Borsch: sensual, full-bodied, with Ukrainian love.

From Katya (re-printed from Delicious. magazine January 2014)

" Food is a crucial part of my life, something I put down to my late Ukrainian mother. Her love of food was like her looks: exquisite, sensual, full-bodied, but this appetite for indulgence clashed with her desire to look svelte – a common problem! She was a great cook with an eye for style, a rare quality in a time of
Communist scarcity. "
Katya's mum - Aleksandra - somewhere in Ukraine.

I was born in Soviet Estonia. When I left home in my teens for the bright lights of London, cooking was a way to reminisce, to make me feel at home. My mother fell ill a few years ago and it was painful to see her lose her desire for food. When she was gone, I wanted to reconnect, to remember, and I did that through cooking.

Borsch is an Eastern European classic, versions of it is made across the whole region, but it is Ukraine that, I think, is mostly associated with this ruby red soup. Every family hails their version. This - accidently vegan - version is my mum’s. Priyatnava appetita! "

NB: Below is the original recipe, which resembles the borsch we're making in our shop now, but we've introduced some changes.
Rosehip and Rye Katya's mum's borsch
Katya's mum's borsch - best with little prirozhki.

Borsch recipe:

Serves 8. HANDS-on time 1 hour, simmering time 20-25 minutes, resting time 10 minutes.


To boil beetroot, cut the stems off, then boil for 30-40 minutes, skin on, until tender when pierced with a knife. Drain, cool, then rub off the skins before grating. Wear rubber gloves to avoid staining your hands.

Make Ahead:

Make the soup up to 2 days in advance and chill, or freeze in batches for up to 3 months, then reheat from frozen. My tip:
This is the vegetarian borsch my mother often made, and it’s the way I usually make it, but most Russians and Ukrainians say borsch without meat is anathema. If you’re not veggie, you could replace the veg stock with stock made by boiling meaty beef bones. If the bones are quite fatty, make the stock in advance, let it cool, then skim off the fat. Shred the meat from the bones to add to the cooked borsch.

• Vegetable oil for frying
• 2 large onions, finely chopped
• 1 tbsp tomato purée
• 1 large garlic clove, crushed
• 200g carrots, grated
• 1 red chilli, finely chopped
• 1 small leek, finely sliced
• 600g boiled beetroot (not the
vacuum-packed kind – see
Know-how), grated
• ½ lemon
• 2 litres vegetable stock (see
Katrina’s tip)
• 7 black peppercorns
• 2 bay leaves
• 300g floury potatoes, cubed
• 175g swede, peeled and cubed
• 200g white cabbage, finely
• 400g tin red kidney beans,
drained and rinsed
• 100ml vodka
• Soured cream and chopped
fresh parsley and dill to serve

1. Heat a little oil in a pan. Gently fry the onions for 20-30 minutes until golden  and starting to caramelise, adding the tomato purée halfway through.

2. Add the garlic, carrots, chilli (if using), leek and beetroot and cook for a couple of minutes. Squeeze in the juice from the half lemon, then add the lemon – this adds zing. Cook for another 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally and adding a little water if the mixture gets too dry.

3. Meanwhile, bring the vegetable stock to the boil in a large pan. Add the peppercorns and bay leaves.

4. Add the potatoes and swede and simmer for a couple of minutes. Add the cabbage and simmer for another couple of minutes. Finally add the prepared onion, carrot and beetroot mixture, making sure that all the juices and scraps
from the pan go into the borsch. Simmer for 20-25 minutes until the potatoes and swede are tender.

5. When the soup is nearly ready, add the kidney beans and simmer for a minute or so. Take the pan off the heat, add the vodka and stir well.

6. Take a few ladlefuls of the soup, pour into another bowl, mash, then return to the pan (this gives a thicker texture, which I prefer).

7. Cover with a lid and let the borsch stand for at least 10 minutes before seasoning generously (the flavours develop overnight, so leave in the fridge,
if you like – see Make Ahead). To serve, add a dollop of soured cream and sprinkle over chopped parsley and dill and freshly ground black pepper. Do the soup justice by eating it with proper rye bread, or at least some robust sourdough – and vodka, of course.

Na zdorovye! (To your health!)