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!

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

 

Pea Soup with Dutch Connections

I have written about Polish pea soup which is usually made with yellow split peas.

My mother could not always get yellow split peas and sometimes used Marrow fat peas.

My Dutch friend in The Netherlands often talks about Dutch pea soup which is made using Marrow fat peas or green split peas.

The Dutch soup tends to be made as a much thicker soup and pork, such as a chop or pigs’ trotters, is often used and also as smoked bacon or ham; potatoes are often added as well.

I have made my soup more on the Polish thinner side and used a chunk of smoked  Polish bacon. – You can use smoked gammon or smoked bacon – use it in large pieces – cut it up after it has been cooked in the soup.

Version 1 – Using Marrow Fat Peas

 

 

 

Ingredients

250g Marrow fat peas

2 large onions chopped

400g piece of smoked Polish bacon (boczek in Polish, which means side)

8 peppercorns

2-3 allspice grains

1 Bay leaf

2 litres of vegetable stock (can be from a cube or powder – I often use Marigold powder).

 

 

 

Method

Put the marrow fat peas into a large bowl with around 800ml of boiling water poured over them  and leave overnight.

Some instructions say to add bicarbonate of soda to the peas – I prefer not to.

The following morning, drain and rinse the rehydrated peas.

I have started using my large slow cooker to make soups – you can also use a large stock pot and once brought to the boil, leave it to simmer on the stove or in a low oven.

Place all the ingredients into the pot and switch on and leave to cook for 4 – 5 hours until the peas have cooked to a soft pulp.

You might want to add some boiling water and stir the soup if it has become too thick.

Remove the piece of bacon and chop or shred the meat, then put it all back into the soup, stir and heat for a few minutes before serving.

You can use the cooked meat on for example in sandwiches and only put part of it back into the soup.

 

 

 

 

Served here with scalded rye bread on tea plates by Taylor and Kent of Longton.

 

Version 2 – Using Green Split Peas

As version 1, but use 300-350g of green split peas.

The split peas do not have to be soaked overnight, just use then as they are.

So this is much quicker to make as there is no overnight soaking.

 

 

You can add some chopped chives or the green part of spring onions before serving.

 

 

Variations

  • Add one or more  root vegetables such as:
  • 1 or 2 carrots – chopped,
  • around a quarter of a celeriac,
  • 1 or 2 parsnips – chopped
  • 1 large potato – peeled and chopped
  • Use smoked gammon, ham or smoked bacon
  • Add a pork chop
  • Use pigs’ trotters

Note

I have found that these soups freeze very well – portionned up into tubs for future use.

 

 

Lentils – Polish Style

The lentil  is Lens culinaris,  an edible legume –  which means its seeds grow in pods.

The seeds are lens-shaped from whence it gets its name –  meaning  little lens.

The Polish is soczewica and is also from a word meaning a small lens.

It belongs to the bean family and these seeds are classed as pulses – dry seeds for consumption.

Lentils originated in the Near East and Central Asia and are the oldest  pulses and among the earliest crops domesticated in the Old World.

The first evidence of pulses comes from 11,000 years ago in the Fertile Crescent, a region in the Middle East which was home to some of the earliest human civilizations.

They are mentioned in the Bible –  Genesis 25:29-34 – when Esau gives up his birthright to Jacob for a mess of pottage.

” …let me eat the red soup … then Jacob gave him bread and lentil soup

Figures for 2016 show the top four countries for lentil production as:

    • Canada
    • India
    • Turkey
    • United States of America

I bought a packet of whole allspice (ziele angielskie) and this recipe was on the back.

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I think it is related to Breton beans – a popular Polish recipe.

Ingredients

200g – 250g dried lentils

100g smoked bacon – chopped into small squares.

200g Polish sausage (I used Toruńska) – sliced

2 onions – chopped

3 cloves of garlic – sliced

1 tin of chopped tomatoes

200 ml of chicken stock (can be from a cube or concentrate)

5 grains of allspice

2 bay leaves

1 teaspoon of sweet paprika (not smoked)

1 teaspoon of Italian herbs

Sunflower oil for frying

Ground black pepper

(salt might not be needed because of the bacon and sausage)

Yoghurt and chopped flat-leaved parsley to serve

Method

Pre-heat the oven to GM3 – 160°C

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Cook the lentils in water until they are soft.

Use a sieve to remove some of the excess water – if any.

Fry up the bacon and the onions and garlic.

In a jug or bowl mix the stock, paprika, herbs and pepper.

Get an oven proof dish with a lid and add the lentils, fried bacon, onions and garlic.

Add the tomatoes and the stock mixture.

Add the sliced sausage, the bay leaves and allspice and mix all together thouroughly.

 

Put the lid on the dish and place into the oven.

Cook for 45 -60 minutes.

 

 

Serve garnished with flat – leafed parsley or this and a dollop of plain yoghurt or soured cream as well.

Here served in Royal Doulton – Carnation (1982 – 1998) dishes.

Pasta Salad with Skwarki

There was a heat wave this summer (2018) in England and Europe and during my recent trip to The Netherlands, I had lunch in the sunny garden of my friend’s older sister.

 

One of the dishes was a pasta salad  and included an ingredient which you would find as a garnish in many Polish dishes – skwarki – small, crispy, fried, bacon pieces.

This was a wonderful addition and I think would go well in other salads too.

I recreated this dish when I got home – the exact amounts are not so important.

Ingredients

400g  of cooked Penne or Macaroni

1 small tin of sweetcorn – drained

3 celery stalks

125g of smoked bacon

3 tablespoons of  mayonnaise (I used full fat – which I prefer for cooked salads)

Ground black pepper

Method

Chop the bacon into small squares and place on a heavy frying pan on a medium heat until all the fat comes out and you are left with small, crispy squares.

 

 

Drain the bacon pieces from the fat and place them on some kitchen roll and leave them until they are cold.

Chop the celery into fine pieces.

You can cut the pasta into smaller pieces if you wish.

 

 

In a large bowl, mix the pasta, sweetcorn, celery and the skwarki together.

 

Add the mayonnaise and the ground black pepper and mix well together.

Note

You are unlikely to need to add any salt as this is provided by the bacon.

This salad will go well with cold meats and barbecued meats.

 

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.