Sunday, 22 January 2012

Borscht or Detox by Beetroot

The other day, I went to visit my mother. We talked, drank tea, watched "Dracula" and I made her some of my pork and cider stew - which she loved! In return for the meal I made her, she gave me... a bag of beets. I know some of you will think that this is a weird way of being grateful, but what you don't know is that I had decided to try my hand at making borscht, so those beets were very enthusiastically received! Thank you mom!!

We are having intense soup-weather lately, and as I have mentioned before, the Russians are good at tasty winter comfort food. Borscht is technically a Ukrainian recipe, but most Eastern European countries have their own variants, hot and cold. I can't vouch for the authenticity of the recipe below, as I found it within the colorful pages of Nadia G.'s "Bitchin' Kitchen Cookbook". She showcases it as an excellent soup to cure hangovers, which makes sense, as beets are packed with vitamin C and powerful antioxidants.

I also learned that beetroots are great veggies to munch on to promote a good cardiovascular health because they contain betaine, a very cleansing nutrient that breaks down fatty deposits (of cholesterol on the heart and of alcohol-damage on the liver). Nadia G. was right: party-animals out there ought to stock up on beets and learn to make borscht.

I wasn't hungover in the least when I decided to make this: I was just cold and grumpy. So was my boyfriend. Making my kitchen look like a murder scene was very therapeutic and the smell of the cooking beets and the celery was oddly soothing. It was the perfect night for borscht.

6 beets
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 large red onion, minced
3 cups chicken or vegetable stock
3 big pinches brown sugar
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 celery stalk, halved
1 carrot, halved
1 big pinch dried dill
Sea salt and ground black pepper
1 handful fresh dill, chopped
Sour cream, for garnish (optional)

Peel the beets and chop them into equally sized pieces. Boil over medium heat, in 3 cups of salted water, covered, for 30 minutes. Strain the beets and reserve the cooking liquid. Heat the olive oil in a large pot on medium heat. Add the minced garlic and sauté until golden, about 3 minutes. Add the onion. Sauté until the onions are soft, about 8 minutes. Add 2 cups of the beet cooking liquid, along with the stock, brown sugar, cider vinegar, celery, carrot, a big pinch of dried dill and salt and pepper to taste. Turn the heat down to medium-low. Simmer, covered, for 30 minutes to 1 hour. Discard the carrot and celery. Add a handful of chopped fresh dill. Throw the cooked beets back in and top with a dollop of sour cream, if desired.

Now listen closely: beets stain. Hardcore.

Wear dark clothes or an apron when peeling and slicing, and if you have decent cooking gloves, use them, or you will look like Dexter. And do not slice them on a nice wooden cutting board: use the crappy plastic one that's been sitting in a dark corner since your last move.

This soup is great if you are the kind of crazy person who works out regularly, as it helps keep all your organs clean. It's also great if you are nursing a cold or dieting, because of the high content of anti-oxidants. See, not just good for the party-animals!

On a cold night, the sweet and earthy flavor of this soup is wonderful and comforting. I also loved the dark red color. If you like it hot, perhaps you'll like it cold, too! Borscht can be served cooled in the hotter months of the year, like a gazpacho. Whatever temperature it's served at, a nice piece of rye bread and a glass of strong red wine are very good friends to borscht.

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