At 35,000 feet, I reflected on how blessed we were to be beginning a month-long journey through Europe. Our travels would bring us to Germany, The Netherlands, Spain and Portugal. We have hosted students over the decades from three of these countries. These once high school students are grown-up with careers and families of their own. Our journey would reaffirm those connections.
The wheels touched down in Munich, Germany on a gray cold morning, weary eyed from the lack of sleep on the overnight flight we were greeted with a warm hello and embrace from our very first student that we hosted in 2001. Twenty-one years later, he is still very much part of our extended family.
A stand out food moment for us on our first day, was a hearty vegetable beef borscht. While borscht is mostly used to describe a beet based soup, there are many exceptions, and this is one of them. I love soup and this soup hands down, was one of the most body warming and soul satisfying I have had in a long time. I asked his wife Olga if she could kindly share her recipe with me, she did graciously. I appreciate it.
There are infinite ways to enjoy this hearty beef vegetable soup. I did my best to follow her directions with a few adaptions. If you need to feed your soul and your body, make a big pot, open a bottle of wine, and invite your family and friends. All will be well with the world. Enjoy!
Hearty Vegetable and Beef Borscht
Recipe adapted from Olga Tonak
1.5-2 pounds beef stew meat, cut into small pieces
1 pound beef bones
1 large onion, chopped
2-3 carrots, shredded
About 1/3 of a cabbage head sliced thinly (option: pre-packaged bag of sliced cabbage)
3-4 medium ripe tomatoes, chopped
3-4 potatoes, peeled and cubed (option: use 1 cup buckwheat instead of potatoes)
3-4 tablespoons tomato paste
1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder
1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 tablespoon smoked sweet paprika
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons ground black or white pepper
Handful of fresh chopped dill
Handful of fresh parsley
Salt to taste
Vegetable or Olive Oil for cooking
Optional: Add dollop of sour cream or créam fraîche for extra flavor when serving.
*Note: The spices used here are approximate measurement. Adjust accordingly. Also, don’t hesitate to change up the spice blend.
In a large Dutch Oven place the stew meat and the beef bones in the pot covering with water to about an inch above the meat and bones. Bring to a boil, add salt, lower the temperature to a gentle boil. Cook about an hour.
In the meantime, in a large skillet heat the oil, add the onions. Sauté until golden. Add shredded carrots, and cook until softened. Remove from heat, and place aside. In the same skillet, on low heat, add the cabbage. Add a pinch of salt. Cook until the cabbage is softened and begins to take on a golden color. Add tomatoes, tomato paste, and all the spices to the cabbage mixture. Continue cooking for about ten minutes.
While, the cabbage is cooking remove the beef bones from the simmering broth and discard. Bring the broth back to boiling and add the potatoes (*If using buckwheat, add at this point). Continue cooking for about 15 minutes or until the potatoes or buckwheat are tender. Add all the pre-cooked ingredients to the pot (*note-if broth is too thick add water), and return to simmer. Add chopped dill and fresh parsley to soup, and simmer about 10 minutes. Ready to enjoy.
Serve with warm crusty bread.
We have returned home. We traveled thousands of miles, on planes, trains, and automobiles. We walked hundreds of thousands of steps, visited countless cities, villages and towns. We ate incredible food, drank copius amounts of wine. Spent long nights laughing, eating and solving the world’s problems. We are enriched, we are better people for the experience.
Now, it’s time to lift the notes from my travel journal and write out our impressions and experiences on this blog. I hope you will join me.