One of the great things about Passover in Ukraine is that many of the dishes we normally eat are naturally kosher for Pesach. A prime example is borsht, perhaps the most well-known and beloved example of Ukrainian cuisine. Every Ukrainian woman has her own version and so I present to you my very own, one of a kind, borsht recipe.
You will need:
- 5 beets
- 5 potatoes, any variety
- 1 head of white cabbage
- 3 carrots
- 1/2 medium celery root
- 1 red pepper
- 1 white onion
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1 bunch parsley
- 5 bay leaves (optional)
- pomegranate juice (or lemon and sugar)
- salt and pepper
- lots and lots of water
Begin by boiling the beets, potatoes, cabbage, carrots, and celery root separately! This is very important and ensures that the vegetables maintain their flavor. Except for the beets, which require about 30-40 minutes to boil, each of the vegetables should take only 15-20 minutes. After they’re boiled, grate the vegetables and combine all the water into one large pot. Now finely chop red pepper, onion, garlic, and parsley.
Here you see all the ingredients laid out ready to be added. From left to right, bottom to top: potatoes; beets; cabbage; a mix of peppers, onions, garlic, and parsley; carrots; and celery root.
We’re ready to make the soup now. Traditional borsht recipes often call for a beef or sometimes chicken base, but I prefer vegetable stock. Among other advantages, by keeping your borsht meat-free, you can add sour cream to it when you eat it (and in Ukraine, it is unheard of to eat borsht without sour cream!). Bring all that water flavored with our vegetables to a boil, and then quickly put on low heat. Add the veggies and bay leaves and stir. You know how thick you like your soup. Add water until your borsht is the desired thickness. This should already be a huge amount of soup (see picture). Allow to simmer for about 15 minutes.
By now the soup should taste pretty solidly of our vegetables, and it’s time for my secret ingredient*. Add about 1/8 liter of pomegranate juice (keep stirring it in and tasting until it’s just right). If you don’t have pomegranate juice handy, or want to go with a more traditional recipe, add sugar and freshly squeezed lemon juice instead. Stir for another 5 minutes, and then add salt and pepper to taste.
Your borsht is already done, but as is the rule with soups, the longer you can leave it simmering, the better it will taste. When it’s finally done, Serve with a dab of sour cream. As for the rest, remove from heat and let cool completely before refrigerating.