by Maria Koropecky, Homespunspa owner
Many Ukrainians celebrate Christmas Eve with a 12-dish vegetarian feast on January 6th. Borscht is one of the dishes and I absolutely love it! When prepared to my taste (and no two batches, let alone recipes, are the same) it’s like a fine claret with complex notes. Borscht is also a soothing, comforting, warming, and healing soup and I’m inspired to share a recipe with you today.
Meatless Borscht for Ukrainian Christmas Eve
- 1/2 cup or more dried mushrooms
- 6 cups water
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 3 TB vegetable oil or olive oil
- 1 red bell pepper (optional)
- 2 medium beets, peeled and cut julienne
- 1 bunch parsley, chopped
- 3 to 10 peppercorns to taste
- 1 bay leaf
- 8 to 9 cups of water
- 1 carrot, cut julienne
- 1 small potato, diced
- 1 stalk celery, chopped
- 3 cups cabbage, shredded
- 1/2 cup tomato juice or 1 small can tomato paste or 3 TB ketchup
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 cup cooked white beans
- 1 beet, peeled and whole
- sea salt and black pepper to taste
- 1 pinch cayenne pepper (optional)
To rehydrate dried mushrooms, pour hot water over the mushrooms, drain and wash. Cover the mushrooms (again) with lukewarm water and soak for 30 minutes or longer. Cook the mushrooms in the same water as they were soaked in earlier, until tender. Set aside the mushrooms and reserve the mushroom stock for later.
- In a large stockpot, caramelize the onion in cooking oil. You can add the optional red bell pepper here if you wish. It’s not traditional but I like to do it. Cover with 8 cups of water and add 2 beets (reserving a third for the end), as well as parsley, peppercorns, and bay leaf. Cover with a lid and cook until the beets are al dente.
- Add the carrot, potato and celery and continue cooking for about 15 minutes.
- Add the cabbage and continue cooking but make sure the cabbage retains some crispness.
- Add the tomato juice or paste, minced garlic and cooked white beans.
- Add the cooked mushrooms (if you aren’t using them elsewhere) and mushroom stock. Bring to a boil.
- Add the last whole beet at the end to brighten the colour of the borscht.
- Season to taste with salt, black pepper and/or cayenne pepper.
- Strain out the cooked vegetables and serve.
Note: The borscht is served clear with vushka (translated to “little ears” that are closely related to mushroom-filled tortellinis) on Christmas Eve. During the rest of the year, you can garnish the borscht with jullienned vegetables and sour cream and use a meat stock. The borscht should be mildly tart but not sour.
Borscht is one of the healthiest soups I know and if you’re suffering from some sort of health crisis like quitting smoking or fighting cancer, borscht will nourish you and will make you feel better and will help your chances to be successful with your health goals and new year’s resolutions.
I hope you enjoy this recipe. Let me know if you’ve ever attempted to make borscht from scratch before and if you have any tips or tricks for the rest of us. Happy New Year!