Monday, 25 June 2018
Shchi for Marinka (The House with Chicken Legs #ReadCookEat )
Russian cabbage soup Shchi takes a place of pride in the national cuisine. According to the historians, this dish was known in Rus long before the Christianity was introduced there (source: Russian Cuisine: Traditions and Customs by V.Kovalev and N.Mogilnyi, 1990). Apparently, Ivan the Terrible was a big fan of shchi (not that it's a great endorsement).
To begin with, most of the soups were called shchi, but later mainly the cabbage-based soups were left with the name.
There are some varieties of shchi without cabbage as well in the Russian cuisine - shchi with sorrel, and with nettles.
There are many versions of this soup, they could be cooked with meat, fish, mushrooms, with fresh cabbage or sauerkraut.
Alexander Dumas loved the Russian shchi so much, that he included a recipe in his culinary book.
I don't often cook Russian food, as my family prefer Italian dishes.
Last week I was reading The House with Chicken Legs by Sophie Anderson, and got all nostalgic about the Russian dishes which appear on the pages of the novel.
Baba Yaga is a great cook, and as the Guardian of the portal to the other world, it is her duty to guide the spirits of the dead. She celebrates their lives by providing them with the last feast.
Baba pokes her head out and smiles. "Lunch is ready. I've made a feast of shchi and black bagels. Enough for Jack too",
My stomach rumbles as the smell of cabbage soup and freshly baked bread hits my nose...
Baba is stirring a great cauldron of borsch over a roaring fire. She turns and smiles as I enter the room, an excited twinkle in her eyes. "You look lovely, my pchelka. Are you ready?"
...Baba talks to him softly in the language of the dead, as I fill the table. Bowls and spoons, thick black bread, a basket of dill, pots of sour cream and horseradish, mushroom dumplings, as assortment of tiny glasses and a large bottle of spirit trost - a fiery drink for the dead.
Baba has made ukha from tinned catfish and vegetables...
Tonight we'll treat the desert dead to a fish supper". Baba nods at the table and smiles. It's already laid with kvass and glasses, and bowls of food with a decidedly fishy theme: pickled herring with soured cream from the cold pantry, blinis with smoked salmon and dill, salted dried vobla, and mini fish dumplings...
These are just a few foodie quotes from the book.
I don't know which recipe Baba Yaga used to cook shchi for her granddaughter, but I think she would approve of my vegetarian/vegan mushroom-based soup. I prefer to serve it with a big dollop of soured cream. You can use a vegan variety, but somehow a coconut or soy yogurt would not give you an authentic taste.
Shchi with dried mushrooms
a pack of dried porcini mushrooms (20g)
white cabbage 500g
1 smaller size onion or 1/2 of a big one
4tbsp vegetable oil
1 carrot, grated
2 cloves of garlic
1 bay leaf
1 big potato, peeled and cubed
Break dried mushrooms into smaller pieces.
Place them in a pan, pour hot boiling water over them (about a pint or 1/2 litre). Let them soak for 15 minutes. You'll get dark liquid, this will be the base stock for soup.
Finely chop half an onion and grate the carrot, fry them with the vegetable oil until the onion gets translucent. Add 2 cloves of garlic and chopped parsnip. Remove the mushrooms from the pan with a slotted spoon and place them in the frying pan, fry for about 5 minutes, stirring.
Put the mushrooms and veg mix back in the pan with stock and bay leaf, add more water, bring to the boil, add the finely chopped cabbage, cook for a few minutes on boiling, then reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Add the cubed potato in the last 10 minutes of cooking.
Season with sea salt.
Serve hot, with a good spoonful of soured cream or Greek style yogurt, but this is optional.
In this recipe I used dried Boletus Edulis Borowik Szlachetny also known as porcini. I buy these dried mushrooms in the Polish deli, and they are usually a half of what you'd expect to pay for porcini in supermarkets.
If you liked the sound of the Russian soup shchi, you might like to see the other recipe posts on Russian soups, mentioned in the novel.
Mama's Borscht (meat-based)
Ukha on a budget (made with a salmon head)
Ukha (fish soup made with tinned fish)
Marinated (pickled) herring