A Russian Story and Recipe to Warm the Cockles of Your Heart
It’s SO thrilling for those of us who love winter sports: the Olympics are about to start!! And it’s even more exciting that they are being held in Sochi, Russia. How many of you had heard of Sochi before its Olympic fame?
For this month’s #letslunch we are celebrating these Olympics with a perfectly warming, suitably Russian and a-slight-twist-on-the-traditional soup: hot borscht.
This recipe came to the Monday Morning Cooking Club from the family of the late Manya Boorder. It appears, along with her traditional (cold) borscht recipe (photograph above) in the food, the stories, the sisterhood. Our book is full of wonderful recipes and heartwarming, beautiful stories just like this one.
Known fondly to all of her family and friends as Booby, Manya (or Mary) was born in Gluhov, a little shtetl in the Ukraine, in 1910. She was 8 years old when she fled the pogroms and spent a year on the road until she reached Harbin in China. They lived there until 1933 and then moved to Shanghai. She married young, and together with their son John, immigrated to Australia in the late 1940s.
Manya became the matriarch of a large Sydney family. Growing up, Manya cooked all the meals and was helped by all the women in the family. Her son John, who passed away in 2010, could not remember his mother, grandmother or even great grandmother ever needing to consult a cookbook; everything was handed down from one generation to the next. One person would cook the food and then someone else in the family had to do the tasting and suggesting, perhaps ‘a bissel (a little) more of this and a bissel more of that’. It was always done from memory and then by taste. Manya cooked with generosity and joy, and her family all smile when they think of her favourite expression: ‘Please have a little more’.
[box]Booby’s hot borscht
Borscht is as much a part of the Russian culture as matzo ball soup is for the Jewish people. During the revolution and the pogroms, food was scarce. Hot borscht with potatoes and black bread (white bread was a luxury) was a great meal, particularly in winter. In warmer weather, cold borscht was the go. All Russian families knew how to make borscht and most tasted the same, although her family insist Booby’s was the best! In those days chicken soup was a luxury, so this was a great alternative. Unlike chicken soup, it does not claim to cure any ailments, but it sure doesn’t hurt. As the saying went: ‘Just have more borscht.’
1 litre (4 cups) chicken stock
2 litres (8 cups) water
1.5 kg beef spare rib or top rib
(or other meat on the bone suitable for soups)
4 fresh beetroot (beets), peeled and roughly chopped
850 g tin whole beetroot (beets), grated
2 large carrots, peeled and sliced
4 potatoes, peeled and cut into large cubes
400 g tin diced tomatoes
410 g tin tomato purée
2 lemons, juiced
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 cabbage, shredded
Put the stock and water into a large stockpot. Add the meat and bring to the boil, skimming the surface to remove the scum. Add the fresh and tinned beetroot, carrots, potatoes, tomatoes and tomato purée and boil for 1 hour, or until the meat is just about falling off the bone. Add the lemon juice and season with salt, pepper and sugar to balance the flavours. Add the cabbage and simmer for at least another 15 minutes, or until the cabbage is very soft. Remove the meat from the saucepan. When cool enough to
handle, pull the meat from the bones. Shred the meat with a fork and return it to the pan. Taste again and adjust the seasoning and lemon juice if necessary. Let the borscht cool overnight.
The next day, skim off any fat and reheat to serve.
Let’s Lunch (#LetsLunch) is a twitter-based virtual lunch club where anyone interested can join this monthly ‘lunch date’. A topic is posted at the beginning of the month, everyone now takes it in turns, and all posts are made on the same day by this random but lovely group of food bloggers, writers and people who just love cooking from all around the world. Anyone can join at any time – just join us on twitter by searching and adding the hashtag #LetsLunch. Check out the others’ posts right here over the next few days – they are always so wonderful!
- Annabelle’s flaming cheese and adventures in Greektown at Glass of Fancy
- Anne Marie’s Sochi Sliders (and a super cute photo of her carrying the torch from the 2002 Olympics) at Sandwich Surprise
- Betty Ann’s Ham-Pineapple Garlic Rice in honor of Filipino Olympic athletes at Asian in America
- Cheryl’s Homemade Vegetarian Poutine and her 2010 Olympics memories atMiss Cheryl Tan
- Cheryl’s Solyanka at Tiger in the Kitchen
- Grace’s snowboarding adventures and her Coconut Hot Chocolate with Kahula atHapaMama.
- Jill’s Honeybell Chess Pie (Go Team Pie!) at Eating My Words
- Linda’s Guinness Ice Cream (more Guinness, yay!) in honor of the Jamaican bobsled team at Spicebox Travels
- Linda’s Meyer Lemon Cake (with gold medal candided lemons!) at Free Range Cookies
- Lisa’s Hot Borscht and the story behind this twist on a traditional Russian favorite at Monday Morning Cooking Club
- Lucy’s Russian Tea (and cheer for her hometown girl Elena Meyers) at A Cook and Her Books
- Mai’s Guinness Whoopie Pies at Cooking in the Fruit Bowl
- Margaret’s Olympic King Cake at Tea and Scones
- Nancie’s Kotleti: Mom’s Russian Hamburgers and a great book recommendation at Nancie McDermott.