Żurek – Sour Rye Soup

Sour is a word to describe a lot of Polish food – it is a taste well-loved by Poles!

Often this sour comes from lactic acid which is made during fermentation by Lactobacillus bacteria to produce such foods as: gherkins, sauerkraut, sourdough, soured cream, soured milk and yoghurt.

Żurek is a soup made with sour rye (zakwas) as a base.

Water is added to rye flour or rye bread and it is allowed to ferment for a few day.  In olden times this soup was often made on the same day as rye bread was being made.

Nowadays you can buy  żurek starter or zakwas in the Polish supermarkets and this is what I use, (one day I will make my own) and it tastes very good.

My mother never made this soup and in fact I had not heard of it until my Polish cousin’s daughters worked in a Polish restaurant in London in the 1990s and I had some there.

It is often cooked with smoked bacon and Polish sausage – kiełbasa – and then served with quartered or chopped hard boiled eggs.

Some people serve this at the Easter breakfast using the sausage and hard-boiled eggs which have been blessed on Easter Saturday.

Ingredients

  • 1 bottle of Żurek concentrate
  • 1 large onion
  • 3 medium boiled potatoes (waxy type can be better but not essestial)
  • 2 medium boiled carrots.
  • 50 – 100g of smoked bacon
  • 100-150g of Polish sausage*
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4 peppercorns & 3-4 allspice grains
  • 4-5 tablespoons of soured cream(optional – but worth it)
  • Season as necessary but the bacon and sausage usually provide enough salt.

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Hard boiled eggs to serve – at least one per person

*I used Torunska but you can use any sort  – even hot dog type sausages – a sausage called biały (white)(one that is boiled normally) is often used and this gives another name to the soup – biały barszcz – white barszcz (red barszcz being beetroot soup)

Method

  • Peel the carrots and parboil them whole.
  • Parboil the potatoes.
  • Once cooled, chop the carrots and potatoes.
  • Chop the onion roughtly.
  • Chop the bacon into little squares.
  • Chop the sausage into small pieces.
  • Use a large pan and add all the ingredients
  • Add water to cover the vegetables & half to three quarters fill the pan.
  • Bring to the boil, then cover the pan and simmer for a couple of hours.

Chop the hard boiled eggs into long quarters or roughly chop them.

Pour the soup into dishes and place the quarters on top or scatter the chopped egg on top.

Żurek with just vegetables

In olden times when fasting & abstinence in Lent was much more strict, many people did not eat meat or eggs in Lent.

Many lived on a very meagre diet of meatless żurek with hardy any vegetables and there was often a ceremony of burying the żurek at the end of Lent.

This recipe is not as meagre as that, it is made with lots of vegetables and served with hard-boiled eggs or rye bread croutons.

Ingredients

  • 1 bottle of Żurek concentrate
  • 1 large onion
  • 1 leeks
  • 3 medium potatoes (waxy type can be better but not essential)
  • 2-3 medium carrots
  • 2 kohlrabi*
  • 1/2 a celeriac*
  • 1 white turnip*
  • 2 parsnips*
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4 peppercorns & 3-4 allspice grains
  • 125 – 250ml of soured cream
  • Flat-leaved parsley -small bunch chopped
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • Juice of 1/2 a lemon – optional

*Depends on what is available – try and have at least 2 of these root vegetables & adjust the amounts to suit what you can get.

I think the sweetness in the root vegetables counteracts some of the sourness of the sour rye, so I add lots of soured cream & sometimes some lemon juice.

Hard boiled eggs to serve – at least one per person or rye bread croutons.

Method

  • For all the root vegetables, peel as necessary – you can parboil or steam them if that makes them easier to prepare.
  • Chop the root vegetables into rough cubes.
  • Chop the onion into small pieces.
  • Add all the vegetables & onion to a large pan or stockpot of water.
  • Add the żurek concentrate.
  • Add the bay leaf, allspice and peppercorns.
  • Add some of the parsley
  • Add water to cover the vegetables & half to three quarters fill the pan.
  • Bring to the boil and then simmer for around two hours until the vegetables are soft or place in a low oven for several hours.
  • Gently stir in the soured cream – whisk a little if it starts to go into lumps.
  • Season to taste.
  • Add some lemon juice to the required sourness!
  • Sprinkle in the rest of the parsley.

To serve – add the quartered or chopped hard-boiled eggs on top,  or the rye bread croutons.

 

Served in soup plates  – Glenwood by Crown Devon Fielding, Made in England.

These are the only 3 left from my Mama.

I think she must have had 8 or even 12, they are there in memories of my childhood with lots of people sitting around the table.

I have read that they were produced from 1939 -how my Mama aquired these I do not know!

Kopytka z serem- Cheesy Potato Dumplings

I wrote about kopytka – Polish potato dumplings a good while back.

Since then I have tried another version which uses cheese as well as potatoes.

Traditional recipes use twaróg – Polish curd cheese – I have found that crumbly, white, mild, English cheeses such as: Cheshire, Lancashire or Wensleydale are also good.

Whilst looking at many recipes, I saw that the proportions of boiled potatoes to cheese varied greatly.

I have gone for roughly equal weights of boiled starchy potatoes to cheese.

The exact amounts are not critical but you must use starchy potatoes such as King Edward or Maris Piper.

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Serve with either melted butter, à la Polonaise (buttered breadcrumbs) or skwarki (crisp, fried, small squares of bacon) or a hot sauce such as mushroom.

Ingredients

  • 300g of boiled starchy potatoes
  • 300g of twaróg (curd cheese) or white, crumbly cheese such as Lancashire
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 160 – 200g of plain flour
  • Salt
  • Oil to add to water for boiling

Method

Use a large bowl and put the cold boiled potatoes into the bowl.

Crumble the cheese and add it to the potatoes and mash them both together.

Add the yolks to the mixture.

Add a little salt.

Weigh out the flour to give an idea of how much is needed; this will depend on the type of potato and the size of the eggs.  Add the flour and mix first with a wooden spoon and then by hand, you might not need all the flour or you may need more. Mix until you have a soft dough.

Divide the dough into quarters and using a floured board shape the dough and roll it with you hands until you have a long sausage about 3cm in diameter.  If the dough sticks to the board then you need to add more flour.

Use a sharp knife to cut the dough into pieces, make the first cut at a diagonal and make the thickness about 1 to 1.5cm. You will get a sort of oval shape.

Repeat this with the rest of the dough.

Fill a large pan with water, add some salt and bring this to the boil.

When the water is boiling, add the dumplings one by one, do not over fill the pan or they will stick together. I tend to do this in 4 batches.

As they cook they will float to the surface, give them about another minute and then remove them with a slotted  or a perforated spoon and put them in a colander. I have a colander sitting in an empty pan by the side of the large pan in which I am boiling the dumplings.

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I find that the maximum from putting  them into the water to taking them out will be 3 minutes, if you cook these too long they will start to fall apart.

Served on –

  • Royal Douton – Carnation – 1982 – 1998
  • J & G Meakin – Topic – around 1967
  • Wedgwood – Chelsea garden – early 21st century.

Here served as suggested above with  melted butter, with skwarki (crisp, fried, small squares of bacon) and a gulasz.

Carrot Piernik

Piernik is a spiced honey-cake.

I would describe this cake as a “Pseudo-piernik” as  granulated sugar rather than honey is used.

My Polish friend in Leeds gave me this recipe and she got it from another Polish lady. The written copy could be described as being in “Ponglish” being written partly in English with additional notes in Polish!

The original recipe used cups which except for liquids I find hard to work with and  much prefer weights.

I tried out a few alterations & variations until I reached this final version which I feel is the easiest way to get consistent results.

I made it is two different tins: the longer tin gave a thinner cake which was  better for cutting in two and adding  a filling, the shorter tin gave a thicker cake which was  better with just a topping.

Ingredients

  • 225g granulated sugar
  • 250ml sunflower oil
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla essence
  • Zest of 1 large orange
  • 225g coarse grated carrots
  • 225g plain flour
  • 3 teaspoons of baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons of mixed spice (I use Marks & Spencer’s) or cinnamon

Method

  • Grease and line a 32cm x 22cm or a 27cm x 21cm tin.
  • Pre-heat oven to GM5 – 190°C
  • Mix well together the sugar, oil, eggs, vanilla essence &  orange rind (I use an electric whisk).
  • Mix together the flour, baking powder, spices & salt and lightly mix this into the whisked mixture.
  • Mix in the grated carrots.
  • Pour the batter into the prepared tin.
  • Depending on the tin size, bake for 25 – 35 minutes but keep an eye on it and cover with foil or greaseproof if it starts to burn.
  • Leave to cool in the tin.

 

 

Finishing – several ways

  • Dust with icing sugar
  • Drizzle with a melted chocolate & butter mixture
  • Cut into two and sandwich together with powidła – Polish plum jam* or sour cherry jam – then dust with icing and drizzle with chocolate & butter topping
  • Top with orange butter icing

*Powidła is a lovely spread – often translated as jam but  is not really a jam.

It is made from fresh ripe plums which are heated and stirred for hours until the water is driven off and you get a thick paste.  The traditional version does not have any extra sugar added.

I bought some in my local Polish shop, I have seen it for sale in glass jars or in plastic tubs.

Chocolate Drizzle

Ingredients

  • 50g of plain chocolate
  • 1 tablespoon of butter

Method

  • Place the chocolate and butter in a bowl over a saucepan with some water in it.
  • Heat the water in the pan and stir the mixture to combine it together.
  • Use a spoon to drizzle the mixture over the top of the cake.

 

 

Orange Butter Icing

Ingredients

  • 50g of butter
  • 2 tablespoon of orange juice
  • Grated rind of 1/2  a large orange
  • Around 250g of icing sugar

 

 

Method

  • Melt the butter with the juice and rind in a small saucepan.
  • Leave to cool slightly.
  • Mix in the icing sugar to get a thick spreadable icing.

 

 

Royal Albert – Primulette – tea set – from the 1950s

Green teapot – Café Culture by Maxwell Williams

Optional

Add 100g of sultanas to the mixture.

 

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Note

I have posted a previous carrot recipe which I have used to make small buns.

The ingredients are similar but in different proportions – soft dark brown sugar is used which is not usually available in Poland.

Uszka – Little Ears – Re-visited

I wrote a long post on pierogi and uszka   over two years ago and this has lots of details on Polish pasta.

This post is an update on how to make uszka in advance and open freeze them.

Uszka –  means ‘little ears’ and traditionally  mushroom uszka are made for Wigila – the Christmas Eve meal  to serve either on their own with butter or floating in barszcz (clear beetroot soup).

I usually make around 250 to 300 uszka on the morning of Christmas Eve.

Last Chritmas I was going to be taking the uszka to my sister’s to cook there and also needed some on another day to cook at home.

I knew that I could make them in advance and open freeze them; so decided that this year I would make them in small batches and freeze them up over the few weeks before Christmas Eve.

In Poland these will have been made with just dried mushrooms, here in England my mother made them with fresh mushrooms with the addition of dried mushrooms when she could get them.  I like them like this the best.

Ingredients – Mushroom Filling

20g dried mushrooms

250g mushrooms – older open ones are better than button mushrooms.

1 onion

1 egg yolk

1 to 2 tablespoons of home-made dried breadcrumbs

Butter to fry the mushrooms

Salt & ground black pepper to taste

Method

Pour a small amount of boiling water into the dried mushrooms and leave these overnight.

You can remove the stalks from the older fresh mushrooms as these tend to be ‘woody’ and then cut the caps into thin slices.

Chop the onion into small pieces.

Fry the mushrooms and onions together in the butter.

Chop the reconstituted dried mushroom (You can save the liquor for other recipes) and add these to the mixture and heat them together for a few minutes more.

It does depend on the mushrooms and the way they are fried as to how much liquid is produced, if you get a lot, then let them simmer gently to evaporate as much as possible or strain some of this excess off (again you can use this liquor in soups or sauces).

Allow the mixture to cool.

The mixture then needs to be minced which used to take me a long time and much effort.  I now use a hand blender which works really well indeed. 

To the minced mixture add the egg yolk and enough breadcrumbs to make a stiff filling.

Add salt and lots of ground black pepper.

You can divide up the mixture into 3 or 4 portions and freeze these in plastic bags or tubs to use at a later date.

 

 

Uszka Dough

The dough is made from flour, egg yolks and water and I have  seen many variations of the recipe.  The following is my mother’s and I think it is the best I have ever used and tasted.

She never used whole eggs, just the yolks and this gives a dough which is soft and not tough and can be easily rolled out.

My mother originally used plain flour and added a tablespoon or two of fine semolina but now that strong flour or even pasta flour is readily available this is what I use the most.

Flour does vary and it is possible to add more flour to the dough as you are mixing it but you cannot add more liquid if it is too dry!

As you mix the ingredients in the first few minutes you should be able to tell if it will be too dry and you can add some more water initially but once it is all mixed together you cannot – if it goes wrong – just start again!

The quantities that I have given work well and but you should allow for extra flour if needed.

Depending on how thinly you roll out the dough, this amount should make around 70 uszka.

Ingredients – Dough

250g pasta flour or strong flour or plain flour & 2 tablespoons of fine semolina

150ml water

1 tablespoon oil – sunflower or light olive

½ teaspoon salt

1 egg yolk

Method

In a jug or bowl mix together the water, oil and the yolk.

Put the flour and salt into a large bowl and make a well in the centre.

Pour in the liquid from the jug and initially use a knife to mix this into the flour and then use your hands to mix the liquid and flour to get a ball of dough.

 

 

Turn this out onto a floured board and knead the dough for a few minutes until you have a smooth ball.

Cut the dough into quarters.

On a floured board roll out a quarter at a time until you have a sheet of thinly rolled dough.

Now prepare a large tray and cover it with a clean tea towel and sprinkle this with flour.

Have a large surface such as a tray covered with a cotton or linen cloth which has been lightly floured ready  and place the sealed uszka on this until they are all made, do not let then touch each other.

I usually make the uszka from squares of dough, about 4cm square, which are folded.

This time,  I made the shape in a slightly different way – so that I got a much more uniform shape and size.

I cut them out using a 6cm diameter cutter. (I also tried a 5cm diameter cutter which was good as the uszka were smaller but much more time consuming!)

The excess dough can be re-mixed and rolled out again.

Around a small teaspoon of filling is put on  each circle and then they are folded over and the edges pinched together to make a good seal.

The two ends are the brought together and pinched to make a round “ear” shape.

You learn from experience how much filling to put in as too much will make it hard to seal them and if not properly sealed they will burst on boiling.  Do not worry if you have a few mishaps – it still happens to me even with experience – it is hard to salvage one that has gone wrong – just accept that there will be a few that you do not cook.

As you are making them place them on the floured cloth.

 

 

 

 

Open Freezing

You need to have a fairly empty freezer to do this

If you have a extra chill button on you freezer, switch that on.

You will need around 3 baking trays – sprinkle flour on these.

Place  the uszka apart on floured baking trays so they are not touching and place the trays in the freezer for several hours – or even overnight – making sure the trays do not squash each other.

 

 

 

 

Once they are frozen, pack the uszka into boxes.

Cook them  straight from frozen by dropping them individually straight into boiling salted water – 8 to 10 at a time.

As they cook they will float to the surface, let them boil for 2 to 3 minutes and then remove them with a slotted or perforated spoon and put into a colander above a pan for a few seconds to drain and serve.  Continue boiling batches in the same water.

Uszka are served with melted butter or they can be served floating in a clear soup such as rosól – clear chicken soup or in barszcz – beetroot soup.

 

 

 

The convention is to serve three or five uszka in each dish.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Any that are not eaten should be spread out so that they cool with the melted butter around them.

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later, you can then fry them up gently so they are golden in parts.

A new tradition which was stared by my mother is on Christmas Day morning to have uszka fried with bacon and eggs, we always make sure we have some saved!

 

 

 

The Verdict

So much easier making the uszka in advance, so I will continue to make them like this, slowly over the weeks before Wigilia.

More Hot Beets!

Beetroot must be one of Poland’s favourite vegetables and I have written recipes about them previously  – many of these are for salads.

Here is another recipes which I came across recently – raisins, apple, horseradish and a little soured cream is added to make a hot dish to serve with roast meats.

The original recipe used grated fresh horseradish – I have adapted it by using prepared horseradish sauce which I have in all the time.

Cooked beetroots are needed and these can be prepared in your favourite way – boiling, steaming or roasting.

 

 

Ingredients

700g of cooked beetroots

2 Bramley cooking apples

50g of raisins

1 tablespoon of butter

80mls of soured cream

2 – 3 tablespoons of horseradish sauce

Juice of 1 – 2 lemons

Salt & pepper

Method

Put the raisins in a small bowl and pour boiling water over them and leave them to stand for about 30 minutes.

Coarse grate the cooked beetroots or use a blender.

Peel and core the apples and coarse grate them and pour some lemon juice on them.

In a deep frying pan gently melt the butter.

Add the grated apples and heat gently until they start to soften.

Add the grated beetroot, the raisins and water and continue to heat them together, stirring occasionally.

Add the horseradish sauce and the soured cream and mix well in, continue to heat for a couple of minutes.

Add more lemon juice, salt & pepper to taste.

Serve hot.

 

Note

You can put them in an oven proof dish in a low oven whilst you wait for other items to cook.

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Served here with kotlety – breaded pork and boiled new potatoes.

Note

If you have any left – they taste good cold as well!

 

 

 

Butter Bean Mash

Butter beans are so soft and creamy – this is one of my favourite recipes for them – I often serve this instead of mashed potatoes.

This is one of my storecupboard recipes as I use tinned butter beans to make this.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Of course you can use dried beans, soaking and cooking them in your usual way.

Ingredients

2 tins of butter beans

1 large or 2 small onions

2-3 cloves of garlic

250ml of chicken or vegetable stock (can be from cubes or powder)

Butter for frying the onions.

Salt & pepper

Chopped chives or flat-leaved parsley to serve.

Method

A deep, large frying pan is good for making this.

Chop the onion into small squares and fry gently in butter until they are soft and golden brown.

Chop the garlic and add this to the onions, stirr and heat for a minute.

Drain the beans from the tins and add these to the onions.

Cover with stock and simmer gently until the beans are soft.

Use a potato masher to mash the beans and onions.

Cook for a few minutes longer – cooking away an excess liquid.

 

 

You can put this into an oven proof dish into a low oven at this stage whilst you finish off the rest of the meal.

Garnish with chives or flat-leaved parsley to serve.

Serve instead of potatoes with meats or other cooked vegetable dishes.

 

 

 

Served here with pan fried pork loin and cooked red cabbage on

Royal Doulton – Tapestry – 1966 – 1988

Polish Pea Soup

Grochówka – Pea Soup – just reminds me of when I was young – the smell and taste just bring back so many memories.

The yellow split pea type are the ones used in all the traditional recipes and the soup should not be very thick.

 

 

You can make this soup in a stockpot on the stove top or put it in the oven and leave it to simmer gently for many hours. I have found that making this in my slow cooker is much easier; you can leave it without worrying about it sticking or burning.

Any type of Polish smoked sausage can be used – here I used  Toruńska.

I have given recipes for two slightly different versions

Version 1

Ingredients

350 – 400g yellow split peas

2 large carrots

2 onions

2 litres of vegetable stock – can be from a cube or powder

300g of Kielbasa Polish smoked sausage.

1 bay leaf

8 peppercorns

2-3 grains of allspice

Chopped flat-leaf parsley or chives to garnish when serving.

Method – version 1

Peel the carrots and cut them into rounds – cut the larger ones into halves.

Dice the onions.

Chop the sausage into rounds and then cut these into halves or quarters – depending on the size of the sausage.

Place everything except the garnish into the slow cooker and switch it on to high.

Leave the soup mixture to cook for around 4 hours, giving it an occasional stir.

Cook until the peas “fall apart”.

This soup should not be a “thick mush!”  – add some boiling water to thin it down if necessary.

Sprinkle the chopped parsley or chives on the top of each serving.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Served in Royal  Doulton – Carnation – 1982 – 1998

Version 2

Ingredients

300g yellow split peas

2 large carrots

2 onions

2 litres of vegetable stock – can be from a cube or powder

200g of Kielbasa – Polish smoked sausage.

1 bay leaf

8 peppercorns

2-3 grains of allspice

Garnish

4 slices of smoked bacon

1 onion

Method – version 2

Peel the carrots and cut them into rounds – cut the larger ones into halves.

Dice the onions.

Chop the sausage into rounds and then cut these into halves or quarters – depending on the size of the sausage.

Place everything except the garnish into the slow cooker and switch it on to high.

Leave the soup mixture to cook for around 4 hours, giving it an occasional stir.

Cook until the peas “fall apart”.

This soup should not be a “thick mush!”  – add some boiling water to thin it down if necessary.

Garnish

Chop the bacon into small squares and fry gently till very crispy – these are called skwarki in Polish.

Dice the onion and fry in a little oil until the pieces are lightly charred.

Mix the bacon and onions together.

You either use these straight away or you make them in advance and leave them to go cold.

Use some kitchen roll to mop up any excess fat.

 

 

When you serve the soup, place a largish tablespoon of the garnish on top of each portion.

 

Served in Royal  Doulton – Carnation – 1982 – 1998