Friday, August 28, 2009

The Most Beautiful Beef Borscht

A few weeks ago, we were down in the Australian Alps and had a late lunch with kids and friends at Crackenback Cottage. It was freezing cold, and we all arrived starving and a bit knackered. Any parent will tell you that hunger and exhaustion never brings out the best in children, but the restaurant was warm, they had a big maze outside that kept the kids occupied and we all settled in for a lovely afternoon. On the menu was borscht. As a good Aussie girl, I love beetroot in a way that probably mystifies the rest of the world, so there was no question that I would both order and enjoy this soup. But even that predisposition does not explain how much I loved this soup - it was really fabulous. We asked the waitress to ask the chef if there was any possible way that we could have the recipe. Usually I would never be so cheeky as to ask, but it was that good. The chef replied via the waitress that the recipe came from "Snowflakes and Schnapps" by Jane Lawson.

I had looked briefly at this new cookbook in the shops, but had (stupidly) dismissed it because I thought that we don't get enough cold weather here to justify it. But, on this particular day my luck was in and I got given the book as a present (thankyou!). This is one of those cookbooks that is so pretty, with a gorgeous embossed cover and great handfeel to the paper, it could spend its life sitting on a coffee table looking completely glamourous but never being used. That would be a terrible waste of some wonderful recipes.

The borscht is one of those slow cooked meals that brings to mind the maxim that "all good things take time". My butcher was out of beef short ribs, so I used osso bucco instead, a switch that didn't make any difference to the final soup. I also subbed white cabbage in for red - the beetroot juice means you would never know. The beets and the meat mixture both need two hours to cook separately before being combined. By this stage, the beets are so soft they can be peeled using a knife and fork to lift / cut off the skin. I then grated them in my food processor, rather than deal with random splotches of beetroot juice all over my kitchen from hand grating. The end result is delicious, and I still have two or three tupperwares of the soup in my freezer. Perfect winter sustenance!

I am sending this one over to Deb at Kahakai Kitchen for her Souper Sunday round-up. Head over there on Sunday for a bowl of something good.

Borscht With Horseradish Cream
from "Snowflakes and Schnapps" by Jane Lawson
serves 6-8
600g beetroot
1 tbl olive oil
1kg beef short ribs
1 large brown onion chopped
1 large carrot finely chopped
2 tsps carraway seeds
4 garlic cloves finely chopped 1 tsp ground allspice plus 1/4 tsp extra
1 bay leaf
1 tsp dried porcini mushrooms, crumbled
3 litres beef stock
400g tinned chopped tomatoes
1/2 small red cabbage, shredded
1 tbl cider vinegar or red wine vinegar
1 tsp soft brown sugar
1 large handful chopped dill
Horseradish cream
125g sour cream
1 tbl freshly grated horseradish or bottled horseradish

Wash beetroot well, then place in a large saucepan and cover generously with water. Bring to the boil and cook for two hours or until the beetroot are tender through to the centre. Cool the beeroot in the cooking liquid.

Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium high heat. Cook the beef short ribs in batches until browned all over, then remove to a plate. Add the onion, carrot and carraway seeds to the pot andcook over medium heat until the onion is golden. Add the garlic, 1 tsp allspiceand the bayleaf and cook for 30 seconds. Return the beef to the pan and mix in the mushrooms, stock, tomatoes, cabbage and vinegar. Bring to the boil then reduce the heat and simmer for 2 hours or until the meat is very tender. Turn off the heat, remove the ribs and allow to cool slightly before shredding the beef and discarding the bones, and returning the beef to the pot.

Remove the beetroot from the cooking liquid, saving it. Peel the beetroot (either wearing gloves or with a knife and fork), then grate (a food processor may be useful here). Pour the cooking liquid through a sieve lined with paper towel to collect any little gritty bits, into the beef pot. Add the beetroot, stir and bring to the boil. Add sugar, extra allspice and sprinkle with dill. Season to taste.

Combine sourcream and horseradish, then serve a dollop on each bowl of soup.


Anonymous said...

Hey there, glad you like the soup - it is one of my favourites too! JL

Debinhawaii said...

Gorgeous Soup--it looks so bright and flavorful. Thanks for sending it to Souper Sundays!

Foodie with Little Thyme! said...

This is beautiful. I wish I could taste it too.