Food in Russia: what's hot in a cold country
The most popular Russian soup, at least for foreigners, is probably borscht (btw it is not sure whether or not borscht was invented by Russians, as many other Eastern Europeans claim it to be their dish).
But if you ask me, I’ll choose mushroom soup over borscht any day.
And by “mushroom” I don’t mean button or field mushrooms, a miserable, tasteless attempt to imitate the real, noble mushrooms like porcini (cep), for example. Just look at this gorgeousness:
BTW, this picture is courtesy of my mom (and yes, that’s a result of her mushroom hunt). Check out her instagram for Russian nature, travelling and dacha pics.
In fact Russia it is called “white mushroom” (beliy grib), because its flesh remains white when being cut or even dried.
For a good shroom soup you’re gonna need dried mushrooms and because of that, it can be made any time of the year. They don’t have to be porcini only, but I think they are easiest to find outside of Russia and also, they are very, very delicious. You’ll need just a handful of them.
Mushroom soup can be made with pearl barley, potatoes or both. (Some people may also use vermicelli, thin and small pasta, with or without potatoes, but I personally don’t think it’s good idea.) If you choose pearl barley, you can cook it either separately (results in thicker, more “starchy” soup) or in the same pot (clearer soup). You’ll also need some oil or butter and some onion. Again, some people add carrots, too, and it definitely adds more color, but purists clame carrots interfere with mushroom taste.
First, wash the mushrooms several times (there can be a lot of dust and dirt) and let them soak for 15-20 min. Then put them in a big pot with water they were soaked in (you can filter it) and some more, so you have a nice full pot. Add some salt and a bay leaf, if you want. Bring to boil, reduce the heat and cook for 30 minutes or so. Then took mushrooms off with a skimmer.
As for pearl barley, I prefer to cook it separately AND to soak them. Again, you don’t have to soak it, but in that case it’ll take more than hour for the grains to cook. If you soak it, do it several hours before you start to cook the soup. Whatever method you choose, wash pearl barley several times, as it is usually dirty too. Cook them in a mushroom stock or in separate pot with water (in that case drain and rinse).
Cut softened mushrooms and onions in small pieces. Add some oil or butter to a preheated pan, add onions and let them soften. Then add mushrooms and fry them together for 5-10 min, then add to a pot with the stock. Add pearl barley (if it was cooked separately) and check for salt. Bring the soup to a boil or just let everything heat up – now it’s done.
You can enjoy your shroom soup with a bid dollop of sour cream (smetana) and with a piece of rye bread.