Do you guys have a special food from your childhood, that when you taste it, instantly transports you back to that time? The taste of this Russian cold summer soup “Okroshka” does just that to me every time. You read that right- it’s a cold summer soup. But don’t let the unique nature of this soup worry you; once you have a taste it’ll be your staple soup to make every summer!
Because it’s still summer and very hot here in the Northwest, I’m excited to share this recipe with you while there’s still time to make it. The origin of Okroshka is Russian. The soup may have originated in the Volga region which is located in southwestern Russia, but is enjoyed by many people in Eastern Europe.
Traditionally Okroshka is made up of mostly raw summer vegetables such as cucumbers, radishes, and green onions. Those veggies are accompanied by a few cooked ingredients- hard boiled eggs and potatoes. There is always a meaty addition; it can be Russian sausage, ham, veal, or beef depending on the preference of the person making the soup.
So, that just sounds like a Russian salad. And it definitely can be, until you add the liquid! Now the classic Okroshka soup is made with kvass, which is a beverage made from fermented black or rye bread. The taste of kvass resembles that of porter style beers, although kvass is generally non alcoholic, containing up to 1.5% alcohol. Of course, if you let the kvass stand longer than intended, the concentration of alcohol increases to 2.5% and up. Okroshka with kvass is usually served with a dollop of sour cream.
My dad used to make homemade kvass in large containers when I was a young girl that we enjoyed with our meals. Today you can always find kvass at a local European grocery store and possibly even a place like the Wold Market or other international stores. These are some well known brands you’ll find:
While this is the traditional way to prepare Okroshka, there are several variations. Another common way to eat Okroshka was invented later, and it is served with light diluted kefir in the place of kvass. Kefir has a similar taste to buttermilk but is a much smoother consistency. Mineral water or even vinegar may be used for the liquid in Okroshka, though these ingredients are more rare. The ratio of liquid to vegetables should be similar to the way you would eat cereal with milk. And as stated above, the soup should never be room temperature, but always served cold. Ice cubes may be added if you’re eating outside.
Now let’s talk calories. Okroshka is made up of mostly fresh vegetables, and most of the fat is coming from the small amount of kefir, or diluted kefir. This cold soup won’t weigh you down, but instead will give you a boost in energy from the antioxidants in the vegetables. Heavy meals in the summer leave you feeling slumped, and consuming too much sugar or carbohydrates actually makes a person sleepy. Since we all would prefer to hike, swim, or play sports as opposed to crashing on the couch at 3:00 pm on a sunny afternoon, the trick is to opt for something light and healthy. So a low calorie soup like Okroshka is just the perfect meal to have for lunch.
What You Need:
1 Ltr Kefir (or substitute Kvass)
4 Cups Cold Water
3 Russet Potatoes
4 Hard Boiled Eggs
1/3 Cup Green Onions
4 Medium Cucumbers
Bunch of Fresh Dill
1/2 Lb Russian Sausage (kolbasa)
In a pot bring water to a boil and add unpeeled potatoes. I like Russet potatoes most because they tend to retain their texture better while other potatoes turn to mush. Boil potatoes for about 15-20 minutes, or until a knife glides in with no effort. It’s important not to over boil the potatoes because you want to make sure the potatoes retain their texture in the soup. Let cool to room temperature, and then peel. Boil eggs.
And that’s literally all the cooking that we’re going to do. Now that our ingredients are ready, it’s time to dice! We want to dice all the ingredients very finely- potatoes, hard boiled eggs, green onions, radishes, cucumbers, and sausage. Finally mince the dill. Add all your ingredients to a large bowl, or decorative pot.
Mix the cold water and kefir together, and add to pot of veggies ONLY when you are ready to serve the Okroshka. And mix. You’re done! How easy is that? Oh my goodness, it smells so fresh and delicious and the taste is out of this world. It’s refreshing, tangy, creamy and crunchy!
Now you may be wondering what to serve with Okroshka. To be perfectly honest, it’s amazing just the way it is. However, toasted baguette or bruschetta compliment this soup well! Also adding zakuski, or Russian appetizers to the table gives guests, or family, variety in flavors and enhances the dining experience.
I hope you find this recipe as simple and delicious as my family and I do, and I hope you enjoy the rest of your summer!