Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Shchi - Russian Cabbage Soup

Some soups are born great, and others have greatness thrust upon them.  Some soups, just by their very name conjure up visions of exotic countries, opulence or comfort. 

And then there is cabbage soup.

When I think of cabbage soup, I think of three things -

1) Poverty.  Like Charlie Bucket from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, who's family were so poverty stricken that cabbage soup was all they could afford, this poor soup seemed to be a byword for cheap, bland food.

2) Communist Russia.  Connected to the first point really, when I think of Communist Russia, visions of flat capped men in grey concrete tower blocks drinking potato vodka and eating bowls of cabbage soup spring to mind.

3) Vile diets.  Think of slimming plans where you have to suffer the awful fate of eating just cabbage soup in order to lose a few pounds.  It tastes awful but hey, you'll look good in a bikini come the summer.

With all this in mind, imagine my horror when I checked the soup ingredients pantry to find that pretty much all we had to create this week' recipe from was (yes) cabbage.  And not the fun, exotic kind, but common or garden white cabbage, like the kind that used to be served boiled to death next to school dinners.  Oh the humanity.

But, what do you know, with a few choice additions, you can actually make a nice cabbage soup - leave it to those crafty Ruskies to come up with a good way of doing it (I assume the Russians we are talking about are the good ones, like Sean Connery in Hunt for Red October and not those guys that killed Patrick Swayze in Red Dawn)

This soup was another that I made, then kept in the fridge for 8 hours to see if the flavour intensified, and what do you know, it really did!

The stars of this soup aren't the cabbage itself, but the extras, like the caraway and dill with white wine (A typically Eastern European flavour combination I may have fallen a little bit in love with), but don't take my word for it how good this soup is.  Grab a cabbage and give it a go yourself.  I promise, comrade, that you won't be disappointed. So until next time, dos vedanya tovarisch!

350g White Cabbage
2 Cloves Garlic
1 Large Potato
1 Carrot
1 Onion
1 Leek
30g Butter
2 Bay Leaves
1tsp Black Pepper
1tsp Caraway Seeds
1tbsp White Wine Vinegar
2tbsp Tomato Puree
1.2l Beef Stock
Fresh Dill
Sour Cream

1.  Remove the outer leaves of the cabbage and the core, then finely shred the rest.  Peel the potato then cut into small cubes, remove the green parts of the leek and cut into slices, finely chop the onion and grate the carrot.

2.  Heat the butter in a large pan and then gently cook the vegetables, along with the garlic, for 10 minutes, into everything starts to soften.

3.  Add the caraway, bay, pepper, tomato puree, stock and vinegar, then bring the soup to a boil, cover and simmer for 30 minutes, until everything is cooked.

4.  Serve with a spoonful of sour cream and lots of fresh dill.  Enjoy


  1. Great post! Can I use your recipe with an attribution on my blog www.thechildrenstable.com ?