Borsch is a hearty Russian soup with lots of beetroot. There are many variants of borsh. This borsh follows the family recipe of my Russian friend Elisev Kobzev, and I consider it to be truly delicious. Note that while you CAN make a vegetarian borsch, and give the meateaters bits of sausage or other meat to add to their bowls, it's much better made with a good beef stock.

Authenticity note: potatoes and tomatoes are not authentic for the Dark Ages. For a plausibly authentic borsch substitute other root vegetables such as turnips, and leave out the tomato paste. It seems very likely to me that people in Northeast Europe were eating hearty soups of this type back in the Dark Ages.

Serves 6 people.


Other vegetables such as turnip and celery can be added. Make sure they go in at the right time so as to be cooked when the potatoes are done.

Chopped radishes are also a good garnish.


Simmer the potatoes in the stock for about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, fry the onions and carrots in the oil, and add them to the stock about 10 minutes after the potatoes. Add the cabbage, tomato paste and plenty of black pepper. Simmer for another 10 minutes or so, until the veg are cooked.

Adjust the seasoning. Add the beetroot and cook for 2 minutes more. Note that if you overcook the beetroot, it will lose its colour.

To serve, invite diners to put some garlic and parsley in their bowl, ladle the borsch on top, and then stir in soured cream. Serve with rye bread if possible, or any chunky brown bread.

Shelagh Lewins

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