The owners alerted the police. What they expected the police to do when confronted with a hungry bear, I am not entirely sure. But by the time the police arrived, the ursine Goldilocks had fled into the forest, leaving behind a trail of damage, some large paw prints and splatters of dried soup all over the cooker. Perhaps the police could have arrested the bear for poor housekeeping skills or for being a messy eater. Personally, there was a time that I would have left the bear in peace to get on with it, such used to be my dislike of borscht. But that was once-upon-a-time ago.
Seriously? Oh just kill me now.
As I was about to trudge disconsolately down to fruit 'n veg stall on my local high street, Chris added "Don't forget the cabbage. There has to be cabbage." Really? I am pretty sure that the few versions of borscht I had eaten before had been just beetroot. I cheered up. Perhaps the cabbage might make all the difference? Actually, I knew it probably wouldn't but it gave me an excuse to go and do some cookbook and internet research. Besides, the beetroot rasam I had made last autumn was rather nice (admittedly improved by half-a-hundred weight of Indian spices), so it was possible that I was going to enjoy tasting the borscht after all.
Chris was right. It would seem that proper Eastern European borscht should have crunchy cabbage in it. And a souring agent such as vinegar (to counterbalance all that muddy sweetness which used to so revolt me). I can tell you that my hopes were rising by the minute.
As to which recipe to use, well I turned to Felicity Cloake and her "The Perfect . . . " column in The Guardian newspaper. Frankly, she does all the work, so that we don't have to, by researching and testing recipes by a wide variety of well- and some less-well-known authors, in order to find "the perfect" version of classic dishes. Her columns are always a fascinating, funny and entertaining read, even if you have no intention of ever cooking that week's "perfect" dish. For me, Felicity’s weekly columns are required reading.
Felicity's borscht is a case-in-point. At the time that her recipe and research were published, I was still wallowing in my hatred of borscht. However, in my time of need, the recipe was well-worth a revisit. I am so glad I did.
Felicity's research had taken her around the Baltic, from Poland to Russia, via the Ukraine to discover all the regional variations of the perfect beetroot soup. "How to cook the perfect borscht" really did live up to its name. I cannot begin to tell you how fabulous it was; gently spiced with black peppercorns, allspice and bay leaves, and tangy with cider vinegar. I loved the crunch of the cabbage too.
Felicity Cloake's gorgeous borscht soup was a bit of a revelation. But more importantly, my hungry bear, Chris, adored several gallons of this winter warmer; he said it tasted just how he remembered, (bless the man). So thank you, Felicity, from both me and Chris!