My dad was a civil helicopter pilot in his younger days (one perk of having a pilot dad was free heli rides!). He once told me that he and his best friend dreamed of becoming pilots (who didn’t!). The closest flight school was thousands of miles away in Kremenchug in Ukraine. One of its famous grads was Leonov, the first man to conduct a spacewalk. My dad couldn’t afford to buy a train ticket, so he borrowed some money from his best friend, and off they went. It was 1979 and they were both just 17. My dad was the lucky one passing his entry exams while his best friend failed (in spite of this, they remained best friends for many years).
My dad spent 3 years in the flight school. It was a closed boarding school and you couldn’t just come and go when it pleased you. The rules were very strict. Saturdays and Sundays were days off when the students were allowed to leave the premises and go into the town. My dad loved to go to the local cinema on the weekends.
My dad made a great deal of friends during his school years with whom he kept in touch for many years. He would also add that one of his greatest memories was his first day of piloting an aircraft. It was a very old, loud and heavy MI4 helicopter built in the 1950s. He remembers that he made some mistakes during his first flight but the helicopter was “big and forgiving”. He spent the last two years of his studies learning to pilot an MI8 helicopter built for civil aviation needs and in 1982 my dad graduated as Copilot.
After graduation my dad went back to his hometown. I should say that at that time the young grads were usually reassigned to work in various places in the country by the Special Assignment Board. My dad was lucky that the Board allowed him to go to work in his hometown (this is because my dad would soon meet my mum who also worked at the airport in the Meteorology department).
My dad remembers the great exploration rush of that time! Lots of young people were coming to Siberia to mine gas and oil. New roads were built, hospitals, schools, new everything. The energy was electrifying!
My dad travelled a lot in Siberia delivering goods and people to places where there were no roads yet. One of my dad’s favourite things that he enjoyed coming back home to was having a bowl of his favourite vegetable soup. Whilst we called it ‘summer vegetable soup’, my dad admits that he would usually swap an ingredient or two depending on the season and availability. “It’s easy to make and it always brings me the feeling of home regardless where I am” my dad would usually say.
Here’s the recipe and we hope you enjoy it.
Cooking time approximately 90 minutes. Serves approximately 8 people. We like experimenting with this recipe and adding (or removing) vegetables from the below list depending on the season and their availability.
or any other stock prepared in advance (or water if you prefer no stock)
1 bay leaf
2 medium size potatoes
1 quarter of cabbage
2 tomatoes (skin off and finely diced)
1 sweet capsicum
1 small cauliflower
2 celery sticks
Parsley and chives
For this recipe we used veal stock prepared in advance (put the meat in a large saucepan, add 1 onion and 1 bay leaf and bring to boil then cook on a low heat for 40 – 60 minutes. Once ready, remove the meat and strain the stock using a cheese cloth).
Add finely chopped potatoes, carrot, beetroot, zucchini, cauliflower, celery and cabbage to the strained stock (or water), bring to boil and cook on a low heat for 20-25 minutes or till your vegetables start getting tender.
While your vegetables are getting ready, cook finely chopped onion with a dash of butter till golden, add tomatoes and capsicum and cook till excess moisture evaporates (5 minutes). Then add this to the stock (or water), season with salt and bring to boil, then take off the heat and leave to rest.
Serving suggestions: add some finely chopped parsley and chives and serve with a dollop of sour cream and dark rye bread.