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Cold Soup and Warm Salad

Passport & Plate - Ukrainian Vegetarian Orkroshka

Ukraine | Thursday, 5 March 2015 | 4 photos

Beetroot (medium, boiled)
Radish (two, small to medium, fresh)
Cucumber (medium, fresh)
Eggs (two, hard boiled)
Spring onion (two, fresh)
Potatoes (4-5 medium, boiled)
Parsley (handful, to taste, fresh)
Dill (handful, to taste, fresh)
Salt, sugar, citric acid (to taste)
Sour cream (optional)


How to prepare this recipe
1. Boil beetroot, potatoes and eggs (you can use the same pot, if you like) until the beet and potatoes are soft, and the eggs are hard boiled. Remove eggs and potatoes to cool, you will use these later.
2. Peel and grate beetroot into a new pot, and fill with boiling water. This is where you bring the soup to taste (or 'tam') Add, alternating, salt and sugar until you have a pleasant sweet-and-sour taste. Add a pinch of citric acid to enhance the color of the soup and even out the sharpness. This process can take a while, be patient! And go with how it tastes to you. Careful with the salt, you will find you add more sugar than salt in this process.
3. Set this to boil, after, leave to cool entirely and refrigerate.
4. Chop, separately, potatoes, eggs, radish, cucumber, spring onion and your parsley and dill. Try to keep your vegetables evenly and finely chopped. The herbs will be added at the end, but make sure they, too, are finely chopped.
5. Remove the broth from the fridge and drain into another pot or bowl, to remove the grated beetroot. (This step is optional, some people prefer a thicker soup, in which case leave the beetroot in).
6. Into the broth add all your chopped ingredients, stir carefully to mix but not to muddy. At this point, taste again, the potatoes and eggs have a tendency to soak salt into themselves, you may need to adjust the seasoning a little, but again, this is entirely up to preference.
7. Serve in a bowl with an optional dollop of sour cream, and enjoy!


The story behind this recipe
Okroshka is a very traditional cold Russian and Ukrainian soup. And while a quick internet search will yield you a list of ingredients, developments and adjustments, there has never been a recipe, that I have found, online, that works as well or as originally as the one I want to share.

This one is an stone soup without the stone.

This one is a mix of anything and everything, that initially started as a genuine need to survive during the Russian Famine, through the Holodomor in 1932, when rye bread was not available and kefir a luxury. This soup is based on a brewed beetroot broth, and contains everything the people could find, to feed their families. Potatoes and green onion, spinach, eggs, if they were available, nettles, for consistency.

Despite its humble and sad origins, this recipe of the soup became a staple in my family, passed down from my great-great grandmother, to her daughter, to hers and to me. I have watched my grandmother cook it, taste from the spoon, and always work carefully to bring the broth itself - before any ingredients are added to it - to ‘tam’, a word invented by my great-grandmother to mean simply “the perfect taste”.

‘Tam’ in itself is a magic concept, to me. I have followed my grandmother’s recipe for this to a tee, and have found my okroshka to taste different from hers, every time. There is something about trusted methods, the beauty and art, of passing a tradition like this on, that changes the taste for everyone.

My experiences will taste different to my grandmother’s, to my mother’s, my history is younger, my hands not as practiced as theirs are in the kitchen, yet much more so with a pen and against the keys of a computer, writing my own legacies. ‘Tam’ becomes, through every generation, its own creation. And through every generation a new and entirely surprising dish.

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