I’m going out on a limb here, because unless you’re Eastern European, Polish Beet Soup soup might seem like acquired taste… Or maybe I think that because I fed it to an Asian friend once and he was so weirded out, I might as well fed him monkey brains (but he ate it to the last drop anyway…)
It’s soo worth going out and trying something new – because this soup is sweet, spicy and tangy. It doesn’t seem like it, but if you eat it steaming hot, it warms you up and “sticks to your ribs” like few other soups I know. Like a stew, it developes a depth after a night in the fridge, so plan to have leftovers.
This recipe is just like the barszcz I used to eat when growing up in Poland, except that we added some mild Italian sausages and simmered them along with the soup. This version is not strained, so the vegetable contents are left in and pureed, leaving you more nutrients – beets are rich sources of iron, potassium and vitamin-C. I like to season my barszcz with lots of black pepper, and sprinkled with some dried marjoram on top. You can also add boiled potatoes to your bowl and have a dollop of sour cream on top. And then you will become Polish (kidding).
Rant: I’m normally extremely liberal when it comes to recipe interpretations, but here I stop and say – this is how you do this. This way and no other! I’m amazed at what people do and still call it barszcz. For starters, you don’t add tomatoes, apples, or mushrooms. Same goes for lemon juice… (You couldn’t even buy lemons in Poland before the early 90’s…or was that oranges?) And please promise me you won’t stick red peppers and cumin in it, either.
In case you’re wondering, here’s how you pronounce “barszcz”
- 2 tbs butter
- 1 large onion, roughly chopped
- 2 celery sticks, chopped
- 4 medium beets, peeled and sliced
- 10 cups chicken broth, preferably homemade
- 2 large bay leaves
- 4 links of mild Italian sausage (don't slice yet)
- 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tbs dried marjoram
- Salt, to taste
- Additions and garnishes:
- 4 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, boiled and diced
- sour cream on the side
- a few parsley leaves
- Melt the butter in a medium stock pot over medium heat. Add the onion and celery, and saute until lightly browned. Add the beets and chicken broth, then stir to incorporate. Add the bay leaves, sausages, black pepper and marjoram, then bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer, cover and cook for 45 mins - 1 hour, until the beets are tender.
- In a separate pot, boil a few yellow potatoes, such as Yukon Gold. Cut them up and place in soup bowls.
- Remove the sausages from the soup, and when cool enough to handle, slice them and place in the bowls with the potatoes. Remove the bay leaves from the soup. Using an immersion blender, puree the soup, then season with salt. Pour the soup over the sausages and potatoes, making sure it's steaming hot. Serve with a side of sour cream and a little parsley.