Story and photos by Manos Angelakis
Soups from Russia
During our recent trip from Moscow to St. Petersburg on “Viking Rurik” a Viking Cruises riverboat, I was delighted to have a number of the many delicious Russian soups as part of our meals. (see Waterways of the Tsaes)
During the long, cold Russian winters, soup is a dish that is easy to make as it doesn’t usually require, except for the meat, many fresh ingredients. Most vegetables in a Russian soup can be dried, salted or otherwise preserved. Each region has its own soup versions and Chef Cory Balaban, the ship’s executive chef, has collected a number of regional recipes such as Moscow-style Solyanka or Soljanka and Georgian Charcho. To these two I will add my mother’s “Borscht from Odessa”, in reality a vegetable and beef soup that she used to cook for us in the winter while I was growing up.
Solyanka – for 16 servings
1 lb. cubed beef shoulder
1 lb. cubed smoked pork neck meat
½ lb. cubed krakovskaya sausage – smoked kielbasa can be used instead
½ lb. cubed garlic doctorskaya sausage – garlic bologna can be used instead
1 lb. cubed onion
¼ lb. tomato paste
¾ lb. brined cucumber cubes – sliced, brined cornichons can be used
8 cups beef stock
¾ cup brine and spices from cornichons or other brined cucumbers
¼ lb. caper buds
2 tsp. sugar
Salt & pepper to taste,
15 whole dried juniper berries
15 whole peppercorns
¼ tsp. liquid smoke
¼ cup Smetana
¼ lb. black olives
16 slices fresh lemon
16 tbsp. of sour cream, in individual portions
Finely chopped flat- leaf parsley
Pan fry onions, add tomato paste. Deglaze with 1/3 of the beef stock and simmer. Fry sausages, smoked pork and beef cubes, deglaze with 1/3 beef stock and simmer. Bring cucumber brine and cucumber cubes to boil with sugar, capers and spices.Combine all parts plus left-over beef stock and boil for approximately 10 to 15 minutes.
Serve in warm bowls, where the sour cream and a sprinkle of parsley have been added to each bowl.
Charcho – Classic Georgian soup with rice and cilantro.
2 lb. cubed leg of lamb, small cubes
½ lb. cubed onion
½ cup sunflower oil
½ lb. tomato paste
10 cups beef stock
3 bay leaves
2 tbsp. garlic
1 chili pod
3 tsp. chmeli spice mix
½ lb. cooked rice
2 tbsp chopped flat leaf parsley
2 tbsp chopped dill
2 tbsp chopped cilantro
Salt & pepper to taste
2 tbsp. chopped dry walnuts
1 tbsp. uncooked chopped herb mix as above
Cayenne pepper to taste
Fry meat in sunflower oil, add onions, garlic, herbs and tomato paste and cook for 4 minutes. Deglaze with beef stock and simmer until meat is tender. Finish soup with cooked rice. When ready to serve, sprinkle chopped walnuts and uncooked herbs.
Odessa Borcht – 6 servings
2 lbs. large marrow bones
2 lbs. cubed beef shoulder – large cubes
2 large potatoes, peeled and cubed
3 medium onions, quartered
2 good size carrots cut in ¼ inch rounds
3 stalks celery, thinly sliced
3 small zucchini, sliced in ½ inch rounds
2 cups shredded green cabbage
3 large fresh tomatoes peeled and grated
4 sprigs cilantro
½ cup butter
Salt & pepper to taste
Roast marrow bones in the oven until well browned. Boil meat and browned bones in salted water – just enough water to cover meat cubes -- and skim frequently, for 1 ½ hours. When meat softens, remove meat and bones from pot with slotted spoon and keep warm, covered, in a plate. Remove marrow from the bones and add to the stock, when the meat is returned to the stock. In the stock add butter, vegetables and grated tomatoes and continue to cook for 15 minutes. Return meat and marrow to pot and continue cooking until vegetables are soft.
Editor’s Note: My mother was raised in Istanbul in an upper class family that had a resident cook, but cooking was a passion of hers and she had collected recipes from the surrounding countries: Greek, Turkish and Russian dishes. What she called “Borscht” is not really the classic Ukrainian dish, because it does not have beats as a main ingredient. But it was very satisfying to us on cold winter nights.
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