Now for a taste of summer

Some stereotypes are firmly grounded in reality. For instance, ask a foreigner what comes to mind when you mention Russia, and one of the first answers you'll hear is "cold". And though there are certain parts of the country that rarely see snow, most of Russia is indeed a land where winter holds sway. But not always.
Summer may come late to Russia and not linger very long, but it's perhaps the most breathtaking time of the year, a reward after nine months of snow, ice, mud and rain. City streets that were once a depressing grey explode with colour as trees bloom and the sun glints off the churches' golden cupolas.
In the countryside, fields that were covered in snow fill with wild flowers, once-frozen rivers burble and rush.
Of course, Russian cuisine undergoes a transformation as well - many of the heavy, nourishing foods meant to get you through the winter are replaced by a lighter, more summery menu.
One of these warm weather wonders is svekolnik, a close cousin to that most famous of Russian soups, borscht. While a bowl of borscht could equal an entire meal, this light, easy-to-make soup is strictly a refresher, served cold and filled with crunchy fresh vegetables. On a hot summer day, there are few things better.


Svekolnik

Ingredients
3 litres beet stock o 6 beets o 2 bunches of spring (green) onions o 2 sticks celery o 4 cucumbers o
4 carrots o 4 eggs o 1 cup lemon juice o 1 cup sour cream o 2 teaspoons sugar o 2 tablespoons wine vinegar or pickle juice o 2 tablespoons finely cut parsley and dill o
1 tablespoon black pepper o salt to taste

Preparation

1. Wash the vegetables.

2. Boil beets and carrots separately, let cool then peel and cut into straws. Save the water from the beets - this is your stock.

3. Peel cucumbers and cut into straws.

4. Finely dice green onions and rub with salt.

5. To vegetables add strained beetroot stock.

6. Add salt, sugar, lemon juice, vinegar or pickle juice, pepper, parsley and dill. You are aiming for a sweet and sour taste here, much more sour than sweet, so be generous with the vinegar and pickle juice.

7. Before serving, add a dollop of sour cream and a halved boiled egg to each bowl.

This is a soup that comes in many easy variations. Sliced sausages or diced ham can be added to satisfy carnivores. Boiled potatoes will make svekolnik heavier and more filling.

If you like your soup spicy, a dose (50 grams or more) of horseradish and a spoonful of mustard will lend some heat. Another delicious option is to drop a slice of lemon into each plate before serving.

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