Do Try This At Home (or how to make a wicked borshch)

The long-awaited first-prize-snagging-borshch-cook-off recipe is finally here. The delay is totally my fault and I apologize to those who’ve been waiting beets in hand to give this a try in their own kitchens.

Mundare resident, Helen Zachoda gave me her recipe of the version that most impressed the judges that very day but I was busy with other matters. Helen is also the first to point out that every version is slightly different depending on what she has on hand when making her soup.

The men brought home the hardware for second (Matt Levicki) and third (Brent Matiaszow). Prizes were customized, hand-crafted borshch bowls by Artables' Debra Cherniawski-Durrer of Vegreville.

I’ve had people suggest the entrants’ identities should have somehow been hidden. That’s taking a swipe at the credibility of our judges, in my opinion. Two of the four judges are professional chefs and two were just good sports with a taste for good Ukrainian food. Would any professional (or anyone for that matter) risk their reputation by ‘throwing’ a contest? To what end? For big bribe money? Hardly.

Having the cooks say a few words about their recipe or process as they ladled out the judges’ servings added both information and entertainment value to the event.

One of the entrants asked me to see the judges’ scorecard so she could see where she finished in the standings. Being a newbie to the cook-off business I asked Gail Hall her opinion. Don’t do it was the advice. So I didn’t.

Though I will share some of the hand-written comments. Because the judges’ names aren’t on the forms they completed I have no idea who said what. Nor will I link the comments to any particular borshch sample whether it was prize-worthy or a miss.

“Tasted just like Baba’s”
“When I tasted your borshch I forgot I was a judge…just wanted to eat!”
“Best presentation”
“Love the richness”
“Kept some crispness with your vegetables! Awesome”
“Veg could have been cooked less; prefer more bite.”
“Loved the garnish. Edible, simple, fresh.”
“Inconsistent. Needs more flavour”
“Loved the secret ingredient and garlic”
“Needed some zip”
“Great colour & presentation”

In the meantime, here’s Helen recipe. There’s lot of time this winter to try it and tweak it. Time to plan your garden. Time to work out your strategy. Time to work on your presentation skills---both the short speech and the aesthetics of what you handed the volunteers who delivered the bowls.

Happy cooking! We hope to see you competing in 2014---bragging rights are at stake. Can Helen be beaten? Will your recipe be the one to do it? The gauntlet, er, ladle has been dropped! With your help we can Andrew into the Borshch Capital of Canada! Yum.

Helen Zachoda’s Borshch

Broth from ham bone
4 potatoes, cubed
3 large beets, cubed
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup yellow beans
2 carrots, chopped
1 can stewed tomatoes
1 can beans in tomato sauce
3 cups cabbages, shredded
1 can tomato soup
1 tbsp soup base
  1pkg onion soup base

Put broth, 3 cups water and the above ingredients into a pot. Simmer for one hour or until veggies are cooked. Add vinegar, sweet cream, salt & pepper to taste. Can also be served with sour cream.