Bear with me, Dear Readers, for I must have one more dalliance with ‘Russian’ food - Russian food as it was perceived by the English-speaking world that is. One of the favourite ‘Russian’ dishes at this time was ‘Salade à la Russe', but I discussed it (and Strawberries Romanoff) and gave a recipe in a post some time ago, so please re-visit if you are interested. The remaining ubiquitous ‘Russian’ dish is of course borscht – or beetroot soup by its translated and variously spelled name. The interesting thing is that this soup is certainly not exclusively Russian, and was not originally made with beets.
The Poles and the Ukrainians also claim this soup, and its name comes from a plant similar to the parsnip, belonging to the carrot family. One traveller in Russia in 1808 said ‘They have a kind of soup, however, which is made of groats and vegetables, of which they are very fond: this soup is rather sour, and is called borsch, from the name of the carrot which is boiled in it.’
This soup is a peasant dish, and like all soups and all peasant dishes is as infinitely variable as circumstances and ingredients allow. There are fermented versions and hot and cold versions for the varying seasons, but the dollop of sour cream may well be a modern abomination. I await advice from those of you familiar with ‘authentic’ Russian food.
Take some red beetroots, wash thoroughly and peel, and then boil in a moderate quantity of water from two to three hours over a slow fire, by which time a strong red liquor should have been obtained. Strain off the liquor, adding lemon juice, sugar, and salt to taste, and when it has cooled a little, stir in sufficient yolks of eggs to slightly thicken it. May be used either cold or hot. In the latter case a little home-made beef stock may be added to the beet soup.
If after straining off the soup the remaining beetroot is not too much boiled away, it may be chopped fine with a little onion, vinegar and dripping, flavored with pepper and salt, and used as a vegetable.
International Jewish Cook Book. Florence Greenbaum. 1919.
Quotation for the Day.
“I believe that I once considerably scandalised her by declaring that a clear soup was a more important factor in life than a clear conscience.”
‘Saki’ (H.H.Munro) (1870-1916), The Blind Spot
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