Get ready for a shock to both your eyes and tastebuds!
Šaltibarščiai (Shal-tee-barsh-chyay) is a traditional Lithuanian cold beet soup, made specifically for the hot summer months where Lithuanian weather can exceed 30˚C. It’s perfect for this time of year as summer approaches. This dish is great for a gathering – it’s eye catching, delicious, and a cinch to make (in fact it improves when left in the refrigerator overnight). Gone are the days when beets were only found canned on a shelf – this root vegetable is readily available at your neighbourhood farmer’s market (or grocery store), as are the rest of the ingredients.
Make room in your fridge (and your tummy) for this hearty treat, and as Lithuanians say before their meal – skanaus!
• 250 g beets (2 large beets)
• 2–3 dill pickles
• Green onions, diced
• 1 bunch dill, chopped fine
• 1000 mL plain kefir (known as kefyras in Lithuania)
• Salt and pepper to taste
• Hard boiled eggs, sliced
1. Cook the beetroot in boiling water until just about cooked. I personally prefer them a bit underdone – I like a bit of bite left in the beets! Leave them to cool, then julienne. Alternatively, frozen beets can be used, or canned ones as well (great as a shortcut, since canned beets are already cooked).
2. Julienne the dill pickles to the same size as the beetroot. Traditionally, cucumber is used in this dish, however I find that the acidity from the pickles and the additional dill flavour really adds a nice piquancy to the dish.
3. Mix the beets, pickles, dill, and green onion together in a large container.
4. Pour the kefir over this mixture and stir – the change in colour will start to happen immediately!
5. Seal the container and let it sit overnight in the refrigerator. This will allow the flavours to marry together wonderfully.
6. The next day, season the soup with salt, to taste. Though not traditionally included, I also season with cracked black pepper.
7. Serve the soup cold with sliced hard boiled eggs over top – this is both the traditional accompaniment and also provides a nice textural contrast to the other ingredients in the soup. For a heartier meal, serve hot roasted potatoes as a side dish.