Borscht may not seem romantic to you, but it is to my husband and me. Aside from its gorgeous fuchsia color, which is reminiscent of Valentine’s Day, it’s a common soup in Russia. Steve and I met in Moscow (long story), and we like to make this soup at least once every winter and reflect on our first few encounters together. If you’ve never had borscht, this is an excellent recipe to start with. I adapted a vegetarian version that supposedly came from the chef of Czar Nicholas I, and added bits of tender grass-fed beef and rich Homemade Beef Stock. I once made this for a native Russian, who ate multiple helpings and told me it tasted just like his mother’s.
Prep time 45 minutes
3 tablespoons (44 ml) avocado oil
11/2 pounds (680 g) beef stew meat, cut into 1/2-inch (1 cm) chunks
1 tablespoon (18 g) sea salt, plus extra for seasoning
2 quarts (1.9 liters) Homemade Beef Stock, divided
1 medium onion, diced
2 pounds (905 g) beets, grated
3 large carrots, grated
2 large potatoes, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 small head cabbage, shredded
5 tablespoons (150 g) tomato paste
1/3 cup (80 ml) freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tablespoons (40 g) honey
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup fresh dill, chopped
1 Heat half of the oil in a large cast-iron or stainless steel skillet over medium-high heat.
2 Sprinkle the meat generously with sea salt and black pepper. Place half of the meat into the pan (don’t overcrowd the pan) and let it cook for 2 to 3 minutes. Flip the meat around with a spatula, and let it cook for another 2 to 3 minutes until it’s golden brown on most sides. Transfer the meat to a 6-quart (5.7 liter) slow cooker and repeat with the remaining stew meat, adding the rest of the oil to the pan if necessary.
3 Once all of the meat is removed from the pan, pour a cup of the beef stock into the pan and scrape the bits from the bottom as it bubbles and steams. Pour the contents of the pan into the slow cooker.
4 Add the onion, beets, carrots, potatoes, bell pepper, and cabbage to the slow cooker. (It will be full!)
5 In a large measuring cup, whisk together the tomato paste, lemon juice, honey, 1 cup (235 ml) of stock, 1 tablespoon (18 g) of salt, and 1 teaspoon of black pepper. Pour the mixture into the slow cooker. Pour in the remaining 11/2 quarts (1.4 liters) of beef stock.
6 Cover and cook on low for 6 to 7 hours, stirring halfway through. Beef should be very tender and vegetables fully cooked.
7 Stir in garlic.
8 Serve with a sprinkle of fresh dill. Taste, and add additional salt if needed.
Notes: Borscht is traditionally served with sour cream. Try adding a dab of unsweetened Whipped Coconut Cream to your bowl—or if you eat some dairy, I suggest using a little organic sour cream or crème fraîche.