Anybody who has splashed their clothes with beetroot juice has empirical knowledge of its efficacy as a vivid food dye, and Borscht — Russian or Polish beetroot soup — would be unremarkable if it were not for its startling appearance which needs no further enhancement.


  • 1 kg/ 2 lb3 oz large raw beet root
  • 1 litre/ 1 pt chicken or beef or vegetable stock
  • 225 g/ 8 oz onion, diced
  • 225 g/ 8 oz leeks, sliced
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 60 g/ 2 oz butter
  • 1 bay leaf
  • freshly grated nutmeg
  • salt and pepper
  • 150 ml/ ¼ pint sour cream, plus a little more to serve
  • grated horseradish, to serve (optional)


Boil the beetroot whole in salted water for 15 minutes. Drain and refresh in cold water. Peel and cut into 2.5-cm / 1-inch chunks.

Gently sauté the onion, leek and celery in the butter until softened. Add the beetroot, the stock and bay leaf. Bring to the boil, skim, lower the heat and simmer for 45 minutes.

Remove the bay leaf and liquidize. Return to a clean pan, season with grated nutmeg, salt and pepper and bring back to a simmer. Then, off the heat, stir in the sour cream.

Serve with a little more sour cream dribbled over. Grated horseradish is a nice final addition for those who like it hot.