One of the first recipes I tried from my grandmother’s handwritten recipe journal is this borscht served with rough puff savouries. It’s a cracking combination; the rich, flaky pastries dipped in sweet-yet-sour beetroot soup are delicious. Beetroot is now one of my favourite vegetables and my grandma was a big fan also. I recall her being unimpressed by the fact I would turn my nose up at her offers of pickled beetroot as a child. As with olives, you see, it took a French exchange to get me to like beetroot. I remember my exchange Sylvie showing me the red and white beetroot plants that were growing in abundance near her village and giving me this look, as if to say ‘you stupid English,’ when I told her I didn’t like it. Then pride and/or hunger got the better of me, I tasted beetroot, and found that Sylvie and my grandmother were right.
1 litre good, homemade stock
200ml natural yoghurt
2 tbsp soft brown sugar
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
Salt and pepper
Bring the stock to the boil and skim off any particles that form on the top.
Add the peeled and cubed beetroot and simmer for 20-30 minutes until the beetroot is cooked through while still retaining a little bite.
Blend the beetroot and stock to a smooth soup using a hand blender or food processor. You may choose, as Winifred did, to leave the beetroot whole and instead add a little cornflour to thicken (1 tbsp). I prefer to blend this soup because it brings out the strong colour.
Stir in the sugar and vinegar a little at a time as you may want to reduce the quantity to suit your tastes, I love the powerful kick you get using two tablespoons of each.
Remove from the heat, stir in the yoghurt and season with salt and pepper.
Winifred suggests serving this soup ‘hot with savoury meat patties’ or ‘cold with a swirl of cream in each bowl’.
My grandmother’s rough puff savouries recipe is featured in this month’s edition of Viva Lewes magazine, for which I enjoyed talking Alex Leith through the process of making rough puff pastry. These savouries can be made with ready-to-roll pastry but if, like me, you find pastry making quite relaxing they will taste better with a homemade all-butter variety. My grandmother filled her savouries with any meat that was left over in the fridge, they’re a great way to use up a scant portion of roasted meat or even some cottage pie. I have tried making them with chicken and minced beef, but I think I prefer the beef version to serve with borscht as they have a more robust flavour.
Winifred’s Rough Puff Savouries
1 small onion
2 cloves garlic
Oil for frying
1 small stick celery
250g minced or
6 sage leaves
1-2 sprigs thyme
1/2 tsp paprika
2 tsp Worcester sauce
4 allspice berries, crushed
3/4 tsp whole peppercorns, crushed
Puff pastry (about 350g)
Egg or milk for glazing
Preheat oven to 200°
Heat oil or butter in a deep-sided sauté pan and fry the onion and celery on a low heat until softened, about 8-10 minutes. Add the garlic and fry for a further 2-3 minutes.
Add the minced or shredded meat, finely chopped sage and thyme leaves. If cooking from raw, cook over a low heat and break the mince up with a fork as it cooks, stirring constantly. You don’t want large, hard chunks of mince, you want fine breadcrumbs of meat.
When the meat is cooked through (or reheated, if using leftovers), stir in and adjust the seasonings to your tastes.
Allow to cool.
Roll out pastry thinly and cut into a grid. Brush a little milk or egg along the edges of each square.
Spoon a little meat mixture into the centre of each pastry square, less is more!
Carefully fold the pastry over to encase the meat in little triangular pasties. Seal edges with a fork and brush with milk or egg to glaze.
Transfer to a baking sheet lined with greaseproof paper and bake in a hot oven (200°) for 15 minutes or until golden and crisp.