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!

Pea Salad

In earlier times this would have been made with bottled or tinned garden peas – nowadays I make this with cooked frozen peas.

The peas and Gouda cheese make this salad sweet and creamy.

Ingredients

Around 400ml of frozen peas -cooked and cooled

4 hardboiled eggs – chopped

3 large gherkins – chopped into little cubes

200g of Gouda(or similar) cheese – chopped into cubes

1 small onion – chopped fine

2 tablespoons of Mayonaise (full fat is best)

1 tablespoon of Greek style yoghurt

Salt & Pepper to taste.

Method

In a bowl mix all the vegetables and the cheese together.

Add the mayonnaise and yoghurt and mix well.

Add salt & pepper to taste.

Serve with hot or cold roast meats or smoked Polish sausage.

 

Variation

I think the addition of 2 or 3 strips of chopped herrings as in my herring salads would be good.

Will try this later and let you know!

Soup Garnishes & Accompaniments

Soup plays such huge part in Polish meals and I will be writing much on the subject soon (I could write a huge book on Polish soups alone).

Soups are usually served with some sort of accompaniments or garnish.

Some soups have traditional accompaniments but every cook will improvise with what they have.

These accompaniments include a wide variety of pasta and noodles, dumplings, rice, potatoes, croutons, hard-boiled eggs, pulpety (little meatballs) chopped, cooked sausage and crispy fried bacon and so on ….  the list is endless.

Many of the soups to which these are added are of the clear consommé type.

Pasta, Noodles & Rice

Very small pasta shapes are used or larger pasta is cut into small pieces.

The pasta, noodles or rice are all cooked beforehand and a small amount is placed in the soup dish and hot soup poured over them to serve.

 

 

Often  a small amount of pasta, noodles or rice is kept back from when they are being cooked for another dish – these are best kept in the fridge.

 

 

 

Cold boiled rice

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Croutons – Grzanki made with rye bread

 

 

These are sprinkled on top of the soup when serving.

Semolina – Kasza manna

The Polish for semolina is manna as in the bible, Exodus 16:1-36,  when the Israelites ate manna from Heaven.

This can be made with coarse or fine ground semolina.

Mix 150g of semolina and 1/2 teaspoon of salt with cold water to make a thin paste.

Place the mixture in  saucepan and heat gently, stirring with a wooden spoon.

As the mixture starts to thicken keep adding more water and continue heating and stirring.

Do this for a couple of minutes.

When you have a thick paste pour it onto a cold plate and leave it  to go cold.

 

 

When cold, the semolina is cut into cubes and these are placed in the bottom of the soup dish and hot soup poured over them.

 

 

 

Lane kluski

This translates as poured noodles.

My mother made these often when I was young.

Beat 2 eggs and 1/2 a teaspoon of salt.

Slowly mix in 6 tablespoons of plain flour until the mixture is like thick cream.

To cook them,  slowly pour batter into salted boiling water.

Cook for around 2 minutes and remove them with a slotted spoon  and place in a colander.

You can cook these by pouring the batter into the hot boiling soup and  then serve immediatly.  However the starch can make the clear soup cloudy.

 

 

 

Uszka

Mushroom filled Polish pasta – known as ‘little ears’ are added to barszcz – beetroot soup.  Often served on Wigilia  – Christmas Eve.

3 or 5 are usually added.

 

Kopytka

Little Polish potato dumpling (gnocci) – cold cooked ones can be cut up into smaller pieces for the soup.

 

 

 

Pancakes

 

Rolled up pancakes are thinly sliced and add to the soup.

 

Pulpety

Small boiled meatballs can be added

 

 

Chopped hard boiled eggs

 

 

 

 

The chopped eggs are sprinkled on top of the soup or several pieces ‘floated’ on top  of the soup when serving.

Krokiety

These are made using  pancakes which are filled with  sauerkraut &  mushrooms, meat or cheese then folded and rolled, then dipped in bread crumbs and fried.

I have found a firm that has these ready made for frying and I think they are good.

I fry them in quite a lot of oil on both sides and then put them in the oven at GM4 – 180°C for around 20 minutes.

I have not made them from scratch myself – I  must do this soon .

Photo  below from my Kuchnia Polska book,1971

Kuchnia Polska, 1971 – Polish Kitchen or Polish Cookery

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pasztecik

This is similar to an English sausage roll, often made with a yeast dough pastry, and filled with pasztet (paté),  meat, sauerkraut &  mushrooms or cheese.

Photos  below from my Kuchnia Polska book, 1971

I have eaten these in Poland in cafes and restaurants but not made these myself – something  else to try out soon.

Bread

Bread can be served with soup – it is usualy not buttered.

 

Bean Salad

Bean Salad with Apple & Hard-boiled Eggs

As I was trying out some herring salads I came across the following mixture which worked so well together.  I decided it would make a good salad mixture on its own.

Originally this would have been made with soaked and then boiled haricot beans  – for ease I use a tin of baked beans from which the sauce has been washed off.

Ingredients

1 tin of haricot beans (tinned beans (410g) with the tomato sauce washed off , rinsed and patted dry).

1 thinly sliced then chopped onion

2 chopped (red skinned) apples

3- 4  chopped hard-boiled eggs

2-3 tablespoons of  mayonnaise ( full fat is the best here)

Salt & pepper to taste

 

 

 

 

Method

Prepare all the ingredients

Mix all the ingredients together in a large bowl.

You can sprinkle chopped flat-leaved parsley on top when serving.

 

 

 

 

 

Herring Salads

Salted herrings are very, very popular in Poland, they have been a staple in Northern Europe since Medieval times as this was the way to preserve and transport fish – usually in barrels.

Śledź is the Polish word for herring.

Matjes herrings (matjasy in Polish) are young herrings which are caught throughout May and June before they start spawning in July.

The way that they are prepared originated in The Netherlands and the name comes from the Dutch word maagd which means maiden(because they are young fish).

Often you will see the phrase à la matjas – this means that they are in the style of the matjes herring but they will be a slighty older fish and not as expensive .

Salted herrings need to be soaked, often for up to 24 hours, in water to remove some of the salt.

I have used already prepared à la matjas herrings and I think they are still too salty – so I take the fillets out of the oil they are packed in and put them in milk for 10 to 15 minutes (you can do longer) and then pat them dry and slice them.

 

These herring salads are often served as an hors d’oeuvre (zakąska in Polish – something to bite after), appetizer, entrée or starter.

They are usually one of the dishes served at Wigilia (Christmas Eve).

Thinly sliced onions are a must to serve with the herrings!

Simple Herrings 1

Ingredients

Thinly sliced herrings

thinly sliced onion

A little lemon juice

 

Simple Herrings 2

Ingredients

Thinly sliced herrings,

Thinly sliced onion

Chopped gherkins (ogórki).

A little liquor from the gherkin jar

Simple Herrings 3

Ingredients

Thinly sliced herrings,

Thinly sliced onion and

Sliced (red skinned) apple

A little lemon juice

Herring Salads

The dressings used are lemon juice, mayonnaise (full fat is best here), soured cream and horseradish – on their own or as a mixture.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have not given quantities – exact amounts are not critical.

Herring & Apple Salad

Ingredients

Thinly sliced herring

Thinly sliced onions,

Chopped (red skinned) apples

Dressing

Herring & Potato Salads

The following salads are varaitionons on  classic Polish potato salads.

Herring, Potato & Gherkin

Ingredients

Thinly sliced herring

Thinly sliced onions

Cold boiled or steamed,chopped potato,

Chopped gherkins

Dressing

 

Herring, Potato, Gherkin & Hard-boiled Eggs

Ingredients

Thinly sliced herring

Thinly sliced onions

Cold boiled or steamed,chopped potato,

Chopped gherkins

Chopped hard-boiled eggs

Dressing

 

Herring, Potato & Peas

Ingredients

Thinly sliced herring

Thinly sliced onions

Cold boiled or steamed, chopped potato,

Cooked peas

Chopped hard-boiled eggs

Dressing

 

Herring, Potato, Peas & Hard-boiled Eggs

Ingredients

Thinly sliced herring

Thinly sliced onions

Cold boiled or steamed, chopped potato,

Cooked peas and dressing

Chopped hard-boiled eggs

Dressing

 

Herring, Apple, Bean & Hard-boiled Eggs

When I first saw this recipe I was not sure how the beans would go with the rest of the ingredients.  Having tried it,  I think the taste combination is wonderful!

Ingredients

Thinly sliced herring

Thinly sliced onions

Chopped (red skinned) apples

Haricot beans  – tinned beans  with the tomato sauce washed off , rinsed and patted drydried

Chopped hard-boiled eggs

Dressing

 

Chopped parsley & chives

All of the salads can have chopped flat-leafed parsley and/or chives sprinkled on top.

 

A Little Caper!

Capparis spinosa is the caper bush.  The plant is best known for the edible, unripened  flower buds – capers – kapary (in Polish)  which are often used as a seasoning and are usually  pickled in brine, vinegar or wine.

These perennial plants are native to the Mediterranean and some parts of Asia. Their use dates back to around 2,000 BC  where they are mentioned as a food in Sumerian literature.

The caper buds are picked by hand which can make the cost of a small jar expensive.

Pickled nasturtium (Tropaeolum maius) (nasturcja in Polish)  seeds – often called poor man’s capers are a good substitute.

Cooking With Capers

Capers have long been used in the Mediterranean region especially  in Italian cooking.

Capers are usually  added to the dish toward the end of the cooking process, to keep their shape and flavour.

Sos kaparowy – Caper sauce

This is very popular in Poland and is made with chopped capers and mayonnaise  and is served with hard-boiled eggs.

Potato Salad with Capers

This is my variation of the classic Polish potato salad with caper  sauce.

Ingredients

200g  waxy potatoes

100g whole green beans

100g peas

2-3 spring onions – green part

2 tablespoons of capers – drained

2-3 tablespoons mayonnaise – home-made or a good full fat bought variety

1 tablespoon of made up mustard

Salt & pepper

2 – 3  hard-boiled eggs

Method

The potatoes, green beans and the peas all need to be boiled or steamed, drained and then dried as much as possible using a clean tea towel.

I usually use starchy potatoes for potato salad but have found that waxy ones are better for this one.

Chop the beans into small pieces.

Chop the green parts of the onion into fine pieces.

In a bowl mix the cooked and dried vegetables, the capers and the spring onions.

 

 

 

 

Mix together the mayonnaise and the mustard.

I have found that the lighter sort of mayonnaise soon makes this salad have a watery dressing after a very short time. It is better to use home-made mayonaise or a good bought one – I use Hellmann’s.

 

 

 

Mix the vegetables with the dressing and add salt & pepper to taste.

Chop the hard-boiled eggs and scatter these on the top of the salad to serve.

 

 

 

Served here in a bowl by Meakin  –  Cadiz  – 1964  – 1970

 

Salad With Leeks

The recipe for this salad with leeks  was given to me by one of my cousins in Białystok, Poland.

This salad goes well with cold meats & smoked Polish sausages, but with all its ingredients it can even be a little meal on its own.

Vegetable names in Polish

Leek in Polish is por & in Italian it is porro

Many vegetable names in Polish have origins in Italian, this is because when, the Italian Princess, who became Queen Bona of Poland on her marriage to King Zygmunt the Old, came to Poland in the 16th Century with her chefs she introduced many vegetables into the Polish diet – the most notable being the tomato . Because of this many of the Italian names or slight variations of them have become the names used in Polish.

There is also Włoszczyzna – which means Italian  stuff  – is it used in Polish cookery all the time – it translates as soup vegetables  and is mixture of: carrots, celeriac or celery leaves, leek or onion, parsnip or parsley root & parsley leaves & sometimes savoy cabbage which is used as the base for many soups and casseroles.  When written in a recipe every Polish cook will know what it is though some may have different versions of the mixture.

Although this is not an old Polish recipe it is certainly in the traditional Polish style with cooked vegetables and hard boiled eggs.

The chopped hard boiled eggs  to garnish is very much in the tradition of à la polonaise.

Cheese is used in this recipe and is the type that is called  ser zółty yellow cheese and is of the semi-hard type such as Edam, Gouda or Massdam from the Netherlands  which you can buy in England.

Gouda – The Last Thursday In August – 2013

The last Thursday in August is always the  last cheese market of the year in Gouda.

Red kidney beans and sweetcorn are also used in this recipe. Now my father would never eat sweetcorn – he considered it fit only for animal fodder – as this was what it would have been used for in his youth!

Ingredients

You can vary the quantities to what you have available – the ones below are for guidance.

2 leeks  – the white part finely chopped

1 tin of red kidney beans – drained

I small tin or half a large tin of sweetcorn – drained

“Yellow” cheese such as Edam, Gouda or Maasdam – chopped into small cubes

2 hard boiled eggs – very finely chopped or grated.

3 tablespoons of mayonnaise

2 teaspoons of ketchup or tomato purée

Salt & pepper to taste

Method

In a large bowl mix together the leeks, red kidney beans, sweetcorn & cheese.

In a small bowl mix together the mayonnaise and ketchup or tomato purée.

 

Mix the  dressing with the vegetables combining it all well.

Add salt & pepper to taste.

Place the salad into a serving bowl and sprinkle the chopped or grated hard boiled eggs  over the top.

The serving dish is Royal Doulton – Carnation – 1982-1998.