Wednesday 28 April 2010

Ukrainian borscht with oxtail

I woke up this morning to find I have finally grown some balls. Not literally, thank god, but I woke up with a strong feeling that enough is enough. I will own my suffering now, so that I never have to feel like this in the future. I will never let a man mess me around, or be disrespectful towards me, or lie to me, ever again. Then I got up, and made the most amazing Ukranian borscht ever. My parents ate 3 bowls each and were amazed at how tasty it was, and they have eaten a lot of borscht in their lifetimes. I have to warn you, the recipe sounds more complicated than it actually is, there's a lot of ingredients, but you have made this once, it will be part of your repertoire forever. And remember, you do not need to follow what I did exactly, every household throughout Poland, Russia and the Ukraine has their own way of cooking beetroot soup and everyone thinks their way is best... but they are all wrong

Ingredients (6-8 servings)

400 grams oxtail
2 litres water
2 carrots
1 parsnip
1/4 celeriac (celery root)
1/2 leek
1/4 cabbage
300 grams potatoes
6 beetroot
Small tin tomato puree
1/2 lemon
200 grams single cream
1 tbl spoon flour
4 garlic cloves
2 tins of butter beans (670 grams drained)
2 tbl spoons dill
Salt and pepper

There are three recipes for borscht in the old Polish cookbook I am studying right now. I didn't follow any of them to the letter, as I had to include elements which come from my family's experience (i.e. butter beans). Using oxtail was also my mum's idea, and it has never been done before, but it turned out so amazingly well that I have to recommend it. So start off by cooking the oxtail and peeled beetroot for half an hour. Remove the beetroot and let them cool on the side. Add the finely chopped  (or grated) carrots, parsnip, celeriac and leek, as well as the potatoes, which have been chopped into bitesize chunks. Cook for another fifteen minutes, before adding the chopped cabbage, and carry on cooking on a low heat for the same amount of time. I then had to go to the gym with my mum (as part of my "therapy"), so I turned the heat off and let the soup cool. When I came back from the gym, I removed the oxtail from the pot and took the meat off the bone, chucking any fatty bits away, and sticking the lovely meaty bits back in. I put the heat back on. I chopped the beetroot into chunks (my mum always cuts it into fine strips, and the book tells you to grate it, but I prefer chunks), added the tomato puree, and squeezed half a lemon in. I also crushed the garlic cloves into a separate bowl and mashed them with 2 tablespoons of salt, adding that into the mix. After another half an hour, I sieved the flour into it, mixing thoroughly. I then turned the heat off again, and let the borscht cool, as I still had a couple of hours before my parents came home

Once the borscht had cooled I added the cream. You need to do this when it is cool so that it doesn't curdle. At the same time, I added the fresh, chopped dill and drained butter beans, sugar and more salt and pepper, according to taste. This cooked for another half an hour before we sat down to dinner, eating it with fresh bread. This soup is like life force - I can see why the whole of Eastern and Central Europe is obsessed

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