I made this soup for our Halloween party this year and it was received by everyone -in the spirit of Halloween- bloody well. Even those guests that thought they didn’t want any soup, had to try the borscht after seeing others scarfing it down.I had looked at a few recipes and was not satisfied with any in particular. So, I put together this fairly easy recipe.
- You can omit the bacon/pancetta and use vegetable stock for a vegetarian version.
- Potatoes give more body to the soup. Omit them if you prefer a thinner consistency.
- Jalapeno peppers and boiled eggs used for garnishing give the borscht another tasteful dimension. Omit them, if you so wish.
Ingredients (6-8 servings):
- 1.5 pounds red beets
- 1/2 pound Yukon potatoes
- 1 large red onion
- 3 cloves of garlic
- 4 large carrots
- 3 stalks of celery
- 3 strips of bacon or pancetta
- 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil- increase to 6 tablespoons if omitting bacon or pancetta
- 5 cups of chicken, beef or vegetable stock, depending on your taste
- 1 cup water
- 6 sprigs of fresh thyme or 1 tablespoon dried thyme
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1 cinnamon stick or 1 teaspoon of cinnamon powder
- 1 tablespoon honey or sugar (you might need more depending on sweetness of beets)
- 1-2 tablespoon/s red or white vinegar
- salt & pepper to taste
- 1/2 cup chopped dill
- 1 jalapeno pepper, slivered
- 8 ounce crème fraiche or sour cream
- 3-4 boiled eggs, cut in half
- Heat oven to 400 degrees F.
- Clean and scrub the beets with skins on. Place on a baking dish lined with aluminum foil, drizzle with olive oil and add 3 thyme sprigs or 1/2 tablespoon of dried thyme. Bake until beets are cooked and tender. Depending on the size, it should take about 1-1.5 hours. Let them cool down a bit so they can be handled. Slip off the skins and chop in 1 inch cubes.
- While the beets are cooking, chop the rest of the vegetables.
- Heat a large pot (use a dutch oven pot if you have it) on medium high heat and add 1 tablespoon (or 3 tablespoons if omitting bacon) of olive oil and pancetta or bacon. Once pancetta/bacon is crisp and most the fat is rendered; add onion and sauté until translucent.
- Add celery, carrots and garlic and sauté for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Add cumin, cinnamon, salt and pepper and sauté for a minute.
- Add potatoes, thyme sprigs or the rest of dried thyme, stock of your choice and water. Put the lid on and bring to boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 45-60 minutes.
- Add chopped beets and let simmer for another 20-30 minutes.
- Remove the cinnamon stick. Puree the soup using a submersion blender, food processor or food mill. While you can puree to a creamy consistency; I prefer a little texture left in the soup. If the soup is too thick; add more boiling water or hot stock. Taste first for sweetness. Then add honey/sugar and vinegar and adjust the seasoning (including for salt and pepper) accordingly. The borscht should have a slightly sweet and sour taste. Blend again to incorporate.
- ladle the borscht in a bowl (choose a white bowl so the ruby beets can show off). Garnish with a spoonful of crème fraiche; followed by half a boiled egg, chopped dill and a few slivers of jalapeno.
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