Borschuka: Eggs Poached in Borscht, Inspired by Shakshuka

eggs poached in red borscht
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I love borscht—a Ukrainian sour soup made with beets (for the red version). I also love shakshuka—a North African and Middle Eastern dish consisting of eggs poached in tomatoes. Recently, after putting away a pot of leftover borscht, I thought to myself, why not poach eggs in it like shakshuka? And why not call it borschuka?

If you prefer, double this recipe—but keep the eggs at six—eat borscht one night and the next day, poach eggs in the leftovers to make borschuka. Cooking this way not only saves time—cook once, eat twice—but you also add some variety to meals. Serve your borschuka with homemade pita bread or pita bread made with sourdough discard. You can make the pita dough a few days in advance and chill it until you’re ready to make the borschuka and the pitas.

About my eggs

Occasionally, I score free backyard eggs from either neighbors or gardeners offering theirs at our monthly garden share. But for the most part, I pay a small fortune for pasture-raised eggs at the farmers’ market. I am both happy and grateful to be able to do this and the money I save elsewhere more than covers the higher price tag. For example, eating all the food we buy and finding a use for everything saves a bundle. The average American family of four spends $1,800 per year of food they do not eat.

Hatchery eggs cost much less to produce than eggs from pasture-raised hens that live happy lives outdoors, pecking around in the soil during the day, eating what hens eat (bugs, pests, scraps in the compost pile). These hens roam and live in a humane amount of space and require more labor to care for them. The price reflects all of this.

A few notes on other borschuka ingredients

Usually, I cut borscht vegetables into bite-size pieces but because I wanted a smoother texture in which to poach the eggs, I shredded the beets, carrots and cabbage. This takes longer but does create a nice consistency.

Choose water or homemade scrappy vegetable broth for the liquid. Or add a bit of beet kvass, a fermented drink made from beets. I had started beet kvass with beet peels and scraps the last time I made borscht and added some of the finished drink to this borschuka. Once again, I saved my beet peels and scraps to keep the cycle going. I’ve included the scrappy recipe for the beet kvass beneath the borschuka recipe below. It’s one of the easiest ferments to make, especially if you already have the beet byproducts on your hands.

As always, as you prep, save the bits and ends of the onions, carrots, celery and even garlic skin (I save the final layer enveloping the garlic only). Add these to your stash of broth-making vegetable scraps. Store these in the freezer until you’ve amassed a pile large enough to make more broth. Zest the lemon before juicing and freeze the zest to later add flavor to all kinds of foods.

Two bottles of beet kvass, a fermented beet drink that I added to my pot of borschuka, and other ingredients: beets, cabbage, garlic and a turquoise ramekin of seasoning
Beet kvass I added to the borschuka
A jar of beet peels and scraps in a jar sitting on a pale turquoise saucer. This is fermenting to make a beet kvass, a savory drink filled with beneficial live cultures.
New fermented scrappy beet kvass starting to bubble on day 2
Ready to eat!
eggs poached in red borscht
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Borschuka

If you love borscht and shakshuka, you'll love this. After preparing borscht, poach eggs in it.
Course: Main Course
Servings: 3

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • ½ cup chopped beet stems, stripped of leaves if your beets do not have greens, substitute 1 rib of celery
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • ½ teaspoon caraway seeds
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme, leaves stripped
  • 1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 3 medium Yukon gold or red potatoes, cut into small, bite-sized pieces see Note
  • 2 medium carrots, shredded see Note
  • 3 medium beets, peeled and shredded reserve the peels and scraps to start beet kvass, if desired
  • ½ cup shredded cabbage
  • 3 to 4 cups water or vegetable broth
  • ¾ cups chopped beet greens, stems removed see Note
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice or apple cider vinegar, or to taste
  • 6 large eggs
  • fresh dill, for garnish

Instructions

  • Heat the olive oil over medium heat in large stock pot or Dutch oven. Add the onion and beet stems or celery and sauté until softened, 5 to 10 minutes. Add the tomato paste, garlic, caraway seeds, bay leaf, thyme, salt and pepper and stir for 1 minute.
  • Add the potatoes, carrots, beets and cabbage. Pour in enough water or broth to just cover the vegetables, between 6 and 8 cups. Bring to a boil, then turn the heat to medium-low and simmer partially covered until the potatoes, carrots and beets are tender, 15 to 20 minutes.
  • Stir in beet greens and lemon juice or vinegar to taste. Cook for another minute.
  • Gently crack the eggs directly onto the top of the borscht, spaced evenly. Cover the skillet and cook until the eggs are just set, 7 to 10 minutes.
  • Serve immediately with pita bread.

Notes

I don’t peel potatoes or carrots. I do buy organic, however, and so the peels I eat contain fewer pesticide residues.
If you have lots of beet greens, use them and skip the cabbage.

And now for your next recipes

You probably have leftover tomato paste. Use it to make Simple Restaurant-Style Mexican Red Rice (Arroz Rojo). One of the workshop attendees asked for ideas to use caraway seeds. Put them in this No-Waste Irish-ish Soda Bread or in a batch of sauerkraut.
a jar filled with scraps of beets, salt and water to make beet kvass
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Scrappy Beet Kvass

Servings: 4

Ingredients

  • scraps and peels of 6 medium beets
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups water

Instructions

  • Place the scraps and peels of 6 medium beets in a clean large jar or divide them between two smaller jars. (You don't need to sterilize the jars.)
  • In a measuring cup, combine the ½ teaspoon of salt with the 2 cups of water and stir to dissolve.
  • Pour the brine into the jar of beet scraps, leaving three inches of headspace. If you have it, place a piece of cabbage over the scraps and push it down into the jar to submerge the beet scraps. If you have a small jar, place that on the cabbage leaf. Close the jar. If you don't have cabbage or a small jar, simply close the jar and stir the contents daily to help prevent kahm yeast from forming (see Note).
  • Close the jar and place on a plate to catch any gurgles during fermentation and allow to sit at room temperature to ferment for a few days.
  • Burp the jar (i.e., open it) daily to release carbon dioxide.
  • Taste the beet kvass on day three. It should taste tangy and slightly effervescent. If not, let it sit for two or three more days, until it has achieved the flavor you like. Strain out the beets, compost the scraps and store the kvass in a bottle.
  • To increase carbonation, leave the bottle at room temperature for two days before moving to the refrigerator, where the kvass will keep indefinitely.

Notes

Kahm yeast is a white powdery-looking substance that sometimes forms on top of fermented fruit and vegetables. It is not harmful but it is annoying. If you see it, immediately scoop off as much as possible with a clean spoon.
Left to its own devices, kahm yeast can turn into dreaded mold, which you would recognize: raised, furry dots of white, black, green or pink. According to fermentation guru Sandor Katz, in The Art of Fermentation, white mold can be scraped off. Compost food with mold of any other color. Use your best judgment.

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