I learnt cooking borscht from my two aunts who lived in Armenia for decades before immigrating to US. To my family, borscht is one of those old-world dishes that should be savored every winter.
I make traditional Armenian borsch with a little twist. I bake the beets instead of boiling them. Boiling vegetables is against my religion, and I avoid it whenever I can. Baking beets brings out their natural sweetness, preserves nutrient and gives the dish a nice depth of flavor.
Borscht is good for any day and it is specially great for family gathering since it always yields big. Buy a nice loaf of dark rye or baguette to dunk or even better, if available, get Armenian "Matnakash" bread. As we say in Armenian "Bari Akhorjak" (Bon appétit).
5-7 medium red beets, roasted, peeled and thinly sliced or grated
5 cups shredded green cabbage
3 cups grated carrots
1/2 cup light olive oil
2 cups diced yellow onions
2 tbsp tomato paste
4 quarts beef broth (recipe follows)
4 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed in big chunks
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1.5 cup chopped fresh dill
1.5 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/2 cup lemon juice
1lb. sour cream
1) Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit .
2) With the peels on, wash the beets and individually wrap each one in a pre-cut aluminum foil. Place them on a sheet pan, and bake for 45 minutes (they would be undercooked). Remove from the oven and let them cool. Trim the ends, and rub the skin off with your hands (wear gloves to avoid red stains). Thinly slice or coarsely grate them and set aside.
3) Meanwhile, bring the beef broth to simmer, and prepare the vegetables.
4) In a large non-stick skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat and add the onions. Season it with salt and black pepper and sauté until lightly golden, about 5-7 minutes. Add tomato paste, and sauté for 2-4 minutes to cook off raw taste. Next, add the shredded carrots. Sauté everything together for 5-7 minutes.
5) Add the sautéed mixture, shredded cabbage and sliced beets to the simmering broth.
Simmer over low-medium heat for 30 minutes. Add the potatoes and continue simmering 10-15 more minutes until potatoes are cooked. This would be a good time to add cooked beef if you have prepped the broth from scratch.
6) Turn off the heat. Mix in lemon juice, dill and parsley and stir. Cover with lid and let it sit for 5 minutes. Taste the borscht for additional lemon juice, salt and pepper.
Serve hot. Ladle borscht into a bowl and put a big dollop of sour cream on top. Garnish with dill and parsley.
- Borscht can be made with yellow beets too, but use less carrots since yellow beets are very sweet.
- Beef broth may be substitute with water or vegetable stock.
This cooking technique is from my mom and it is the only way I would ever approach broth making. This is the only way I can ensure super clear broth with no funny odor or residues. This method may seem like a lot of work at first, but only 30% of it is active cooking time.
2 lb. shank beef, trimmed and cubed
2 lb. beef spare ribs, halved
1 tbsp freshly ground black pepper
5 bay leaves
2 large onions, quartered
5-7 cloves of garlic
2 sticks of celery, cleaned and washed
2-3 tbsp kosher salt
1) In a large stock pot, place the beef shanks, bones, and ribs. Fill the pot with tap water covering everything by one inch. Place the pot over high heat and bring to full boil until the content produces brown froths and bits. Lightly skim the froth but don't worry to clear. Allow 5-7 minutes for those bits and scum to come out, then strain the whole pot content in a metal sieve, discarding the liquid.
2) Wash and clean the stock pot thoroughly.
3) Rinse beef and bone pieces with lukewarm water to clear all brown bits and transfer back to the stock pot.
4) Pour in enough water to cover over beef and bones by 3 inches and place the pot on high heat to get it started. Add in onion, garlic, celery, bay leaves and black pepper.
5) Bring the broth to a high simmer, then lower the heat to medium-low and let it simmer for 2-3 hours until beef is tender and falls off the bones. Season the broth with salt midway through the cooking.
6) Carefully, strain everything in a large metal sieve that is positioned over a large pot or bowl. Save the broth.
7) Separate the meats from the bones to put them back in the borscht. Discard veggies and bay leaves. (optional step)
- Ask the butcher counter to cube and trim the shank beef and cut the spare ribs to half. That will save you a lot of preparation time.
- Shank beef has tough tissues. Use a sharp and sturdy knife when working with it at home.