My family has rather a strong connection with Russia. In the late seventies my father travelled to the former USSR to study mining engineering. He spoke no Russian, knew no-one and had never travelled outside Sri Lanka. He spent the first year learning Russian and over the next five became well and truly immersed in Russian culture. He can still shot vodka, can still speak Russian, especially after said vodka’s and enjoys Russian food slathered in copious amounts of mustard. A lot of my father’s friends are friends he made while in Russia. When growing up, it wasn’t unusual to see a Russian potato salad at family dinner a long with yellow friend rice and chicken curry.
My Uncle Shelton likes to do a fully fledged Russian meal. He cooked it for me while I was pregnant and a few months ago he came over, groceries in hand and cooked me and Mr Firehouse the full deal. A beautiful red beetroot borscht, a rice pilaf and a potato salad. Served with rye bread and plenty of mustard it was a delectable treat! It was a chance for me to sit and watch in my own kitchen and take notes as he masterfully prepared the meal.
Since then, borscht appears on our weekly meal plan often, especially with two children who love beetroot. It’s a warming, comforting meal and freezes well when I make a big pot over the weekend. And, best of all, apart from a little peeling and chopping the prep is pretty simple.
When I have time, I make my own beef stock and then use the meat off the bones in the soup itself. But, it tastes just as good with good store bought stock and a piece of beef that benefits from slow cooking.
- 500g of stewing beef
- 1 litre beef stock
- 2 carrots chopped
- 2 potatoes chopped
- 2 large beetroots chopped
- 1/4 cabbage chopped
- 1/4 cup dill
- 1/4 cup sour cream
- salt and pepper to season
- rye bread and hot english mustard to serve
In a medium pot cover the beef with water and set over a low heat to boil. Boil until the meat is fall apart tender. At this point take off the heat, remove the meat and pour the stock into a jug. Chop and reserve the meat.
Place the jug of stock in the fridge and skim the layer of fat once it has solidified.
In a large pot add the stock, meat, chopped veg and seasoning. Add enough water to covet the vegetables. Bring to the boil and cook until the vegetables are tender but retain a bite.
Ladle the soup into bowls and top with sour cream and freshly chopped dill.
Serve with a side of rye bread spread with hot English mustard.
When I served this soup to my brother-in-law, Firehouse Junior, a couple of weeks ago he confessed something to me. I cooked the family a meal at some point, soon after his brother and I had first started dating. Walking into the kitchen he had discovered me chopping pumpkin and concluded that pumpkin soup was on the menu. He promptly walked away, secretly dismayed at the thought of eating pumpkin soup for dinner. It was not his favourite thing to eat. Being the polite young man he was, he dutifully waited for me to finish cooking, and ate the soup given to him…and enjoyed it. He tells me he has been a pumpkin soup fan ever since. Furthermore, he will now try the food I put in front of him with an open mind.
I don’t think he had any strong feelings towards tomato soup prior to my serving this, but suffice it to say, the man is now a fan. On describing the recipe, he was also convinced it was easy enough for him to make…and healthy enough for lunches. As Firehouse Junior faces the prospect of living solo later this year, I think these recipes will come in mighty handy.
- Olive oil
- 1 onion chopped
- 2 cloves garlic
- 2 carrots chopped
- 2 celery stalks chopped
- 1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
- 1 tsp. dried oregano
- 1 tin chopped tomato
- 1 bottle passata
- 5-6 piquillo/roasted peppers chopped
- honey/salt/pepper to taste
- fresh basil and cream to serve
In a large pot, heat the olive oil and soften the onions and garlic. When softened, add the chopped carrots and celery and cook till softened. To the softened vegetables add the balsamic vinegar and oregano. Give the vegetables and herbs a good stir and add the tinned tomatoes, passata and peppers. Fill the passata bottle with water and add that to the pan as well.
Bring the pot to a low boil and simmer for 15-20 minutes.
Puree the soup in a blender (for a very smooth texture) or using a stick blender (a slightly thicker texture) and taste for seasoning. Adjust as necessary. Finally, place the soup back on the heat and add the honey to slightly sweeten the soup and balance the acidity of the tomatoes and vinegar.
Serve with some cream and garnish with basil to serve.
Mr Firehouse and I are pretty good at meal planning. We have to be to avoid shopping every couple of days with a toddler who loves to run up and down the aisles. Especially one who is currently obsessed with doors. Guess where he runs to first?Go on, guess. Anyway, there are times in the week where we plan a bit loosely and might buy something nice at the farmers market. So it was that I once ended up on a Friday afternoon with no meat in the fridge, a few sweet potatoes, cauliflower and some admittedly sad looking thai basil leaves that had been bought for something else. I scoured the internet for something that wasn’t a vegetarian green curry. The idea of red curry soup intrigued me but as I looked through the multitude of jars in my fridge, all I could find was green curry paste. Let’s just say I pretty much substituted everything in that recipe except for the onions and garlic….this happens pretty often. When the recipe said pumpkin, I heard sweet potato. When the recipe asked for red pepper, I was certain they had meant cauliflower. Kale, no worries, thai basil will do just fine.
- 1 small head of cauliflower roasted
- 3 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
- 1 medium onion chopped
- 2 cloves garlic chopped
- 1.5 tbsp. of green curry paste
- 1 tin (400ml) coconut milk
- 1 cup thai basic leaves, loosely packed
- 2 tbsp. oil divided
In a medium saucepan fry the garlic and onions in a tbsp. of oil until just softened.
Add the cauliflower, sweet potatoes and stir until well mixed. Add just enough water to cover the veg and place on a medium heat. When the pot comes to a boil turn the heat down to medium and let it simmer with the lid on until the vegetables are softened.
Transfer the soup to a blender and puree with the thai basil leaves.
In the same sauce fry the curry paste in the second tablespoon of oil until fragrant, add the coconut milk stir well and add the pureed soup. Bring the mixture to the boil and take off the heat.
Serve with a few extra basil leaves to garnish.
This is one of the first dishes I ever learned to make. While on holiday in Sri Lanka my sister and I can home to my father’s family home in Sri Lanka to spend the night. My uncle, who had been a chef before becoming ill and subsequently paralysed in his 20’s had gathered on the ingredients to make this soup at home and staged a cooking lesson of sorts. He’s the first Uditha, that our little Callum Uditha is named after.
I still remember the taste of that soup, made all the more delicious by the addition of salty, Sri Lankan, Keels bacon. I’ve changed very little from the recipe he taught us that day, because really, why mess with perfection?
- 1 fat leek stalk sliced (white part only)
- 1/2 white onion chopped
- 2 cloves garlic
- 2 rashers bacon chopped
- 500 g potatoes cubed
- 2 cups stock
- 1 cup milk (or more depending on the consistency of the soup you want)
- sour cream or thickened cream to serve
In a medium saucepan add the bacon, garlic and onions to the cold pan and place on the heat. Fry until the bacon gets some colour on it.
When the onions are soft and there’s some colour on them add the leeks. Sweat the leeks off until they’re soft too and add the potatoes.
Give the potatoes a stir and add the stock. Pop a lid on the pot when the mixture starts to boil and cook until the potatoes are soft.
When the soup has cooked puree using a stick blender or place the whole mixture in a blender, which will do the job as well. Add extra water at this point if needed.
Put the soup back in the saucepan and add the milk (or cream if you’re feeling particularly indulgent) and bring the soup back to the boil. Master C loves this with lots of cream cheese melted in!
Taste for salt, I find that with the bacon and the salt that’s present in most stocks you don’t need extra salt. We buy low sodium bacon and low sodium stick (or broth as my American friends would say) so I usually end up adding a bit of salt to taste.