Ukrainian Vegetarian Borscht.... a pot full of vegetables! Let’s Lunch August 2013

When the Let's Lunch team posted their topic for this month 'Eat your Vegetables' in celebration of the launch of Joe Yonan's new book I was not sure where to start then Sydney's winter weather suddenly turned cold and what better than create a soup close to my heart.

When I was a young girl winter always meant a big pot of borscht would be it at home or my Baba's place... and it still instills a comfort that no other soup can replace.

Borscht may be a staple national dish in Ukraine every region and every home has their own 'special' recipe. Some are full of beetroot, others more carrots and cabbage, some have lots of tomatoes and only a little beetroot, some add pork, beef brisket, smoked pork sausage or speck, some add beans and others add barley.....though my Baba would always keep beetroot the hero.

A few little tips my Baba taught me were to initially cook the beets separately, then chop them and toss them in vinegar to keep their colour and add a little more vinegar just at the end which gives the soup a little tart zing that lifts the soup to a whole new level.

My baba would make her everyday borscht with her homemade pork rib stock that had been simmering for hours....however in keeping with the Let's Lunch theme, and in the name of speed, this creation is 'purely' vegetarian.

Baba....I hope I did your recipe proud xx

Ukrainian Vegetarian Borscht

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cooking Time: 1 hour 20 minutes
Serves 6

4 large beets (1 kg), trimmed, washed
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons rice bran oil
1 brown onion, peeled, finely chopped
2 carrots, peeled, cut into matchsticks
2 celery stalks, finely chopped
2 vine ripened tomatoes, chopped
3 large desiree potatoes, peeled, cut into 2.5 cm pieces
2 bay leaves
2 1/2 litres salt reduced vegetable stock
250g green cabbage, finely shredded
1/2 cup chopped fresh dill
1/2 cup sour cream, to serve
  • Place the beetroot in a large saucepan. Cover with cold water. Bring to the boil over medium heat.  Reduce heat to low and simmer for 30-40 minutes or until tender. Drain. Set aside to cool slightly.  Peel beetroot (it will easily peel off but  prevent your hands becoming stained a vibrant pink I suggest using some kitchen or disposable gloves).  Thinly slice the beetroot , then cut into thin strips. Place in a large ceramic or glass bowl. Pour over 1 tablespoon of vinegar. Toss to combine. Set aside.
  • Heat oil in a clean large saucepan over medium low heat. Add onion, carrots and celery. Cook, stirring regularly, for 10 minutes or until softened. Add tomatoes and cook,stirring occasionally, for 3 minutes. Add beetroot mixture, potato and stock. Bring to the boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 10-12 minutes or until potato is almost tender.
  • Add cabbage and cook, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes or until cabbage is tender. Stir in the remaining vinegar. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir in half the dill. Remove from heat and set aside for 5 minutes. Divide among serving bowls. Top with a dollop of sour cream and garnish with remaining dill. 

This was my post for this month's #LetsLunch, a monthly Twitter based food blogger's virtual lunch club.

If you'd like to join the LetsLunch group, go to Twitter and post a message with the hashtag #LetsLunch or post a comment below!

I’ve posted a link below to everyone else's #LetsLunch posts for this month and will continue to update them as they come in.

Annabelle‘s Farmer’s Market Gazpacho at Glass of Fancy
Cheryl’s Egg-Drop Broccoli at A Tiger in the Kitchen
Grace‘s Vegetable Tempura at HapaMama
Jill‘s Fusilli with Corn Sauce at Eating My Words 
Joe‘s Guaca-Chi at Joe Yonan
Linda‘s Chocolate-Zucchini Twinkies at Free Range Cookies
Linda‘s Gateway Brussels Sprouts at Spicebox Travels
Lisa‘s Totally “Free” Veggie Soup at Monday Morning Cooking Club
Pat‘s Umami-Laden Green Beans at The Asian Grandmothers Cookbook
Vivian‘s Kangkong (Water Spinach) with Fermented Beancurd, Chili and Garlic at Vivian Pei

sticky ginger beer chicken wings....a TV food favourite.

I have to admit I am not a TV sports junkie, but Mr G is and  January and February are big months with the mountains of cricket, the Australian Open, the English and European football and the NFL  Super Bowl enjoying many meals at the coffee table.

Though one thing I do know is when your sitting down in front of the TV cheering on your sports heroes it's a knife and fork free zone....finger food only.

There are a number of things I cook  it was hard to know what to choose
be it one of my delectable handmade dips; chorizo, red onion and chilli pizza; homemade fennel and pork sausage rolls, Four cheese pastry bites..... but then I realized the one thing I always do is chicken wings.

I love chicken wings they are so culinarily flexible.... you can pan fry them, bbq them, deep fry them, roast them, stir fry them, smoke them,  coat them in a spice rub, marinate them for hours, make them Chinese style, Southwest style, Thai style, Moroccan spiced, take them to Rio, eat them hot, warm or even cold.

One of my favourite chicken wing creations is slow cooking them in a sweet sauce until their sticky and unctuous and one my most requested, and loved, is Sticky Ginger Beer Chicken.

My inspiration for this came from watching Matt Preston cooking his Coca Cola chicken wings on MasterChef Australia last year....though I have to say mine are much nicer (if I do say so myself!)

Tossing them in a mix of ginger beer, garlic, ginger, barbecue sauce, tomato paste, tamari and fresh lime juice and oven braising them for over 3 hours turns boring chicken into something magical, heavenly and ooh soo devilish.   

3 hours you say!!!

I know this may sound a lot but it’s well worth the me.

And it’s perfect thing to cook when guests are coming over for while their slowly cooking in the oven I can sort out myself, the house and the rest of the delicious pickings before everyone arrives.

Serve them in abundance on a platter accompanied by a stack of facial wipes...for although this is some MoFo finger linking good chicken... not everyone likes to lick away every little morsel!

sticky ginger beer chicken wings

750mls ginger beer
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup barbecue sauce
1/3 cup fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons tamari or soy sauce
1 tablespoon finely grated fresh ginger
1 red onion, finely grated
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1.5kg chicken wings
1 green onion, diagonally thinly sliced (scallions to my US buddies)

1 Preheat oven to 150C/140C fan forced. Line two 12 cup capacity ovenproof dishes with baking paper. 
2 Cut chicken at the joints to form wingettes and drummettes. ( I freeze the wing tips for making chicken stock at a later time or give them to the dog as a treat!) Divide chicken  among the prepared dishes.

3 Combine ginger beer, brown sugar, barbecue sauce, lime juice, tomato paste, tamari, onion, ginger and garlic in a bowl. Pour over chicken wings.

4 Bake for 3 - 3 1/2 hours turning every hour or so or until they are tender, deep red brown and sticky. Serve on a platter. Drizzle over some of the remaining glaze and spinkle with onions.

Happy Devouring!

This was my post for this month's #LetsLunch, is a monthly Twitter based food blogger's virtual lunch club.

If you'd like to join the LetsLunch group, go to Twitter and post a message with the hashtag #LetsLunch or post a comment below!

I’ve posted a link below to everyone else's #LetsLunch posts for this month and will continue to update them as they come in.

Lisa's Sausage Rolls at Monday Morning Cooking Club

Crabcakes with Chipotle Mayo and Citrus Salad at A Cook and Her Books

Cheryl's Mongolian Buzz at A Tiger in the Kitchen

Grace's Taiwanese Beef Sliders at HapaMama

Jill's Spiced Pecans at Eating My Words

Karen's Sporting Eats at GeoFooding

Linda's Trio of Salsas from Oxaca at Spicebox Travels

Rashda's FInger Licking Good Curried Ribs at Hot Curries & Cold Beer

Emma's Super Bowl Wings Two Ways at Kitchen Dreamer

Annabelle's Idiazabal and Black Pepper Gougeres at Glass of Fancy

A new year a new recipe: beetroot & fetta varenyky

A new year has begun. For many this means starting afresh be it saying goodbye to old habits or exploring new adventures.

It's #LetsLunch time (the virtual lunch club among food bloggers around the world) and the first of 2013.

This post's theme was 'new beginnings'.... be it tackling something you've always been scared or intrigued to try ....yet for me it was changing the old and bringing in the new.

Being Ukrainian, varenyky (or to my Polish friends pieroghi) has been a comforting dish throughout my life.

First introduced to me by my babucia it wasn't long before I was in the kitchen with her learning to make them, trying to fill, fold and pinch them into little crescents...I was never as good as her!

We make varenyky fillings of farm cheese, potato, potato & onion, potato & speck, sauerkraut and then topped with lashing or sour cream.  But as I'm now my palate is older and wiser and cook in my own right I’ve always wanted to change the status quo and modernize things.

Walking into my greengrocers I couldn't help but notice the beautiful beetroot that's in season. With their bountiful green leaves and that deep red pink colour. I love their earthy flavour and when roasted how it intensifies them and become sweeter.

Yes I know beetroot is a common staple of Ukrainian cuisine (Borscht ...beetroot soup...the quintessential soup in every Ukrainian's home) it’s not used as a filling for here is my new 'filling' beginning......and what better combination then pairing it with beautiful goats milk fetta and some thick delicious Greek yoghurt.

Smachnoho! (aka Enjoy! Bon Appetit! Dig In!)

roasted beetroot & fetta varenyky
Serves 4

8 baby beetroot (630g)
2 green onions, thinly sliced
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh dill
1/8 teaspoon ground cumin
200g fetta, finely crumbled
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

varenyky dough
2 cups plain flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 egg
1/2 cup water

dill yoghurt
1/2 cup Greek natural yoghurt
2 teaspoons finely chopped dill
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

1 Preheat oven 180°C or 160°C fan forced. Trim and scrub clean the beetroot, keeping skin on.  Wrap each beetroot in foil. Place on a baking tray. Bake for 1 hour or until tender.  (you should be able to easily pierce the beetroot with a fork). Set aside for 15 minutes to cool.  Wearing gloves peel the beetroots and discard skin (trust me the gloves will be your lifesaver unless you love pink stained hands!).  Roughly chop 7 of the beetroot and place in a food processor, process until finely chopped.  Transfer to a bowl.  Finely chop remaining beetroot and set aside.

2  Heat oil in small frying pan over medium low heat. Add green onion and garlic and cook for 2-3 minutes or until softened.  Add to beetroot and stir until combined. Add dill, cumin and fetta, stir until combined. Season to taste with salt and pepper. 

3 Place flour and salt in a bowl.  Make a well in the centre. Combine eggs and water in a jug. Pour into well, stir with a flat bladed knife until just combined. . As flour can vary from season to season if the dough is a little sticky you may need to add a little more flour, if the dough is a little too dry add a little more water. 

4 Transfer to a lightly floured surface, knead dough lightly until dough comes together. Don’t overknead or the dough will become tough. Place dough back into  bowl. Cover with a tea towel and set aside to rest for 15-20 minutes.

This is where my grandmother’s recipes is a little different. Many recipes suggest you roll the dough into a large round and then cut into smaller rounds with a glass or round cutter but my grandmother never did it this way. Babucia found that Australia the dough dried out too quickly so by the time you’ve cut all the rounds they dried out to this was something I wasn’t going to change!

5 Cut dough into 2 portions. Roll one portion of dough onto a floured surface, keep remaining portion in the bowl covered with the tea towel. Roll into a log about 28cm long.  

Cut into 2cm wide slices.  

6 Roll one slice into an 9cm diameter circle, keep other slices covered with a tea towel. 

Try to get it as round as possible but don’t be too much of a perfectionist....if you are then suggest you do the method of rolling out the dough portion until about 2mm thick then use a 9cm round cutter to cut out circles from the dough.

 7 Place the dough circle in one hand and place a level tablespoon beetroot filling in the centre.

Fold dough over in half and pinch dough ends, with lightly floured fingers, to seal. Make sure you pinch them well so that the varenyk is sealed otherwise you’ll lose the filling when boiled!

Normally you do this holding in one hand & pinching with the other...but hey hard to do that & take a picture so have shown you on the bench!

Place onto prepared tray. Cover with tea towel to prevent drying out. Repeat with remaining dough and filling. 

8 Bring a large saucepan of salted water to the boil. Reduce to rolling simmer. Cook a few at a time for 3 minutes or until cooked through and risen to the top. 

Transfer with a slotted spoon to a casserole dish with a dollop of butter. Toss vareneky in the butter to coat....the butter will melt from the heat of the varenyky and not only does this make them even more delicious it also prevents them from sticking as you cook the remaining. Continue to cook remaining varenyky, transferring to the other butterned varenyky with each batch. 

9 To make the dill yoghurt combine yoghurt, dill and zest in a bowl. Serve with hot varenyky with dill cream and remaining beetroot and extra dill sprigs.

Now normally any sane Ukrainian never makes just 1 batch of varenyky....with the time and love it takes you may as well set aside the whole afternoon and make a few batches so you've got plenty for another time. The trick is to NOT cook & eat them all!  

You can freeze uncooked filled varenyky by placing them in the freezer on the tea towel lined tray and freeze for 2-3 hours or until frozen. Transfer into a freezer safe airtight container or snap-lock bag. Label, date and freeze for up to 3 months. Cook straight from frozen in a large saucepan of salted boiling water. They may take a little longer to cook but will be ready when they float to the top!

If you cook more than you need so you amazingly have left overs then the best way to re-heat varenyky (dietitians & health freak beware!) is to pan fry them in butter (or for some die hard Ukranians some bacon fat or ‘salo’) until golden, a little crisp and heated through.....make them even more heavenly!

This was my post for this month's #LetsLunch, is a monthly Twitter based food blogger's virtual lunch club.

 If you'd like to join the LetsLunch group, go to Twitter and post a message with the hashtag #LetsLunch.

Come back soon and you'll eventually find a link below to everyone else's #LetsLunch posts for this month.

Happy New Year!

Lisa's A new dish in my kitchen: Da Bombe Alaska
Nancie's DIY Lemongrass
Linda's Caribbean Style Black-Eyed Peas for Old Year's and New Beginning
Lucy's Mexican Hot Chocolate Cookies
Grace's Homemade Matcha Green Tea Yoghurt
Annabelle's Brown Butter Creamed Greens

For my dad.....spicy smoked paprika lamb shank goulash... a #letslunch tribute

My dad has been a big influence on my life.

Food and family were important to my dad one of the many things that I have inherited and learnt from him.   

Dad loved having people over enjoying lots of delicious food and wine over great conversation, sharing stories and jokes and often having a good dance.

My dad also loved to cook, especially food from his heritage including  holubtsi (Ukrainian pork stuffed cabbage rolls), sauerkraut and smoked sausage yet he also cooked a mean steak, whipped up lambs fry with tomato,garlic & chilli or  roasting the trout he’d caught on Lake Jindabyne.

My father also loved the land. When he came to Australia,  from the Ukraine, as a young boy he was stationed with my grandparents and his brother on a large sheep farm in Crookwell. There he spent many years adoring the country life and hoping one day to return.  In the 80’s he eventually achieved his dream of buying his own property ...a sheep farm in Inverell. 

Although we were all mostly  based in Sydney my dad would head to the farm every few weeks to get things done, and it also meant that every holidays we would all be up there helping. 

In my university years sometimes it was just my dad and I. Those times we shared brought us much closer as we would  spending countless hours together rounding up sheep, drenching sheep, sorting wool in the shearing shed, fixing fences, thistle bashing, picking blackberries and even catching our dinner ....however it was our love of food that truly deepened our relationship.    

During those days I'd take over the kitchen and cook up a storm .....without a cookbook in sight (and those were pre internet days !).  I got to teach dad a few things as I created new ways with rabbit, kangaroo, lamb and mutton.  He always joked that I’d have to come up with him every time as my cooking was delectably better than his standard fare of meat with gravy, basic stews and fry ups.  

Spicy smoked paprika lamb shank goulash was one of those creations we shared. Rich and filling with a hint of smokiness and spice....a comforting blessing on those cold winter nights on the farm. 

Sadly my father isn’t here to share this with me today as he passed away with pancreatic cancer a few years ago. However I know he is watching from above and wishing he was here sharing this dish again with me and a good glass of shiraz.

Vichnaya Pamyat Tato xx

 spicy smoked paprika lamb shank goulash

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 (about 2.8kg) hindquarter lamb shanks
6 large eschallots, finely sliced
2 red capsicums, trimmed, seeded, coarsely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 long red chillies, finely chopped
1 small red chilli, finely chopped
1 tablespoon Hungarian style sweet paprika
3 teaspoons hot smoked paprika
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh marjoram
700g bottle good quality tomato passata
400g can cherry tomatoes
1 ½ tablespoons brown sugar
garlicky mash, to serve
sour cream, to serve

1 Heat oil in a large flameproof casserole dish over medium high heat. Add half the lamb shanks and cook until browned on all sides. Transfer to a large bowl or plate. Repeat with remaining lamb shanks.

2  Add eschallots to the pan, cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Add capsicum, garlic and chillies and cook, stirring occasionally, for 8 minutes or until softened.

3 Add hot smoked and sweet paprika and cook, stirring, for 1 minute or until aromatic.Add  bay leaves, marjoram, passatta, cherry tomatoes and sugar. Bring to the boil. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Cook in the oven  for 2-2 1/2 hours or until the lamb shanks are tender.

4 Carefully transfer the lamb shanks to a large bowl  and cover to keep warm. Place the pot back on the stove and bring to the boil. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally or until reduced (I also scraped down the sides of the pot to get all those delicious caramelised bits back into the sauce). Season with salt and pepper. Add lamb shanks and cook until heated through. Serve with garlicky potato mash and sour cream.

garlicky mash
1.2kg desiree potatoes, peeled
4 garlic cloves, peeled
1/3 cup warm milk (I do this quickly in the microwave)
3 tablespoons butter

1 Place potatoes and garlic in saucepan. Cover with cold water. Bring to the boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Drain.  

2 Transfer potatoes and garlic into a potato ricer and push through into the saucepan. Add milk and butter and stir until combined and smooth.  Season with salt. 

This is my first post as part of #LetsLunch, a monthly Twitter based food blogger's virtual lunch club.

Our topic this month was paying tribute to our father's and as you now know for me it was a very poignant one. 
 If you'd like to join the LetsLunch group, go to Twitter and post a message with the hashtag #LetsLunch.

Here's the links to all the other #letslunch read & enjoy!

Cheryl Lee Lou Mee Pok Ta at A Tiger in the Kitchen
Aleana‘s Homemade Scottish Oatcakes at Eat My Blog
Charissa‘s Grilled Rib-Eye Steaks & Uncle Andy’s Chimichurri Sauce at Zest Bakery
Eleanor‘s Salmon Bok Choy Soup at Wok Star
Emma‘s Ham and Rice at Dreaming of Pots & Pans
Jill‘s Root Beer-Glazed Onion Dip at Eating My Words
Grace‘s Taste of Diversity at HapaMama
Linda‘s Sesame-Ginger Chicken Wings at Spice Box Travels
Lisa‘s Hot Sugary Lip-Smacking Jam Donuts at Monday Morning Cooking Club
Patricia‘s Egg Candy at The Asian Grandmother’s Cookbook
Rashda‘s Beth Howard’s Apple Pie at Hot Curries & Cold Beer

Emma has also put the collection up on Pinterest , thanks Em you're a star!