Russian Meat Soup – Solyanka
The polar vortex is back with us again, and we need the tools to fight it, right? Well, yeah, you can’t fight mother nature – but at least you can make her blows a bit more palatable.
This is a wine and food blog, of course, so we are not going to talk about space heaters and Amish miracle fireplaces. Right food is a perfect solution for many of the life’s situations, extreme cold being one of them. When the temperature is in the teens, and every breath makes you look more like a fire-throwing dragon, there are few of the heart-, body- and soul-warming dishes which come to the rescue. The hearty stew is one of them. And rich, concentrated, hot soup is probably what comes to mind first while you are out there shoveling the snow.
So it is the soup we will be talking about today. This soup, called Solyanka (if you can read or just care to see the same in the Russian alphabet, it is Солянка Мясная Сборная) is one of the old and traditional Russian soups. Many people know or at least heard of the Russian soup called Borsch, made out of the red beets (Borsch is also a perfect soup for the cold weather, but it is not a subject of today’s post). Much lesser number of people know of Solyanka, which used to be one of the very few soups traditionally served in the restaurants back in Russia starting from the hundreds of years ago.
I believe many home cooks purposefully avoid making the soup, as it often translates into a quite a bit of hassle. Great thing about Solyanka is that this soup requires very few ingredients and very easy to make!
As you could deduce from the title of this post, the main ingredient in Solyanka is … meat! Actually, any kind of meat is going – pork, beef, veal, chicken – whatever you got. It is important to note that we are not talking about raw meat – we are talking about meat products, such as smoked or cured sausages, baked chicken/turkey breast, ham, all sorts of bacon, bologna, hot dogs, any meat leftovers – anything which goes in the category of “cold cuts”.
In addition to meat there is another important ingredient here. The word “Solyanka” is a derivative of the Russian word for salt. But the second key ingredient is not the salt per se – it is pickled cucumbers. The cucumbers can be brined in salt or vinegar, it really doesn’t matter – but they are essential taste component in this soup.
Ready to see the recipe? Let’s proceed.
Solyanka – Russian Meat Soup
Prep time: about 30 minutes. Cooking time: about 30 minutes.
2 lb meat products (cold cuts style)
3 quarts of broth (any one goes – beef, chicken, vegetable).
6 large Dill Cucumbers, peeled and sliced
3 medium onions, chopped
2 tbsp tomato paste
4 tbsp capers
3 dry bay leaves
1 tbsp olive oil
Black pitted olives from the can, quartered
First step is to cut your meat products, whatever you are using. I typically use smoked sausages and some types of ham, but really there are no limitations. You have to slice the meat into the small pieces, make sure you will remove any kind of skin or casing if it is present, as those will not be good in the soup. I generally like to roast all that chopped meat in the pan on medium heat, for about 10-15 minutes, to concentrate the flavor.
While your meat is roasting, chop the onions. Take the large pot or casserole dish where you will be making the soup, add olive oil, put it on the medium heat. Add chopped onions and sauté them for about 10 minutes, or until translucent. Next add tomato paste, 3 tablespoons of broth and continue sautéing for another 20 minutes.
While onions and meat are on their way, prepare pickles – remove the skin, slice in half lengthwise, and then cut into the small pieces. Put aside.
Once the meat is ready, and the onions were sautéed for the total of about 30 minutes, add meat and pickles to the pot, add all of the remaining broth, put bay leaves, reduce the heat and let the soup to simmer for another 10-15 minutes. This is it! You are done.
This soup can be served as is, or with the optional sliced lemon, olives and sour cream – I personally like to add all three, but again, it is a matter of personal preference.
And let me present to you the weapon against the polar vortex – a bowl of Solyanka:
To be entirely honest, you really don’t have to wait for the sub-zero temperatures to make this soup. Yes, it is filling and warming from the inside, but overall it has quite a bit of acidity which makes it very refreshing.
So, when are you making it? Looking forward to your thoughts and comments. Cheers!