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Russian Cuisine

 

 


Russian cuisine has a rich history and offers a wide variety of soups, dishes made from fish, cereal based products and drinks. Vegetables, fruit, mushrooms, berries, herbs also play a major part while meat does not. Primordial Russian products such as caviar, smetana, buckwheat, rye flour, etc. have had a great influence on world cuisine

Soups

Soups have always played a main role on a Russian table. The assortment of national soups: shchi, ooha, rassolnik, solyanka, botvin`, okroshka, teur`, only increased in the 18th to 20th centuries as European clear soups, puree soups, stews and others were gladly accepted. In a similar way soups of neighbouring Slavic countries were adopted into Russian cuisine. The world famous borsch is originally Ukrainian.

Not a single country in the world can present you such an assortment of soups. They can be divided at least into 7 large groups:

  • Cold soups based on kvas. Those are teur's, okroshka's and botvin`ya's
  • Light soups or stews, based on water and vegetables.
  • Noodle soup with meat, mushroom and milk gamma.
  • Shchi - the main type of Russian soup
  • Rassolnik's and solyanka's - thick soups on meat broth and salty-sour base.
  • Uha and kal`ya - two main varieties of fish soups.
  • Cereal or vegetable-cereal based soups.

Cold Soups

Okroshka

Okroshka is a cold soup based on kvas, the main ingredients are vegetables which can be mixed with cold boiled meat or fish with a proportion 1:1. Depending on this okroshka is called vegetable, meat or fish.

There must be two sorts of vegetables in okroshka, the first must have a neutral taste (boiled potatoes, turnips, rutabagas, carrots, fresh cucumbers) the second must be spicy consisting of mainly green onion as well as other herbs (greens of dill, parsley, chervil, celery, tarragon). Different meat and poultry can be used in the same soup. The most common ingredient is beef alone or with poultry. If it is made with fish, the best choice would be tench, perch, pike-perch, cod or other neutral tasting fish.

Kvas that is most commonly used is white okroshka kvas, which is much more sour than drinking kvas. Spices used include mustard, black pepper and cucumber pickle (the water used), solely or in combination.

And for the final touch boiled eggs and smetana are added.

Teur is very similar to okroshka; the main difference being that instead of vegetables bread is used.

Botvin`ya is one of the most typical cold Russian soups, that went almost extinct because it is very hard to make. Recipes that you can find in some modern cooking books give advices as how to prepare it "easily" by substituting some of the ingredients. But that will not give you the real taste.

A full botvin'ya consists of three parts: 1) the soup, 2) boiled red fish (salmon, sturgeon, stellate sturgeon), that is served separately from soup, 3) crushed ice, served on a separate platter or cup.

The name of the soup comes from the Russian word botva, which means "leafy tops of root vegetables". And the ingredients keep in line with the name: leafy tops of young beet, beetroots, oxalate sorrel, green onions, dill, cucumbers, two types of kvas, then some mustard, lemon juice and horse-radish as spices.

It is eaten as first course or right after a hot soup, before the second course as an appetizer. You have to eat it with two spoons and a fork: the fork is used to take the fish, the first spoon to sip the soup and the second spoon to put ice into the soup, so it always stays cold. Botvin'ya is eaten with fresh rye bread.

Hot Soups

Shchi (cabbage soup) had been the main Russian first course over a thousand years. Although tastes changed, it steadily made its way through several epochs. And it never knew social class boundaries, it was a soup for everyone. Of course shchi was not the same for different people: the one richer in ingredients, was called accordingly "rich", on the contrary "poor" shchi was made out of cabbage and onions solely. Nevertheless all these "poor" and "rich" variations were cooked in the same tradition thus obtaining its taste and flavour. The unique taste of this cabbage soup was from the fact that after cooking it was left to draw (stew) in a Russian stove. "Spirit of scshi" was ineradicable from a Russian izba (log hut). Many Russian proverbs are connected to this soup: "Shchi - vsemu golova" ("Shchi is head to everything"); "Popal, kak kur vo shchi" ("Ended up like a chicken in a soup" - got into trouble). It can be eaten regularly at any time of the year.

The richer variant of shchi includes 6 main components: cabbage, meat (very rarely fish or mushrooms), carrots or parsley roots, spicy herbs (onions, celery, dill, garlic, pepper, boy leaf) and sour components (smetana, apples, cabbage pickle (water). The first and the last components are a must.

When this soup is served, smetana is added. It is eaten with rye bread.

Stews are first course dishes that are actually strong vegetable broths.

Unlike shchi or other soups based on meat broths, stews are light soups based on vegetables and water.

One vegetable always prevails in stews hence the name: onion, potato, turnip, rutabaga, lentil, etc. Preference is given to tender vegetables with short boil times and string unique taste. Beans, sour cabbage, beetroot are never used.

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