Good borsch requires good, almost perfect broth. For that boil a medium-size pot of water, but don’t make it full – three quarters is enough. Add beef to the boiling water. Pork or chicken are options also, but beef is more traditional. Pork makes borsch heavier, chicken gives it an air of ‘foreigner-cooking’. It’s important to have a bone in the meat, as it gives the broth an amber colour and specific borschy taste. The broth is to boil slowly, and all the brownish foam on top of it needs to come off with a spoon. It’s edible, but doesn’t look like food at all! The broth MUST be clear – if a spoon doesn’t do the job, you’ll have to pour your broth through a cloth napkin.
Once the meat is almost done, take it out of the broth, cut it into small bits, put them back into the broth and add salt. Then chop the beetroot into small cubes (no bigger than half an inch on the side) and throw it into the broth. In 4-5 minutes add potatoes and a handful of celery root (if you find any) also cut in cubes, and straight after that add pre-cooked fried mix.
The fried mix is done this way: finely chop the onions, tomatoes and carrots, fry them on a slow fire in vegetable oil (a real Ukrainian would’ve used lard, though) until the onions are goldish-yellow and carrots are half-done. You can add pickled tomatoes or tomato paste. The kind of tomatoes you use affects the soup’s taste slightly, so you’ll have to experiment and find the ingredient you like most.
So… we’ve put in the fried mix, now – finely sliced cabbage. Russians usually slice it into hair-thin long stripes and add it only after the potatoes are half-done, so that the cabbage is fresh and crunchy.
Add herbs, finely chopped garlic (3-4 cloves), a laurel leaf and whole black peppers (8-12 balls). Cover with a lid and put into a hot oven for 10-15 min. The grand Borsch is ready.
It is served hot with a spoonful of sour cream.
TIP: Some people add lemon juice after they add beetroot, so that the soup keeps the colour of the beet.