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Okroshka and Botvinya
September 18, 2010 18:05

Okroshka and Botvinya are cold soups based on kvass; both are part of traditional Russian cuisine.


Okroshka is a mix of finely cut vegetables of neutral taste (such as, for example, boiled potato, turnip, carrot, rutabaga, and fresh cucumber), potherbs (chopped spring onions, parsley, fennel, celery, chervil, and tarragon), and hard boiled eggs. The variegated mixture is filled with special okroshka seasoning blend made of mustard, spring onions, black pepper, horse-radish and egg yolks, ground in a small amount of kvass or salted cucumber brine and diluted with special okroshka kvass or okroshka kvass in half with ordinary bread kvass, and made rich with sour cream.

Okroshka can be veggie as well as with meat or fish. In those cases meat or fish is added to the vegetable part of okroshka in the ratio 1 to 1.

Boiled lean meat of various sorts is used in okroshka. In ancient Russian okroshka preferable was the combination of meat of sucking pig, turkey and black grouse that is young pork, poultry and game. The choice of different sorts of meat is accounted for by the fact that originally meat debris after cooking of other dishes were all mixed into okroshka. Now it is considered quite comprehensible to use a mixture of boiled beef with fowl in this cold soup.

As for fish, okroshka will be good with river fish, such as tench, pike-perch, sturgeon, since they have sweet and neutral taste and not too many bones, or sea fish, such as cod. Fish for okroshka is shortly boiled and diced.

The general principle of making any type of okroshka is as follows:
1. Prepare veggie thick of finely cut neutral vegetables;
2. Mix it with meat or fish (if needed);
3. Mix with seasoning okroshka blend;
4. Leave to mature for no less than half an hour;
5. Mix with potherbs;
6. Pour in kvass;
7. Make rich with sour cream and chopped boiled egg whites.

  It is optional to season okroshka with chopped salted mushrooms or soused apples.

Okroshka Kvass Recipe

Real okroshka requires a special okroshka kvass, the so-called white kvass.

750 malt (500 g rye and 250 g barley malt),
2 kg rye flour,
500 g buckwheat flour,
500 g wheat flour,
0,25 glass of liquid fresh yeast,
40 g wheat flour for ferment
2 tablespoonfuls of spearmint (not peppermint)

Prepare the ferment: dilute flour with water, add yeast, and leave the mix to mature.

Mix malt with warm water to make batter. Blend all the three sorts of flour into a homogeneous mix. Then add small portions of the flour mix into liquid malt, constantly adding some hot water and continuously stirring. Finally the ratio of water to malt and flour mixes should be around four to one. Put the result dough into another dish and leave in a warm place for 5 hours, then pour in 7 litres of boiled water, carefully stirring to avoid lumps, and add the ferment prepared in advance. Simultaneously add mint.

Put the come out wort into a warm place to ferment for 12 hours. Then filter the fermented kvass and pour it into bottles.

There should be no less than one third of okroshka kvass in the total volume of kvass for veggie okroshka, not less than a half for meat okroshka, and 100 per cent for fish okroshka.

Other Versions of Okroshka

It is only cold soup based exclusively on kvass that can be called okroshka. However, there is a widespread variety of cold soups, which are mistaken for okroshka. Various sorts of products are used as the liquid basis for such soups: kefir, buttermilk, diluted vinegar, ayran, mineral water, meat broth, kombucha tea, beet broth, cucumber brine, or even beer. Some dishes of the kind have something to do with quite different soups: the so-called okroshka on kefir is a variant of the Uzbek cold soup chalopa, soup on beetroot broth is called Botvinya, and there is quite a different kind of beer soup with bread soaked in it. In modern Russian homes the traditional method of making okroshka is rarely used – it is way too complicated and long! Some simplified and quicker ways have been introduced by modern Russians.


Botvinya is a cold soup based on sour kvass and broth of beet leaves and roots.

Botvinya is a first course cold dish extremely characteristic of Russian cuisine; and yet it has almost disappeared due to its being quite expensive and, mainly, because of the loss of the right way of preparing this comparatively time-taking dish.

The basic version of botvinya requires adding boiled red fish, salted and non-salted; while eating the soup it is repeatedly cooled by adding some ice cubes into the plate. Botvinya can also be incomplete, i.e. veggie, without fish.

Botvinya goes well in summer heat; it tastes lighter than okroshka and has a better refreshing effect.

Full botvinya consists of three parts: botvinya soup itself; boiled red fish (such as sturgeon, starred sturgeon, and salmon) that is served in a separate dish; and small ice cubes also served separately. Thus, botvinya is served in three dishes for each person.

However, botvinya is also good without expensive red fish - then it will be the so-called incomplete botvinya, or simply a cold summer green soup.

Regarding the soup part of botvinya it can be of two types: simple and stewed. Both the types are prepared on kvass basis. The stewed botvinya differs from the simple one by the presence of sour stewed ferment made of flour and kvass grounds. The choice and preparation of kvass basis is even more important here than with okroshka. Kvass sourness should supplement pleasantly fresh or saltish taste of fish, rather than contradict it. Therefore kvass should be neither sweetish, nor excessively sour. To be more exact, the acidity should be subtly and delicately savoury. Such a taste in botvinya is attained not only by means of kvass, but also thanks to gentle vegetable sourness of sorrel, and - in steamed botvinya – due to rye leaven. Besides, grated horse-radish and lemon juice ass to the pungent taste and aroma of kvass. The dark bread kvass mixed with less than one third of white okroshka kvass can make the kvass basis for botvinya.

As for the fish part of botvinya it is preferable to use different kinds of red fish with a small amount of crayfish meat or crabs and shrimps instead of crayfish.


Recipe of Complete Simple Botvinya

1 liter of bread kvass, 0,25 liter of white okroshka kvass, 1,5-2 glasses of boiled sorrel, 1 glass of boiled nettle, 3 young beetroots with leaves, 1-2 fresh cucumbers, 1-2 tablespoonfuls of grated horse-radish, 0,5 lemons, 1 teaspoonful of mustard, 0,5-0,75 glass of spring onions, 1 teaspoonful of salt, 1 teaspoonful of sugar, 1,5 tablespoonfuls of fennel, 0,5 kg of fish, and 4 crayfish.

Slightly poach whole beet leaves and separately boil beetroots soft. In the same way slightly poach (no longer than 3 mines) whole sorrel leaves. Carefully wash nettle in cold water, then scald with boiling water and through onto a colander. Measure all the leaves according to the recipe and finely chop with a sharp knife. Never try to grate or grind the leaves, otherwise you will get some sort of a cream soup with a totally different taste!

Supplement the green mass with chopped boiled beetroots, and chopped green onions rubbed with salt and fennel.

Blend together the two types of kvass. Peel a lemon and pound the rind with sugar in a cup, add lemon juice, mustard, horse-radish, and a little kvass, mix it all and pour into the two-kvass blend.

Pour the kvass blend into the soup body, add finely diced cucumber and leave in a cold place for 15 to 20 minutes – so that the acidity of basis is absorbed into the leafy bulk. In the meantime prepare the fish part of botvinya.

Take a set of slices (50 g each) of different red fishes (sturgeon, starred sturgeon and salmon) and boil in a small amount of salted water with onions, fennel, black pepper and a bay leaf: 2 to 3 minutes will be enough for fresh-salted and salty smoked fish, and 10 minutes will do for fresh fish. It is unacceptable to use non-boiled salted or smoked fish, because it will not match the sour kvass basis and spoil the taste of this sophisticated dish.

Botvinya is served as the first course, or after hot first course as a liquid appetizer before the roast. It has to be eaten with two spoons and a fork: the first spoon is for soup, the second one for ice cubes, and the fork is for fish slices. As for bread, botvinya goes exceptionally with fresh rye bread.


Stewed Botvinya Recipe

2-3 teaspoonfuls of rye flour, 1-1,5 glass of cold water, 0,5-1 glass of kvass grounds, 5 young beetroots with leaves, 1-1,25 liter of bread kvass, and other ingredients - the same as for simple botvinya (see the recipe above).

Here the process of preparation is made more complex due to stewing. The stewed mass should be prepared one day prior to cooking botvinya.

Dissolve rye flour with water, pour it all into a small clay pot, cover it and put into a hot oven for about 20 to 30 minutes. After the mix is well stewed, filter it through a sieve into an enameled pan, add boiled and chopped beet leaves small, fill in with kvass grounds and leave it to sour for 24 hours; afterwards dilute it with kvass and add other ingredients.




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Tags: Russian cuisine     

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