Borscht, the famous Eastern European beetroot-based soup, has the distinction of being mentioned in two James Bond films.
In The Living Daylights (1987), the colour of the dish is alluded to during the Trans-Siberian Pipeline scene, in which James Bond (Timothy Dalton) places the apparent defector Georgi Koskov (Jeroen Krabbé) into a specially designed pig or scouring plug to transport him into the West. Pipeline technician Rosika Miklos (Julie T Wallace) warns James Bond not to ‘open the valve before 100, or he [Koskov] will be borsch’.
In GoldenEye (1995), the dish becomes a term of insult, as computer programmer Boris Grishenko taunts his colleague about cracking his password. ‘I made it easy this time. Even you should be able to break it, borscht-for-brains.’
While no one actually consumes the soup in the films (or the books, for that matter), borscht is well worth preparing, being easy to make and very tasty. As with all ‘peasant’ dishes, there are countless variations, but the version below is reasonably typical.
- 500g beetroot, peeled and diced
- 1 onion, peeled and chopped
- 1 medium carrot, peeled and chopped
- ½ stick celery, sliced
- 100g leek, chopped
- 100g turnip or swede, peeled and diced
- 1 medium potato, peeled and diced
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 tbsp finely chopped parsley
- 1 tsp finely chopped chives
- Juice from half a lemon
- 1.5 litres stock
- 1 tbsp tomato purée
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 knob butter
- Salt and black pepper
- 1-2 tbsp soured cream
Put the oil and butter in a large saucepan. Place the onion, beetroot, carrot, turnip, celery, leek and potato in the pan. Over a high heat, stir the vegetables until they are coated with the fat and the onion has begun to soften. Pour in the stock, and add the lemon juice, tomato purée, a generous pinch or two of salt and black pepper, the bay leaf and 1 tbsp of the parsley. Stir to mix well. Cover the pan with a lid, bring the stock to the boil, remove the lid, then allow the soup to simmer gently for about 40 minutes to an hour.
At the end of the cooking time, whizz the soup in a blender or food processer, and pour into a serving bowl or individual soup bowls. Swirl the soured cream into the soup (I couldn’t manage a neat swirl, but instead created a marbled effect) and sprinkle the remaining parsley and chives over the top.