In honour of Russia week, we thought we’d feature a Russian recipe. Before you stop me, I know borscht is Ukrainian in origin – today, though, it is popular throughout Eastern and Central Europe.

When I was little, my nanny used to make her borscht for me and my brother. I remember two things: being shocked at its fuschia colour and trying so hard to get a bit of sour cream in every bite before it melted. This borscht, like the one she used to make us, is a hot one (as opposed to the cold variety), very hearty and appropriate, I think, for the never-ending hailstorm season that seems to have enveloped St Andrews. 

Since it’s made mostly of root vegetables, cabbage and ingredients probably sitting in the back of your cupboard already, this recipe is a good one for feeding a crowd of students. And feel free to try it without the beef – my childhood one never had any meat in it, so in fact I would recommend it vegetarian! Just replace the first step of the recipe, making beef stock, with vegetable stock and you’re on your way.


Serves 4 to 6


1kg beef shin
1 small onion, unpeeled, cut in half
2 medium carrots, peeled, 1 quartered, 1 chopped
3 medium beetroots, scrubbed well 6 tbsp tomato paste
4 medium cloves of garlic, smashed
225g red cabbage, shredded
2 medium tomatoes, cored and coarsely chopped
1 bay leaf
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
8 tsp sugar
450–500g firm potatoes, peeled, cut into 1cm cubes, and cooked in boiling salted water until tender

For garnish
Sour cream
Chopped dill

Cover the beef with 1½ litres of water in a large saucepan. Stir in the onion and quartered carrot and bring to the boil, Strain the stock through a fine–mesh sieve; there should be about 1¼ litres. Reserve the meat. Return the beef and liquid to the pan and bring to a boil.

For a veggie version, just bring some vegetable stock to the boil and start from here.

Add the beetroot and return to the boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the tip of a knife easily pierces the beetroot.

Remove the beetroot and allow to cool slightly, then peel and chop it (you could grate it, but this is messier and not how I remember it!). Return the beetroot to the soup.

Dissolve/whisk the tomato paste into the soup. Stir in the garlic, chopped carrot, cabbage, tomatoes, bay leaf, vinegar and sugar and bring to the boil. Lower the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 1½ hours.

Skip this step for the veggie version. Remove the meat from the pan. Discard the bones and slice the meat about 1cm thick, then stir into the soup.

Add in the cubed potatoes, two teaspoons of salt, black pepper to taste and the dill. Return to the boil for two minutes.

If desired, place a half potato in the bottom of each large soup bowl. Ladle in the soup. Top each with a dollop (or greedy ladleful) of sour cream and a sprinkling (or liberal handful) of dill.

Adapted from The Telegraph.


Images sourced from Natalie PerrySimply Recipes and Thom Donovan. Compiled by Jenni Dimmock.