Thursday, 4 December 2014

Vegan borscht

I am very fond of Russian cuisine and the cuisine of surrounding countries. This
Ukrainian soup (борщ)) is one of my favorite from that region of the world. In the past I made it properly, with meat (usually beef), sweet or sour cabbage, potato, served with sour cream and hard boiled egg. On the road to vegan or vegetarian life-style it doesn't mean I have to give up my favorite dishes, I just needed to adjust them and improvise. If you leave out the meat you will get a vegetarian borscht, but without the egg and sour cream there comes the vegan version (Ukrainian people probably would like to crucify me now). And I have to tell you, this vegan version is not a bit less tasty than the version with the meat. Let's take a look.

You will need:
4 beetroots
2 carrots
2 parsnips
a celeriac (a size of a small fist)
2 stalks of celery
1 stalk leek
1/2 cup red lentils
1 bay leaf
2-3 cloves of garlic
1 tsp ground caraway seeds
salt and freshly ground black pepper (to taste)
2 tbsp sunflower oil
1 tsp vinegar

2 tbsp flour (optional)

1. Boil the beetroots with skin on till you can easily pierce them through with a fork. Drain and let it cool a bit. Peel and cut into slices then cut those slices into strips. Add 1 tbsp oil, cover it evenly (it will preserve the colour), then add the vinegar (it will strengthen the colour). Set aside.

2. Cut the leek into slices. Sweat them stirring gently over low heat.

3. Add your well-washed and drained lentils (here come the protein), cover with water (about 4 inches high), add the celery, the garlic, season (bay leaf, caraway seeds, salt and pepper), cover with a lid and gently simmer for 15-20 mins.

4. With a julienne peeler cut cleaned carrots, parsnips and celeriac into strips. If you do not have one, just cut the veg with a knife. Even chunky strips will be fine. Add these veg strips to the soup base.

5. Add the rested beetroot too. Bring to boil again. Simmer for 2-3 mins.
(If you chose the chunkier veg strips add the raw veggies before the beetroot and cook till tender then execute this step)

6. Meanwhile, lightly brown the flour in a dry pan. When it has a nice light brown, pale brown color, add some cold water, stirring constantly till you get a smooth paste. Spoon some hot soup onto the paste then add the floury part to the soup.

This step is optional. If you do not want gluten in your soup, just leave it out. If you don't mind the gluten please add. It will thicken the soup and enrich the flavour.

7. Take out the bay leaf and the celery stalks. Serve it hot with thick slices of dark rye bread. Enjoy!

Tips: You can use pearl barley instead of red lentil (more Eastern-European than lentil) or to accompany it. You can make this soup vegetarian by serving with a dollop of sour cream (or yoghurt if you prefer something lighter) and a hard boiled egg, halved or quartered.

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