Purple, unique soup in colour and in taste, infinite in its demonstrations, ecumenical by its membership, it is served scorching with potatoes by the orthodoxes of Ukraine, and frozen with some crème fraiche, on hot days, by the Jewish grocers of New York. As long as you have the essential ingredient, the beet, no matter what you add to it, it is still borchtch. But this does not prevent from heated and virulent debates concerning the way of cooking it.
There are indeed various local variants of borscht. Thus, in Russia, it always contains beets, meat, cabbage, and sometimes potatoes.
In Ukraine, Belarus, Poland and Romania beets are always present, as well as tomatoes. Potatoes and cabbage can be added and it is usually served with a sour cream, bread rolls and garlic.
In Lithuania the dried mushrooms are often added. There is also a cold borscht (Okrochka ou Solyanka) which has a very different taste and appearance.
For the anecdote, borchtch was in the center of a tragicomic drama in 1994, on the occasion of the visit in Russia of Queen Elizabeth, which had specified that she wanted to taste the Russian food. “Action stations” in Saint-Petersburg. The European chef of the only five stars hotel in this time, worked on a “nouvelle-cuisine” version of the famous soup: young beets and small carrots delicately poached in a clear and light broth, which turned into delicate pink when we added a spoon of home-made crème fraiche. But during the tasting session by the staff, the Russians got indignant. They thus went to seek the babouchka of one of them so that she reveals the secrets of her famous recipe: a thick, almost gelatinous hotpot of meat, a fine layer of fat adding lustre to the purple broth, radiating garlic and dill, with pieces of cabbage between potatoes and carrots. The chef, hurt, threatened to resign. They reached difficulty to an agreement: They diluted the babouchka broth and added the chef beets and young carrots. Or maybe it was the opposite… Anyway, Her Majesty congratulated the cooks.
Ukrainian cabbage Soup(Borchtch)
Here is one of the numerous versions of the famous soup:
400 g of beef, 200 g of white cabbage, 4 big beets, 7 carrots, 1 or 2 tomatoes, 4 onions, 40 g of butter, 2 soup spoons of crème fraiche, 2 soup spoons of vinegar, 1 soup spoon of sugar, 3 bay leaves, pepper, salt.
Put the meat in 2 litres of salt water and bring to a boil, over a low heat. Skim and let cook on medium heat during approximately 2 hours. Remove the meat. Peel carrots, beets, onions and cut them in small pieces. Peel and wash the cabbage and cut it in strips. Melt the butter and glaze the vegetables. Add 120 ml of broth and cook over a low heat during 10 min. Add the vinegar, the sugar and the laurel. Pour the rest of the broth through a sieve and let cook 30 min. Scald the tomatoes, peel them, and cut them in small pieces. Incorporate them into the borchtch, salt and pepper. Cut the meat in small pieces and put it also in the soup. Serve the borchtch in plates and add at the last moment some crème fraiche.