Okroshka is a cold Russian soup topped with kvas (a fermented beverage made from bread), which combines chopped vegetables and cooked meat or fish. The name originates from verb ‘kroshit’ (soft t), that means to crumble. The history of the dish varies. One says it came from the old simple dish – mix of sliced radish and chopped onion topped with salt and kvas, lately some boiled potatoes were added. Another says, it came from burlaki, who ate salted fish with kvas.. Anyhow, okroshka had been made from remains of roasted pork, beef, turkey, and grouse; the meat was chopped along with pickled or fresh cucumbers, onions, sometimes with splash of brine (from pickled cucumbers or cabbage) or vinegar, and of course, homemade kvas. Peasants who work in fields took vegetarian okroshka and kvas for their lunch; kvas is well-known drink to quench a thirst, and okroshka is wonderful and refreshing dish during hot summer months.
You can vary vegetables in okroshka to suit your own taste, add more or less some of them, you can add some boiled carrots, rutabaga (swede), turnip, pickled cucumbers, onion, or tarragon. It’s commonly accepted that meat or fish should be 1:1 to veggies.
For the spice dressing, in a cup mix some kvas with black pepper and a teaspoon of mustard or horseradish; or rub some chopped spring onion, parsley and/or dill with salt. This dressing is added to a bowl with okroshka, then you should stir okroshka with a spoon and keep for 20-30 minuted to allow all flavours to meld; only after that you can pour over kvas, and add sour cream.
The authentic okroshka should be topped with kvas, but nowadays in Russia you can find okroshka with kefir, pure or diluted with mineral water, or airan. Such soup can be called ‘cold soup‘, not okroshka. While the original recipe did not significantly change over time, the Okroshka may slightly vary across Russia and the recipe has been slightly modified during Soviet time, some ingredients (like particular fish and meat) were not available or hard to find in a regular grocery, and people buy and use regular pork mortadella, because it contained about 90% of meat those days, and it was a good alternative to meat. Using mortadella was also making the Okroshka easier and faster to cook, and it could be make in a short time as regular salad. Many people in Russia since Soviet era still considering Okroshka with mortadella as original, despite all ingredients for the traditional recipe are widely available.
So, the choice is up to you! ;)
500-600g boiled beef (or 300g beef+300g chicken), medium cubes
4 medium potatoes
5-6 large cucumbers
6-7 radishes, sliced
4 hard-boiled eggs, chopped or cut into quarters
a bunch spring onion, chopped
a bunch parsley and/or dill, chopped
1 Tbsp sour cream and 1 tsp mustard, per serving
cold kvas (kefir or laban up), 250-300 ml per serving
salt and black pepper to taste
Rye bread, for serving
Wash and rub potatoes. Place unpeeled whole potatoes a big pan with cold water, bring to boil and cook for 30 minutes or until soft. Let it cool, peel and cut into medium cubes.
Cut cucumbers into medium cubes. If you want to keep the mixture in a fridge for 1-2 days, I suggest to discard the seeds.
In a large bowl combine meat, vegetables, onion and greens, gently stir. You can add eggs on this step, or later into each plate.
Put some okroshka into a serving plate, add mustard, sour cream, season to taste and give it a good stir. Pour over kvas or kefir. Enjoy!
Do you like matryoshki – those lovely wooden dolls? :D