Monday, February 14, 2011

Cheap Like Borscht

Have you ever noticed that some of the best foods are actually "peasant" foods -- meals that are made of whatever ingredients are handy? I'm thinking of Lac-St-Jean tourtiere, for example. It's basically whatever game the hunter brings home plus some seasoning, water, and root vegetables, tucked under a crust and baked for a few hours.

(We ran out of sour creme.)
 Borscht is another one: shredded beets and other root vegetables and - if the hunting's good - some stewing beef. What better meal for Valentine's Day than borscht? It's dark pink and when you add a dollop of sour creme, it turns sweetheart pink. Plus, it just tastes delicious, sweet and salty. (There are many recipes available online, but, as with most peasant foods, it's open to interpretation.)

I had never heard of borscht before I met Steve. But he spent some of his formative years in Edmonton, where he became close friends with a family of Ukrainian descent, and they introduced him to some delightful foods, like perogies, kotlety and borscht. [Blogger's spelling checker does not like those words.] He was also introduced to their three charming daughters, but that's a story for another day.

I benefited from that friendship because, before Steve left home, he created his very own cookbook:
The Steve Sibbald Famous Recipe Book
In that cookbook, he wrote down all his favourite recipes, including family favourites like Dad's Riz Biscuits, Aunt Carol's 7-Layer Casserole and Mrs. Hostyn's treasures:
Mrs. Hostyn's Recipes for Borscht and Kotlety
Over the years, we've added to the cookbook. Some pages are a little worse for the wear.

Quiche à Odette, given to me by a neighbour in St-Jean-sur-Richelieu,
was one of our long-time favourites: meat-free and ready in 30 minutes.
The Steve Sibbald Famous Recipe Book has become an heirloom in our household. Some of its pages are transparent, the ink bleeding through to recipes on the reverse, some pages have fallen loose and are unceremoniously shoved into the book before it is crammed back into the cupboard after each use. We keep saying we'll type up all the instructions ... one of these days. Maybe a retirement project?

In the meantime, we enjoy the recipes.

Oh, and in case you want to try making borscht, which I highly encourage you to do, I should warn you that the preparation is very messy: you have to peel and shred all those beets. Don't wear white. And do be prepared for some lingering evidence, as Emily sports this evening:

I guess you could say she was caught red-handed.

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