Russian traditional cuisine became famous for its first courses all over the world: schi, borscht, rassolnik, solyanka, okroshka, botvinya, svekolnik and ukha – any dish can decorate any table.
Incidentally, all the soups were called “skilly”. Soup came to the table with Peter the Great. Soup was the dish of first course, often named “appetizing dish” , as soup assist in digestion stimulation. Russian soups are divided into two groups: cold and hot ones. Cold soups (okroshka, svekolnik, botvinia) were made on kvas.
Hot soups are schi, borscht, rassolnik, solyanka, ukha and different vegetable soups.
Schi takes an important place in Russian menu – cabbage schi, sorrel schi, nettle schi. Historians suppose that this dish was known long time ago before Adoption of Christianity in the Rus. Once all soups were called Schi. Now Schi are cabbage soups. There are a lot of Russian proverbs about schi: “Good wife is not the one who speaks well, but who cooks schi well”. Schi are cooked on meat, fish or mushroom broths. Pies and Koulebyaki are very good with Schi. Separately, crumbly buckwheat kasha is served.
Borscht can compete with schi by the popularity. The taste of ancient borscht, unfortunately, is not known at our days, as it was cooked on beet kvas. To make good borscht is not an easy thing. It is very important to cook beet correctly – there are different ways of beet preparing: stewing, braising, boiling and baking. Borscht should be dense so that a spoon could stand. Serve borscht with sour cream and chopped greens.
The next popular Russian soup is rassolnik that, as it follows from the name, is made from pickle and pickles. This soup became really famous as the Russian cherished kindly feelings for pickles. Cucumber pickle, for example, was used for many first dishes. Rassolnik has mildly pungent sour taste and stimulates appetite perfectly. It is traditionally served with sour cream. Chopped greens and rasstegay (small pies) with fish filling.
Another, not less delicious soup is – solyanka, made on very concentrate meat, fish or mushroom stock with spices. The soup consists of the most different products – meats, fishes, mushrooms, pickles, onion, olives and lemon slices. Solyanka is served with sour cream.
Ukha (soup made from fresh fish with spices) is a queen of Russian table. Small fishes like ruffs, perches were used to make soup strong and to give it a specific smell. Boiled tenches, sheat-fish, burbots were added in an already cooked soup to make it “sweet and tender”. Cinnamon, cloves and pepper were principal spices. It is not difficult to cook ukha. But real ukha must be cooked on the fire or at least on the oven.
All the soups, in old times, were served in ceramic pots, later in cast-iron ones. Ceramic possesses less thermal conductivity, that lets soup be cooked almost without boiling. The small bottom supports heat balance and the narrow neck diminishes vaporization and air contact – this assists to the aroma concentration.
Formely, soup was eaten with wooden spoons. Whole villages were famous for their spoons of different forms. Wooden spoons differ from simple ones by one, but a very important particular quality, – they don’t burn lips and are very good for first hot dishes.
Then, eat slowly, without haste, and enjoy every spoon of the inspiring liquid, keeping in mind our ancestors with thanks for their creativity in cooking. Bon appetit!