This recipe is adapted from Felicity Cloake’s ‘Perfect Borscht’ recipe for the Guardian. I’ve just left out the cabbage, swapped the butter for olive oil so it doesn’t go hard when cooled and added a few of my own toppings. If you haven’t seen Felicity’s book 'Completely Perfect' or her Guardian articles they are brilliantly helpful as she has road tested most of our staple dishes to find the ‘perfect’ recipe.
Not sure how she’d feel about me cooling it down…and sorry if the omittance of cabbage is a no go to true borscht enthusiasts. Maybe it should just be called ‘chilled beetroot soup’!
300g beetroot, peeled
3 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, 1 small carrot, 1 stick of celery, 1 small leek, all peeled where necessary and cut into small dice or rings
½ a tsp cinnamon and 1/4 tsp nutmeg (Felicity suggest allspice but I didn’t have any)
1 x bay leaf
2 medium floury potatoes, eg Maris Piper, peeled and cut into small dice
4 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
2 tbsp cider vinegar
1 tsp sugar
½ tsp ground black pepper
Sour cream and fresh dill, to serve (preferably Polish sour cream, which has a richer flavour)
My suggested toppings to be added once chilled include chopped parsley, a handful of stoned cherries (as had some on hand), spring onions, finely sliced radish, cornflowers x 1 head (other edible flowers could be used).
Cut ¾ of the peeled beetroot into small dice (you may want to wear rubber gloves to do this) and set the rest aside. Warm the oil in a large pan, and then soften the onion over a gentle heat for 5 minutes.
Add the carrot, leek, celery, diced beetroot, spices and bay leaf and stir well to coat with oil. Cook for another 10 minutes, adding a little stock and oil if the vegetables begin to look dry. Meanwhile, grate the remaining beetroot.
Pour in the rest of the stock and the potatoes and simmer for 15 minutes, then add the garlic and grated beetroot. Cook until all the vegetables are tender (about 10 minutes).
Add the vinegar, sugar, pepper and a pinch of salt and taste.
Make sure you chill for at least 4 hours before cooking, or overnight.
Serve (once chilled) with a dollop of sour cream, a sprig of dill, and some Polish bread on the side. And with the addition of any of my suggested toppings.