Thursday, May 10, 2012

Canteen classics: Solyanka, Estonian style

Eestipärane seljanka / Solyanka, Estonian-style  
(This recipe was originally posted in December 2006. Fully updated in May 2012).
Here's a recipe for a soup that must have frequently featured in one disguise or another in every single canteen and many households across the former Soviet empire: solyanka (see also this informative article about Russian soups). A hearty soup originally from Russia and Ukraine that can be just as humble or elegant as you want. If you're a flashy Slav, you use seven types of meat (incl. kidneys) and throw in a handful of black olives, a slice of lemon and a generous pinch of capers. If you're a more modest Estonian, you stick to sweating onions and a choice of sausages. You can add cabbage or other vegetables, make a vegetarian, fishy or meaty solyanka.

Whatever you do, you must use salted/brined cucumbers (aka pickles), which give the soup its characteristic salty-sour note.

Solyanka, Estonian style
(Seljanka eesti moodi)
Serves: 4

3 large onions (about 400 grams in total)
4 Tbsp oil
100 ml boiling water
100 grams of concentrated tomato puree
1 litre beef stock (use boiling water and 2 beef stock cubes, if necessary)
3 bay leaves
10 black peppercorns
3 salted cucumbers, halved lengthwise and sliced
300-400 grams of cooked lean meat products (choose a mixture of Frankfurters, Polish kabanos or Krakow sausages, sliced cooked beef, mild chorizo sausages etc - 2-3 different types)

To serve:
sour cream or smetana or thick plain yogurt

Quarter the onions and slice thinly crosswise.
Heat oil in a heavy saucepan, add onions and fry gently for 5 minutes. Add peppercorns and bay leaves alongside 100 ml of boiling water and simmer for 15 minutes, until onions have softened.
Add tomato puree and stir until combined.
Add the hot stockm sliced cucumbers, and chopped meat products.
Bring slowly to the boil, cover, reduce heat and simmer gently for about10 minutes, so the flavours can develop.
Taste for seasoning - you can add some lemon juice to sharpen the soup.Serve with a dollop of sour cream and some rye bread.

More solyanka recipes:
Salmon and wild mushroom solyanka @ Nami-Nami
Frau T's solyanka  @ Urban Foodie
Solyanka @ Eastern Europan Food (
Russian meat solyanka  @
Solyanka @ Pavel Chuchuva (in Melbourne)
Simple Solyanka @ Windows to Russia


joey said...

That sounds like it would really hit the spot! :)

Jeanne said...

Oooooh, comfort food!! This sounds like just what is needed to get through winter... Quick and probably silly question - do you have a good recipe for salted cucumbers? I fell in love with vinegar-less pickles in New York and want to try and recreate them at home...

Pille said...

Joey - it's very good on a cold autumn/winter night indeed, very heartwarming.

Jeanne - comfort food indeed! I wrote about salting cucumbers here - let me know if you want more detailed instructions. I would try to get those smaller, Lebanese cucumbers (?) from ethnic stores for salting purposes - the long supermarket cucumbers wouldn't probably work as well..

Triin Seppel said...

It tasted great and will taste even better tomorrow. I tweaked it a bit.

Katrina @ The Gastronomica Me said...

god I love this stuff. haven't had it for ages! the funny thing is that you don't actually see this soup of many menus, say, Ukraine. Or here in London in Russian restaurants. It seems to be one of those Balticanised Russian soups:)

Pille said...

Triin - super!

Katrina - you'll see a version of solyanka in many places over here- at least the canteen-type places. I had an excellent solyanka at Mamo (Tornimäe) just a fortnight ago, that's what actually triggered me to dig up the old post again :)