Polish borsch with dumplings

Polish borsch with dumplings

Barszcz z uszkami

Borsch, Vodka and Tears
Bonnie Savage

A clear beetroot broth with meat or mushroom dumplings, barszcz is one of the most identifiable Slavic dishes. It is food, medicine and instant comfort for Poles the world over. The beautiful beetroot colour can turn to a dull and unappetising brown easily, so don’t forget to add the vinegar or lemon juice at the beginning to help preserve the red colour. Furthermore, letting the soup get too hot — 90°C is too hot — at any stage will spoil the colour. It may seem strange adding the tinned beetroot, but this is Helen’s trick and it really boosts the sweet–sour flavour and adds to the visual appeal of the dish.


Quantity Ingredient
1kg beetroot, peeled and cut into 2 mm slices
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar or lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 litres Polish soup stock
1 dried porcini slice, (remember not to put 1 mushroom too many in the barszcz!)
1 thyme sprig
1 garlic clove, halved
1 leek, halved lengthwise, white part only
1 allspice berries
1/8 teaspoon dried marjoram
225g tin sliced beetroot, drained, (optional)
chopped fresh dill, to serve


  1. Put the beetroot in a large saucepan or stockpot with the vinegar, sugar and salt and toss to combine. Add the stock and all of the remaining ingredients, except the tinned beetroot and dill. Bring the soup very slowly up to 85°C — as a guide, if you can see some steam rising off the top, but it’s not really bubbling, it will cook well and not discolour. Cook for 1½–2 hours, then remove from the heat and add the tinned beetroot immediately, if using. Season the soup with salt, sugar and vinegar or lemon juice, to taste.
  2. Leave the soup to sit at room temperature for about 2 hours before serving, and if possible, leave it in the refrigerator for 1 day more — this long sitting allows for maximum colour extraction from the beetroot and deepens the flavour. Strain the broth. You can now carefully reheat the soup, being careful not to get it too hot, garnish with the fresh dill and serve it with meat or mushroom uszka.


  • For a vegetarian version of barszcz, use a vegetarian soup stock.
Vodka and Tears
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