We’ve just got back from a week in Poland: sunshine, sand, sea and soup. The Polish love their soups. This one in particular, though, is perfect for summer, especially in the 35ºC (95ºF) and 47% humidity we experienced while we were there.
It’s a cold soup called chłodnik (who-wod-neek), and it features one of the most popular vegetables in Polish cuisine: beets. I have to admit that I wasn’t convinced at first. Behind beets, the second most prominent ingredient in this soup is cucumbers. There are very few foods that I dislike, but cucumbers are my culinary nemesis. I am trying to slowly learn to deal with them, at least when their flavor is masked by pickling or dressing, but this cold soup seemed like it might be waving the cucumber flag a little too high.
Nevertheless, I decided to order it and share it with my husband − he doesn’t share my aversion to cucumbers − so in case I didn’t like it I wouldn’t have to suffer the shame of not enjoying such a cultural dish. As we sat in the air conditioned restaurant and my clothes slowly began to de-fuse from my skin, I started to look forward to a big bowl of ice cold soup.
It came out and was like a revelation. The beets give it a beautiful fuchsia color that hits you immediately and communicates to your brain all the vitamins and minerals held within. When you dive in you’re hit with cold, creamy soup filled with finely chopped beet stems and leaves and grated beets and cucumber. All the flavors are balanced and so, so fresh. It refreshes, revitalizes and just generally brightens you up from the inside out.
I haven’t made it at home yet − give me a chance, I’ve only been home for a day! − but I am definitely going to and soon. I think it would be a brilliant workday lunch or simple supper and would be perfect for those days when you want to make up for a bit of indulgence. It is another of those miraculous dishes which feels luxurious, but is healthy at the same time. Move over gazpacho, there’s a new kid in town.
Bon appetit (without the meat)!
I have done some internet perusing and found that most recipes follow the same general process and use similar ingredients, but the cream element tends to vary from buttermilk to sour cream to yogurt. This is the gist of it.
Young Beets with leaves and stems (if you can’t get them with the leaves and stems I think Swiss chard would be a great substitute), beets grated or finely chopped, stems finely chopped and leaves sliced
Radishes, finely chopped or grated
Water or Vegetable Stock
Buttermilk, Sour Cream or Yogurt or a mixture of any of these
Boiled egg, quartered
Dill and/or Chives for garnish
1. Cover beets, stems and leaves with water or chicken stock and cook over a low heat for 15 minutes or until beets are tender. Don’t let it boil because the beets will lose their bright red colour and go brown.
2. Set beets and liquid aside to cool, then chill completely in the refrigerator.
3. When the soup is chilled, add the buttermilk, sour cream and/or yogurt and radishes and garnish with dill and/or chives and two boiled egg quarters.