Feb 7, 2008

Russian winter and Borsch

Zdrastwiche!! (Hello! in Russian)

Russia the land of vast landscapes, of dynamic Tsars, soaring golden domed cathedrals, ballet beauties and figure skaters, of frozen rivers and lakes, a land rich in culture and heritage and how can I forget the legendary Lenin and Stalin.Yes! that's the image you conjure in your mind when you try to imagine about this mesmerising country.

The severity of Russian winter is not unknown to people. Winter brings the Russia of imagination to life, the snow makes everything picturesque and harshly beautiful. My stay in Moscow, the awe inspiring capital is just eight months old. Moscow, where the mercury dips down to -30 deg C is a huge, drastic change from Goa the land of sun, sand and sea where we were posted for six long years. It's a devastatingly new experience and I am loving every bit of it.
I keep on watching spell bound for hours together from my apartment window the snow falling......tiny flakes of snow floating all around, the cars, rooftops, the nude branches of the trees all covered with a shroud of pristine white carpet, children in blue, pink, red winter attire (they look like little astronauts) darting across the snow filled park of the detski sad(children's kindergarten) creating small indentations of their shoes on the snow. Mothers in fur coats strolling with their infants in well protected prams, dogs with their masters doing walk the talk, people hurrying across the snow filled streets to the tram and monorail stop, a flurry of daily life activities going on but for me time just stands still. I savour each and every moment and capture the scene in my mind's eye and in the camera to cherish it forever. I get this urge of opening the window and collect the snowflakes in my palm. They are beautiful, each flake shaped like a small flower...they melt in my palm inside. The feeling of dejection is evident from my face, it would be so nice to just store it as it is and take it back home.....ridiculous thought though.
During the long cold winters, it's easy to imagine that we will never see the sun again. The warm golden days of July and August when the sun sets at midnight here fade as if only a distant memory and I fear that I will be forever consigned to woolly hats and the heavy fur coats.

View from our apartment window

Experimenting with our camera

My blog's posts wouldn't be complete if I do not write about food. You guessed right! I will blog about a Russian dish today. Russia has a glorious culinary heritage....from the Baltic to the far east, the variety is immense. As with any cold climate country there's a great love for fat loaded dishes- Russia is no place to go on a diet. I can just go on and on about Russian delicacies, so I will talk about it in a later post. As the post revolves around winter a winter warmer would be wonderful, a popular soup called Borsch. Borsch is basically of Ukrainian origin that got its name from the most important ingredient beet called "borsch" in old slavic. It can be served hot or cold usually with sour cream (smetana) poured on top of it. Some Borsch is vegetarian but mostly its made with beef stock. There are numerous ways of making this soup, after trials and errors I found this way to be the easiest and tasty. I prepare Borsch with chicken stock and lots of fresh herbs. The beetroot in the soup imparts a beautiful red colour to it.

The Borsch soup

You need:

1 big beet cut into thin strips
1 medium carrot cut into thin strips
1 small potato cut into thin strips (some prefer cubes)
You can also shred the veggies and cube the potatoes according to your preference
1 small onion diced
1/2 cup cabbage shredded
3-4 flakes garlic
1/2 stalk celery or to taste
2 canned tomatoes or fresh diced
1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley or dried
1 tbsp fresh dill or dried
1/2 cup bell peppers chopped(optional)
1 chicken stock cube
1/2 tbsp red wine vinegar(less if using canned tomatoes)
2 tsp olive oil
1 tbsp sour cream
salt and pepper to taste


  1. Heat the oil in a large stir fry pan. Add the garlic and chopped onions and saute till the onions turn transparent. Alternately you can add the garlic when you leave the soup to boil.
  2. Now add the potatoes, carrots and celery and stir fry. Add the beetroots after 3-4 mins. Cook until veggies are done.
  3. Add the cabbage and tomatoes. In the meantime boil 2 and a1/2 cups water with the chicken stock cube.
  4. Add the stock to the veggies and bring to a boil. Lastly add the parsley, dill, salt and pepper. Add the bell peppers if you are using them.
  5. Reduce heat and cover. The longer you cook the stronger the flavour. I put it on low and simmer for 15-20 minutes. Boil more if you are making in large quantity.
  6. Check throughout to add spices and herbs.
  7. Lastly add vinegar ( less if you are using canned tomatoes) and serve warm with a dollop of sour cream.

Cheers to health and pleasure!! I will sign out with some breathtaking shots of Russian nature in winter by Mikhail Tkachev.
Dusvidaniya!!!(till we meet again in Russian)

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