The Poles claim the dish as their own along with Ukrainians, Russians and Lithuanians; indeed it is popular throughout much of Eastern Europe and the Baltics. It is said that there is a recipe for every household and indeed different stock can be used, fish stock is used, for example on Christmas Eve as traditionally it remains a meatless day in Roman Catholic households. The actual origin is likely to be Ukraine, where it is their national soup and according to the Penguin Companion to Food, citing the principle followed by botanists; “that the place where the largest number of natural variations is recorded is probably the place of origin of a species”.
Wherever its origin, it is lovely and in the version described below, hearty.
To start the process, I roast the cubed beetroot in a medium hot oven for 40 minutes to an hour with some butter. Meanwhile prep the rest of the vegetables. Once ready, with the remaining butter fry the onion, until softening and add the diced celery and carrot. These three ingredients are the Holy Trinity of cooking; the base that so many dishes can be built on. Then I add the garlic, roast beetroot and either meat stock – or if one wishes to keep the meal vegetarian, water. Then add the cabbage and the rest of the seasonings and the apple juice; the remaining 50 ml. is the cook’s treat as it is in the author’s opinion a very pleasing juice, with a nice tart feel to it.
While the author is far from being anti-Hungarian, although there is temptation to add smoked paprika (and the author is fond of paprika), the dish is, from the North-East and the intention is to bring out the sweetness of the beetroot, hence in the author’s opinion, the apple helps to give that little boost. The potato was included to add body, we did say hearty soup as opposed to a bouillon.
Keep low to medium heat, the aim is to gently soften the vegetables and mix the flavours. Once softened, use a stick blender to blitz all is a smooth consistency. Turn down the heat to low.
Serve with sour cream and if desired chopped spring onion.
As mentioned, the soup is quite hearty and with rye bread, could be a lunch in itself. Serving potions will dictate, if it is a meal, snack or soup course for a dinner. For those with a busy weekly work schedule, making a quantity on the weekend will ensure something through the working week.