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SOLIDARITY SOUP: Making borscht to remember and support Ukraine

Thinking about my grandparents and making borscht to show our ongoing support for the people of Ukraine.



By CINDA CHAVICH


Today is January 6 — a day we celebrated, as Orthodox (or Ukrainian) Christmas Eve, at my late grandmother's house when I was a kid.


It was two weeks after our family's Dec. 24 Christmas Eve, following the Julian calendar and the Orthodox Christian Church that my grandmother attended after immigrating to Canada in the 1920s.



Christmas Eve meal was meatless, with several traditional dishes, including kutia (boiled wheat and poppy seeds sweetened with honey), perogies (filled with potatoes or dried fruits), meatless cabbage rolls, fish and, of course, borscht.


This year, Ukraine passed legislation moving the Christmas holiday to December 25, distancing the country from the Putin-aligned Russian Orthodox Church.


I'm all for that, but January 6/7 will always remind me of my grandmother and the old country she remembered with her annual celebrations and food.



So, I am going to use the dates now to keep my thoughts and support aligned with Ukraine and their fight to preserve their country, their culture and their traditions, in the face of the ongoing Russian invasion and Putin's vicious genocidal attacks on innocent civilians.


I am making a Solidarity Soup - #borscht with yellow #beets with this recipe from Pawlina Demchuk MacQuarrie (who shared it with me after her win at Borschtfest at Victoria’s Ukrainian Cultural Centre a few years back).


Demchuk MacQuarrie, host of the Ukrainian Canadian radio show Nash Holos (Our Voice), says her Remembrance Borscht was created to acknowledge Holdomor, a period in the early 1930s when the Soviet Union engineered a food shortage and famine to starve Ukrainians who resisted Joseph Stalin's Communist Party and the Soviet state. Ukrainian intellectuals, writers, artists, religious and political leaders, who were seen as a threat to Soviet ideological aspirations, were arrested and many were executed. Stalin decreed the collectivization of agriculture and Soviet authorities confiscated all grain and food from Ukrainian peasant farmers, resulting in a brutal genocide. More than 3.9 million Ukrainians died of starvation and malnutrition in 1932 and 1933 — just one of the ongoing attempts by Russia to quash Ukrainian autonomy and independence.


"I hope that some day serving this yellow borsch to commemorate Holodomor Remembrance Day will be part of Ukrainian tradition." she said. "We should never forget."


And let us not forget the ongoing war aimed at destroying the Ukrainian nation and its people today.



I was one of three judges at Borscht Fest at the Ukrainian Canadian Cultural Society in Victoria

RECIPES:


REMEMBRANCE BORSCHT

This recipe for Remembrance Borsch, from Pawlina Demchuk MacQuarrie, won the People's Choice award at Borsch Fest in Victoria (where I was a judge!). It's a beautiful golden soup featuring the lovely sweet yellow beets found in local markets at this time of year.



Beautiful golden borscht made with yellow beets

8-10 cups shredded or diced yellow beets

5-6 cups shredded cabbage

3 cups finely chopped onion

1-2 cups chopped fresh mushrooms

6 cups diced potatoes

5 cups diced rutabaga

2 cups shredded carrots

2 cups chopped fresh dill

1/4 lb. butter

3 Tbsp salt

2 Tbsp black pepper

3 litres mushroom broth

1-2 litres beetroot broth

2-3 Tbsp lemon or lime juice

 

Saute the mushrooms, onion, half the cabbage, and half the dill in butter until the veggies are a nice golden colour.

 

Put them in a large stock pot, along with the liquids, seasonings, and the rest of the veggies, except for the beets. Simmer until the potaotes and rutabaga are soft, about 1/2 hour.

 

Add the shredded beets, and gently simmer for about 1/2 hour.

 

NB: Make sure the borsch does NOT boil vigorously. Borsch should never be boiled. It makes the beets lose their colour and just does something to the taste that is less than desirable. Keep it at a gentle simmer.

 

This will make a huge stock pot full, about 10-12 litres, so you might want to cut the ingredients in half. 

 


Yellow and striped chioggia beets

TIPS: A couple of tips when preparing the beets:


Scrub really well, trim off any blemishes, and put them to simmer, with the skin on.

When soft, drain the beets and cool. Reserve the liquid. This will be your beetroot broth.


When beets are cool, peel and shred. Adding the beets at the end will keep the beets from going white, so your borsch will have a nice, rich colour.


Red beet juice stains so be careful (especially with white clothing, countertops, etc.) and consider wearing gloves. The beauty of yellow and striped beets — no stains!

 



CREAMY BEET AND POTATO SOUP WITH CHARD



Here’s my updated take on traditional borscht — refined for a fancy first course. The green chard adds texture and contrasting color to this wild fuchsia soup, which has the texture and richness to match with a creamy Chardonnay or a big Chenin Blanc.


From The Guy Can't Cook, by Cinda Chavich.


1 lb (500 g) beets, whole

2 Tbsp (30 mL) butter

1 medium onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 lb (500 g) potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks

2 cups (500 g) water

2 to 3 cups (500 to 750 mL) vegetable or chicken broth

3/4 cup (175 mL) half-and-half cream

salt and pepper

3 cups (750 mL) slivered rainbow chard

shaved mizithra (or other dry, salty cheese like aged ricotta, feta, or goat cheese)

sour cream to garnish


Wrap the beets loosely in foil and roast in a 400°F (200°C) oven for 25 minutes. Cool, slip off the skins, and then chop.

In a large saucepan, melt the butter. Add the onion and sauté until it starts to brown. Add the garlic, potatoes, water, and 2 cups (500 mL) of the broth. Bring to a boil over high heat.

Reduce the heat to low and cook until tender for about 20 minutes. Add the roasted beets and simmer for 10 minutes.

Transfer the soup to a blender or food processor and purée until very smooth. Return the soup to the saucepan (you can strain the soup back into the saucepan if it seems too grainy). Stir in the half-and- half, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 10 minutes. Thin to taste with remaining broth if soup seems too thick.

Meanwhile, thinly slice the chard stems. Roll the leaves (like cigars) and slice into thin “chiffonade” strips. Heat a bit of butter in a sauté pan and cook the chard stems for a minute or two, until tender. Then add the leaves to the sauté pan and toss for a minute, just to wilt.

Divide the soup among soup bowls. Pile some sautéed chard in the center of each bowl. Top each bowl with a little grated cheese, and/or a bit of sour cream. Serves 8.


BEST BORSCHT

This classic beet soup is an old family recipe and makes a meal in itself. Make a vegetarian version, or start with beef or pork soup bones or spare ribs to make a meat broth base.

This recipe makes a big batch, but it freezes well.

From The Waste Not, Want Not Cookbook by Cinda Chavich


3 medium beets, scrubbed but unpeeled

2⁄3 cup cubed carrots

1 medium onion, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 cups finely shredded green or purple cabbage

1 large Yukon Gold potato, peeled and cubed

1 (14 oz) can tomatoes, puréed

8 cups water or beef broth

1 cup cooked small white beans

3 Tbsp lemon juice or red wine vinegar

1 Tbsp sugar

1⁄2 tsp paprika

2 Tbsp all-purpose flour

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1⁄2 cup cream or sour cream

2 Tbsp chopped fresh dill


In a large soup pot, combine the beets, carrots, onion, garlic, cabbage, potato, tomatoes, and water or broth. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to low, cover the pot, and simmer the soup for 1 hour.

Remove the beets from the soup, slip off and discard the skins, and chop or grate the beets. Return the beets to the soup. Stir in the beans, lemon juice or vinegar, sugar, and paprika, and return to low heat. cover and simmer for 15 minutes.

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, salt and pepper, and cream or sour cream. Add a few tablespoons of hot broth from the soup and mix well, then whisk the cream mixture into the soup to thicken it. Heat through but do not boil or the soup will curdle. Stir in the fresh dill and serve immediately.

Serves 6–8.



MORE ABOUT BEETS

From my latest book, focused on reducing food waste, The Waste Not, Want Not Cookbook.

 

BUY: Buy beets in the summer; get small sweet specimens with tender tops—red, yellow, or candy-cane striped Chioggias.


STORE: Beets are a winter storage crop so available fresh beyond the fall harvest season. At home remove tops, leaving an inch of stem, and store roots in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 weeks. Beet greens are very perishable, so eat them quickly.


SERVE: Beet soup or borscht is a classic dish, but new varieties of colorful yellow and striped Italian Chioggia beets have put beets at the center of high-end plates, whether it’s whole roasted baby beets, paper-thin slices or spiral-cut ribbons, or lightly pickled beets. To reduce bleeding, cook beets whole and unpeeled, then slip off the skins before serving.

 

WASTE NOT

 

  • To roast beets, wash well, wrap loosely in foil, and roast at 350ºF for 45 to 50 minutes, then peel and toss with butter or balsamic vinegar. 

  • Use a spiral slicer to cut beets into thin, curly “pasta” to lightly steam or serve raw in salads.

  • Toss hot cooked beet slices with a combination of sugar and red wine vinegar and set aside to cool for a quick pickle.

  • Combine raw peeled beets with apples, almond milk, and ginger, and blend for a healthy purple smoothie. 

  • Dress cooked and shredded red beets and chopped onion with a sweetened vinegar and Dijon dressing. 

  • Slice roasted yellow beets into wedges and toss with some baby greens, toasted walnuts, crumbled blue cheese, and walnut oil vinaigrette for a sophisticated salad.

  • Mix cooked cubed red beets with lemon juice, sour cream or yogurt, and dill for a colorful (fuchsia) side salad.

  • Use the beet greens, too—shred and sauté with garlic like you would spinach or chard and add to pasta dishes, or season with balsamic vinegar as a side dish

  • Slow cook red onions with balsamic vinegar until thick and syrupy and toss with diced roasted beets for a warm side dish or condiment (best if chilled overnight and reheated).

 

 ©Cinda Chavich

 


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