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Red Army Borscht

Red Army Borscht is in reality a purposely poor recipe from The Lord Peter Wimsey Cookbook by Elizabeth Ryan and William Eakins (New Haven 1981). The soup supposedly was served at the interwar Soviet Club in Garrard Street, Soho, London, where the atmosphere and food were ghastly. From the French Revolution through the 1980s, Soho housed the biggest concentration of exiles and ex-patriots in Britain, and offered diners a stewpot of ‘exotic,’ meaning neither French nor English, cuisines. The Soviet club therefore represents artful culinary fiction. We have taken the Wimsey borscht and rendered it more palatable. Six bowls of soup.


  • 8 cups beef stock
  • 1 lb beef shin or shank
  • a quartered onion (no need to peel it)
  • 4 big beets, peeled and diced
  • 4 big carrots, peeled and diced
  • 1 large diced russet potato
  • 2 cups shredded Savoy cabbage
  • about ¾ cup dill
  • 3 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • about ¼ teaspoon cayenne
  • salt and pepper
  • sour cream for service

  1. Simmer the meat and onion in half the stock until the meat separates with ease from the bone, usually in about 2 hours.
  2. Remove the meat from the stock, let it cool, then trim and shred it. Toss the bone.
  3. Strain the stock and chill it until the fat congeals on the surface, then skim it away.
  4. Combine the cooked stock with the remaining stock, add the beets, carrots and potato, bring the stock to a boil, cover the pot and simmer until the vegetables become tender, usually in about 30 minutes.
  5. Add the cabbage to the pot with about half of the dill, increase the heat to medium and cook the soup until the cabbage becomes tender, usually in about 10 minutes.
  6. Stir the shredded beef, vinegar and cayenne into the soup and let it warm through, then check for salt and pepper.
  7. Serve the borscht garnished with the rest of the dill and a dollop of sour cream.


-While traditional, dill is something some people dislike. If you are among them substitute parsley.

-If you prefer a more pronounced beet flavor, dice two or three more in place of the carrot and potato.

-You also could add a diced red bell pepper to the soup at Step 4, in place of or in addition to the carrots.

-For a quicker version, brown about ½ pound of uncased sausage and add all the stock to it instead of following Steps 1 through 3. You then may want to add a peeled and diced onion at Step 4.

-Most sources attribute the first borscht, spelled variously borsch, borshet, borshch, bortsch and other ways, to Ukraine rather than Russia. Its appropriation as a ‘Red Army’ soup therefore is eerily appropriate as Russia invades and destabilizes parts of its smaller and weaker neighbor.