The Russian shchi challenge for my Italian boyfriend and his family (RECIPE)

There’s a Russian proverb that says: Shchi and kasha are our food

There’s a Russian proverb that says: Shchi and kasha are our food

Yulia Mulino
They say that the path to a man’s heart is through his stomach. Trying to do this with the heart of an Italian man might be a daunting task, especially if your favorite dish is shchi, which is made with sour cabbage. However, if he loves me then he needs to love my food.

Sauerkraut has long had a special place in Russian cuisine. Not only was the storage of cabbage more convenient this way, but sour cabbage is very healthy. Today, fermentation has become a new trend worldwide. 

While cabbage - in particular sauerkraut - is common in Northern Europe mainly as a side dish, in Italy it is definitely something unusual. Thus, I wanted to impress my boyfriend. Since I plan to spend my entire life with him, I had to be sure that we also matched gastronomically. I must say that I was worried for no reason - it was a complete and unconditional success! One bowl of my shchi was not enough for him. Imagine how happy I was – I won’t have to eat pasta every day.

This recipe, however, works well with MY Italian guy, and this does not guarantee that it will work for everyone. When I first tried to cook the same shchi for his relatives and friends in Rome they politely refused when I described the ingredients. They argued that it would be difficult to find "antipasto" and "secondo" to combine with shchi.

My heart, however, melted completely when my future husband persuaded them to try it. Then, the entire Italian family witnessed the ritual of cooking shchi. And you know what? They loved it! I am sure you will also enjoy it, especially the sour but sweet taste with slightly smoked pieces of mushroom and one secret ingredient.

Ingredients:

  • Sauerkraut – 250 g
  • Potato (big) – 2 pcs
  • Beans (soaked overnight) – 150 g
  • Carrot – 1 pcs
  • Celery root – ¼ pcs
  • Onion  - 1 pcs (+1 for stock)
  • Garlic – 2 cloves
  • Tomato paste – 1 tb sp
  • Flour – 2 tb sp
  • Sunflower oil
  • Dried porcini mushrooms (soaked overnight)
  • Sugar  - 1 tb sp
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Bay leaves 

Cooking:

1. Place the pre-soaked beans and porcini mushrooms in a pot, pour 3 liters of water, add an onion and some salt. Turn on the heat and cook the stock for 15 minutes, then remove the onions. Continue to cook the stock for another 75 minutes (until beans are soft). Meanwhile, grate carrots, celery and garlic, and chop an onion in half rings.

2. Fry the carrots, celery, onions and garlic in oil for 3 minutes. Add tomato paste. Keep stewing until the vegetables are soft, about 15 minutes.

3. At the same time, stew the cabbage with sugar in oil for 10 minutes in a separate pan with a lid. If you have homemade crunchy cabbage, you need to add some stock made from beans and mushrooms, and stew the cabbage longer, until it is soft.

4. When the beans and mushrooms are ready add potatoes into the pot.

5. After 10 minutes, add the fried vegetables and cabbage into the soup. Let it boil for another 10 minutes. 

6. And finally - the secret ingredient. If you want to give your shchi additional thickness and smoked flavor then do as follows. Before you add potatoes to the beans and mushrooms, take a half glass of the stock to cool it down. Take a small dry frypan, and fry a full tablespoon of flour until it becomes nicely golden. Turn off the heat and add the cold stock to the flour, making a sort of custard cream. Add it to the soup at the end.

7. Turn off the heat and add two bay leaves.

8. Serve the shchi with greens and sour cream.

9. Remember to give the soup some ‘rest’ before serving. Russians say that the soup tastes even better the next day!

Read more: How to cook solyanka: A villager’s soup, and cure for a hangover

 

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