There are many versions of tomato soup – some people just add tomato puree or a tin of tomatoes to rosół, (chicken bullion). For many this was standard practice on Monday with any that was left over from Sunday lunch and also in winter months in the past when fresh tomatoes were not so readily available.
I prefer to make a more refreshing fresh tomato soup.
Ripe tomatoes make the best soup – if you are lucky enough to have your own from the garden or allotment then these will be great or look out for ripe tomatoes on a market rather than the hard bullet ones often sold for salads.
Many years ago, well before Poland joined the European Union, when there were not as many Poles living in England, one of my English friends went for dinner at at a Polish lady’s house. On telling me about the lovely food she said ” ….we had tomato soup with rice in it!” My instant reply without thinking was “but tomato soup always has rice in it”.
700g – 800g of ripe fresh tomatoes
1 large or 2 medium onions
1.5 litres of vegetable stock – came be from a cube or powder
Salt & ground pepper to taste
A little granulated sugar – optional – might not be needed.
Boiled rice to serve
Pour boiling water over the tomatoes in a bowl and leave to cool.
Skin the tomatoes.
Chop the tomatoes into quarter.
Chop the onion into fine pieces.
Place the tomatoes, onion and vegetable stock into a large saucepan.
Bring to the boil and then put on the lid and simmer for at least 30 minutes.
You want the tomatoes and onions to have cooked away into the liquid -no large pieces left.
Season to taste.
Although sour soups are popular in Poland – tomato soup does not want to be sour. Depending on the tomatoes used, I sometimes add a little granulated sugar.
To serve place a handful of cooked boiled rice into each soup plate.
Served here in my mother’s Crown Devon – Fieldings – Glenwood soup plates – made in England – 1939.
Gherkins are cucumbers that have been fermented in brine or pickled with vinegar.
Botanically cucumbers are fruit although they are a vegetables from the culinary point of view.
In Polish the word ogórki means cucumbers.
Kiszoneogórki means fermented cucumbers – either in brine or vinegar.
Letnieogórki means summer cucumbers – which are fresh salad cucumbers.
The Latin name for the cucumber is Cucumis sativus and it is a member of the gourd family and so related to pumpkins and melons.
It is thought the plant originated in India and then was taken to Greece and from there to northern Europe.
I have read that the making of pickles by fermenting in brine is over 4,000 years old. This would preserve vegetables throughout the winter – well before the days of frozen food and supermarkets!
A quick look at the journey of the word –Gherkin – according to several dictionary sources.
This is a word that started in Greece and travelled to England & America via Poland, Germany and The Netherlands.
Angourion – Medieval Greek for cucumber.
Ogórek – Polish for cucumber
Gurke – German for cucumber
Augurk – Dutch for a brined or pickled cucumber
Gherkin – English for a brined or pickled cucumber
In Poland, July & August are the main months for making gherkins at home and once when I was there at that time in my relatives’ houses every container seemed to have been put into use for a stage in their production.
Everyone has their own special recipe using brine and sometimes vinegar with the addition of garlic and herbs and spices – the most often used is the flower head of the dill plant – hence we get dill pickles. Some methods are very quick taking just a few days others take longer.
The type of cucumber used is a different variety than the salad cumber it is shorter, fatter, often knobbier and has a lower water content.
I cannot at the moment give you a good recipe for making gherkins as I have rarely seen the right variety of cucumbers for sale in England – maybe now with more Polish shops I might see some next year and try out some recipes.
The bought gherkins I like are the Polish Krakus ones.
Another type I like are ones you can buy in Lidl – these are made with sugar and vinegar and are sliced lengthways – they have only a slight vinegar taste and are sweet – I do not like the very vinegary kind.
There are many uses of gherkins in Polish cookery – the most famous must be gherkin soup – which I just love – but that recipe I will cover later once I start to write about soups.
Of course gherkins – form part of many salads.
Gherkin and Tomato Salad
3 or 4 Gherkins – cut into discs
4 or 5 Tomatoes- cut into half & then thinly sliced
1 small onion – finely chopped
Flat-leaved parsley – finely chopped – to garnish
Salt and pepper to taste.
In a bowl mix together the gherkins, tomatoes and onions.
Sprinkle with a little salt and add 1 or 2 tablespoons of the liquid from the gherkin jar (if none is available then use some lemon juice) and mix again.
Place into a serving dish and sprinkle with chopped flat leaved parsley and freshly ground black pepper.
The tomato is botanically the fruit of Solanum lycopersicum, although from a culinary point of view it is a vegetable.
It belongs to the deadly nightshade family as does the potato.
The tomato plant originated in the Andes in South America and tomatl was the name in the Nahuatl language give to it by the Aztec people, which then became tomate and then tomato in English.
The tomato was brought over to Europe by the Conquistadors in the late 15th Century.
The original fruits were yellow hence the Italian name pomodoro (pomo d’oro – apple of gold).
When the Italian princess, who became Queen Bona of Poland on her marriage to King Zygmunt the Old, came to Poland with her chefs in the 16th Century , the tomato was introduced to the Polish diet.
Tomato in Polish is pomidor – so you can see or rather hear its Italian root.
Home grown tomatoes are of course the best, however here in the North of England I have not had much success in growing them outdoors.
To get the best flavour from tomatoes it is best NOT to keep them in the refrigerator.
A simple tomato salad is served in Poland, always it seemed to me with the addition of onions, chives or the green part of spring onion. For many it is standard fare for breakfast with cold meats or Polish curd cheese.
Tomatoes – thinly sliced into whole rounds if small or halved if large.
Half an onion – finely chopped or
Chives or the green part of spring onions – finely chopped
I have tried this out as a just vegetable variation.
In my Polish cookbooks there are many variations without meat and they use mushrooms or other vegetables and grains, but these tend to use just dried mushrooms and often rather than rice use buckwheat or pearl barley. Whilst these grains are maybe more traditionally Polish in style I wanted to do a recipe which would initially be more appealing to the English taste. Also I wanted to use mainly fresh mushrooms.
Ingredients for the filling
150 to 200g of rice
400g of mushroom caps – white and/or chestnut
Some butter to fry the mushrooms
5g of dried mushrooms (more if you desire)
A few tablespoons of boiling water
Salt & pepper to taste
In a small bowl add the boiling water to the dried mushrooms , just enough to cover them, and leave overnight.
Parboil the rice and leave to go cold. (You can use any already cooked rice you might have cooked already – it is not that critical – it will just have a softer texture).
Finely Slice up the mushroom caps (You can chop them into smaller pieces) and fry them in the butter until they are soft.
Using a knife make a pulp of the dried mushrooms or chop them into small pieces if they have not softened enough.
Add the mushroom pulp and the liquor in which they were steeped to the frying mushrooms and continue cooking the mixture evaporating of most of the liquid or about 10 minutes.
Leave the mushrooms to cool.
In a large bowl mix the parboiled rice and mushroom mix, add salt and pepper to taste.
Prepare the cabbage leaves
You need a large white cabbage or a savoy cabbage or I have now started using sweetheart cabbage – you might need 2 of these as they are not usually so large.
Patience is called for here to avoid getting scalded fingers. You have to heat or steam the cabbage to make the leaves pliable so you can remove them one by one and use them to encase the filling.
You need the largest pan you have into which you place the cabbage head.
I boil some water in a kettle and pour this over the cabbage in the pan. With some heat under the pan I let the cabbage cook a little. The temptation is to boil too quickly so making some of the leave too soft and runs the risk of getting scalded as you try to remove the leaves.
Another method is to place the cabbage into a metal colander and set this over the pan of water so that it is steamed rather than boiled – I think this method is the one I like best.
As the leaves become soft, you have to cut them off from the stalk and stack them up for to use later, you can cut out the thickest part of the stalk from the first few larger leaves. Pre heat the oven to GM3 – 160oC
Fill the leaves with the rice & mushroom mix and roll them up from the stalk end, tuck in the sides and secure with the outer edge of the leaf to make a small parcel.
Place the rolls into a large casserole dish, packing as many rolls as possible in rows in the dish. Depending on the depth of the dish repeat this for another layer.
If you have any extra cabbage leaves place these on the base of the dish and then to put extra leaves on the top of the rolls.
The rolls sometimes have a habit of getting slightly burnt on the top as they come out of the liquid and sometimes at the base if they have been in the oven a long time, these extra layers protect the rolls and can be discarded at the end.
Make a vegetable stock and pour this over the cabbage rolls.
Ingredients for Vegetable Stock
Vegetable stock – I like to use the Swiss Marigold Bouillon vegetable stock powder which is in a tub mixed with boiling water
1 tube of tomato purée
2 bay leaves
3 or 4 peppercorns or allspice or both.
salt & pepper ( note there might be enough salt in the stock cube)
Mix up the stock powder in a jug with boiling water, add the tomato purée and then the rest of the ingredients. You need a large amount to cover the cabbage rolls.
Pre heat the oven to GM3 – 160oC
Cover the rolls with this liquid. It is a good idea to have extra which you can use to top up as they are cooking.
Cover with a lid and place in the oven and cook for several hours. Check them occasionally and keep them covered with liquid as much as possible.
As mentioned earlier I make these a day beforehand and then put them back in the oven for an hour or so before serving.
They are a complete meal in themselves but you can give serve them with some bread to mop up all the liquid sauce.
Wigilia – Christmas Eve
I will be writing a post all about the special meal on this day later when all the dishes are meatless.