Monday, January 18, 2010
One of the nice things about having overseas visitors, especially those who like to cook, is that a window into another cuisine is opened. It doesn't matter how many cookbooks one has, there is nothing like a native showing you how it's really done.
We've had some super hot weather lately, just perfect for salads and definitely cold soups, which in Poland are called choldniki, the most ubiquitous of which is a beetroot soup (barszcz), though if you ordered chlodnik, you may happen upon other versions without beetroot, which may include equally refreshing sorrel or cucumber, though the soup featured here is undoubtedly of the stain worthy beetroot persuasion.
Not only refreshing, choldnik is also said to be extremely healthy when made with kefir, the kissing cousin of Yakult, the famous probiotic Japanese drink. Kefir is fermented from a combination of yeasts and bacteria and is also considered acceptable for the lactose intolerant.
It originated in central Asia thousands of years ago and spread widely through the middle east. Similar to yoghurt, though with not quite as much body, it has a pleasantly tart flavour and is available in middle eastern, eastern European and some health food shops. Buttermilk makes an acceptable substitute.
This cold soup with its earthy flavours, spiked with a pleasant tartness and herbal zing, makes the perfect pick-me-up on a hot summer's day
Barbara Jackowska's Chlodnik
1 fresh bunch of beetroot with leaves
2 sticks celery
3 tablespoons wine vinegar
1 litre kefir or buttermilk
1 bunch of dill, finely chopped
½ bunch of chives, finely chopped
1/2kg cucumbers, peeled and finely diced
salt and fresh ground pepper
4 boiled eggs, cut in quarters
Cut the leaves from the beetroots and set aside. Peel the beetroot and place in a pot with the carrots, celery and 1.5 litres water, season with salt and pepper and cook until soft. Five minutes before the end, add the vinegar. When soft, drain the vegetables, reserving the liquid. Discard the celery and carrot. Dice the beetroot into small pieces and put back into the reserved liquid. Cool. Roughly chop the beetroot leaves and cook in small amount of salted water. Cool down and add leaves and the cooking water to the diced beetroot, add kefir or buttermilk, chives, dill and finely diced cucumbers. Season to taste. Place quartered eggs in bowls and pour the cold soup over. Serve.