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.

****

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.

IMG_20150910_122355675

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.

IMG_20151020_094418143

 

 

 

 

 

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.

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.

P1040527

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Cranberry & Pear Sauce

This is very popular in Poland, especially in the wintertime, and is served with hot roasts or cold meats and smoked sausages.

I cannot find any reference to when and why these two fruits were put together but they do make a good combination.

It is more like a conserve or a salsa  –  it is not a pouring sauce.

Many years ago I got a recipe from my aunty in Białystok. However I did not get around to to making this until recently, mainly because the pears in my garden are ripe in September but fresh cranberries are not  in the shops in England until around December.

As I could not use my own pears and I  decided to make this with bought produce.

The following proportions are used,  2 parts cranberries to 1 part pears (once they are peeled & cored).

Hard pears, such as Conference pears are best and it is better if they are ripe as they provide sweetness.

I find that “bought” cranberry sauce is often much too sweet and sickly.

It is difficult to judge how much sugar to add, I have given the quatities I used, it is easier to add some later, hard to take any away!

Version 1

This will keep for at least a week in a fridge – I pack the sauce into oven sterilised jars.

Ingredients

600g Cranberries

300g Pears (once peeled and cored)

300g Granulated sugar

300ml of water

Method

Rinse the cranberries and drain and put them into a plastic bag, flatten the bag and place it into a freezer for 24 hours.

The next day, take the cranberries out of the bag and put them into a bowl and cover them with boiling water then leave them for 30 minutes and then strain them.

Peel and core the pears and then cut them into rough cubes.

Place the cranberries in a thick bottomed pan and add the pears, sugar and the water.

Bring to the boil, mixing often then simmer gently for around 30 minutes, still stirring often.

Pour the sauce into hot sterilised jars – leave them to cool thoroughly  before putting on the lids.

Version 2

This will also keep for at least a week in a fridge – I pack the sauce into oven sterilised jars – it has a “fresher ” taste than version 1.

Ingredients

600g Cranberries

300g Pears (once peeled and cored)

70 -100g Granulated sugar

Method

Peel and core the pears and then cut them into rough cubes.

Place the cranberries in a thick bottomed pan and add the pears and 70g of the sugar and stir well.

Cover with a lid and heat gently for around 5 minutes.

Remove the lid and give the mixture a stir, continue doing this for around 15 minutes, when you check and stir you can test for sweetness and add up to another 30g of sugar.

Pour the sauce into hot sterilised jars – leave them to cool thoroughly  before putting on the lids.

 

 

 

Polish Beans – American Style

I believe this recipe is very popular in America and I think it is a sort of second generation recipe which is made up from memories of  dishes from Poland and some adaptations using local ingredients.

I feel this is a blend of two previous bean recipes Beans – po Staropolsku (in an old Polish style) which has a lot of sweetness using prunes and honey and Breton beans with tomato sauce.   Here the sweetness is from maple syrup (I still had some from my friend who now lives in Canada – so thought of her as when making this).

Ingredients

Note – these quantities do not have to be exact.

200 -300g kielbasa – Polish sausage

200 – 300g smoked bacon

400 – 500g minced beef

2 small onions

4 large tins of different beans (butter beans, canellini, haricot, red kidney etc) – some recipes say that using some butter beans is a must!

3 tablespoons of tomato puree

1 tablespoon of made-up mustard

1 tablespoon of wine or cider vinegar

250ml maple syrup

Ground black pepper

Sunflower oil for frying

Method

Pre-heat the oven to GM3 160°C

Drain the beans and place then into an ovenproof dish with a lid.

Chop the onions into small pieces and fry them up in a little oil.

Chop the bacon into small pieces and add these to the onions and fry them together.

Slice and chop the sausage and add this to the onions and bacon.

Add the minced meat  to the mixture and fry this up for a few minutes.

Add this mixture to the beans in the dish.

Mix in the tomato puree, mustard, vinegar, maple syrup and black pepper.

Put the lid on the dish.

Cook for around 3 hours in the oven until the beans are soft.

 

Note

This is suitable for making in a slow cooker.

This can be eaten as a dish on its own or served with bread.

 

 

French Connections

Fasolka po bretonsku

This is Beans in a Breton style and is a very popular dish in Poland.

It is a dish of beans cooked with Polish sausage and smoked bacon in a tomato sauce.

When Lidl, the supermarket,  has a Polish Week they often have jars of this for sale.

I have done some research and can find lots of Polish recipes for this but not a single French or Breton recipe which is similar. So I cannot tell you why this typical Polish dish is associated with Brittany or France.

French Connections

There are however many, many connections with Poland and France – here are just a few:

  • Prince Henri de Valois (1551 – 1589) was elected King of Poland and reigned from 1573 to 1575. He resigned to become Henri III of France.
  • King Władysław IV Waza (1595 – 1648) – married the French Princess  Louse Marie Gonzaga
  • King Jan II Kazimierz Waza (1609 –1672) married Louse Marie Gonzaga when she became the widow of the King  Władysław IV Waza.
  • King Jan III Sobieski (1629 –1695) – married Marie Casimire Louise de la Grange d’Arquien.
  • Stanisław Leszczński (1677-1766) was King of Poland and then became the Duke of Lorraine.
  • His daughter Maria Leszczyńska (1703-1768) became the Queen consort of Louis XV(1710– 1774) of France and was the Grandmother of Louis XVI (1754–1793).
  • Poland was an Ally of Napoleon (1769 – 1821) especially in the war against the Russians.

Many Poles went to live and work in France including:

  • Adam Mickiewicz (1798 – 1855) – poet
  • Fryderyk Chopin (1810 – 1849) – composer
  • Cyprian Norwid (1821 – 1883) – poet
  • Maria Skłodowska Curie (1867 – 1934) – scientist
  • André Citroën (1878-1935) – entrepreneur
  • Aleksander (Alexandre) Tansman (1897 – 1986) – composer
  • Tadeusz Baird (1928 – 1981) – composer

Ingredients

Note – these quantities do not have to be exact.

2 cans of beans (approx 420g each) (haricot, canellini  or barlotti)

200g smoked bacon

200g Polish sausage, (I used Toruńska and Śląska)

2 onions

3 tablespoons of tomato puree

500ml of hot water

1 teaspoon of Italian herbs or marjoram

1 teaspoon of sweet paprika (can use hot paprika)

4 grains of allspice

2 – 3 bay leaves

Method

Pre-heat the oven to GM 3 – 160°C.

Cut the bacon into small squares and fry them up.

Cut the onions into small pieces and fry these up.

Drain the beans and place them into an oven proof dish (one that has a lid).

Add the fried bacon and onions and mix together.

Slice the sausage and add this to the bean mixture.

Mix the tomato puree with the hot water and add the Italian herbs and paprika.

Pour this over the bean mixture and add the allspice and bay leaves and mix throughly.

Cook in the oven for several hours until the beans are soft.

This can be eaten as a dish on its own or served with bread.

Note

This is suitable for making in a slow cooker.

Beans – po staropolsku

Po staropolsku  means in an old Polish style and this often includes using  prunes and honey.

Originally this recipe would have been made with dried beans soaked overnight.

To make life easier I usually use tinned beans such as haricot, cannellini (white kidney beans) or black-eyed beans.

 

Haricot beans in Polish are called fasola jaś which means Johnny bean.  In the British TV comedy programme Mr Bean, which is very popular in Poland, our hero is called Jaś Fasola.

Ingredients

2 tins of beans (haricot, canellini or similar)

250g smoked  bacon

2 onions

12 soft – no need to soak – prunes

2-3 tablespoons of plain flour

3 tablespoons of honey

Sunflower oil for frying

Ground black pepper

Marjoram or Italian herbs

Quarters of lemon to serve

Method

Put the prunes in a dish and cover them with boiling water and leave for around 15 minutes.

Remove the prunes (save the liquor) and chop them into into quarters.

Pre-heat the oven to GM 3 – 160°C

Chop the bacon into small squares and fry these up in a little sunflower oil.

Chop the onions into small pieces and add them to the bacon and fry them all up together.

Lightly brown the flour and add the liquor from the prunes and any more water needed to make a pourable sauce.

Add the fried bacon and onions, honey,  ground pepper and marjoram.

Drain the beans from the cans and put them into an oven proof dish (one that has a lid).

Add the bacon mixture to the beans and mix together.

Put the lid on the dish and cook in the oven for at least 1 hour,  I often cook this for a lot longer as I like the beans quite soft but take care that I top up the liquid if necessary.

Serve each portion with 1 or 2 quarters of lemon – the squeezed juice adds a little zest to beans.