Beet Risotto with Christmas Eve Borscht

Every year I look forward to one specific dish during my family’s traditional Polish Christmas Eve supper. The day is called wigilia, the supper wieczerza, and the dish a special mushroom borscht with uszka. The sweet and sour soup combined with the soft, savory dumplings is always the most delicious thing I eat all year. When it’s done, I’m always so disheartened by the prospect of waiting 365 days for another serving.

I also love risotto. I’ll make it two or three times a month, with wild mushrooms or asparagus and lemon. I was looking over a beet risotto a little while ago and thought how awesome it would be to adapt the recipe to incorporate all of the flavours of my favourite dish!

So here it is, or rather, here they are. There are two parts to this risotto, as you need to first make the special Christmas Eve borscht. (The soup can of course stand alone and is delicious!)

Christmas Eve Borscht

6 medium beets, washed*
60g dried porcini mushrooms, soaked in 2 cups hot water
2 cloves garlic, minced**
2 bay leaves
2 litres vegetable broth
1 tablespoon each freshly ground black pepper and allspice
Salt to taste***
3 tablespoons lemon juice

Wrap the beets in foil and bake at 425°F (220°C) until tender. (Approximately an hour, but this will depend on the size of your beets.)

Bring the mushrooms, the water they have been soaking in, as well as the garlic and bay leaves to a boil and simmer until the mushrooms are tender (20mins). In a separate, large pot, bring the vegetable broth to a boil.

To make sure the beets are done, poke them with a knife. If they’re ready, the knife will slide through easily. Unwrap them from their foil and allow them to cool so they can be comfortable handled. Roasted beets peel fairly easily by hand but, they tend to dye your hands a wonderful shade of red. Wear gloves if you’re worried. Once your beets are peeled, set the two largest aside. Grate the remaining four (which will really dye your hands red).

Add the grated beets, pepper, allspice, lemon juice, and salt to the vegetable broth. Let simmer for 10-15 minutes. Now you’ve got a choice to make. Traditionally, borscht served on Christmas Eve is only broth. All of the beets are removed and used or eaten later. If you want to follow the rules, strain the borscht to remove the beets. Then strain the mushroom liquid into the borscht.

If you want to walk on the wild side, combine the contents of both pots. The soup can be enjoyed or used for risotto this way, however I much prefer to puree the borscht with a hand blender. If you don’t own a hand blender, a regular blender will do the job, it’s just a lot more work.

Chop the beets you set side into bite size squares.

* If you’re not making risotto, you only need four beets. Pretend the instruction to chop two of the beets into bite sized squares isn't there.
** I love garlic and always use more than recipes call for. For this borscht, two cloves is a normal person amount. I use three or four.
*** I cook with very little salt, usually none. I realize this is strange.

Beet Risotto with Christmas Eve Borscht

Extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic
1½ cups finely diced onion
2 cups Arborio rice
2 cups white wine*
6-8 cups Christmas Eve borscht, hot (recipe above)
2 beets, roasted and chopped into bite size pieces
Salt to taste

Over medium-high heat, coat the bottom of a large pot with olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the onions and sauté until they are soft and aromatic. Add the garlic and cook for 1 additional minute, be careful not to burn. Add the rice and stir often – the rice should become coated in oil – until the grains become translucent**. Add the wine and stir often until it has been fully absorbed.

Ladle the borscht over the rice mixture to cover. Stir often until all of the liquid has been absorbed. Repeat this step until the rice is al dente. You want it to be fully cooked, but for it to have some bite still to it. During the last addition of borscht, add the chopped beets and check for seasoning. Add salt to suit your taste. When the rice has reached the desired consistency, remove the pot from the heat.

Serve immediately! It’s best fresh off the stove and piping hot =)

* Making sure your wine is vegan can be tricky. White wine especially is often filtered with bone char. is a great website with an extensive listing of vegan wines, beers, and spirits.
** Some grains will become fully translucent, others only around the edges. This is fine, your risotto will not be ruined, and nothing horrible will happen.

Hopefully anyone who tries this recipe enjoys it as much as I do.  It tastes like Polish heaven, truly. For anyone wanting to see the full photo gallery, I’ve posted it here.


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