It is a wild winter wind whipping through the branches outside. People are bundled up in their winter woollies bravely battle their way through town. I must admit I did not make my trip to town last longer – a quick stop to the store to pick up some beef, and I am already back home. A big pot of beef borscht is my best defense against the winter chill.
I can think of nothing better than this old comforting dish on these days. There are memories about this dish that are unmistakable make me go back to my mother kitchen. She taught me to never hurry when cooking borscht. It is not a quick to cook recipe. It needs patience and willingness. In that way, you will get yourself a meal that is brimming with all of those wonderful slow-cooked honest characters. With an unhurried approach, this winter dish is all about hearty, truthful ingredients that will melt away those winter blues and give you the feeling of satisfaction and comfort.
8 cups (2 l.) of beef broth, homemade or canned
1 lb boneless beef, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 large onions, chopped
1 teaspoon grated ginger
2 carrots, grated
1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut it into cubes
2 pale stalk of celery (from the inner part), chopped
3 large potatoes (about 900g) chopped
¼ cup (60 ml) olive oil
2 soft medium tomatoes, chopped
8 oz (227 g) tomato sauce
¼ cup chopped coriander leaves
¼ cup chopped flat-leaf (italian) parsley, lovage or celery leaves, finely chopped. Lovage leaves will give a special taste to the borscht. If it is hard to find it, just leave it out.
¼ cup (60 ml) sauerkraut juice or lemon juice as you like
Crème fraiche or sour cream, for garnish
Salt and pepper, for seasoning
A big skillet and a large saucepan.
In the slow cooker, place the beef with the beef broth together. Cover and place on a low heat skimming occasionally, for 1 ½ hours.
Meanwhile, in the skillet heat the oil over low heat. Cook the onion, carrots, celery, ginger, and bell pepper for about 7 minutes, stirring occasionally, until just fragrant. Add the chopped tomatoes and tomato sauce and about two tablespoon of the liquid (maybe more), then simmer for another 5 minutes until the tomato breaks down slightly.
Transfer to the slow cooker and add the potatoes. Cover and allow to cook slowly until the meat is tender, 2 to 3 hours. Just before it is done, add the sauerkraut juice or lemon juice and allow simmering a little further. Season to taste. Add the lovage or celery leaves and covered for 2 minutes.
Ladle the borscht into individual bowls and garnish with a spoonful of crème fraiche or sour cream, parsley, and coriander. You may serve it with french bread or a bowl of steamed rice.
If you want to add egg, just before serving, you have to beat the egg first with a pinch of salt and cold water in order not to break. Then very slowly add the egg to the borscht, stirring continuously. Reheat the borscht only on bain-marie.