From a very young age, one of Neven's favourite pastimes was to shadow his mother in the kitchen, watching her cook; his pastime soon became ...
vegetarian (if vegetable stock is used)
1 tblsp olive oil
1 leek (finely chopped)
275 g raw beetroot (peeled and finely grated)
100 g potato (peeled and diced)
150 g carrots (peeled and finely grated)
1.2 l (2 pints) vegetable or beef stock
2 tblsp red wine vinegar
1 tblsp caster sugar
salt and freshly ground black pepper
soured cream and dill sprigs, to garnish
Borscht is a classic soup in most parts of Eastern Europe and it was Piotr and Pawel, twin Polish chefs, who first introduced it to my kitchen. When choosing beetroot, look for those that are plump, smooth and firm, avoiding any with signs of decay. I always grate them in a food processor to prevent my hands from staining, but if you have to do them by hand. Try wearing rubber gloves!
Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat and fry the leek and celery for about 2-3 minutes until softened but not browned, stirring occasionally. Add the beetroot, potato and grated carrot, stirring to combine.
Pour the stock into the saucepan, season with salt and pepper and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for about 40 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are completely tender and the soup has thickened slightly.
Season the soup with salt and pepper to taster, then stir in the vinegar and sugar. Heat gently until the sugar has dissolved. Ladle the soup into warmed bowls and garnish each with a small dollop of soured cream and dill sprigs. Serve immediately.