Members' Recipes Archive

February 2008
Borscht Poached Hearts for Valentine's Day
Sarah Beattie

Borscht Poached Hearts for Valentine's Day

By: Sarah Beattie

Serves: 4

Sarah Beattie is the author of six recipe books.
She believes passionately in the pleasures of the table being revealed gradually through the year, enjoying everything as it comes into its season. She writes the monthly recipe for the Soil Association's website and publishes new recipes and ideas on her blog at
Sarah is currently planning a new organic potager in Gascony where she plans to run residential cookery classes in 2009.
February’s vegetable is the beetroot. Not long ago it was rarely seen except pickled, or cooked and vacuum-packed for uninspiring salad garnishes. Now raw beetroot is widely available all year round, cropping up in trendy menus everywhere. You can find golden or candy-striped variants, big or baby, but for this eastern European staple you will want the large aromatic deep red beetroots. The broth - borscht - is eaten in all the Slav states, and as far as northern China (Harbin). There are many recipes: some contain beef, others sausages and many just vegetables. It colours everything it touches (so mind your best white table linen) but I’ve used that ability to make an unashamedly romantic dish for Valentine’s Day. Homemade pasta is filled with a dark mushroom filling, cut into heart shapes and poached in the borscht until they gleam like garnet.
You can make the soup and ravioli (‘uszki’ if you make crescent or ‘little ear’ shapes in the traditional Polish way!) well in advance – the final poaching is done in minutes.


a little oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 large flat mushroom, finely chopped
1 slice dark rye bread, crumbled
1 - 2 tbs cottage cheese
black pepper

125g / 4oz pasta flour (strong, fine)
pinch salt
2 eggs

1 tbs olive oil
cinnamon stick
small piece root ginger, bruised
6 black peppercorns, crushed
6 allspice berries, crushed
2 large onions, chopped,
2 cloves garlic, chopped
750g / 1 ½ lb beetroots, scrubbed, trimmed and coarsely grated
2 sticks celery, chopped
1.5 l / 2 pts water or stock
salt, pinch sugar


1. Prepare the filling by frying the onion, garlic and mushroom in a little oil until browned. Crumble in the bread and mash in the cottage cheese. Season well. Leave to cool.
2. Make the pasta dough. Sift the flour and salt. Add one egg and just the yolk of the other egg (reserve the white for later). Using your fingertips, draw the flour into the egg. Continue mixing the flour into the egg until a stiff dough is formed. Knead very well until the dough is smooth - not sticky - and very pliable. Rest the wrapped dough (and yourself probably…) for half an hour. Roll out very thinly (a pasta roller which works like Granny’s mangle makes light work of this). Place well spaced hazelnut sized balls of filling over half the dough. Brush around each with a scant wash of egg white. Cover with the remaining dough. Press around each mound of filling to seal. Cut out heart shapes with a metal cutter or knife, ensuring the filling is in the centre of each heart. Re-roll the trimmings and repeat. Leave the hearts to dry on clean tea towels.
3. Make the borscht in a large heavy based pan with a well-fitting lid. Heat the oil and add the cinnamon, ginger, peppercorns and allspice. Cook for a minute then add the onion, garlic, beetroot and celery. Cook, covered, for 10 minutes over a low heat. Add the stock or water, salt and sugar. Bring to the boil, cover then simmer for 45 minutes. Strain into a large clean pan.
4. To serve: bring the strained borscht to a simmer. Drop in the pasta and cook until tender (about 3 - 4 minutes). Serve in flat soup plates with a ladleful of broth and a dollop of smetana or sieved cottage cheese.

© Recipe copyright 2008 Sarah Beattie


Author: Sarah Beattie Email:

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