Some of my fondest childhood memories are from our weekend summer trips to Dacha. Dacha is a summer home, but it is far from luxurious! More often than not, it’s a tiny house with old, mismatched furniture built on farmland. We would go there in the morning (it’s ways away from the city), bring food and water, and stay for the day.
Now, it wasn’t all R & R – it was hard work to maintain all the produce that grew there. I go into detail about our Dacha in my post about a quaint little tea house called “Dacha” in Cape Charles, Virginia. It brought back a lot fo memories!
To go straight to the recipe for Cold Summer Soup: Russian Okroshka, click here.
What’s in the name?
Today I felt like focusing on one particular dish that always meant summer and dacha – Okroshka. The name takes its roots from the verb “kroshit” which means to cut finely. Vegetables, hard-boiled eggs, and smokey ham or kielbasa are topped with tangy, ice-cold liquid usually made with diluted kefir or a mixture of kefir and sour cream.
My grandmother (THE Babushka) had one unbending rule for Okroshka – it must have lots of fresh greens. They grew in abundance on our Dacha so right before eating, she would step between the lush rows of vegetables and come back with her hands full of green onion, parsley, and dill. I do honor that in this recipe – it adds a lovely taste. And what says summer more than greens? Fresh dill to me is a smell of summer. And home.
I am going to go through every ingredient one by one with any additional information you may need. Most of it is basic and I did not want to clutter the recipe card with the information you may not need at all. If you find yourself needing more details – read on! 🙂
If you never learned how to boil an egg – today’s the day! It’s so easy. The expression “easy as a pie” should really be “easy as a hard-boiled egg”. Pies are only easy once you made them a few times.
I like to boil both eggs and the potatoes (next note) the day before so they have enough time to cool.
To boil eggs:
Place the eggs in a small pan. Cover with water. Turn the heat on high, cover, and let it come to a rolling boil (big bubbles). Once it’s there, uncover, and let boil for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, remove from heat and place under the running cold water in a pan or a separate bowl. After they cooled a few minutes, let cool completely at a room temperature and keep in the fridge. You don’t even have to wash the pan (unless one of the eggs broke which could happen).
To cut eggs:
In this recipe, the eggs, potatoes, kielbasa, and cucumber are all cut into cubes. Preferably, of the same 1/4 inch size. It’s all pretty straightforward, except the eggs. Hard-boiled eggs are used so much in various dishes back home that every single kitchen owns an egg-cutter (яйцерезка). With three very easy moves, it cuts the whole egg into neat little squares.
However, you can easily do it with a knife and a cutting board. It may not be as uniformly shaped, but it’s a simple, rustic, homemade dish. We’re not going for perfection, we’re going for pleasant. However, if you find that 1/4 inch size is much too small – feel free to cut it larger. Just cut the other ingredients the same size.
*I found an egg-cutter on Amazon, by the way, so you can get one here. It’s mostly advertised to be used for slicing the eggs. Once it’s sliced, roll it 45 degrees, slice again, and then rotate the egg clockwise.
P.s. I am a little surprised to see how much I had to say about the humble hard-boiled egg. I really do want you to succeed in making this! 🙂
What an excellent boiled potato
Any Jane Austen fans? I can’t talk about boiled potatoes without thinking about the scene in Pride and Prejudice where the obnoxious Mr. Collins compliments the potatoes. “It’s been many years since I’ve had such an exemplary vegetable”. Oh boy. What a hoot.
To boil excellent potatoes:
Rinse potatoes with water and scrub, if they’re covered in dirt. Don’t peel! Cover with water, cover, bring to boil, and once it’s boiling – uncover and turn the heat down to medium. After 15 minutes, try piercing the potatoes with a knife. It should be very easy to pierce. It can take up to 40 minutes so be patient. Once finished, drain the water and transfer the potatoes to a plate and let cool completely at room temperature. Keep in the fridge until ready to use.
To cut potatoes:
Peel, slice, stack, and cut in cubes. Your egg-cutter should work for it too!
I chose Kielbasa for its smoky taste. You can also use ham or similar pre-cooked meats. It comes in fairly big portions which we would have used up easily at a family meal. However, for a smaller number of servings, it leaves you with the leftovers. I used it with eggs for breakfast for the next few days. Do be sure your meat is cooked and doesn’t require heat treatment for safe consumption.
This is probably the easiest ingredient to work with in this recipe. Wash, if needed, and slice in cubes.
Wash, trim dark spots and ends, and grate. I always wear cut-resistant gloves when grating anything. They’re sold on Amazon and they really help protect your hands. I choose medium size blade for this.
When grated, squeeze most of the liquid out, and set aside.
You can use any greens that you like. The more, the better! I like to have at least 1/2 cup of freshly chopped parsley, green onion, and dill. In my mind, dill and green onion are a must – they complete the flavor. Parsley adds aroma.
Liquid and Seasoning
My favorite way of dressing Okroshka is kefir diluted with water, and then seasoned with salt. It’s so tangy and delicious! When we went to dacha, my mom would bring a container with all of the ingredients already mixed in, and a liquid in a separate container. All we had to do was combine the two, wait for grandma to overload it with greens, and season it with salt and pepper. To this day, I can remember the first, refreshing taste of it.
You might need to adjust the seasoning to better suit your taste. Do keep in mind, that none of the ingredients, except kielbasa, are salted, so you might need more than you think.
- 2 eggs boiled, cooled, and peeled
- 1 medium potato boiled, cooled, and peeled
- 2 small cucumbers
- 6 oz kielbasa
- 4 small radishes
- 2 C kefir
- 2 C water
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 C mix of fresh green onion, parsley, and dill
- Cover eggs with water in a small pan, cover, and bring to boil over high heat.
- Once the water is boiling, uncover, and turn the heat down to medium-high.
- Let boil for 10 minutes.
- When finished, keep under running cold water to cool down.
- Transfer to a plate and set aside.
- Rinse unpeeled potatoes.
- Cover with water, cover, and bring to boil over high heat.
- Once the water is boiling, uncover, and turn the heat down to medium.
- Cook until easily pierced with the knife.
- Drain the water, and set potatoes aside to cool completely.
Peel, slice, cube, chop
- Once eggs and potatoes are cool enough to handle, peel and cut in 1/4 inch cubes.
- Proceed with cucumber and kielbasa.
- Grate the radish on a medium size blade and squeeze the excess liquid.
- Chop the greens.
- In a pitcher or a bowl, mix kefir and water. Sprinkle with salt, whisk, and taste. Salt until it tastes more salty rather than tart. You can always add more salt at the table.I add a lot of salt. As a reference, it’s about 2 tsp total. Start by adding 1/2 tsp and tasting it.
- In a separate bowl, combine eggs, potatoes, cucumber, kielbasa, radish, and greens. Divide between 4 bowls.
- Top with the kefir & water mix and freshly ground black pepper.
- Serve and enjoy! 🙂