potatoes, beetroots and cabbage. To make it more substantial, babushka would add to it pieces of boiled beef or pork from the stock bones, but you don't have to. Also, be warned, because it contains beetroot it may make your wee look pink!

Ingredients: Makes 6 portions
2.5l home made beef stock (see previous post. You can use veg stock instead, though it won't be authentic)
Sunflower oil (preferably unrefined, see cooking essentials)
2 large-ish beetroots - peeled and cut into thin batons - bigger than frites, but smaller than chips
2-3 medium carrots - cut into small chunks (I do cemicircles)
2 medium onions - thinly sliced
4-5 medium potatoes - cut into medium chunks
½ small white cabbage (400-500g) - shredded
2 red or orange peppers - cut into thin slices
½ tube (100g) of tomato paste
2 fresh tomatoes - cut into small chunks - or 1/2 tin of tinned tomatoes
1tbsp or so lemon juice or white wine vinegar
4-5 garlic cloves crushed
Salt and pepper

Sour cream or half fat creme freche and chopped fresh dill to garnish


Heat the oil in a large pot. Add the beetroots and fry for a few minutes, this is supposed to lock the colour in the beetroots as well as to tenderise then, as they take longer to cook. If you are using unrefined sunflower oil - smell it! There is no other smell that is so authentically East European! Add the carrots and see how the smell changes.  After a few minutes add the onions. Let the veg soften a bit then add beef stock.

Bring to the boil and let it simmer for 5 minutes on low heat. Add the potatoes. Season. Bring to the boil and simmer for another 10 minutes.

Add the cabbage, sweet peppers, tomatoes, tomato pure and lemon juice or vinegar. Taste it. It should have a slight acidity to it,  but still basically have a rich slightly sweet vegetably taste.

Simmer until the cabbage and potatoes are ready. Take off the heat. Add some crushed garlic.

Serve adding a spoonful of sour cream or creme freche and lots chopped fresh gill. Best eaten with crusty fresh bread.


  1. вот.. сготовила, между прочим мой первый борщ в жизни!

  2. И что, по моему рецепту? Ну и как? Поздравляю, на самом деле! В нашем полку прибыло! :)

  3. This has been a popular post and a lot of discussion went on a Ukrainain website I use on how to make borsch. It's all in Russian and Ukrainian, but here is a summary.

    Many people put white beans into the borsch. Great idea for the vegetarians. My babushka never did it, but she had another version, a so called 'Lent borsch' - more on that during Lent - when she did put beans into it and even added tinned fish, instead of meat.

    Lots of comments also indicated that one can make stock from pork ribs. My mum does it that way and claims that that's how babushka made it. I prefer beef stock myself, but I am not saying that may way is the right way. Pork ribs stock is made exactly the same way as the beef one, minus beef bones and ox tail obviously!