Soups to Russians is like a good Sunday roast to Brits – part of our cultural dna. We wither away without a daily helping of a soup of some kind. Mothers tell their offspring that without a soup they won’t grow healthy and strong!
In summer cold soups make appearance on tables across the whole of Eastern Europe. Okroshka (from a Russian verb kroshyt’, or chop finely) can be made with kefir (fermented, yoghurt like, dairy drink) or kvass (non-alcoholic beverage made with rye) with addition of potatoes, peas, and even ham sometimes. But I prefer this version – impossibly pretty and zingy. And it converts those who don’t like either kefir or beetroot in an instant. Handy.
We served 200 of these gorgeous, cool bowls at this year’s Oxford Symposium of Food and Culture – the mecca of food writers and journalists from across the world. With comments like ‘this was the highlight of the symposium!’ I gather they really quite liked it. So chuffed really.
Note on kefir – we use organic kefir made by Bio-tiful dairy in the west of the country. But you can buy kefir in many Eastern-European shops or substitute for natural yoghurt and add a little bit of sourcream.
(we are very happy for people to use and print these recipe – please do! – but a little note to Katrina Kollegaeva/Russian Revels would be much appreciated)
What you will need:
- 3 small beetroots, each about the size of a tennis ball (around 400 gr)
- 4 eggs
- 2 tsp of Dijon mustard
- 2 tbsp grated horseradish (if using creamed variety, use more)
- about 80 gr mayonnaise
- 1 tsp of sugar
- a good pinch of salt
- 1 small cucumber
- 500 ml of kefir
- about 200 ml of ice-cold water (optional)
- 2 chopped spring onions
- 2-3 tbs of dill/parsley
- lemon, to taste
- salt, to taste
- freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- optional sumac for serving
What to do
- Wash the beets, boil for about 45 minutes, until cooked through (test for doneness by piercing with a sharp knife). Cool completely, then peel and puree.
- In the meantime hard-boil the eggs, then cool under cold water and peel.
- Mash the yolks of one half of the eggs with mustard and horseradish, then add mayo, sugar and salt. Mix well.
- Dine finely the remaining yolks and egg whites and put aside for decoration.
- Wash the cucumbers, cut into small dice. Chop spring onions and herbs (keep some dill aside for decoration).
- Take a large bowl, slowly add kefir to the egg and mustard mixture, whisking. If you prefer to soup to be less thick, then add water and whisk until frothy.
- Throw in the beets. Add the rest of the ingredients, except for diced eggs. Mix well.
- Taste again for seasoning - you may want to add more salt or pepper, or lemon juice.
- Chill for at least two hours but best overnight. Serve very cold in chilled bowls. Sprinkle a line of egg whites, another line of yolks, line of dill and sumac.