Monday, October 8, 2007

From Russia With Love

Matt's 82 year old Russian grandmother is a fantastic cook. She makes the best soup I've ever eaten in my life and ever since my first bite I was after her recipe. The trouble with his grandmother's recipes is that they aren't hidden away in a cookbook or even written down, they're all in her head, and the only way to learn to make any of her recipes is to watch and take notes. If you ask her "how did you make this?" the answer is always something like "I just put some stuff in a pot." If you want to know what stuff, for how long or in what order you've got to see it for yourself. So one afternoon I went over to her house to watch her make borscht and here's how it goes:

2 onions chopped finely
2 Tbs olive oil
5 celery stalks, finely chopped
6 cups vegetable stock
handful of parsley
2 bay leaves
handful of basil
several shakes of dried Italian seasoning (thyme, basil, oregano)
several cloves of finely minced garlic
3 carrots, chopped finely
2 potatoes, peeled and chopped finely
3/4 cup barley
2 cans chopped tomatoes
3/4 head of green cabbage, julienned
1 can sliced beets, chopped finely, in their juice
1/3 cup ketchup
1 tsp sugar
coriander and curry powder to taste
2 packages of veggie ground beef

Sautee the onions in 2 Tbs olive oil. Add the celery, cover and cook until onions are translucent, then add the stock, parsley, bay leaves, basil, Italian seasoning and garlic.

When the soup begins to boil add carrots, potatoes and barley. Reduce to a simmer and add 2 cans chopped tomatoes along with their juice.

Once the barley is tender, add the caggage and beets (including the juice the beets came with). Add the ketchup sugar, curry powder, coriander and veggie ground beef. Continue to simmer for about 30 minutes.

Notes: The original recipe contained real ground beef and chicken stock. I am not sure how it works with real ground beef but if that is an ingredient you are used to working with you can probably figure it out. Matt's grandma has been great about using veg substitutions in her original recipes. Everyone should be so lucky as to have such a cool granny!

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