Culinary Corner

Real Russian borscht a hearty remedy for chilly weather

Special to The CambrianOctober 21, 2013 

A beefy bowl of borscht served on board ship.


During this water crisis it seems like a badge of honor to have flower pots and window boxes along my driveway with their crunchy dry soil and parched plants. I have some survivors who get an occasional sprinkle of my bath water, but even the succulents are meager from being munched by my resident doe and fawns for their precious moisture.

I gave up tending my hillside in favor of helping head gardener Mike Rice maintain the Heirloom Gardens at the Cambria Historical Museum. At this time a few volunteers are trying to save 100-year-old roses and one-of-a-kind plants that he has propagated in the nursery area, by hand watering with non-potable water he trucks in each week.

As I traveled to Russia, I envied all the water and rainfall in Moscow. That slowed down our group of 45 a bit, but did not deter us from enjoying entering the lowest and oldest depths of the Metro, and the Kremlin and colorful St. Basil’s ornate cathedral by night.

Like many people I had envisioned the Kremlin as one edifice, but it is actually the extensive walled citadel or fortification of the ancient capital town.

Many churches and museums in the Kremlin fascinated us with their historic cataloging of the successive dynasties with their intrigues, mysteries, and finery. Peter, Catherine and Elizabeth, all described as Great, were duly represented, creatures of excess; but it was interesting to note that the state maintains all this as part of the country’s legacy. Our local guides commented factually if not ironically without fear of repercussions.

We stopped along the Volga en route to St. Petersburg, which has always been one of my dream destinations. (My other major dream-come-true was Granada in 1997.) Though the sun came out a little, it was not enough to warm my bones from the bitter cold while visiting St. Cyril’s church and monastery, built in the early 1500s. This was crisp autumn weather, and I cannot fathom winter!

Thank goodness our crew later had hot and hearty borscht for us, and soft, warm garlic buns with a shiny glaze. I love beets in any form, so I had looked forward to the authentic meal. An on-board session that afternoon took us step by step through the preparation of that region’s beefy version, as demonstrated by a young chef and translated by Olga, our Russian guide (a teacher on break). I can still hear their charming voices describing this process with the quaint recipe they shared just this way. Note one of the variant spellings in the recipe's name.

Russian Borsch recipe

  1. 500 grams beef cut into small (3- by 3-centimeter) cubes. Three liters water. Make broth (don’t forget to take off foam when it starts boiling), boil for approximately one hour until the meat gets soft. Leave meat in the broth.
  2. Meanwhile, grate one medium carrot and one medium beetroot; two onions cut into small squares. Fry all of this in a small amount of sunflower oil (just 1 or 2 millimeters deep, just to cover the frying pan bottom), mix now and then until it gets soft (for approximately 15 min, medium fire). Then cut five big ripe tomatoes into small cubes, add them to the vegetables, mix and fry until the juice evaporates and the mixture gets a cream-like consistency. Turn off the fire. Put aside.
  3. Cut six to eight potatoes into long pieces like (matchstick) French fries, add to the boiling broth (after meat is almost cooked), boil for another 10 minutes over slow fire.
  4. Add the fried vegetables, boil for 5 more minutes.
  5. Then add a bowl of cabbage cut into fine strips. Boil for another two to three minutes; turn the fire off. Leave on the stove for 30 minutes to let the broth absorb the taste of the vegetables.
  6. Serve (hot) with fresh cut dill/parsley (a couple pinches per plate) and a tablespoonful of sour cream.
  7. Enjoy it! :)

Consuelo Macedo’s column is published on the second, fourth and any fifth Thursdays. Please send recipes and ideas to Consuelo, c/o The Cambrian, 2442 Main St., Cambria CA 93428; or email to

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