9 November 2017
This week saw the 100th anniversary of Russia’s October Revolution, which led to the creation of the Soviet Union. To mark this momentous occasion in world history, Knidos Cookery Club has turned to a soup made from the close relative of a vegetable that was at the heart of Soviet cuisine – the humble cabbage.
The cabbage, and soups such as shchi that were made from it, was a mainstay of the Soviet diet. I remember hearing jokes about it when I was a lad such as this gem:
Q. What’s three miles long and eats cabbage?
A. A Soviet meat queue.
We’ve used Chinese cabbage as a twist on the traditional recipe that uses the more familiar member of the Brassica family and spiced up the mix with a few Shiitake mushrooms and some chilli powder.
It makes a great accompaniment, along with a few shots of vodka, to October: Ten Days that Shook the World, the classic 1928 Soviet silent classic directed by Sergei M. Eisenstein and Grigori Aleksandrov (which is available on BBC iPlayer until the end of this November).
The film was based on John Reed’s book of the same name, which told the story of the revolution from the abdication of the last Czar to the Bolshevik seizure of power. Another good read on the same topic follows Lenin on the Train, an account by Catherine Merridale of Lenin’s trip back to Petrograd on the eve of the revolution.
Ingredients (serves 4)
300 g shredded Chinese cabbage
2 medium onions
1 green pepper
4 dried mushrooms (rehydrated)
2 garlic cloves
2 medium tomatoes
25 ml cooking oil (sunflower or another neutral, refined oil)
1 litre vegetable stock
Pinch of black pepper
One teaspoon red chilli flakes
Dash of soy sauce
Rye bread (or a similar hearty brown bread)
You’ll need a good hearty stock for this soup, so prepare some in advance or use stock cubes. Heat the oil in a heavy-based pan and then add the chopped onions and garlic. Cook for 10 minutes or so over a medium heat – while it’s cooking chop up the mushrooms and green pepper and then add to the mix,
Stir and cook for five more minutes then add the chopped tomatoes, black pepper, chilli flakes and bayleaf and cook until the tomatoes start to collapse. Then add the vegetable stock and bring to the boil.
Next add the shredded cabbage and cook for ten minutes or so until the cabbage is tender. Add soy sauce, remove the bay leaf and serve with brown or black bread and a shot of vodka!
Viva la Revolution, comrades!