Today is 3rd day of Butterweek (Rus.-Maslenica) in Russia. It’s spring festival, saying goodbye to the winter, and the week before Lent. During the week we bake pancakes (we say exactly bake, not cook, even though we fry them on a pan) almost everyday, invite relatives and friends, and our hearts fill with joy of the upcoming spring.
Every day of Butterweek has the name and meaning. Today (Wednesday) is ‘Lakomka’ – Gourmand. When wife’s mother invites son-in-law and treats him with pancakes. Unmarried boys and girls usually went to slide from snow hills. Old folks bantered with guys, who hadn’t married that year, and played various pranks to them. And guys bribed with pancakes and candies.
More you can read in my previous post here.
I’d like to tell you about another no less famous Russian dish – Schi, it’s cabbage soup, similar to Borsch (with cabbage and beetroots). Everyone knows and enjoy it.
Schi is the main hot Russian dish over a millennium. Peasants started to cook it long time ago in 9th century, when cabbage has begun to cultivate everywhere in Russia. In spite of the fact that people’s tastes have been changing, the soup is always been eaten.
Of course, schi was not the same for all social classes. Full of content, with meat and thick cream, was called ‘rich’, other ‘empty’, as it was cooked only from cabbage and onion.
To create a special and unique schi’s taste, it was prepared in clay or cast-iron pot in Russian petch/oven. ‘Schi’s spirit’ was always in homes, that means everybody cooked it. Russian proverb says ‘Schi and kasha is our food’, as they were eaten everyday.
Schi consists of six major components: cabbage, meat (or mushrooms rarely), roots (carrot, parsley), spice part (onions, garlic, bay leaves, black pepper) and sour part (sour cream, apples or cabbage brine). First and last parts are the essential and absolutely compulsory. Thus, the simplest schi could be done from cabbage and sour cream
The notable feature of schi (that you cook not just a simple cabbage soup) is a slightly sour taste, which usually archived by adding sour cream, sour/salted cabbage and brine or salted mushrooms into the soup.
Originally, flour was added as well to make schi thicker, but such ‘dressing’ spoiled the taste, and then began to add potatoes or buckwheat.
Considered that the ideal schi is so thick, that if you put a spoon into the soup, it holds vertical position and doesn’t fall. or when a huge piece of meat is risen above a plate of schi.
Health-giving properties of the soup allowed to consume it frequently. There are many schi versions: ‘summer schi’ with fresh cabbage or sorrel, ’winter schi’ with sour cabbage, ‘lenten/lean schi’ without meat and etc. Mine is with fresh cabbage and meat.
For the meat part better to choose fatty beef, belly or rump, bone in. Even you can add some pork. I used boneless lamp, because couldn’t find a proper piece of beef.
When the soup is ready, leave it for 15-30 minutes to get the enhanced flavor. Similar principle is brewing tea, we keep it for 3 minutes to get wonderful aroma. So, you can make a big pot of schi and eat it all week long.
500-600g lamb or beef
3 medium potatoes
1+1 onion, for broth and frying
1+1 carrot, for broth and frying
2-3 tsp tomato paste
small bunch of parsley and/or dill
2 bay leaves
5 whole peppercorns
2 tbsp. sunflower oil, for frying
1 garlic clove
sour cream, good quality
rye or wholemeal bread
salt, black pepper to taste
- Put the meat inn a large soup pot, cover with 3 litres of water, bring to boil and remove the foam.
- Meanwhile, grate carrot and dice onion. Sauté vegetables until they are soft for 10 minutes. Stir in tomato paste and sauté for 3-4 minutes more.
- Take and throw carrot and onion out, we won’t use them anymore.
- Take the meat out as well. Cut into small cubes and keep aside.
- To get the clear soup, you can strain the broth through cheesecloth (optionally).
- Season the broth with salt and black pepper to taste.
- Slice potatoes, add into the broth and boil 15 minutes.
- Thinly shred the cabbage and add to the potatoes (when they are half way done) along with meat cubes.
- Again bring to boil and simmer for 15-20 minutes until vegetables are soft.
- Add sautéed carrot and onion to the pot along with bay leaves, whole peppercorns (you can smash them little bit), salt and pepper. Simmer for 10 minutes.
- Add chopped parsley/dill and crushed garlic.
- Turn the heat off, cover the pot with a lid and let it stand at least for 15 minutes.
- Serve with a dollop of sour cream and rye or wholemeal bread.
Enjoy Russian lunch!
You can click on any picture to have a look it in full size.