Russian Monday: "Solyanka" - Rustic Potato Soup with Smoked Meat & Olives



Solyanka (pronounced “so-lyan-ka”), a Russian word which can be translated as “grab-bag” or “hodgepodge” is the name of the dish symbolic in Russian cuisine known far beyond Russia. As a matter of fact, knowing the name of this dish is enough never to go hungry if you are a foreigner visiting Russia. For the first time “solyanka” is mentioned in the Russian literature of the 15th century and by the 18th century it is widespread and referred by two names – “solyanka” and “pohmelka” (“pokh-mel-ka”), which meant a greasy and very hearty soup served as snack with vodka or served as an entrée. Nobility, however, did not accept this dish at all, considering it a sign of bad taste and only commoners and poor people loved it, since it was very filling and warming while being a good source to replenish energy after a whole day of hard labor. Solyanka also helped common people to drink without actually getting drunk.

Solyanka can be thick or liquid. It is based on strong broths such as meat, fish or mushroom ones. Often it may contain smoked meats, franks, sausages or other sausage products. There are a lot of solyanka recipes but their ingredients are always partly sour, salty and spicy foods such as marinated or pickled mushrooms, sauerkraut, pickles, lemons or lemon juice, capers, olives and even brew which can be added to the soup all together or in any combinations and variations. The salty-spicy-sour taste of solyanka is major part of its charm. Try this unique taste once and you are going to remember it forever!

Since mid-19th century tomatoes or tomato paste become new common ingredient greatly enriching taste of the soup which starts being served with sour cream. And, of course, the most hearty and delicious solyanka is not possible without spices – fennel, parsley, garlic and onions, spicy and sweet peppers. Possibly the large number of ingredients and their unique mix attributed to the start of use of word “solyanka” in Russian language not only as name of a dish, but in general term referring to a 
“colorful mix” of something.

Solyanka 2

Note: I cook my stock the day before cooking the soup. If it's to much for you use beef stock from the store. You will need about 6 cups of stock.

Ingredients:

For the beef broth:

  • 1 lb. boneless beef shin or stewing steak, cut into large cubes
  • 1 lb. beef bones
  • 2 onions, peeled and quartered
  • 4 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 2 carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 1 large leek, sliced
  • 1 stalk celery, cut into 2 inch pieces
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4-5 strings fresh thyme, or 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • salt
  • water

For the solyanka soup:
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 large onion, peeled and finely sliced
  • 3 salted cucumbers or pickeles, halved lengthwise and sliced
  • 3 Tsp. tomato paste
  • 1/2 tsp paprika (smoked paprika is even better!)
  • 2 large potato, peeled and cubed into large chunks
  • 1/2 cup green olives, sliced
  • 1/2 cup black olives, sliced
  • 2 tsp capers (optional)
  • about 1 lb. of cooked lean meat products (choose a mixture of Frankfurters, Polish or Krakow sausages, sliced cooked beef, mild chorizo sausages etc - 2-3 different types)
  • salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1/2 of large lemon, sliced to serve
  • sour cream and parsley to serve
  • rye bread, toasted

Directions:

To make the stock: trim as much fat as possible from the beef and put in large roasting pan with the bones and onions. Roast in preheated oven at 375°F for 30-40 minutes until browned, turning once or twice. Transfer the ingredients to a large soup pot and discard the fat.

Add the water (it should cover by at least 2 inches) and bring to a boil. Skim off any foam. Reduce the heat and add the sliced garlic, carrots, leek, celery, bay leaf, thyme and pinch of salt. Simmer very gently for 2- 2 1/2 hours. Skim occasionally. Do not stir. If the ingredients emerge from the liquid, top up with water.

Gently ladle the stock through a muslin-lined sieve into a large container and remove as much fat as possible. Save the meat, but discard the bones and vegetables. (There should be about 8 cups of stock, you need 6 cups for soup, save the rest for another purpose.)

To make a soup: heat the olive oil is a large frying pan over a medium high heat. Add onions and cook until lightly browned. Add  pickles, 1/2 cup pickles juice or broth, tomato paste and paprika. Cover and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

In a deep pot put the beef stock to warm it up. When the stock starts to boil add the potato, let boil and then simmer for 5 minutes. Add the onion mixture and smoked/un-smoked meats. Let the solyanka soup cook slowly for 5-10 minutes, add salt and pepper. Stir in olives and capers and let it cook for another 2-3 minutes.

Ladle this delicious soup into warm bowls, garnish with slice of lemon and parsley. Serve with sour cream and toasted rye bread.

12 comments:

Shema George said...
September 30, 2013 at 10:35 AM  

I am so hungry looking at these awesome pictures and lovely recipe... I love your series of Russian Monday.. Keep them coming as I get to learn so many new recipes!

La Table De Nana said...
September 30, 2013 at 11:03 AM  

That pottery is gorgeous Yelena:)

The soup must have such a nice flavor with all that meat:)

Looks good to me..

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...
September 30, 2013 at 11:21 AM  

Comforting and flavorful! This soup looks and sounds very tasty.

Cheers,

Rosa

thyme Sarah said...
September 30, 2013 at 11:25 AM  

Love hearing the history behind this soup. I must have been a commoner because I certainly would not have sniffed at it!

Yelena Strokin said...
September 30, 2013 at 11:29 AM  

Monique, I used to make pottery, some time ago-) I still have a few bowls left.

Medeja said...
September 30, 2013 at 7:15 PM  

Oh, this looks lovely and filling dish! I haven't tried this one before :)

Yelena Strokin said...
September 30, 2013 at 9:11 PM  

Medeja, I am sure you can appreciate this soup!

Marina said...
October 2, 2013 at 12:38 PM  

I thought I left a comment here but I guess it was on FB. :) Love-love solyanka, any version of it! This post made me smile: “pohmelka”that's the name I've heard in some Russian villages when I was on folklore expedition some years back. Great soup brings great memories. Thanks! :)

Gwen said...
October 2, 2013 at 6:47 PM  

I love full flavored soups. This sounds just perfect.

Nami | Just One Cookbook said...
October 3, 2013 at 2:53 AM  

I enjoy your blog from all aspects - recipe itself, photography, props, and for Mondays, about Russian food. I enjoyed this post!

Julia said...
October 6, 2013 at 4:17 PM  

I never actually tried solyanka. Maybe I did, but we called it something else. My friend recently made solyanka with mushrooms but it was not soup - I posted it on my blog. Love this one! Pinned!

katieatthekitchendoor.com said...
October 27, 2013 at 7:41 AM  

Yelena, I've been really loving these Russian Monday posts. I've been travelling frequently to St. Petersburg this year (actually, I just got back from a trip yesterday), and was just trying to explain to my boyfriend what Solyanka is. Now, maybe I will just make it for him!

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