I usually think of borscht as a winter soup for dark and dreary days. I guess I don’t usually think about borscht at all, actually, but this one popped out at me from a charity shop find that includes a soup for every day of the year.
This version is a surprisingly fresh-yet-complex adaptation that hits all the right chords for a September meal.
I believe that early season beets, emerging in June and July, should be enjoyed with very little fuss and as fresh from the garden as possible. Despite my almost complete aversion to all-things-vegetable as a child, I always enjoyed the first golden beets of the year, simmered whole, served in a small dish beside each plate with only a bit of melting butter and a sprinkle of salt. This was the only way I would eat beets growing up (many congratulations to my parents who made these gems seem like candy of the garden – I was sold, and I suspect they were grinning widely), and I still feel that if you’ve got small, firm spheres fresh from the garden, you should just go ahead and eat them as they are.
But we’re a little further into the season, and now I feel ready to integrate beets into other recipes. In fact, beets are still one of my favorite vegetables, so it’s a bit surprising to me that I’ve never made a borscht before. I guess I’ve always been mystified by what it really meant – beets, sure, but are we including cabbage, beans, potatoes, ‘gelatinous beef stock‘? Wasn’t this the stuff of school lunch nightmares?
Not for me, thanks. And yet… this recipe is a simple and wonderful soup that is perfect for September. Tomatoes are still emerging from the gardens (or the greenhouses, for those of us in cooler climates), but it’s time to start incorporating some of the heartier vegetables as the evenings get chillier. September straddles the remaining summer with the oncoming autumn, often in one day, and this soup will fit into both seasons nicely.
Adapted slightly from A Soup for Every Day, New Covent Garden Food Co.
This can be served warm or cold, making it perfect for September, a month that likes to change its mind by the day. We served ours with a dollop of Greek yogurt and fresh coriander, which adds a wonderful creaminess and welcome brightness.
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, finely sliced
225g raw beets (beetroot), grated
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
225g fresh ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped
275ml tomato juice
1 Tablespoon tomato purée
575ml vegetable stock
1 Tablespoon soy sauce
Fresh coriander (cilantro), roughly chopped
Melt the butter in a large saucepan, add the onion, garlic and beets, stirring to distribute evenly. Cover and cook gently for 10 minutes, without browning the vegetables.
Once the vegetables have softened, add the cumin, cinnamon, tomatoes, tomato juice, tomato purée and vegetable stock. Cover and simmer gently for 15 minutes, until all the vegetables are tender.
Remove from heat and add soy sauce. Taste and season further if desired (I found this was just right each time we’ve made it).
Blend until smooth with an immersion blender, or transfer carefully to a standing blender. The soup can be served chilled or hot, so reheat as desired.
Serve on its own or with a dollop of yogurt and fresh coriander.