Difficulty level Easy

YIELD Yields about 8 cups

In our week long series on the Oscars we've already checked out No Country for Old Men and There Will Be Blood. Today, we are going come up with a recipe to link with Viggo Mortensen's Best Actor nomination from Eastern Promises. A film about the Russian mob? No extra points for guessing what the recipe will be.

There has been lots of discussion in the media about how dark the nominated films are and how, with the exception of the surprise hit of Juno, not that many people have actually seen these movies. I suspect that is true of Mortensen's spectacular performance in Eastern Promises. Director David Cronenberg's reputation for realistic violence in his films precedes him and there are plenty of people who just don't want to watch that. My husband fled the room before the end of the first scene when I rented the DVD. I, on the other hand, saw it at the first screening in Toronto and have racked up another three viewings. There is so much in this film I imagine I'll watch it a few more times.

One of the main reasons I love this film so much is Mortensen's subtle and nuanced performance as the Russian mob driver. He is completely unrecognizable from anything he has ever done before. There is no actor visible here, just the character. From his tattoos to his scary sunglasses (I don't know which is more frightening, the shielded eyes or the cold blue stare) the sense of menace and foreboding he exudes is tangible. I bet even his mother was creeped out.

Of course, we are going to cook borscht. This classic Russian soup even has it's own scene in the movie, so it was the inevitable choice.I've never made borscht before and I've only had pretty pallid bowls of it before and didn't really think I liked it much. This pot of soup was a revelation to me, and I could completely understand how it might provoke memories of your babushka's warm kitchen. I cooked this for longer than the recipe called for and my house smelled amazing.


12 oz beets
1 lb boneless beef chuck, cubed all purpose flour
2 tbsp vegetable oil
4 and 1/2 cups beef stock
1 (28 oz) can of tomatoes
2 cups shredded green or red cabbage
1 medium onion, chopped
2 medium carrots, peeled and sliced
2 medium celery stocks, sliced
1 and 1/2 tsp tomato paste
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 tsp salt, or to taste
3/4 tsp ground black pepper


  1. Heat oven to 400°F. Scrub beets and wrap in aluminum foil and roast on a baking sheet until they can easily be pierced with a fork, about 1 hour. Let cool, peel, then slice and cut into thin strips.
  2. While beets are roasting dredge beef in flour. Heat oil in soup pot and brown beef on all sides.
  3. Add stock and tomatoes and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, partially covered, until the meat is almost tender, about 30 minutes.
  4. Stir in cabbage, onion, carrots, celery, and tomato paste. Simmer, partially covered, until the vegetables and meat are tender, about 30 minutes. Stir in the beets along with the remaining ingredients. Simmer, partially covered for about 15 minutes. Thin the soup with water or stock if necessary. Serve with sour cream if desired.

    This recipe is from The Joy of Cooking by Irma S. Rombauer and Marion Rombauer Becker and Ethan Becker (1997, Scribner)

This recipe appears in: Beef
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