It’s a new year (finally!) and like the rest of you, I am hopeful that it will be better than the last. The recipes I will be sharing with you this year will have a slightly different focus, as I recently bought an Instant Pot and want an excuse to get to know it better. Most of the recipes I’ll be sharing will use the Instant Pot in some way, but don’t worry if you don’t have a pressure cooker. I will be sure to include alternatives that don’t require one.
For some reason, the middle of winter makes me think of sitting at home with a warm bowl of soup. Borscht is believed to have originated in Ukraine but is enjoyed all over eastern Europe, with each country and each cook putting their own twist on the recipe. This means as long as you keep the main ingredients similar, you can make your own ‘traditional’ borscht. If I had to describe borscht in the simplest terms, I would describe it as a hearty beef stew with a variety of root vegetables. The decidedly unique coloring comes from beets, which pair perfectly with carrots, cabbage, and potatoes.
Center stage in any borscht recipe is the broth. Made from a blend of bones, beef, and vegetables, this part of the recipe can take the most time. To ensure all the flavors (and health enhancing collagens!) are pulled out of the bones, giving this soup its signature taste, typically the broth is simmered for three to six hours or more. The thing is, not many of us have that kind of time, so I’m going to share with you how to make this recipe in about an hour using a pressure cooker. Plus, I’ll give vegan alternatives. I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as we do.
The quantity and combination of root vegetables make this soup a great source of gut-friendly fiber, helping to aid digestion and feed your microbiome. The array of colors ensure a wide variety of phytonutrients packed with antioxidants, vitamins (especially vitamins C and B), and other minerals. This powerful combination of nutrients can help reduce inflammation and lower the risk of a many chronic health conditions.
Looking closer at the health benefits of beets, there are two main areas that seem to stand out. As a natural source of dietary nitrates (a compound that can improve blood flow and help to relax the blood vessels), beets may help to reduce blood pressure. Beets are also known to contain a compound called betaine. Not only does this compound aid in digestion by increasing stomach acid levels, but it can also improve liver function and may be linked to reducing the risk of stroke and heart disease.
Recipe tricks and tips
While it can be fun to make a recipe using the traditional methods of preparation, when it comes to borscht, finding three to six hours can be complicated. The recipe I’ve outlined for you shows how to make borscht using a pressure cooker, but there are many ways you can save time with this recipe that don’t require special equipment. Here are a few ideas:
The Broth (most time savings gained):
- Buy your broth. Organic, unsalted bone broth will give you the most flavor, but vegetable broth can work if you want to make it vegetarian or vegan.
- If you’re making your own broth, you could prepare it the night before.
The Meat (omit if making vegan):
- Use a boneless cut so you don’t have to fish out the bones before adding the vegetables, especially if you pre-make or buy bone broth separately.
- A roast needs 25 minutes per pound at high pressure. Save time by buying pre-cut stew meat which only needs 25 minutes for up to 2 pounds of meat.
- Buy as many of the vegetables as you can pre-shredded from the produce aisle or the freezer section.
- Use a food processor to shred the vegetables you can’t find pre-shredded.
Pressure cooker recipe
(Stovetop or non-pressure cooker times are in parentheses)
PREP TIME: 15 minutes
COOK TIME: 50 minutes (Note that there are 2 cooking cycles)
TOTAL TIME: 65 minutes
For the first cooking cycle:
• 4 strips bacon, chopped
• 1 cup onions, chopped
• 5 cloves garlic
• 14.5 ounces canned diced tomatoes, undrained
• 2 large carrots, chopped into big pieces
• 2 pounds beef stew meat
• 2 cups bone or vegetable broth
• 2 bay leaves
• 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
• 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
• 1 teaspoon sea salt
For the second cooking cycle:
• 1 ½ – 2 cups bone or vegetable broth
• 2 cups shredded cabbage or coleslaw mix
• 1 cup beets, peeled, coarsely shredded
• 1 cup carrots, peeled, coarsely shredded
• 1 cup sweet or regular potatoes, peeled, coarsely shredded
• 3 tablespoons white vinegar
• Fresh dill
• Sour cream (vegan option: non-dairy sour cream or yogurt)
- Turn your Instant Pot to Sauté, high (Stovetop: heat a large stock pot to medium-high heat). When it is hot, add the chopped bacon, and cook for 3–4 minutes until the edges are crisped.
- Add the chopped onion, chopped garlic cloves, large chopped carrots, tomatoes, stew meat, and all remaining spices from the first cooking cycle. Be sure to scrape the bottom to unstick any bacon pieces to prevent a burn warning when you start the pressure cooking.
- Set the pot to cook on high pressure for 25 minutes (Stovetop: simmer at least 1 hour, covered).
- Meanwhile, using a coarse grater or food processor, grate the (sweet) potatoes, carrots, then beets, and set aside.
- When the pot is done cooking, allow it to sit undisturbed for 10 minutes, and then carefully release all pressure.
- Add the additional water, vegetables, and vinegar. Be sure to not exceed the maximum liquid level for pressure cooking. Seal the pot, and cook for 1 minute with high pressure (Stovetop: simmer 10–15 minutes covered). When it is done, release all pressure quickly (and carefully).
- Serve with fresh chopped dill and sour cream (or vegan alternative).
- Store leftovers in the fridge for up to 3–4 days.
Erika is a Certified Health Coach at Empowered Health Institute in Richland. She can usually be found either with her nose stuck in a book or experimenting with new recipes in the kitchen.
Photo by Monika Grabkowska on Unsplash