Lots of first-time visitors to Lithuania get a shock on their first encounter with one of Lithuanian favorites – cold beetroot soup.
Many of them call it ‘pink soup’.
And they are not wrong – pink it is!
To be honest, us Lithuanians, normally don’t even think about the color of this soup until some wide-eyed foreigner points it out. For us it’s just something we love eating on warm summer days, we find it really refreshing.
Plus it is one of the healthiest soups you can find – the only ingredient that is cooked, is beetroot, everything else is raw (recently people have started making it with raw beetroot as well).
All of this ‘little-to-no-cooking requirements’ means that this soup is a very quick and easy dish to make.
So by now you already have an inkling that the pink color of this soup has something to do with beetroot…
But how does the soup turn pink?
Read on to find out.
Ingredients (will feed 4 people)
2 (big enough) beetroot heads. If you only have smaller beetroots, use more of them.
1 small cucumber (or half of a long one), with seeds and skin. It’s not a fancy schmancy dish!
2 or 3 scallions
1 boiled egg
A bunch of dill
1 litre buttermilk (in Lithuanian or Eastern European shops it’s called ‘kefyras’ ‘Кефир’, in Asian shops they call it ‘Lassi’ or a ‘yogurt drink’).
Salt and pepper for seasoning
Cook beetroot in water. I prefer when it still has some firmness and crunch to it, don’t over-boil. After the beetroot has cooled, peel it and dice into small pieces.
Wash the cucumber and dice it into small pieces, like it’s shown in the picture.
Take a bunch of dills, wash it and chop it finely.
Chop the scallions finely.
Although the traditional recipe requires an egg, I normally break with the tradition and don’t use it all. If you do decide to use an egg, boil it until the yolk is firm, then cool it, peel and dice into small square pieces.
Put all the ingredients into a large bowl.
Add some seasoning (salt and pepper). Be careful at this step, since it is a cold soup, the salt will take some time to melt, so if you add too much, you will only know about it when serving (too late!).
Add one litre of buttermilk.
And here’s where the pink magic happens – when you combine white buttermilk with dark red beetroot, you’ll end up with a vibrant pink color. Ta-dah!
At first, your soup might look a bit whitish, something like in the picture below (especially if you overcook the beetroot like I did, after forgetting it on the stove for much too long !)
You have to leave it for an hour or two to rest, allowing the beetroot to release its color into the soup and all the ingredients to combine. After a couple of hours, simply give it a final stir and serve.
NOTE. If you use buttermilk from a Lithuanian shop (like the one in the picture), you might find that buttermilk is quite creamy and thick, which means your soup will end up being too thick. In this case, simply add some water to make your soup the right consistency for you.
In Lithuania we serve this soup with some boiled potato on the side, but it’s really not necessary. You can have it on its own, with some crackers or bread, if you like.
Eat pink Lithuanian soup, enjoy your life!
Want to find out more about Lithuanian cuisine?
Here are two earlier posts you might like:
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