It’s been a while since I last posted here, but the reasons were sound and many. First, I’ve been working on the third book of A Taste of Slovakia series and wanted to get the first chapter ready for Jana – the graphic designer. I’m planning to publish the Winter Book towards the end of September, and there are still some loose ends to be tied up.
Second, I had Covid at the beginning of March and though it wasn’t too bad, I felt quite tired for a couple of weeks. It took me another 3 weeks to recover completely. While I was fighting the coronavirus, Ukrainian people on our eastern border were battling Russian invaders and the news that came in from behind the line was frightening. On the other hand, it melted my heart watching our people – volunteers, farmers, business people and companies – all pooling their time, money and resources to take care of refugees pouring in from the war-stricken Ukraine.
And third – after getting an approval and an enourmous support from my family – I decided to provide a shelter in our flat for a Ukrainian mother and her 9-year-old son. It was far from easy in the beginning, perhaps not so much for the language barrier as for the feeling of uncertainty and culture shock on both sides. After filling in all the paperwork and going through a medical check, the boy managed to get a place at a nearby primary school, which he loves, and the mother finally seems to be relaxing. She spent a lot of time sleeping in the first couple of weeks, but now she is turning to the kitchen and cooking meals that remind them of their homeland.
Here is Natasha’s rendition of Ukrainian borscht, but she’s quick to point out that there are many more variations on what we think is a typical Ukrainian dish.
- 600 g white cabbage
- 2 carrots
- 4 small beetroots
- 5 large potatoes
- 3 small onions
- 6 chicken wings or legs
- 1 can peeled and diced tomatoes (400 g)
- 4 tablespoons oil
- 2 twigs parsley
- 2 bay leaves
- salt and black pepper to taste
- Peel and wash the vegetables. Rinse the meat. Put it in a large cooking pot and fill it halfway up with water. Bring to the boil, throw in the bay leaves, season with salt and black pepper and lower the heat to a gentle simmer.
- On a cutting board, slice the cabbage into thin strips. Add it to the chicken stock. Grate the beetroots into a large bowl. Dice the potatoes and add everything to the simmering stock.
- Roughly grate the carrots. Chop the onions and place them in a pan with the hot oil. Sauté until translucent, then add the carrots. Cook for a few minutes, then pour in the peeled and diced tomatoes together with the juice. Let simmer for another 5 minutes and put aside.
- When the meat and the vegetables are tender, add the tomato mixture to the stock, bring to the boil and turn off the heat. Throw in the chopped parsley, adjust the seasoning and serve immediately.
As with other stews, borscht will taste even better the next day, or the day after. It can be reheated repeatedly, and will keep in the fridge for up to a week, so it is a good idea to make more to save time and work.