Legendary Dishes | Botvigna / Botvinja / Botvinnik {Ботвинья / Ботвинник} (beef and beet soup / beet soup)


In Russia this traditional dish is a chilled summer soup made largely with red beet, leaves and root, horseradish, mustard leaves, sorrel leaves, spinach, spring onions and wild greens, dandeloin, nettles, wild garlic with kvass and lemon juice. In Bosnia and Herzegovina it is made hot with celery, onions, red beets and beef. And back in Russia sometmes it is made hot with fish.

The name of the soup comes from the Russian word botva – leafy tops of root vegetables, usually beet and sorrel. Traditionally the beets are peeled and grated. After that the other ingredients are personal and regional, and will included every type of leaf and root vegetable. Kvass, the fermented bread-yeast drink, is generally added at the end of cooking to give the soup a sour flavour.

Hot Version

  • 1.5 litres water
  • 1 beet with tops
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 10 g sugar
  • 5 g salt
  • 4 pickled cucumbers
  • 4 hard-boiled eggs, chilled
  • 4 ham slices, thick, cubed
  • 8 spring onions, chopped
  • 4 tbsp sour cream
  • 4 tsp kvass
  • 2 tsp horseradish

Separate the tops (the stems and leaves) from the beetroots. Wash the beets and tops, peel the beets, coarse grate. Chop the stems and leaves.

Put the grated beets into boiling water. Cook for 10 minutes. Add the tops, salt, sugar and lemon juice. Cook for 5 minutes.

Garnish with choice of cooked meats, greens, pickles and spices.

We suggest the above ingredients. Cut the eggs in half, put two halves in each bowl, then pour the soup and arrange choice of garnish.

Beef and Beet Version

  • 3 litres water
  • 750 g (5) red beets, grated
  • 750 g beef, cubed small
  • 750 g potatoes, small whole (optional)
  • 500 g carrots, grated
  • 400 g (5) plums, de-seeded, sliced
  • 300 g celery, cubed small
  • 300 g green leeks, thin sliced
  • 300 g (3) onions, quartered
  • 300 ml sour cream (optional)
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped small
  • 10 g capers
  • 5 g peppercorns
  • 1 tbsp celery leaves
  • 1 tbsp lovage leaves
  • 1 tbsp peppermint
  • 3 cloves
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Salt, pinch
  • 1 tbsp chives, chopped, for garnish
  • 1 tbsp capers, chopped, for garnish

Cook the leeks in a litre of water for two hours. When the mixture is cool, blend with the cooking water, set aside. In two litres of water add the bay leaf, beef, capers, celery, onions dotted with cloves, peppercorns, plums and, if using, the potatoes. Cook over a low heat for two hours. At this stage add the grated beets, grated carrots, red pepper and the blended leeks. Cook for an hour. Taste for flavour and season with a small amount of salt. Add the leaves and mint, cook for 10 minutes. Serve garnished with capers and chives and, if using, a dollop of sour cream.