Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Weekly Cauldron: Beefy Beet and Rainbow Chard Borscht

One of my all time favourite soups is Borscht...Hands. Down. I have made this fabulously healthful, chunky soup a variety of ways including a chicken based version and a vegetarian version and both are equally delicious, but the one that gains me the most kudos here at home is a traditional Russian Borscht made with beef. Yes, I know - Hubs and the boys like their red meat.

The recipe has been modified so many times, based on what ingredients I have or don't have at any given time and today was no exception. I didn't have white cabbage, which is one of the main elements in a traditional Russian Borscht. I did, however have oodles of ripe rainbow chard begging to be picked, so I simply replaced the cabbage with chard and the results were astounding...not to mention the added vitamins and minerals contained in chard: vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium and iron and large amounts of fiber and because chard is also part of the beet family, I knew it would naturally complement the flavour of the beets in the recipe!
I started off by sauteeing some onions and garlic in olive oil, then adding finely diced cubes of organic stewing beef, then some chopped celery and carrots. I added bay leaves, fresh dill and some organic sugar, then beef broth, tomato paste, chopped chard, cubed potatoes, sea salt and pepper. The soup is set to a simmer, covered for about an hour, until the beef is tender. At the end, I always stir in about 1/3 of a cup of good balsamic vinegar, because a true Borscht always has that acid which gives this delicious soup its familiar zing. Served with a generous dollop of sour cream, this soup is definitely a meal in  bowl!
Beefy Beet and Rainbow Chard Borscht
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound stewing beef, cut into small dice
3 stalks celery, chopped
3 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2" dice
4 medium carrots, peeled and sliced
3 medium beets (boiled in skins, then cooled to room temperature and skins slipped off)
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon pure cane sugar
8 cups beef stock (I used low-sodium organic)
12 cups rainbow chard, chopped OR 1 small head white cabbage cut into 2" chunks
1/4 cup tomato paste
Sea salt and pepper, to taste
1 bunch fresh dill or 2 tablespoons dried (reserve some fresh dill for garnish)
1/4 -1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
Sour cream for accompaniment
1. In Dutch oven, heat oil over medium heat and saute onion, garlic until translucent; add beef and brown with onions and garlic; add celery and carrots and continue to cook another 10 minutes.
2. Add bay leaves, dill and sugar; cook for 30 seconds; add broth, tomato paste, chard and potatoes, sea salt and pepper.
3. Simmer, covered until meat is tender, about 1 hour.
4. Using a box grater, coarsely shred beets into soup; stir to combine. Simmer an additional 30 minutes.
5. Remove from heat and stir in vinegar.
To serve: ladle soup into bowls and garnish with a dollop of sour cream and a sprig of fresh dill. Serves 12.
* TIP: Reserve about 1 cup of the beet water and strain through a coffee filter to filter out any grit; add to the soup for extra flavour and colour.

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