The first time I ever had borscht was in the Ukraine, at a restaurant in Yalta, when the Ukraine was still part of the Soviet Union. Its a beautiful place, a resort town on the Black Sea, where the Russians used to take their vacation. I was lucky enough to return when it was no longer Soviet Union and it was really interesting to see the changes. I would have loved to have reunited with some ladies that I had coffee with in Odessa, who spoke great English and discussed their lives under communism at length with me, to see how their lives had changed, but was unable to locate them after all those years!
But of course I had several great food experiences there. The flavours of Ukrainian food are always hearty and it’s been fun introducing my husband to some of the dishes. He had never had pirogi before, but now it is his new addiction. He had tried borscht when some Lithuanian friends did a restaurant take over one night and served their native food. Stroganoff is another of his favourite that I make. I have also enjoyed the more modern recipes from Olia Hercules as well as the traditional. If you want to explore more of Ukrainian cooking, I highly recommend all of her books.
The recipe I am blogging, is one from an older food encyclopedia that explores food from around the world. I adapted it for the crock pot (which I often do with slow cooked food) with good results. Be sure to use cheaper cuts of beef as they slow cook well and soften in the process.
Food from this region makes such beautiful winter comfort food and I usually serve it up with fresh baked bread.
WINE NOTE: Okay, go the vodka route if you wish (I will tell a story about vodka drinking in Yalta another time!!!!) But borscht with beef just begs for a red wine and we had difficulty finding the right style of red from Eastern Europe at stores in our area, but I would urge you to track down a Georgian wine or Hungarian wine that is a bright zesty medium bodied red. Failing that, an Italian BarberaD’Asti is bright enough against the beets in this dish. Waitrose has a Romanian Pinot Noir with strawberries and cherry which may pair well.
1 1/2 / 700g diced stewing beef
4 beets peeled & chopped
2 large carrots diced into 1/2 inch pieces
2 potatoes peeled and diced
1 onion chopped
3 cloves garlic finely chopped or minced
1 can (28oz/ 800g ) chopped tomatoes
2 cups/500ml beef broth
2 tbsp tomato paste
6 tbsp red wine vinegar
3 tbsp brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp dill weed
1 tbsp dried parsley
1 bay leaf
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
3 cups (approx 1/2 green cabbage) shredded green cabbage
1 cup / 250ml sour cream
Place group 1 ingredients in the crock pot.
Whisk group 2 ingredients together and pour over the meat and vegetables. Add more beef stock if needed to cover.
Cover and cook on low for 8 hours.
Turn up to high and stir in the cabbage and cook for 1/2 hour.
Serve topped with some sour cream.