A traditional Polish supper of Borsch and Uszka on Christmas Eve. This recipe comes from Old Polish Traditions in the Kitchen and at the Table, by Maria Lemnis and Henryk Vitry, one of the greatest cookbooks of all time.
Carefully wash red beets (about 1.4kg), peel and slice thinly. Place them in a glass jar and cover completely with barely lukewarm water. Place a thin slice of wholewheat bread on top, which hastens the process. Cover the jar with gauze and place in the warmest place in the kitchen. After 4 or 5 days, carefully remove the foam from the surface and pour the ruby-red soured juice into clean bottles.
Christmas Eve borsch is prepared with the concentrated stock of the following vegetables: celeriac and parsley root, carrots, leeks and 1 onion. Cook the veg, along with 4 red beets, peeled and sliced thinly, adding 10 grains of black pepper, 2 grains of allspice and a small piece of bay leaf. In a separate pot, cook 55g-85g dried mushrooms (boletus) in 2 cups of water. Pour both the vegetable and the mushroom stocks through a sieve and then stir together. Now add the appropriate amount of soured beet juice (425ml for every 1.4 litres of stock). Heat the borsch until it starts to boil, but not more. If the colour is not right, it may be corrected with the juice of a fresh beet, grated to a pulp.
Flavour the borsch very carefully. Its final flavour depends on individual preferences. Apart from salt, the taste may be corrected with a little sugar. The acidity may be enhanced with a wine glass of dry red wine or lemon juice, but never with vinegar. About 15 minutes before serving, add a crushed garlic clove, which gives an interesting taste and aroma.
Uszka for Christmas Eve Borsch
These little dumplings (not unlike ravioli or Chinese dumplings) are traditionally served with borsch on Christmas Eve.
Finely chop the mushrooms used in making the borsch. Finely chop a small onion. Fry both in butter. Off the heat, stir in a tablespoon of breadcrumbs and a raw egg. Season to taste.
Blend 6oz flour and a pinch of salt with 1 egg. If it’s too stiff to easily roll out, add a little lukewarm water. Roll out the dough so that it’s as thin as possible (the uszka should be delicate) Cut into small squares about 3-4 cm across. Plop a little of the stuffing in the middle of each and fold over on the diagonal. Press the edges together so that they’re firmly sealed. Slide into boiling water. When they float, they’re cooked. Take them out and keep them to add to the borsch.