Ukrainian Borsch

This dish takes me right back to when I was five years old and would stay with my grandparents in Bashtanka.

Yulia says…

This dish takes me right back to when I was five years old and would stay with my grandparents in Bashtanka. My grandfather always took the lead in making borsch – only sometimes did my grandmother help. This was controversial in Ukrainian culture, but my grandfather was really dedicated to his borsch. We would eat this soup topped with a layer of pork fat and homemade bread to dip into the delicious soup. We’d have it with his fermented mushroom tea, which is very similar to the kombucha that’s popular now. My grandfather made it before it was cool!

My grandparents had a beautiful vegetable garden and grew everything that they could possibly need. Nothing was ever wasted and they were always making pastes, pickles and preserves.

When it comes to borsch, everyone makes it slightly different. My grandfather’s was a deep red as he preferred the taste of tomato and made his own paste – a very long process where many tomatoes are boiled over three days with special spices, salt and sugar until they thicken into a paste, which is then sieved to separate the seeds. My grandfather used his own homegrown Ukrainian tomatoes – the best kind! Australian tomatoes have no flavour in comparison.

Back home we would eat borsch for days at a time. My grandmother always put more and more sour cream on mine to make me happy. I remember laughing as a child, thinking I was eating beetroot as the potatoes had absorbed so much red. As a five-year-old, I couldn’t get enough of this magic trick.

Borsch is important to Ukrainians as it is available to everyone, no matter how much money you have. Everyone has a garden and its ingredients are commonly grown. We all grow up eating this, so it has a special way of taking us back to our childhood.

As part of Free to Feed’s summer feast series in Melbourne, Yulia Manetska Is hosting a dinner on Thursday 9 February, showcasing dishes that make the heart sing. For bookings, visit FREETOFEED.ORG.AU.


Ukrainian Borsch

Serves 3-4

1.5 litre water
300g pork or beef meat with bones
Bouquet garni: green part of 1 leek, 15 parsley stalks, 15 dill stalks, tied up with string
25ml vegetable oil
250g pork shoulder or beef chuck, cut into 2cm cubes
25ml vegetable oil
1 medium beetroot, peeled and julienned
1 medium carrot, peeled and julienned
1 medium parsnip, peeled and julienned

½ red capsicum, thinly sliced
1 stick celery, thinly sliced
125g tomato paste
2 medium potatoes, peeled cut into small 1cm cubes
¼ small white cabbage, thinly shaved
1 bay leaf
5 peppercorns
½ bunch dill, finely chopped
½ bunch parsley, finely chopped
½ bunch spring onion, finely chopped
5 cloves garlic, crushed
Salt and pepper, to taste
4 tablespoons sour cream


For the stock, place water, meat with bones and bouquet garni into a saucepan and bring to the boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook for around 30 minutes. Remove bouquet garni when soft and slightly discoloured.

Heat vegetable oil in another large saucepan on high heat. Fry pork/beef pieces until brown and add to the stock pot. (Keep the fat in the pan for making the borsch!)

Cook stock for a further 1-1.5 hours. Remove any scum that floats to the top with a slotted spoon several times through the process.

Once stock is finished, remove and discard the meat with bones. Put meat pieces aside to serve later.

To make the borsch, add vegetable oil to the pan with the pork/beef fat and heat on medium heat. Add beetroot and fry for around 3-4 minutes until slightly softened. Add carrot and parsnip, and stir until softened, around 3-4 minutes. Add capsicum and celery, stir, and cook for a further 1-2 minutes. Finally, add tomato paste, stir, and cook 2-3 minutes. Turn off heat and set aside.

Add potato into the pot of stock, cook around 15-20 minutes until soft. Next add cabbage to stock pot and cook for around 10 minutes.

Add beetroot mixture from the other pan into the stock, along with the bay leaf and black peppercorns. Cook for a further 10-15 minutes.

Mix dill, parsley, spring onion and garlic in small bowl, then add to borsch. Turn off the heat. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

To serve, ladle borsch into bowls. Each serve has around 2-3 pieces of meat. Garnish with a tablespoon (or more!) of sour cream This soup is delicious on the day it is made, but even better the next day!

Published in Ed#677