I love soup season, and where I live, this lasts about nine months of the year. As you may imagine, borshch is in heavy rotation in our household, but as I’ve written before, no two pots of borshch are ever the same. There is no hard and fast recipe for borshch; it varies depending on region, available ingredients, and family traditions. In pastoral landscapes, lamb is the preferred meat base, while arable folk prefer beef or pork.
I love borshch made with duck breast, but I’ve also seen it done well with bison, quail, and venison. There are those who abhor putting apples in the mix, while still others argue that potatoes or beans just take up too much room in the pot. Tomatoes, carrots, and parsnips are common, but in parts of the world, so too is ginger, pomegranate syrup, and lovage. Borshch is usually purple or red, but it can also be green, particularly in early spring when peppery sorrel heralds the welcome return of tender shoots and fresh herbs.
I come to borshch blessedly free of ethnic, or familial predilections — both my grandmothers were far more adept at mixing cocktails than concocting beet soup, and neither would have dreamed of ruining a good manicure by peeling two pounds of beets. Sometimes I yearn for an inherited cache of soup-splattered recipe cards, written out in an old-fashioned copperplate hand in sepia ink, but the flip side of this is that I feel very free to improvise, experiment, and even go off piste a bit. Over the years, I’ve done just that, to create a borshch that comprises basic ingredients, but the final flavor and texture of each batch will depend on the weather, my mood, and what lurks in the refrigerator crisper, or what looked too good to pass up that week at the farmer’s market. Recently, I’ve discovered dill and fennel pollen, which are welcome additions to the pot, as is quince, an apple-like fruit, which is happily in season. I’ve also tried persimmon (you should too), lemongrass (an acquired taste), and Thai basil (which alas did not work well at all). The lesson here is that you will never know until you try..!
To read more visit The Moscow Times.
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