Okroshka – A Cold Russian Summer Soup

Loaded with radishes, cucumbers and hard-boiled eggs, this cold Russian summer soup is surprisingly filling. Made with kefir, it’s nourishing and satisfying without being heavy.

Also known as okroshka with kvass or okroshka na kvase, this cold soup is the perfect food for a hot and humid day. It’s light from the use of sour cream, but full of crunchy and juicy vegetables. It’s refreshing and creamy from the kefir and it’s filled with protein from the eggs and meat if you choose to add them. The herbs, mainly dill and parsley, add freshness to the soup. It can be served as a healthy lunch or dinner on it’s own, but it can also be paired with rye bread for a more hearty meal.

Okroshka is a refreshingly easy to make, healthy summer soup. It’s a great choice if you don’t want to spend too much time in the kitchen and it’s a healthy alternative to gazpacho as it’s more filling. This soup is full of probiotics from the kefir and lots of fibre from the vegetables, especially radish. It also has a bit of smokiness from the ham or sausage if you choose to include it.

The original version of okroshka was based on a fermented rye drink called kvass, and later versions replaced it with a milk-based fermented beverage called kefir. The vegetables in the recipe were finely chopped, a bit like a chef salad and then combined with the kvass or kefir at serving time. The name okroshka is thought to be derived from the Russian verb kroshit’, meaning to crumble or chop into small pieces. Culinary historians believe that this dish was first prepared by barge haulers on the Volga River who ate dried fish and kvass for lunch because it kept well and was refreshing in the heat. The okroshka helped them to rehydrate and the vegetables gave them much needed nutrition and probiotics.

You can use kefir or buttermilk to make this soup, but it’s best to use plain unsweetened, full fat kefir for the best flavour. The kefir provides plenty of probiotics which are important for digestive health and the dill and parsley give it fresh, earthy flavour. The cooked and cooled potatoes release resistant starch, which is beneficial for the gut too. I like to cook my potatoes a little longer than you might expect for a potato soup, as this gives them a creamy texture and also helps them absorb the flavour of the kefir and other ingredients.

If you’re making this for a family, double or triple the ingredients to make a larger quantity and store it in the fridge for up to 4 days. It’s a very easy soup to reheat, although I prefer it when it’s still cold.

Try okroshka this summer and you’ll see why it’s such a popular, nutritious and healthy recipe. Enjoy! And don’t forget a big piece of rye or pumpernickel bread on the side. Gurkensandwich

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