Ella’s Borsch

Finally! A recipe!

My family has been blessed with phenomenal cooks.  My grandma and her sister make absolutely different but fabulously sumptuous borscht.  That’s right, borscht.  The funny thing is, as ubiquitous as borscht is and as fundamental to “Russian” cuisine, I’ve never made it before today.  Usually, this is how the conversation about borscht goes:

Me:  Grandma, how do I make borscht?
Grandma: When would you like it?  I’ll make some for you.
Me:  No, thanks Grandma, I’d like to learn how to make it.
Grandma:  Well, you’ll need beets and other things.
Me:  Ok, I’ll call you this evening for a complete list of ingredients and quantities.
… Later that evening…
Grandma:  Come by when you can, I have borscht for you.

But today, I decided to pick grandma up so we’d cook it at my place, under her supervision/guidance. Between bouts of laughter, spilled grated carrots, spilled bag of dust from the vacuum, and life advice, we ended up cooking her sister’s recipe (my great-aunt Ella’s recipe).

Though this soup is completely vegetarian, even vegan if you avoid the dollop of sour cream, it doesn’t taste “weak” or like it’s just water and a cabbage.



2 medium potatoes, diced in medium-sized chunks (I like Yukon Gold)
1 red bell pepper, diced in smallish-sized chunks (if you’d like to use 2, it would be great)
1 medium onion, diced
2 small beets, grated
1 large carrot, grated
1/2 head of cabbage
3 bay leaves
3 cloves of garlic, finely minced (if you like more, you can add more)
2 TBSP of tomato paste (I used catchup instead)
Salt and pepper to taste
2-2.25 cups of water

1. Cook the potatoes and cabbage in a pot of boiling water till just tender. About 10 minutes or so.
2. Saute all the veggies (onion, grated carrot, grated beets, and diced bell pepper) till just soft. About 5-10 minutes or so.
3. Combine the ingredients to one pot (whichever pot is larger). I had a cast-iron pot where I sauteed the veggies that had enough room to add the potatoes, cabbage, and the cooking liquid of those, so that’s what I did. I transferred the cabbage, potatoes, and water to the pot with the veggies.
4. Once combined, check the salt level, add the bay leaves, check the water. This is where we added 2 cups of water.
5. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and let simmer about 15-20 minutes. Check water again. If it’s too thick, add more water. We added about a quarter cup at this point.
6. Add the minced garlic and minced dill (dill, salt, pepper are all to taste).
7. Turn off the heat and let the pot stand there for about 10 minutes.

Enjoy the rich deliciousness. This is typically served with a dollop of sour cream and everyone I know eats it that way. My preferred way is to eat it instead with a slice if somewhat crusty bread and a few cloves of raw garlic. No fear of vampires here. 😉


Veggies Sauteing


Cabbage and Potatoes cooking


Borscht cooking


2 responses to “Ella’s Borsch

  1. Hi Anna,
    This sounds good…I used to be wary of soups that call for just water instead of stock, but I’ve had some good experiences making a fish soup using a “water stock.” I sometimes use catsup in my borsch, too.

    • Thanks! I made enough to feed a small nation. And it really is delicious. I think it’s because of sauteing the veggies before adding water to them. The richness has time to develop.

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