Indian Borscht

December 26, 2006 at 8:27 am (B plus (3.5 stars, like a lot), Indian, Meyer & Romano, Other, soup)

This soup is unusual and sophisticated—slightly sweet, slightly spicy, with layers of subtle flavors. It’s good served both hot or cold. Based on a recipe called “Sweet-Hot Beet Soup” from Second Helpings from Union Square Cafe.


  • 2 pounds medium beets

Trim the beets, leaving only a 0.5 to 1-inch stem. Rinse the beets. Cook them by boiling them or by roasting them in the oven at 375 F. If you boil them, make sure they’re covered with with a lot of water, so that they stay covered the whole cooking time. Cook at a moderate boil until the beets are soft all the way through when pierced by a fork. If you roast them, wrap them tightly in an aluminum foil pouch (make sure to seal the ends really well so that no steam escapes), then roast for about 1 hour and 10 minutes, or until a paring knife can easily pierce the beets. (The cooking time will depend on the size of the beets.) When the beets are cool enough to handle, peel off the skins and stem. Place them in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until they are finely chopped but not pureed.

In a 4-quart saucepan, sauté over low heat until the onions are wilted and translucent but not browned, 7 to 8 minutes:

  • 1.5 Tbs. olive oil, heated
  • 2 cups sliced onions (from one 8 ounce onion)

Add and cook for two more minutes:

  • 1 jalepeno, seeded and chopped (or leave the seeds in for more heat)
  • 1.5 Tbs peeled and minced ginger

Add, stir, and cook for three more minutes:

  • 2 tsp cumin seeds, freshly ground
  • 1 Tbs coriander seeds, freshly ground
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • rounded 1/2 tsp ground Thai chilies (or 1/4 – 1/2 tsp cayenne)

Stir in:

  • 3 Tbs. basmati rice
  • 2 tsp. coarse kosher salt or 1.5 tsp. fine sea salt
  • 1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 cups vegetable stock, or water

Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer, covered, until the rice is very tender, about 20 minutes. Use a stick blender to puree the soup. Stir in:

  • 1/2 cups coconut milk
  • 2/3 cup creme fraiche or heavy cream (you can reduce this, switch to yogurt, or cut it out entirely, but if you do the soup will be quite a bit spicier)
  • 1 Tbs honey
  • 1 Tbs fresh lemon juice
  • 0.5 tsp garam masala

If serving hot, return the soup to a simmer. Otherwise let cool and refrigerate. Serve with sour cream, creme fraiche, or yogurt. Garnish with cilantro leaves.

Feel free to prepare the soup a day or two in advance, or just prepare the beets in advance. If you are really in a hurry, canned beets can be used and it will still be good.

My Notes:

I really like this recipe, but be warned–this can be a very spicy soup. Rather than food process the beets I used a stick blender to almost puree the soup after it was done, but the texture wasn’t nearly as nice as when you finely chop the beets.  The coconut milk is essential–it helps the flavors meld (perhaps cream or some other fat could be substituted?).  The honey and lemon juice are also critical.

Update Dec 29, 2013:

We made this soup again after many years, and enjoyed it, but it needed more lemon juice than the recipe calls for, and it wasn’t spicy enough (I seeded my jalapeno and only used 1/4 tsp. cayenne). It also needed more garam masala, but maybe that’s just because mine wasn’t very fresh. Derek thought that the soup need more Indian spices, so we might increase the ginger/cumin/coriander/turmeric amounts a bit next time. We didn’t have the full 2/3 cup of creme fraiche, more like 1/2 a cup I thin, but I found it plenty rich, just not sour enough, but that was fixed by adding more lemon juice. Yogurt might have also worked, but we didn’t have any.

Rating: B+


  1. Priyanka said,

    When are the beets added to the soup?

  2. captious said,

    Oops, you’re right, my recipe doesn’t say. I think that you’re supposed to add them right before you puree the soup, but before adding the coconut milk.

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