Soupe aux betteraves à l’ukrainienne


Ukrainian borshch, French style

This version of the classic Ukrainian/Russian soup is ‘French style’ mainly because the recipe was given to me by a friend in Paris. Okay, truth be told, Rima’s originally from Moscow (and one of the very best cooks I met there). She adapted her recipe to fit Parisian ingredients, notably the beets, which are sold here already cooked — a great convenience.

Borshch is often prepared with beef or pork, but this version is vegetarian. If you begin with raw beets, boil them until tender before starting to make the soup.

2 onions
2 carrots
2 quarts (2 liters) cold water
1 sweet red pepper
3 potatoes
1/2 head cabbage
2 tbsp. tomato paste
juice of 3 lemons
1 tbsp. sugar
1 bay leaf
1 sprig parsley
3 large cooked beets
2 tsp. sea salt or table salt
freshly ground black pepper
fresh dill
bowl of crème fraîche or sour cream

Peel and mince the onions. Peel the carrots, slice in half lengthwise and then into thin half-rounds crosswise.

In a very large soup pot, combine the cold water, the onions and the carrots. Bring to a boil over high heat. While the water is heating, seed the pepper, chop and add to the pot.

Peel and cube the potatoes. Core and shred the cabbage. My method is to place the half-cabbage flat-side down, slice it vertically into strips about 1 inch (2.5 cm) wide, and then horizontally into very fine strips.

When the pot has come to a boil, add the potatoes and cabbage. Add the tomato paste. Stir well. Add the lemon juice. Add the sugar. Add the bay leaf and the whole sprig of parsley. Turn down the heat and allow to simmer for 20 minutes.

Peel the cooked beets. Grate them using the large holes on a cheese grater. Add to the soup. Season with salt and pepper. Cook just five minutes more. Remove from heat.

Remove the bay leaf and parsley sprig. Taste and adjust the seasoning, adding more sugar or lemon if necessary. The soup should be neither sour nor sweet — somewhere in between. Allow the soup to rest for at least a few hours, and preferably overnight.

Reheat gently just before serving. Ladle into individual soup bowls. Snip some fresh dill on top. Add a dollop of cream, or take the bowl of cream to the table and pass it around. Serves 8-10 generously.

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13 Responses to Soupe aux betteraves à l’ukrainienne

  1. Ven says:

    What makes this borsch French? I am Ukrainian, live in US and frequently cook borsch. By the way, I found living in America that adding balsamic vinegar makes more close sourness or better sourness than lemon.

    • Meg says:

      Hi Ven. As the recipe says, the main reason this borshch is ‘French style’ is because it uses pre-cooked beets, which are widely available over here, and not raw beets as in Ukraine, Russia etc. But of course the recipe’s origin is in that part of the world. Many thanks for your tip on balsamic vinegar! All best, Meg

  2. Ariel says:

    This is absolutely DELICIOUS!! I followed the recipe exactly.

  3. Meg – Loved this post! I have always been amazed at the variety of Borscht (?) recipes (including the spelling of the soup) My mother had an essentially 5 minute version that involved cooked beets, a sliver of onion and beef broth. The best part was the garnish: sour cream and chopped pickles!

    • Meg says:

      The spelling is kind of a brain twister. In the States we always called it ‘borscht’. Then when I got to Russia as a reporter I realized it should actually be transliterated as ‘borshch’ — with that funny ‘sh-ch’ sound that occurs in words like Khrushchev. In France they call it ‘borch’, ‘borsch’, ‘borcht’ or (the correct transliteration) ‘borchtch’! Six consonants in a row seemed like a few too many to me, so when writing this post I decided that ‘soupe aux betteraves’ would be a better description…

  4. Cathy Mosbrucker says:

    This is very much like the vegetarian version I make of the borshch that I grew up with. My Mom’s and both Grandma’s versions which were not vegetarian started with an ox-tail or beef stock and included celery, green beans and tomatoes. Pretty much any vegetables that were available in addition to the beets and cabbage. My family is Germans from the Ukraine. They claim not to Russian but we eat a lot of things that don’t seem very German.
    Thanks for the recipe.


    • Meg says:

      This soup is not only vegetarian, it’s actually vegan if you omit the cream. Thanks for the input, Cathy!

    • Natalie Kravchuk says:

      Hi Cathy:
      I’m first gen Ukrainian American.My mom’s mom was German from far western Ukraine (German colonists going back to the 18th century). All the recipes I learned growing up, from my grandma, were Polish, Austrian, Hungarian, German (Schwabish), and Jewish inspired. We ate very different recipes in my family than my 100% Ukrainian cousins on my dad’s side did. But borshch, in many versions, was always present and always delicious!

  5. marylouise sillman says:

    The Borshch that I enjoyed in the USA had only beets, with a dollop of sour cream.

    I would like to try this version but need some info on cooking it for two.

    • Meg says:

      Very tricky to make this soup for two — but you could try making a half-recipe and freezing what’s left over (see comment below). It’s always great to have some soup in the freezer for days when you don’t feel like cooking…

  6. Christine says:

    Hi Meg
    Beets are readily available here at the moment but they are not precooked, unfortunately! There is a wide variety of colours and I especially like the orange ones in salads…..great with pecans, arugala and goats cheese. In fact I am off to the market shortly, so will see what’s on offer today.
    I would love to try this recipe but as I am alone at present it would take me an age to eat it all. Is it possible to freeze it, omitting the creme fraiche?? An alternative would be to invite friends around for dinner, of course!
    Absolutely loving your book by the way…..can’t put it down!! A rollicking great read…will recommend it to all my friends.

    • Meg says:

      Yes, you can absolutely freeze it. In any event the cream should be added at the last moment, preferably at the table. If you feel like making it for yourself, I’d suggest making a pot and freezing it in individual plastic containers. And I’m so delighted you like my book, Christine!

      • Christine says:

        Thanks for that.
        The only trouble with your book is that I am reading till the wee small hours instead of sleeping!!! 🙂

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