Not-at-all Borscht

Not-at-all-BorschtI sometimes worry that when I write about traditional dishes that I’ve tweaked and adapted that I will offend someone if I continue to call the dish by its original name. Therefore the name of this deliciously warming broth-cum-stew is ‘Not at all Borscht’, as it’s by no means a traditional Borscht recipe, but I feel a recipe title should have something to give you an idea of what the dish contains, and beetroot-chicken-tomato-pepper soup doesn’t quite roll off the tongue in the same way.

Inspired by Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall‘s Ukrainian Chicken Borscht, but adapted to fit almost the entire contents of my vegetable rack, this dish is wonderfully filling and satisfying – one for colder days – and it needs nothing more than a drop of sour cream and perhaps a hot crusty roll on the side to make it a comforting full-on supper dish.

A word of warning: wear rubber gloves when handling beetroot, and wipe down all your surfaces immediately afterwards, otherwise – in the words of Nigella Lawson – you’ll have “a touch of the Lady Macbeth’s” for days to come.

Not at all Borscht
Serves 6

3 chicken ‘portions’ (breast/thigh/drumstick), bone-in & skin-on
190g smoked streaky bacon, roughly diced
4 carrots, peeled
2 medium white onions, peeled
4 garlic cloves, peeled
1 red pepper
4 potatoes, peeled
850ml chicken stock
1 x 400g can tomatoes
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp tomato purée
2 large beetroots, scrubbed thoroughly & coarsely grated

In a large pan, fry the chicken in a little olive oil until golden all over (but not cooked through), and remove to a plate. Fry the bacon until cooked but not too crispy and set aside with the chicken.

Finely dice (or blitz in a food processor) the carrot, onion and garlic and sauté very gently in the pan with a little more oil until very soft. Meanwhile wash and quarter the red pepper, removing all the seeds and pith, and place skin side-up on a baking sheet under a ferociously hot grill until the skins are thoroughly blackened. Remove and allow to cool slightly and then peel off the charred skin and slice into strips lengthways.

Roughly chop or blitz the potatoes to small pieces (not quite as fine as the other veg) and add to the pot and sweat for a few more minutes before adding the chicken stock and the tomatoes with all their juices, stirring well to break them up. Add the paprika, soy sauce, tomato puree and give it all another stir before adding the beetroot, red pepper, chicken and bacon to the pot.

Allow to simmer very gently for at least an hour until the chicken is tender, then add seasoning to taste: it will probably need a hearty dose of pepper, and maybe a little more salt. You may wish to use a little more soy sauce instead of salt, as it adds an extra savoury dimension that works well with the earthiness of the beets.

Remove the chicken pieces to a plate, discard the skin (it adds great flavour, but you don’t want it in the final dish), and shred the meat roughly with two forks. Return to the pan, mix well and serve, being sure to get a good dose of the veggies (which will have sunk to the bottom), along with a ladleful of the cooking liquor from the top, in each dish.

This post was originally featured on Souperior on 8th May 2007 but has been re-edited for 2011 posting.
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9 thoughts on “Not-at-all Borscht

  1. Wow, that looks great. I think I am going to try and make it but without the bacon because we don’t eat pork and use Bragg’s Liquid Aminos instead of the soy sauce. I love using smoked paprika in recipes. can’t wait to try it.

    1. Thanks Abby! I’m sure it will be very delicious without the bacon – you might want to up the paprika a little bit, as the bacon contributes a smokey note.

  2. I like the sound of this. I sometimes find beetroot soup a bit sweet but the addition of bacon and soy sauce probably balance out the sweetness.

  3. I totally know what you mean with regards to straying from tradition with recipes. But I also feel like that’s where innovation happens! And I love borscht. 🙂

  4. What a creative title for this soup! It looks super yummy! And yes, definitely wear gloves when dealing with beets and borscht-like dishes. 🙂

  5. I once had to put Greek-ish Salad on a menu for this reason. A customer (who incidentally had a nearby restaurant) claimed my version wasn’t authentic! You Borscht like creation looks delish.

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