Oyster Stew

I made this stew after I bought a dozen of fresh oysters at Goose Point Oyster Farm in Washington State. They were much bigger than the usual medium size and therefore were not easy to be opened and eaten raw, which is the best way to eat oysters of course. I’m not adding any bacon or other smokey, greasy meats, but instead keeping this stew light and aromatic with the addition of white wine and saffron.

Roasted Butternut Squash, Ginger, and Toasted Chickpeas Soup

oasted butternut squash ginger toasted chickpeas soup, garbanzo bean soup, fall vegetable soup, autumn vegetable soup, russian soup, russian food

This vibrant soup is full of comforting fall flavours: caramel notes from roasted squash, delicate spiciness of ginger, and the nutty flavours of toasted chickpeas. Pan-toasting chickpeas is really the secret that makes this soup taste so great; I sprinkle chickpeas with a little bit of curry powder while they are toasting to add another flavour dimension.

Hungarian Red Lentil and Smokie Soup

hungarian red lentil smokie soup

The warm spiciness of red lentils and the smoky flavour of the sausage – there is something about this flavor combination that makes this soup so comforting it’s simply irresistible! I also add just a touch of paprika and cumin seeds to give it a bit more complexity. And it’s so fast and easy to make – you can be eating your soup in under 30 minutes. It’s quite thick and almost stew-like in consistency and makes a hearty and delicious supper!

Classic Borscht

borscht russian cabbage soup borsht

Borscht is the quintessential Eastern European soup that is most often associated with Russian and Ukrainian cuisine. There are many variations: it can be made with beef or with pork, and with or without tomatoes or tomato paste. The two ingredients borscht always has are beets and cabbage. Beets give this soup its striking rich crimson color. In North America, borscht is somehow regarded as a meatless or even a vegetarian soup. Even though borscht can be made without meat, the taste would not be the same. Meat gives this soup its rich flavor and makes the vegetables taste more mellow. In fact, using pork or beef gives borscht a different taste. Ukrainian borscht is generally made with pork and is richer and fattier, whereas Russian borscht can be made either with pork or with beef, which tends to be leaner. It also helps to have meat with a bone since it makes more flavorful stock. I was always taught that vegetables for borscht should be diced/shredded finely, and in practice, it makes borscht taste more mellow and less cabbage-like. And remember – borscht, like most cabbage-based dishes, tastes better on the next day. Borscht is often served with a dollop of sour cream and a slice of Borodinskiy bread.

Kharcho – Spicy Georgian Walnut Soup

Soup kharcho recipe, georgian recipes, russian recipe

Georgia is a country in the Caucasus region of Eastern Europe and a former Soviet Republic (not to be confused with Georgia – an American state). Georgia’s cuisine is quite unique but little known around the world. It’s aromatic and liberally uses fresh herbs and spices, but it’s not particularly hot. Georgian cuisine has a firm foothold in Russia that goes back into the 19th century, and became even more prominent in the Soviet times. This particular soup, called kharcho (or harcho) was for many years a staple in humble Russian cafeterias and workers’ cafes as well as upscale restaurants. Of course, due to the lack of authentic ingredients, many were substituted for what was readily available and as a result, the original recipe was adulterated to the point where it was no longer recognizable. The authentic version is aromatic, somewhat sour, has just a touch of heat, has beef broth as its base and is thickened with walnuts and rice. The combination or the earthy walnut flavor and authentic Georgian spices makes this soup truly unique and delicious.

Wild Mushroom (Porcini) Soup

porcini mushroom soup russian

If you do not pick mushrooms yourself, wild porcini are often sold in veggie stores and Italian grocery stores. You need very little of dried mushrooms to add loads of flavor to your soups and stews. If you can’t find porcini, other kinds of mushrooms like shiitake can also be used. Just remember that the flavor of the soup will depend on the kind of mushroom you use.

Goulash (Hungarian Beef Stew)

This super-tasty beef stew originates from Hungary, but we Russians have adopted it into out cuisine a long time ago. Now it’s pretty much a staple in many Russian households. The key is using copious amounts of paprika. Paprika is a red spice made from grinding sweet peppers or chili. For this dish, a mild sweet Hungarian paprika is used, but any kind of paprika would do.

My personal secret to this dish is using Hungarian peppers or banana peppers instead of regular bell peppers. They start to appear at veggie stores in Vancouver in late July and are just loaded with delicious flavor. Bell peppers don’t come anywhere near. I actually buy these peppers in big quantities and slice and freeze them. They keep for a long time in the freezer and taste amazing. If you cannot find these peppers, just use a mix of regular red and green bell peppers.

Another secret is using canned Italian tomatoes instead of fresh tomatoes. If you can get great-tasting tomatoes in your area, it’s great, unfortunately in Vancouver we can only get the tasteless greenhouse variety. So I use canned peeled whole tomatoes imported from Italy. They have most of the flavor and goodness of fresh tomatoes.

Goulash is traditionally served with broad noodles, but I like it on a bed of mashed potatoes.