Okroshka: A Controversial Russian Chilled Vegetable Soup

Okroshka is a cold Russian soup of chopped vegetables, with kvass—or, less commonly, kefir—as the broth. The word okroshka is rooted in the Russian verb kroshit’ (крошить), meaning ‘to crumble’. Generally believed to originate with boatmen on the Volga River, the original recipe consisted of only dried fish and kvass. The poor, toothless drunkards would soak their daily ration of dried fish in kvas, then crumble the rehydrated flesh and slurp it down with the resultant broth.

We’d probably be right to assume that more elegant variations on the theme arose when these tough customers had access to eggs, meat, vegetables and herbs on dry land.

Like most soups, okroshka is a great way to use up what’s heading south in your ‘fridge. If you have vegetables beginning to soften or leftover cooked meat, stop mumbling and start crumbling. You can include just about anything in a batch of okroshka. And, who says you can’t prepare one single bowl at a time, when we do just that with the chilled soup known as breakfast cereal?

There are hundreds of recipes for okroshka. I made the batch pictured up top the way I like it, with the vegetables chopped very, very finely, for ease of digestion and absorption. I know some Russians will grumble about my crumble, and say “It is not okroshka!”

I know this because I have already received such feedback. Well, they didn’t have to eat it. Anyway, I used the following ingredients:

okroshka prep

 

1 bit of black radish
1 surly knob of daikon
2 wee carrots
1 impressive cucumber
1 unassuming yellow onion
1/4 cup dill fronds
1/4 cup parsley leaves
2 limp scallions
Gubernija Kvas
kosher salt
black pepper
sour cream

1. Peel the radish, daikon, carrots, cucumber and onion. Fine dice the cucumber and scallion by hand.

Okroshka dice up

2. Rough chop the black radish, carrot, daikon, parsley and dill, then pulse to a fine mince in a food processor (This is my step. I know it’s not traditional. I don’t care, Russians.)

minced vegetables

3. Blend all vegetables in a bowl and stir in salt and pepper evenly throughout the mixture. Allow the mixture to rest in the refrigerator for half an hour. The salt takes the edge off the raw onion, making it sweeter. It also draws out the vegetables’ juices, allowing them to flavor the broth more directly.

Salted minced vegetables in the bowl

4. Pour kvas over the vegetables until the desired consistency is attained. Allow the mixture to rest in the refrigerator for 10-15 minutes.

5. Garnish with sour cream. Serve with black bread and cold smoked fish or meat.

Okroshka is served

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As mentioned above, there are hundreds of recipes for okroshka. Diced hard-boiled eggs and ham are very common additions, but cold, cooked meats or smoked sausage and fish are other possibilities. And if you want to make your own kvass for a truly authentic broth, my post on kvass features an instructional video.

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