In the Midst of Heat, should we Think about Stews and Soups?

As you, my readers, already know I am in love with cookbooks and recipes regardless of where they are coming from. I am also in love with history both general and food related. So, naturally, when I saw this article in The journal of Biblical archeology, I had to share it with you. It seems to me that many of the dishes in the ancient world were just one-pot-serves-all kind of dishes. Particularly in Babylon, where the first written recipes were discovered, the food wasn’t something too appealing if you ask me. Not for a Jew anyway. They used to put milk and blood in their stews, so no, thank you!

However, this article moved me to think of something traditional from my homeland, Russia. People in the villages there were generally poor, and therefore, used to make a one-pot-feeds-all as well way into the 20th century. Interestingly enough, these kind of dishes are very much loved by my Israeli husband who has never tasted things like that before. So, come winter, I am sure I’ll be making this dish again – щи [sh’i] or cabbage soup that my grandmother used to make, obviously, without any meat most of the winter – they were just dirt poor. I am not a soup lover at all, but last winter I acquired the taste for it, finally. It is a great, heartwarming, satisfying dish that, by the way, will not add too many calories, so it can be considered a weight-watching diet.

Now or later, hope you enjoy making and eating it. It is really very easy to make.

Traditionally, the soup would be made in one of these “Russian ovens” and would stay hot for a long while acquiring more taste with time. Today, one can even put it in a slow cooker or leave for a while in the oven.

Really, this is quintessential poor man’s food. They are even called “empty shchi”. If you make it on beef bouillon, you will have a really hearty meal. There are no proportions. The main rule is to cut the cabbage and onion very thinly. You can use fresh tomatoes or tomato juice or paste (of course this was unheard of in Russia in the first half of the 20th century or before)

For about 3 liters water:

3 big potatoes
1 onion
2 carrots
1/3 head of white cabbage
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/3 hot pepper cleaned of seeds
Salt and pepper to taste

In a non-reactive pot boil water with salt. Meanwhile, dice the onion and shred the carrots, dice the pepper. Sautee all of it in a little bit of oil for about 5 minutes over medium heat adding tomato paste at the end.

Slice the cabbage very thin and add it to the boiling water. After the cabbage has been cooking for about 5-6 minutes, add potatoes without cutting them. Once the potatoes are almost ready, take them out, and add the sautéed vegetables. Mash potatoes roughly with the potato masher and return them to the pot. Add salt and pepper to taste. Simmer the soup for another 5 minutes and let stand for a little bit to absorb flavors. You can add dry dill and / or parsley at this point.
Enjoy! This is the best dish for a cold winter night warming your very insides.


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