This unusual recipe for borcht is from Jules Francois' charming cookbook, Notes e Nostalgies From My Paris Kitchen, which she self-published last year. Illustrated with her distinctive, vibrant paintings and much-loved traditional French recipes, it's a true labour of love.
In her introduction to this recipe, Jules talks of Regine, a dear friend and remarkable woman who was threatened at gunpoint during the Nazi occupation in Poland, was widowed, endured a refugee camp for 10 years followed by a migrant camp for two years during which she delivered her first baby.
A tiny gentle woman with a cheeky sense of humour, she was a formidable hostess with the cooking skills of an angel. Now 103 years young, she kept a wonderful garden using its herbs, fruit and vegetables to delight the many lucky enough to sample her cuisine.
"How admirable it is when we consider that a life that could be described as difficult to say the least, be so obviously a veritable celebration."
Jules tells me that this soup has sustained her through illness and difficult times in her own life.
In a large soup pot, saute the the onion in oil until transparent. Add water, chicken, celery, carrots and pimentos (or pepercorns). Bring to the boil and simmer for 20 minutes.
While broth is cooking, halve the beetroots and boil separately until tender but firm.
Drain, remove skins and grate the beetroots.
Remove chicken from broth and keep for another meal. Remove the carrots from the broth and grate.
Add grated carrots and beetroot to the broth and simmer slowly for 20 minutes.
Season with salt and pepper. Add juice and sugar. Stir well over medium heat for two minutes.
Tip: the secret to this soup is putting in enough sugar (because European beetroots are sweeter).