Family recipe

Russian Cold Summer Soup Okroshka

preparing okroshka

I’m sure that with the heat we’re having now here in Russia, okroshka should be one of the most popular search words – because this is ΤΗΕ cold dish we traditionally make in the hot weather and then forget about it until the next warm season (whenever it comes). In my family we start making okroshka somewhere around late June when the first cucumbers start popping up in the greenhouse at our dacha and more significantly, when the weather gets hot. Yes, it’s true we are much into drinking hot tea even when it’s boiling hot outside (and even in our NW parts it happens), but we do like something cold and refreshing at times.

So, okroshka. It’s a traditional dish in Russia and Ukraine, and there are so many of its modifications in various parts of the ex-USSR which are either considered a version or a separate dish. Okroshka is more like a salad which is then mixed with a liquid – most commonly it’s kvas but I prefer kefir (which is a more … Asian option). Kvas is a traditional beverage made from fermented sourdough bread, we even used to make it at our dacha but perhaps since then I just cannot stand it, too weird for me. Well, now we buy bottled kvas which is usually sparkling (horrendous!), and as for getting it outside Russia I’d suggest searching for a Russian store near you. The preparation of okroshka at first looks just like you would make a regular or a ‘festive’ salad (Olivye for example), but of course you wouldn’t pour so much liquid on a salad, would you.

okroshka before adding kvas

{chopping, chopping, chopping…}

The name itself is a derivative from ‘kroshit‘ which means ‘to chop’. So the trick here is the combination of all the ingredients. The ingredients here are really important – they should be so to say neutral but the aromatic herbs and the tangy kvas / kefir add the missing flavour. They say there’s even a fish version of okroshka, but we usually make a ‘meat one with sausage (and I just leave it out for my vegetarian version). Brr, sorry, but I just cannot imagine such type of cold soup with fish…

This is one of those oral family recipes that you will hardly ever find in a written form in Russia. This is how we usually make okroshka every summer in my family:

Okroshka, Russian Cold Summer Soup. A family recipe

A year agoSourdough Bread with Dates and Flaxseeds, would go just right with this soup!

Ingredients:

each measured according to the number of eaters (roughly, one potato & 1 egg & several small cucumbers per person)

  • cucumbers
  • potatoes
  • eggs
  • boiled sausage / frankfruter (omit for a vegetarian version)
  • lots of fresh herbs – dill, spring onion, coriander, parsley, even salad leaves
  • kvas / kefir
  • salt, pepper
  • optional: radish

Instructions:

First, boil potatoes (skins on or off, either way), eggs and sausage (or use ready sausage types). You then have to chop everything in a more or less similar way, making rather small bits so that the chewing process gets easier =) You will need a huge bowl if you’re making this soup for your family (like a very old one in the first picture, the legacy of the Soviet times). We usually use lots of fresh herbs from our garden as this is the time when we just don’t know what to do with them. Place a desired amount of ‘salad’ into each plate and pour kvas / kefir over. Season the soup to your liking and eat it with a good slice of sourdough rye bread. You can decorate the soup with a half of a boiled egg too. And don’t forget to add smetana (sour cream) on top!

okroshka with kvas

It doesn’t look pretty in the photo but the kvas-addicts will assure you this is just the best refreshing dish for the summer. When you pour kvas over the chopped ingredients, it goes like pshhhhhhhhh (see photo). No, thanks, I would vote for kefir, well, you know me. If you dare try this soup either way, consider yourself a true Russian, really, because the combination of cucumbers and kefir, well, isn’t at all less weird .)

The procedure seems easy but it is actually quite time consuming. You can surely boil potatoes and eggs beforehand, although I wouldn’t recommend chopping everything in advance. If you have lots of leftovers, just keep them refrigerated and have your refreshing okroshka the next day. The dish is quite nutritious with all the eggs and potatoes (and meat), so you might not want anything else for your lunch.

Good luck with Russian cooking!

Will come back with more international recipes next time.

G.

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