Updated: Jan 22
I usually get my borsht fix from Veselka, a superb Ukrainian restaurant in the East Village of New York City since 1954. My twist to Veselka’s borsht is adding leeks and lentils: the lentils add some protein, not to mention a little more of the “stick to your ribs-ness” and I find the leeks bring out the best of the beets. Add a just a couple of slices of bacon for flavour, which can be easily be omitted for a vegetarian version. Regardless of which version or ingredients you may wish to add, you will have a bowl of warm goodness on a cold day.
1–2 tablespoons olive oil or butter
1–2 slices of uncooked bacon, chopped (optional)
1–1½ cups sliced leeks
1 cup fresh chopped dill
1 cup chopped carrots
1 cup diced celery
3–4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 cups cubed beets
1 cup red lentils, rinsed
3–4 cups of stock of choice or water (more if needed)
2 cups shredded red cabbage
½ teaspoon chili flakes
Salt and pepper to taste
1. Heat oil or butter in a heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven over medium high heat. Render chopped bacon until crispy, remove and set aside.
2. Lower heat to medium, add leeks and sauté for 5–6 minutes. Add ½ cup of dill, season with salt, pepper and chili flakes.
3. Once leeks become soft and translucent, increase heat slightly, add carrots, celery and garlic. Mix well.
4. Stir in half the beets. Adding a little stock or water if they begin to stick, sauté for 2–3 minutes.
5. Add remaining beets, stir for 2–3 minutes.
6. Add lentils and mix for 1–2 minutes.
7. Add half of the stock or water.
8. Add shredded cabbage, mix well, add remaining stock or water.
9. Cover and bring to boil over medium high heat. Be sure to stir so lentils don’t stick. Reduce to low. Simmer for 12–18 minutes or until lentils and beets have reached desired texture.
10. Add remaining dill. Serve alongside some fresh sourdough bread.