Saturday, 11 August 2007

Borscht Stew

NAME: _Borschtchichi

about 1kg - 1.5kg beef belly/ribs (need some short bones for flavour and some fat and meat to shred)
50g - 100g bacon
2 large brown (white) potatoes
2 large brown onions
1/4 a large dense cabbage
1 turnip (optional)
1 swede or parsnip (optional)
1 carrot
1 stick celery (optional)
2 cloves garlic (optional)
1 fresh red beet, raw preferred, or about 100g tinned beetroot and liquid.
1.5 litres vegetable stock
salt and pepper.

Separate the meat and fat from the ribs if you have ribs, put the bones aside. Cut the meat and fat across the grain into 1/2cm strips and chop/shred those strips. The aim is to have about a hlaf to one kilo of beef shredded. Place in a larg heavy bottomed pot and place over high heat, start rendering fat and frying the shredded meat. Add the half teaspoon or so of salt at this stage.

Cut the ends off the two onions and then cut them into 8 wedges each, lengthways, put in the pot with the frying meat. Shred the bacon, add that. If you are using the garlic (recommended) cut the ends off the two cloves, smash them flat with the blade of your knife, and add them to the pot at this stage. Unless the skins are very hard, don't worry about peeling the skins off, they add flavour and will be pretty well cooked by the time the dish is finished. Keep turning occasionally while:

Cut (shred) about half the amount of cabbage you have and add that to the pot. Keep turning occasionally (reduce heat slightly if it's burning too fast) and prepare the rest of the vegetables:

Cut the tops and ends off the root vegetables, peel one of the potatoes. Put the other potato and half the carrot aside for later on, along with the remaining cabbage and the celery if using.

Shred or grate the turnip, parsnip, swede, half carrot, and one potato, I grate them onto a plastic cutting sheet, feel free to use a large bowl. By now the shreds of beef should be browning and the onions garlic and cabbage also cooking nicely. Once there's a bit of brown happening, add the shredded or grated vegetables, they will form the basis for thickening the stew. Stir to coat with fat and browning, and to let the juices from the vegetables deglaze the pot. Add the vegetable stock and the beef bones, bring all to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Simmer in this way for at least two hours, preferably four, stirring every 30 minutes or so.

Chop the remaining cabbage roughly, cut the carrot and the potato into cubes, and the celery into thick slices. I don't peel this potato, just wash and clean it, this will add a nice touch to the schtchi. Raise the temperature slightly and simmer for another 45 minutes to an hour. This is not critical, you just want the newest batch of vegetables you added to be "stew soft." Remove the bones if you like, or they can be left in - I like them left so they can be picked for their meat and marrow, your choice though. Skim the fat off the top and dispose of, it has done its job.

Serve in bowls with thick slices of buttered German dark rye bread on the side, otherwise buttered crusty rolls will have to do. A dollop of sour cream (or yoghurt, or plain cream) can be added to each bowl as well, and you take a spoonful of schtchi with a bit of cream each time, very yummy, don't stir the cream through. You can serve up to eight people, six is around the recommended number.

My grandma did the thing with shredded meat and bacon, and adding some cabbage to fry with the meat, to "give it some taste" as she used to say. I know she sometimes also added bay leaves, and/or mustard, or horseradish cream. I haven't seen that in any recipes online so maybe that was her particular foible. I prefer horseradish if I'm going to do this.

Also, don't be forced to sticking with beef - I use that as it's common, gran used whatever meat was around, the key thing was to have enough fat the fry the meat without using any other dripping or butter. If you prefer, you can shred lean meat and use oil to crisp it in but the flavour will not be there.

Also - you can during the simmering process decide if you want to evaporate the water and make more of a stew, or cover the pot and have a more liquid soup. Either way is good, Granma's was sometimes a soup one day and then had vegetables and a shot of paprika added and became a stew the next...

ACTIVE INGREDIENTS: Not taken. This serves four to eight easily, and has about half an allowance of fats per person if serving six (and depending on how much fat was in the meat, of course -- and don't forget how much is on the bread.)

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