Ukrainian Christmas Borscht with Vushka – Recipe
The day of Ukrainian Christmas Eve is a fasting day, thus no meat is consumed at all, and all the meals are small and very simple. Some people abstain from eating all-together for the whole day until the first star appears, and a 12-course meatless meal is being served for the whole family, to break the fast.
My mother did not use any shortening for Christmas Eve meal preparations, but rather a very fresh flaxseed oil, which she had made especially the week before Christmas. I loved the flavor of the fresh flaxseed oil in all the meatless dishes.
I have been searching for good flaxseed oil, and the Spectrum Organic Flax Seed Oil (above) comes closest to my recollection of my mom’s flaxseed oil.
One of the 12-course meatless dishes served during a Ukrainian Christmas Eve is a Traditional Ukrainian Borscht (Red Beet Soup).
I serve this borscht with homemade vushka (mushroom dumplings), or mushroom tortellini, cooked according to package directions.
This is my favorite meatless borscht recipe for Christmas Eve, but any other time of the year, I use chicken or beef broth as the base.
This recipe yields 6-8 servings.
- 6 cups boiling water, or vegetable soup stock
- 2 medium beats, peeled and shredded
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 stalk celery, chopped
- 1 carrot, shredded
- 2 Tbs white vinegar, or lemon juice (you may add more later one, once you get your salt and pepper just right to your taste)
- 2 Tbs tomato paste ( I use Contadina brand)
- 1 cup Savoy cabbage, shredded (this cabbage is much lighter in flavor and texture , than the regular green cabbage)
- 2 Tbs flax seed oil
- 1 whole onion
- 1bay leaf
- 10 peppercorns
- 1 Tbs fresh dill , chopped
- 1 oz dried mushrooms (optional) See TIP below
- Saute 1 chopped onion in 2 Tbs oil until golden.
- Add shredded beats, carrot and celery.
- Cook for about 10 min.
- Add tomato paste and white vinegar, or lemon juice (I use vinegar)
- Cook for 10 minutes.
- Add to the boiling water or soup stock.
- Add whole onion, bay leaf , peppercorns.
- Bring to boil again and simmer for 20 min.
- Add shredded savoy cabbage.
- Simmer for another 15 minutes, or until cabbage is done.
- Remove the whole onion , bay leaf and peppercorns.
- Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Add chopped dill (for a more tangy flavor, you may add more vinegar, 1 tsp at a time).
You may add another 1 Tbs of flax seed oil to the finished borscht, if you feel it needs more flavor. I also add a couple of dried mushrooms into the borscht at the beginning of cooking time for additional flavor, and remove them before serving.
You may remove half of the cooked veggies from the cooked borscht, process them in the food processor, then add 1/2 of the mixture back to the borscht, for additional texture.
If you prefer clear borscht, you may remove all the veggies, puree them and save them for later use to make a batch of "quick borscht" by adding several cups of soup stock to the puree, and bringing it to boil.
I still have dried mushrooms from Europe, so I use them in my borscht, and add them to my vushka. It definitely adds special flavor to the borscht. If you decide to use dried mushrooms, you need to simmer 1 oz of dried mushrooms in 3 cups of water, for an hour. I also soak my dried mushrooms overnight in 1 cup of water, and use that water for cooking them. Once cooked, strain the mushrooms through a cheesecloth, or coffee filter, save the mushroom broth to add to the borscht during the last 10 minutes of cooking. Chop the mushrooms very finely to use for vushka filling. If you do not make vushka, you can use them in you mushroom gravy which pairs so well with your meatless holubtsi.
Serve with homemade vushka (mushroom dumplings, pictured above), or mushroom tortellini, cooked according to package directions.
To make vushka, you may follow my varenyky (pierogi) recipe for the dough, but cut the recipe in half, and use a much smaller cutter (2 inches in diameter – a shot glass is perfect for this). Once you seal in the filling, then wrap the varenyky around your index finger, and pinch the ends together, to form a vushko (ear-like shape).
- Use 1 Tbs of vegetable or flaxseed oil, to saute 1/2 onion, chopped.
- Add the chopped mushrooms, or saute 1/2 cup of finely chopped fresh mushrooms, until all the liquid is cooked out.
- Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Remove from heat, and mix in 1 Tbs of flavored bread crumbs, to hold the mixture together, for easier handling.
- Fill as mentioned above.