Tuesday, 10 April 2012

On your Nettle (a vegetarian borscht with the nettles)

Borscht (correct transliteration for the Russian word борщ is borshch) is a staple soup in many Russian families. There are so many variations that I won't have enough fingers and toes to count them all. Of course, there are versions for both meat-eaters and vegetarians.

My Mum's borscht is undoubtedly the best. Whenever she comes to visit, I ask her to cook it for me in the biggest pot I have, as it keeps well for several days in the fridge, and actually tastes better the next day.

But today I am not doing her version.
Today's creation is an easy cabbage-free and meat-free soup with the nettles (if nettles don't rock your boat, try to substitute them with the fresh beet leaves, the flavour is amazing).

For 4 servings (as the first course) you will need:
2 small beets
a decent handful of nettles, chopped (pick very young leaves)
1 big potato
1 medium carrot
1 small parsnip
1 tbsp tomato paste
2 medium tomatoes
1 stock cube (vegetable)
fresh dill for serving
soured cream or creme fraiche for serving
black pepper (optional)
sunflower oil

Start with the beets: chop them finely and slightly fry in the frying pan with the sunflower oil (about a tsp). You might skip the frying step, but it adds the depth to the overall flavour of the soup. Add to the cooking pot.
Chop the carrots, and also fry a bit, or just add the chopped carrot to the pot with the beets. Add a stock cube.
Cover with water and bring to the boil. Lower down the heat. After 20 minutes, add chopped potatoes, tomatoes and a parsnip. Add the tomato paste and chopped nettles (use the scissors and wear plastic gloves to avoid the sting). Cook for about 20 minutes on low heat. Add the salt almost at the very end.
Once all the vegetables are done, serve in a deep bowl with the dollop of the soured cream and fresh dill.

You might want to add an onion to the soup or substitute dill for flat leaf parsley.
Or if you don't like the soured cream, add a boiled egg (half an egg per person).
You could also cook it with meat, of course, just add your favourite stock and pieces of chicken or beef.


  1. Oh my goodnes, you're veggie too??? Where do you live, we may have to link up! Paka!

  2. Hi, podruzhka! I am not a vegetarian, but we eat a lot of vegetarian foods. Not difficult, if you cook Italian and Russian dishes, the choices are endless. My kids are practically non-meat-eaters, they don't like the texture, I think, though my little man is occasionally eating sausages.