This traditional hearty Eastern European soup is made from vibrant beets—which is what gives it its lovely ruby colour and stains everything in your kitchen pink—and it is the perfect comfort food for a cold night, but equally great if you need a filling and nourishing meal.
Borscht is a nutritious and antioxidant rich soup. Beets are packed full of manganese, potassium, iron, calcium, and vitamin C, and as such is particularly good for reducing water retention and bloating, which many women experience during their menstrual cycle, and for improving blood flow. It's thought to be a good natural remedy for anemia, so it's also great for those eating vegetarian or vegan diets.
Because it is a staple across Eastern Europe, every family—and region—has their own recipe for making borscht. You can add potatoes, celery, mushrooms, carrots, string beans and cabbage —or any veggie you fancy— with a dash of lemon or vinegar, for a filling meal that is the perfect mix of sweet, sour, and earthy. On warmer summer days it can also be eaten chilled. If I'm feeling particularly festive I'll also add a bit of vodka to the borscht, because it gives it a kick and sometimes you've just gotta live on the edge.
Usually eaten with a dollop of sour cream— which when mixed in makes the soup a magenta colour— we made vegan cashew cream instead and it's even better. Garnish with dill, and serve with a thick slice of rye bread.
3 medium beets peeled and grated
4 tbsp olive oil
4 cups vegan chicken broth or vegetable broth + 6 cups water
3 medium yukon potatoes peeled and sliced into bite-sized pieces
2 carrots peeled and thinly sliced
2 celery ribs trimmed and finely chopped
1 medium onion finely chopped
3 Tbsp tomato sauce
1 can white cannellini beans or 1 cup fresh green beans (optional)
2 bay leaves
2-3 tbsp white vinegar (or a squeeze of lemon) to taste
1 tsp sea salt or to taste
1/4 tsp black pepper freshly ground
1 large garlic clove pressed
3 tbsp chopped dill
Cashew Cream recipe here
Start by peeling, dicing, slicing and grating all your vegetables for borscht.
Once your potatoes are peeled and sliced, transfer them to a bowl of cold water to keep them from discoloring until ready for use.
Add 2 tbsp of olive oil to a large soup pot and heat over medium heat. Add grated beets and sauté 10 minutes, stirring occasionally until beets are softened.
Add 4 cups of veggie broth and 6 cups water. Add sliced potatoes and sliced carrots then cook for 10-15 minutes.
While potatoes are cooking, place a large skillet over medium/high heat and add 2 tbsp oil. Add chopped onion and celery. Sauté stirring occasionally until softened and lightly golden (7-8 minutes). Add the tomato sauce and stir fry 30 seconds then transfer to the soup pot to continue cooking with the potatoes.
When potatoes and carrots reach desired softness, add 1 can of beans (or green beans), 2 bay leaves, 2-3 tbsp white vinegar, 1 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp black pepper, 1 pressed garlic clove, and 3 tbsp chopped dill. Simmer for an additional 2-3 minutes and add more salt and vinegar to taste.
Serve with a dollop of cashew cream and a sprinkling of fresh dill on top.