Tatiana's Borscht | From Russia With Love

When was the last time you did something for the first time?

Apparently, trying new things is good for us. It stimulates creativity, pushes us out of our comfort zone,  allows us to expand our mind and learn new things about ourselves.


I did two new things last weekend. I prepared a delicious Russian borscht for the first time using my friend, Tatiana's, true and tried family recipe. I've neither eaten nor cooked traditional Russian food before so this was a completely new experience. 

This was part of a "Recipe Exchange" idea where we sent each other one of our favorite recipes to try. And then we met over a Zoom call for dinner, where we broke bread together and had a fun evening discussing the dishes we prepared and just catching up. Another first for me. But desperate pandemic times call for creative, socially distanced measures and virtual dinners.

I'd like to think that even after the pandemic quarantine lifts, the idea of inviting friends and family, who are separated by oceans and time zones, to a virtual dinner will persist. Just a nice way to be together, while apart.

Russian Borscht with sour cream and dill, borsch and matryoshka


So, I learned that BORSCHT (pronounced 'borsch', the t is silent) is a traditional Russian soup made with meat/bone stock and a variety of colorful vegetables- beetroots, cabbage, potatoes, carrots, onions and tomatoes. Topped off with fresh, fragrant parsley and dill and a dollop of sour cream, this is a truly wholesome,  satisfying meal. Russian comfort food at it's very best.

And the added advantage is all the health benefits of this soup. Beets (that give the soup it's characteristic purplish color), help significantly lower blood pressure, help in digestion, help fight inflammation  and support brain health. This low calorie, nutrient dense soup is packed with anti-oxidants and brimming with Vitamin C, folate and fiber. Good for the heart, good for the digestion and good for the brain. This might very well be the elixir of youth that we've all been searching for.


Over dinner, Tatiana tells me that borscht is the epitome of Russian comfort food and is the perfect balance of savory and sweet flavors. Pride rings in her voice as she explains that this hearty soup is prepared regularly in Russian households during the winter time. 

In fact, this is the first recipe that features in her recipe book. We all know what that means. The first recipe in a recipe book, is the most important one that you don't leave home without learning. It's that all important dish you are able to prepare when you are far from home, that gets you through home sickness and envelopes you like a big hug from your mother when you need it most. So, when Tatiana left Russia to come to the US as an exchange student, her recipe book with the secret to a good Borscht occupied a special place in her suitcase.

Russian Borscht, borsch with dill and sour cream, cabbage soup and matryoshka.
Like matryoshka, Tatiana's family recipe is a symbol of a lasting  legacy passed down through the generations.


 Cooking with Color

Have you heard of 'paint by numbers'? Well, we're going to 'cook by color' since the ingredients for this dish are so vibrant and colorful.

Servings: 6


☐ Beef with  bone (Beef shank) 1.5lbs
☐ Beets- 3 medium size, julienned
☐ Tomatoes- 1 large chopped + 1/2 sliced
☐ Tomato paste- 1 tablespoon
☐ Vinegar- 1 tablespoon
☐ Sugar- 1 teaspoon
☐ Butter- 1/2 tablespoon
☐ Yellow onion- 1 medium chopped
☐ Carrot- 2 medium grated
☐ Potatoes cubed- 3.5 cups
☐ Bell Pepper- 1 large sliced thin
☐ Cabbage- 1/4 head sliced thin
☐ Bay leaf- 1
☐ All spice- 1/2 tsp lightly crushed
☐ Salt and pepper to taste
☐ Olive oil- as needed

For the garnish:

☐ Parsley- fresh, chopped
☐ Dill- fresh, chopped
☐ Crema or sour cream
☐ Black bread/ pumpernickel rye
☐ Sliced garlic

Ingredients for Russian Borscht, borsch, beets, potatoes, beef, carrots, tomatoes
 One main ingredient is missing... can you guess which one?
The cabbage.


1. Prepare the meat and stock

Cut the beef into pieces. Cover with cold water for 15 minutes and the drain.

In a Dutch oven/ large pot with a lid, add 1-2 quarts cold water to beef and cook over medium heat.

Before the pot boils, reduce heat to low, cook for approximately 1.5 hours covered, periodically skimming the foam off the top. Cook covered until tender.

    Alternate quick version:

In a pressure cooker, brown the meat in a tablespoon of oil. Then add 1/2 a sliced onion, 1/2 teaspoon chopped garlic . Fry lightly. Add a pinch of pepper corns and salt. Cover with water and boil on high flame, skimming off the foam on the top. Put lid on pressure cooker and continue to cook on high flame. Once the steam starts to come through the vent, put the stopper on. After the first whistle, reduce flame to low and cook for 20 minutes. 

Beef stock, beef shank for borscht, borsch

2. Prepare the beets  (REDS)

In a large pan with a lid, combine the julienned beets, chopped tomato, tomato paste, vinegar, sugar and butter. Cover with water and cook on low heat 20-30 minutes , stirring and adding water as needed.

Cooking beets for borscht, borsch

3.Prepare the onion and carrots (ORANGES)

Sauté the chopped onions and grated carrots in 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil until golden. 

Cooking grated carrots for borscht, borsch

4. Cook the potatoes (WHITES)

In the large pot of meat and broth, add the cubed potatoes and cook for 10 minutes. If too much broth has boiled out, add boiling water to increase the liquid content.

Cooking potatoes with beef stock for borscht, borsch

5. Add the green vegetables (GREENS)

Add the sliced bell peppers, cabbage and salt to the large pot and cook for 10 minutes. It will cook down.

Cooking cabbage for borscht, borsch

6. Combine everything now (Make it PURPLE!)

To the large pot, now add the beets, onions and carrots, bay leaf, all spice and pepper. Stir it all in and cook for 10 minutes.

Adding beets to borscht, borsch

7. Garnish and serve

Five minutes before turning off, add the sliced tomato.

Serve with crema, dill and parsley and "black" bread (pumpernickel rye) rubbed with sliced garlic.

Russian Borscht with sour cream and dill, borsch and matryoshka, pumpernickel

приятного аппетита (priyatnogo appetita!).

To explore my other internationally inspired recipes, click on "GLOBAL" below.

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