This is a delicious dish when it is hot. It is a soup, a chlodnik or ‘cold thingy’ according to the cookbook A gift to young housewives (Пода́рок молоды́м хозя́йкам, first published in 1861) from Jelena Molochovjets. According to her, this soup is Polish in origin. The Polish wikipedia defines Chłodnik as any cold soup; the Spanish gazpacho is also a chłodnik according to this definition. And the only recipe for this soup on the Polish wikipedia is a Lithuanian Chłodnik. According to the Russian wikipedia, chlodnik is a national dish in several East-European countries like Belarusse, Lithuania, Latvia, the Ukraine and Poland. Pictures of this dish nearly always show a pink soup – from beetroot – but it is also possible to prepare chlodnik without it, using the greens of beet or other leafy greens like sorrel or wild herbs. The green versions are often especially for Lent or fast days. On the picture is a screenshot of what you get when looking for pictures of ‘chlodnik’. My apologies for the terrible colour clash with the design of my website.
There is more information on Jelena Molochovjets and her cookbook at the recipe for Vinigret (‘Russian Salad’). And another soup from Molochovjets on Coquinaria is Soup with Sauerkraut.
The original recipe
The recipe for chlodnik is already present in the first edition of The Gift. The Russian text is taken from that edition. But for my translation I have used the translation of the twentieth edition by Toomre, because when I tried Google translate in 2014 it was a mess, with some very funny frases (like ‘pee in a colander’ for ‘drain in a colander’). But we are now a few years later, and the translations have improved. However, comparing the translation of the later edition with that of the first show that in thirty years the recipe essentially has not changed.
Горсть укропа и трибульки, т. е. зеленого лука сеянца, растереть с солью. Взять молодого свекольника и несколько штук самой мельой молодой свеклы, вымыть, сварить в соленой воде, отлить на дуршлаг, мельо изрубить, сложить в суповую миску (мелко изрубленного свекольника должно быть 1 полный стакан); влитъ 2–5 стаканов сметаны самой свежей, развести по пропорции хлебным квасом или кипяченой холодной водой, положить хрутых, на несколько частей разрезаных яиц, мелкими четырехугольными кусочками нарезанных свежих оryрлов, раковых шеек, ломтики лимона, соли, немного перца и кусок льда.
Mash a handful of dill and chives with salt. Wash young beet greens and several very small young beets and cook them in salted water. Drain the beets and greens in a colander, chop them fine and put them in the soup tureen (there should be a full glass of greens). Add 2-5 glasses of very fresh sour cream and dilute qwith the same amount of grain kvass or cooled boiled water. Add hard-boiled eggs, cut into several pieces, cubed fresh cucumbers, crayfish tails, lemon slices, salt, a little pepper, and a piece of ice.
Modern adaptation of the recipe
The soup of Molochovjets is with beet greens and ‘very small youg beets’ that are optional according to the list of ingredients. Use no more than one small red beet if any. The taste will be much the same, but the colour will greatly change: pastel green or pink. For me, the green soup was more attractive in colour as well as taste.
First course, for 1.25 liter soup; preparation 15 minutes + cooling.
250 gr beet greens (‘erbette’)
1 small cooked beet (optional)
2 Tbsp chopped dill
1 Tbsp chopped chives
5 dl (2 cups) sour cream
5 dl (2 cups) kvass (Russian or Polish supermarket) or boiled and chilled water
pepper and salt to taste
1 cucumber, peeled
2 hard boiled eggs
150 gr crayfish, cooked and peeled
1 small lemon
a few sprigs dill
Soup – Blanch the cleaned beet greens in salted water, drain and purée and blend it with kvass and sour cream. Add dill and chives. Chill the soup in the regrigerator.
Garnish – Pour boiling water over the lemon to remove the layer of wax (even ‘organic lemons’ often have this layer). Slice the lemon thinly.
Halve the cucumbers lengthwise, remove the soft center. Cut the cucumber into small cubes.
Peel and slice the eggs.
Serve the chilled soup in a terrine with some of the garnish and put the rest of the garnish in serving bowls on the table. Or serve individual plates or soup bowls.
- Joyce Toomre, Classic Russian Cooking: Elena Molokhovets a Gift to Young Housewives. Bloomington, 1992 (uses the 20th edition from 1897).
- Elena Molokhovets, Пода́рок молоды́м хозя́йкам (Podarok molodhym khozyaikam, ‘A gift to young housewives’), St.-Petersburg, 2nd edition from 1866, unknown edition between 1866 and 1877 (3rd to 7th edition), and the 22nd edition from 1901.
Polish cold soup from a Russian cookbook