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Sunday, March 10, 2013

What Could Be More Russian Than Borscht?

One of the interesting things about traveling (and setting my books in exotic foreign lands) is learning about, and eating, the typical cuisine. When you travel, always try eating something new. But be smart about it. Check the International Health Organization pointers about foods in the country you're traveling in.

Because my latest release, All For Spilled Blood, is set in St. Petersburg, Russia, I'm blogging about traditional Russian cuisine.


Being such a large country, traditional Russian foods vary from one region to another. Many dishes are similar but may not taste the same because of differences in preparation and what's available locally. This is no different than any place else.

The weather and the need for energy and warmth result in Russian foods being heavy on carbohydrates and fat. A basic meal includes potatoes, bread, eggs, meat, and butter. The most common fresh vegetables and fruits include cabbage, cucumbers, onions, tomatoes, mushrooms, berries and apples.

I don't know if it's typical, but every meal I was served in Russia included sliced tomatoes, even breakfast.


In Russia most meat dishes use beef, poultry, pork, game and wild animals. Meats are usually eaten with noodles, potatoes, or vegetables.
● Blinis – Thin buckwheat pancakes made with buckwheat flour. In times past, they were placed on window sills for pilgrims and the poor. Some sources say they are now more of a holiday treat, but others claim this is the mainstay of the Russian breakfast.

● Shashlik – A main dish of lamb (but also chicken, pork or beef) in vinegar and water, then grilled on a skewer like a kebab. It's just the meat, but highly seasoned. A popular food sold by street vendors and essential for an outdoor bar-b-q (traditionally cooked by men).

● Pelmeni - A pastry dumpling filled with meat balls, served alone, with butter and sour cream, or in broth.

And, of course, the variety of breads, desserts and pastries is infinite. Russians are known for cheesecakes, spice cakes, and kulebyakas, savory pies usually prepared with salmon and chopped eggs. The Russian desserts and sweets are outstanding.


Borscht [also spelled borsch, bortsch, borstch, borsh, and borshch] is a soup of Ukrainian origin made of beetroot as the main ingredient.  Although I can’t say that beets are my favorite veggie, I had some borscht in Russia and enjoyed it a lot.

This deep reddish soup is popular in many Eastern and Central European countries.  While most recipes call for beetroot, some may use tomatoes as the main ingredient and the beets as secondary.  And there are other non-beet varieties, such tomatoes paste (orange borscht) and green borscht called sorrel soup.  Cold borscht is served in the summer.

Typical Red Borscht
Cold Summer Borscht
Russian Borscht recipe

Irene Verigin writes, “From the first sight, it looks like simple mix of beets and cabbage, but in reality borscht was a face of Soviet cuisine. The borscht recipe came from Ukraine, but nowadays every nation would argue about that. There are so many versions of borscht - with mushrooms, with fish, with pickles etc.”

The following is Irene’s recipe.


3/1/2 cup canned tomatoes
5 or 6 medium-sized potatoes cut in halves
1 large carrot cut fine
1 small peeled beet
Salt to taste
1 small onion chopped
4 cup shredded cabbage
3/4 cup sweet cream
½ cup fresh green pepper chopped
2 tbs. fresh or dried dill
1 celery chopped fine
2/1/2 qts. water
1/1/2 cup diced potatoes
Black pepper


Put water to boil in large kettle.  Add 1/2 c. canned tomatoes.
When water is boiling, drop in 5 or 6 medium-sized potatoes, chopped carrot and the beet.
While this is cooking, add 3 tbs butter in frying pan.  When melted, add chopped onion, cook tender but do not brown.
Add 3c. canned tomatoes and let simmer with onion and butter until a thick sauce.  Set to back of stove.
Into a separate frying pan put 2-3 tbs. butter to melt.  Add 2c. shredded cabbage and fry.  Cook tender but do not brown.
Shred another 2c. to add later to the borstch.
When potatoes are tender remove them to a bowl.  Add 2tbs. butter, mash well, then add 3/4c. sweet cream and mix well and set aside.
Add 1/1/2c. diced potatoes to the stock and the remainder of the shredded cabbage.
When diced potatoes are tender, add the onion and tomato sauce, then add the cooked cabbage, and the potato-cream mixture.
Add 3 tbs. butter to the borsch.  Stir well.  Add fresh chopped fine green pepper.  Add 3tbs fresh or dried dill.  The more fresh dill the better the flavor.
Remove beet, one hour later after borsch is ready.  Borsch is ready to serve.
Serve hot.  Serve with chopped garlic in your soup bowl and a fresh piece of bread and butter... Yummy, enjoy...”

Cuisine:  Russian
Source:   Irene Verigin, Doukhobor Cookbook

I haven’t tried this recipe—my husband does all the cooking, now—so let me know if you like it.


Don't miss my latest book in the romantic suspense series Tour Director Extraordinaire All For Spilled Blood. There's no cooking (at least not the kind you need a stove for) but it gets hot.


As we kissed, he lifted my sweater and ran his hand up my rib cage.  “You came prepared.”
“No point in wasting time.  First one naked gets to be on top.”
He let me go, but kept his hands on my arms.  “Not so fast.  I have to secure the door.”  Still holding one of my wrists, he clicked all his spy locks into place.  “Besides, we’re not in a hurry.”
“We’re not?  What’s changed?”  Usually we couldn’t keep our hands off each other.
“Nothing, except this could be our last uninterrupted time together for a while.  I want to take it slow.”  I hadn’t seen that coming, but he gave me a kiss that sent me reeling.  I knew he meant business, no matter how long it took.  “Besides, I have something for you.”
He detached himself and went into the bathroom.  I had something for him, too.  I’d stripped down to my thong when he returned carrying a small container like a miniscule ice chest.
I hesitated, scrutinizing it with a frown.  “What’s that?  It looks like one of those sterile containers for transporting medical supplies.”
“You’re close.  It’s the refrigerated version for transporting donor organs.”  He set it on the table.  With great ceremony he went about unlocking it and popped open the lid.  “Take a look.”
Donor organs?  Oh boy.  I hesitated and did a nose wrinkle.  I hoped it didn’t contain body parts.  Ice cream would be good, though.  I gathered my courage and peered inside.
“Bubble wrap?”  I’d expected to see ice.  At least a frozen cooler pack.
“Open it.”
While I had no desire to do that, I didn’t want to appear ungrateful.  I lifted out the wrapped objects and unwound them from the plastic.  My eyes widened.
“Reddi-wip and chocolate syrup?  Yum.  My favorites.”  I licked my lips.  “Where did these come from?”
He had already kicked off his shoes and unzipped his slacks.  “For me to know and for you to enjoy.”
He moved so slowly, I began to fumble with the buttons on his shirt, just to hurry things along.  “C’mon, tell me.”
“Don’t you want to know what I’m going to do with it?”
“I already have a pretty good idea what.  I shoved off his shirt and ran my fingers through the fine hairs on his chest, then ran my tongue around one of his nipples.  His muscles bunched under my touch and he shuddered.  “I also know you can’t buy aerosol cans of whipped cream in Russia, and you didn’t bring it with you last night.  How did you get it?”
He grinned and kicked off the pants from around his ankles.  His undershorts followed.  “I severely abused my authority, I’m afraid.”
Trepidation skittered through me, and my heart skipped a beat.  “You’re not going to get in trouble, are you?”
“No, at least not before we use them.”  He picked up the can, squirted me on the chest, then scooped me into his arms and licked the whipped cream off my breast.  “This may get messy.”
My wiggling out of his arms smeared both of us with whipped cream.  “You only get one taste until you tell me.”
He pulled me into his embrace.  “The Air Force transported it in.  Before I left, I flashed my credentials, gave them a story about an organ exchange as part of my top secret mission, and here it is.  Just in time for the operation.”  He let me go, grabbed up the can, and squirted me again, lower this time.  “I know how much you like it.”
I stood there, dripping whipped cream onto the carpet, and gaped at him.  “You did that for me?  Are you sweet, or what?”
“Not as sweet as I’m going to be.  Ready?”
Was I ever.  Chocolate and whipped cream are my best colors.



Tina Donahue said...

Wow - you've make me hungry. :)

Your book sounds great!

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Melissa Keir said...

All of it sounds so yummy! Thanks for sharing!

Nicole Morgan said...

Geez, Ann.. you didn't warn me I shouldn't read this if I was hungry. LOL Now I'm starving. :) The recipe and book sounds fantastic!!

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