This traditional Russian strong-flavoured beetroot soup is ideal to be served on a frosty winter day, enriched with a large dollop of smetana.
about 2 l good beef stock
about 500 - 600 g peeled beetroots
1 medium carrot
1 small parsnip or turnip-rooted parsley
piece of celery root (smaller than the size of half of your fist)
1 medium onion
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp tomato paste
2 tsp (or just a pinch) sugar
1 tbsp white or red wine vinegar
200 g white cabbage
1 - 2 dried or 3 fresh bay leaves
pinch of salt
dash of white or red wine vinegar
Using the maximum amount of water (1¾ litres), prepare the beef stock according to the instructions given here. Preferably do it on the previous day so that you have time to degrease the stock (this is not necessary, though).
You should have about 2 litres of stock.
Peel or scrape clean the carrot. Peel the beetroots, parsnip, celery root and onion. Cut the root vegetables in rather thick julienne strips using a coarse grater or a food processor's slicing/shredding attachment fitted with a julienne disk.
Very finely chop the onion.
Melt and heat half of the butter in a large saucepan or a pot. I also add the fatty marrow, picked from the bones used in preparing the stock.
Add the shredded and chopped vegetables, together with the tomato paste, sugar and vinegar (1 tablespoon). Add a dash of the stock to moisten the mixture.
On medium-high heat, cook and stir the vegetables for a few minutes, then lower the heat, cover the pan with a lid and let the mixture simmer for 15 to 20 minutes or so. During simmering, stir the vegetables frequently, so that they will not burn on the bottom of the pan.
Add some more stock, if necessary.
Meanwhile, shred the cabbage very thinly. After the simmering time is up, add the cabbage to the pan, together with the rest of the butter. Add a dash of stock, if necessary. Cover the pan and let the mixture simmer for 20 minutes, stirring every now and then.
Add hot beef stock enough to completely cover the vegetables. Add the bay leaves and some salt, pepper and vinegar to your taste. The vinegar will give the soup its characteristic, slightly acidic flavour, balancing the sweetness of the root vegetables.
Simmer the soup, covered, for about 1 hour, or until the vegetables are thoroughly tender. Add some more stock or water if the soup seems very thick, resembling a stew rather than a soup.
Serve the soup piping hot, topped with smetana or sour cream and some lightly toasted and warm, soft dark rye bread spread with butter.
Recipe source: family recipe.