Polish Presents

I have been a lifelong fan of polish food. I had no idea until I left America and moved to the UK that it was even polish! Pierogies & borscht have been two of my favourite comfort foods! Warm and inviting, perfect for a winter day.

Now in the states we had a brand of frozen pierogies that my mother got my for breakfast. My all time favourite was potato & onion. I would boil them up & serve with ketchup. As I have gotten older, moved countries and expanded my palate, I have kept thinking about these & how much I missed them! In Manchester where I live there is a polish store, but as a semi vegan I end up making most of my stuff from scratch just to be safe, and saved me a few quid! The best thing with this recipe is that you can save the rest in the freezer, both the soup & pierogies, for a later date. I always love leftovers as it means in the future I will have less work to do 😉

A clear beetroot broth with mushroom dumplings, barszcz is one of the most identifiable Slavic dishes. It is food, medicine and instant comfort for Poles the world over. The beautiful beetroot colour can turn to a dull and unappetising brown easily, so don’t forget to add the vinegar or lemon juice at the beginning to help preserve the red colour. Furthermore, letting the soup get too hot — 90°C (194°F) is too hot — at any stage will spoil the colour. It may seem strange adding the tinned beetroot, but it really boosts the sweet–sour flavour and adds to the visual appeal of the dish.

Polish borscht with dumplings (barszcz z uszkami/pierogi)

Ignore the burnt bits, I wanted to showcase the two cooking methods of pierogies. Both are delicious!

Don’t forget to add lemon/vinegar to keep the red colour

Serves: 2-4

Cook: 2hr 30 min

Pierogi recipe can be found here….make these first if using!


  • 500g beetroot (beets), peeled and cut into thin slices
  • ½ tsp white wine vinegar or lemon juice
  • ¼ tsp sugar
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1 litre (4 cups) vegetable soup stock
  • 1 dried porcini slice (remember not to put 1 mushroom too many in the barszcz!)
  • ½ thyme sprig
  • ½ garlic clove, halved
  • ½ leek, white part only, halved lengthwise
  • 1 allspice berry
  • ⅛ tsp dried marjoram
  • 112 g (roughly) tin sliced beetroot, drained (optional)
  • chopped fresh dill, to serve


  1. Put the beetroot in a large saucepan or stockpot with the vinegar, sugar and salt and toss to combine. Add the stock and all of the remaining ingredients, except the tinned beetroot and dill. Bring the soup very slowly up to 85°C (185°F) — as a guide, if you can see some steam rising off the top, but it’s not really bubbling, it will cook well and not discolour. Cook for 1½–2 hours, then remove from the heat and add the tinned beetroot immediately, if using.
  2. Season the soup with salt, sugar and vinegar or lemon juice, to taste.
  3. Leave the soup to sit at room temperature for about 2 hours before serving, and if possible, leave it in the refrigerator for 1 day more — this long sitting allows for maximum colour extraction from the beetroot and deepens the flavour. Strain the broth or blend into a thicker soup, whatever your preference.
  4. Take out your frozen pierogies/uszka. On this occasion I served them with pierogies & they tasted fantastic. Both work well although the mushroom uszka is traditional (and also highly recommended). You can now carefully reheat the soup, being careful not to get it too hot, garnish with the fresh dill and serve it with potato & pierogi or mushroom uszka.
  5. This can be a meal on its own, or you can pair it with your favourite protein and greens. I added sage & marjoram vegi delight sausages & roasted balsamic asparagus. Went together like a charm!

FullSizeRender (1) borscht and dumplings

Recipe from Borsch, Vodka and Tears published by Hardie Grant. 

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