I am quickly reminded when I say things like, "I learned how to make this borscht soup from a Moldovan woman while I was staying with my dad in Afghanistan," what an interesting life I've had - privileged, not in a monetary sense, but full of diversity, culture, and once in a lifetime experiences. I love sharing those experiences through my recipes, starting with this recipe for Moldovan Borscht Soup, a hearty, yet light, broth-based Chicken and Vegetable Soup with beets.
A Lesson in Borscht Soup
So, as I've just illuminated, I learned this borscht soup recipe from a Moldovan woman in Kabul, Afghanistan several years ago. She made this soup while I peeked over her shoulder and took mental notes. Hers was a bit more rustic than mine (If you buy a chicken from a local market in Kabul, it will have its feet still attached, and if you grew up in a small village in Moldova, those feet will go into your soup pot). Regardless of my lack of chicken feet, I feel I really nailed the flavors and recreated the soup I remember eating. The dill and beets are key and my favorite part of this soup. There is no butter in the recipe, but the combination of rich vegetables and the irreplaceable flavor you get from cooking the chicken skin-on and bone-in both result in such a satisfying, buttery depth of flavor in the finished soup.
I love any recipe that starts with a whole chicken; something about the process of breaking down a whole chicken makes me feel so capable, like I can do anything. Silly, I'm sure, but you should try it sometime. If jointing a whole chicken intimidates you, feel free to buy one already jointed, or ask your friendly butcher to do it for you.
In case you're confused, this is not the widely-known bright pink, creamy borscht.
There are countless variations of borscht soup, which you can read about in this New Yorker article. This version of Moldovan borscht soup is a brothier soup, with variations on the meats and sometimes the vegetables. Clearly, I am not Moldovan. But in defense of my credibility, I did learn this recipe from a woman born and raised in Moldova. Hers was a brothy, hearty chicken soup full of root vegetables and packed with flavor like this one. I've also done quite a bit of research into Moldovan Borscht and her version and mine are pretty much spot-on. This is rustic, simple, restorative and good for you on every level. The wine is my touch; The French in me has a hard time not adding wine to soups and stews. It is entirely optional, but it adds a nice acidity. A little splash of vinegar at serving is a nice way to add some brightness too.
Borscht soup has such a rich, diverse origin and history. It is delicious, healthy, and comforting - hearty enough for a cold winter night, but light enough for warmer months, too. It'll cure what ails ya.
PS: The leftovers are fantastic and taste even better a day or two later.Print
Moldovan Borscht Soup
- 1 whole chicken, about 3 pounds, cut into parts (breast, thighs, legs, wings)
- 1 medium head of green cabbage, sliced
- 2 large beets, peeled and cubed (or 4 small beets)
- 2 carrots, peeled and diced or grated
- 4 waxy potatoes, such as red bliss or yukon gold, peeled and cubed
- 3 tomatoes, diced or 1 can diced tomatoes
- 1 onion, diced
- 3 cloves garlic, peeled and diced
- 2 tablespoons dried dill (feel free to use fresh if you have it)
- 2 dry bay leaves
- salt and pepper
- 2 tablespoons veg oil
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 8 cups water
Heat oil over medium heat in a large, heavy pot, cast iron if you have it. Salt and pepper chicken and place skin side down in a single layer. Allow skin to get very crispy and brown; don't rush this step. Once all chicken has been browned, remove to a dish and pour any excess fat from the pot. Add chicken back to pot along with onions, carrots, tomatoes, garlic, beets, dill, bay leaves, 1 tablespoon salt, 1 tablespoon pepper, wine, and water. Bring to a gentle simmer and cook, uncovered for 1 to 1 ½ hours until chicken is completely cooked through. Note: You won't get any meat from the wings, but it is important to simmer them as they are packed with flavor and will result in a richer broth.
Remove chicken to a clean dish and set aside to cool slightly. Add cabbage and potatoes to pot and continue simmering for one more hour until tender. Taste broth at this point and add more salt and pepper to taste.
When chicken is cool enough to touch, remove and discard skin, and pull meat from bones in large pieces. Discard bones and wings. I prefer to leave the chicken in larger chunks, but shred or chop as you prefer.
Once vegetables are tender, skim any excess fat from broth and add shredded chicken back to pot. Heat through and serve with a garnish of fresh chopped parsley and dill and crusty bread with butter.
This is a super variation on borscht. I look forward to giving iy a try.
Ani Hughes | Cook on a Whim
Thanks, Hilda! It's so tasty! I hope you'll try it. 🙂
Another awesome share. Looks so delicious!
Justine @ Born and Bred in Brooklyn
I really enjoyed reading this 🙂 I think the best recipes come from personal experience, and I probably would've never heard of Moldovan Borscht had I not come across this post. Beautiful photos, btw!
Ani, this looks so yummy!! Almost medicinal. More intel on you're traveling ways, please. xoxo
Ani Hughes | Cook on a Whim
Thanks!! Very medicinal. In a non-icky kind of way. 😉 you're the best!
I know what you mean about breaking down the whole chicken, I feel the same satisfaction. Great recipe!
Ani Hughes | Cook on a Whim
Thanks so much! Glad I'm not the only one who feels this way. 😉 â¤ï¸
Anita Parris Soule | Cook on a Whim
Karen! I am just seeing this! Thank you SO much for including me! I need to update this old post but it is such a great recipe! Thank you my friend!! xo - Anita