The Russians don't think of Borsch as a soup, it's just plain Borsch, and how right they are. Based on beetroot with other vegetables and beef, this is a filling meal.
If using meat off the bone, cut into cubes. (If using meat on the bone, cut so that it can fit in the casserole dish or pan).
Roughly chop the onions and finely chop the dill. Top and tail the beetroot and peel it (if using fresh beetroot). Slice beetroot into strips and then cut them in half. Chop up the tomatoes.
One hour after starting the meat broth, roughly chop the carrots and finely cut the garlic and parsley. Cut the potatoes into strips and peel the layers of the cabbage apart then slice into strips.
Put the beef, dill and the chopped onion into a large casserole dish (or a large pan) and cover with 3 litres of cold water. Put in the oven at 150C for 1½ hours.
If using a pan, bring to a boil and reduce heat. Cook at low heat for 1½ hours.
Half an hour after starting the beef broth cooking, melt a tablespoon of butter in a pan. Add the beetroot, tomatoes and vinegar to the pan. Simmer at low heat for 1 hour stirring occasionally. If there is not enough liquid, add some of the broth.
A quarter of an hour before the beef broth is finished cooking melt 1tbsp of butter or margarine in a frying pan. Add chopped carrots and garlic. Cover the frying pan and saute for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
When the beef broth is cooked (after 1½ hours) remove any fat floating on the top (use a spoon). Add the chopped cabbage, potatoes, sauted carrots and garlic - stir well. Cook for 15 minutes and then add the cooked beetroot. Stir well and cook for another 5 minutes.
Season the Borsch with salt and pepper to taste. Serve in warm bowls garnished with parsley and 1tbsp of sour cream (optional).
I tried French bread and Russian style bread with the soup. Both went very well with the French bread maybe being the best. The Russians would traditionally and still use black bread.
The backbone of this meal is beetroot so try and get some fresh, it does make a difference. Fresh beetroot is sweeter than any other type. Failing this, the vacuum packed beetroot is a very good alternative.
Other vegetables in this recipe can also be readily be found fresh at a farmer's market or from your garden.
The use of beef is traditional in Russian Borsch but poorer Russians would make this dish with just the vegetables. Alternative vegetables to the carrot, potato, cabbage and tomatoes include parsnips and turnips, in fact any root vegetable can be used. The beef is a good addition, but by no means necessary.
The cut of beef is not important, in fact the cheaper cuts give the dish more flavour. If the cut is too fatty, simply remove it before serving the Borsch.
You can cook Borsch in a casserole dish in the oven but it can be cooked in pan on the hotplate instead.
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