So it is fitting that this one is a Polish classic.
Rosół – Chicken Soup – must be the most well know of Polish soups and can be the basis for many others.
It is a clear soup which is known as a bouillon – bulion in Polish. The word consommé which I thought was interchangeable with it, in fact denotes a clear soup which has been cleared with egg whites cooked in it.
Rosół is usually served with cooked pasta, often fine noodles and is the origin of chicken noodle soup.
In times gone by the chicken used would have been an old broiler – these are not as available here as much. Nowadays for taste it pays to use the very best free range chicken you can get.
A whole chicken is simmered for around 2 hours with Wloszczyzna – Soup Greens.
I was talking with my Polish friend who lives in Leeds and she told me that the addition of Lubczyk – Lovage – Levisticumofficinale leaves enhances the flavour.
I have this herb, which belongs to the celery & parsley family , growing in a pot in my garden but as it was still a bit early in the year when I made this, I have not been able to try this out – I must do so later!
1 whole chicken
1 onion – halved (leave some dark skin on to add colour) or 2 leeks – trimmed
3 whole peeled carrots
2 whole peeled parsnips
Half a celeriac – peeled
2 -3 allspice grains
1 bay leaf
Leaves & stalks of fresh herbs such as thyme, parsley and lovage
1 tablespoon of salt
Chopped parsley to serve
Place all the ingredients into a large stock pot and cover with boiling water.
Bring it all to the boil and put on the lid.
Either lower the heat to let it all simmer or put the pot into an oven at around GM 2 – 150°C.
Leave to simmer for around 2 hours until the meat is tender.
Remove the chicken.
Strain the soup.
Leave the liquid to cool and then place in a cold place or fridge preferably overnight.
Remove as much fat as possible from the top of the liquid.
The soup should have some oczka – little eyes on the top – these are the fat droplets – tastes have changed somewhat and less fat is prefered by many now.
Heat up the soup gently to boiling and simmer for a few minutes.
Pasta & Noodles
This is the classic way of serving.
Very small pasta shapes or larger pasta cut into small pieces or noodles are all cooked beforehand and a small amount is placed in the soup dish and hot rosół poured over them to serve.
Chopped flat-leaved parsley is added on serving.
Served in Royal Doulton – Carnation – 1982 – 1998
You can add some of the cooked carrots, sliced, to the soup and/or some of the cooked chicken meat, chopped.
Uszka (Polish filled pasta) can be added and the convention is to add three or five uszka to each soup serving.
The cooked chicken can be used in many dishes which require cooked chicken such as in the filling for pierogi.
I find that the meat is really tasty and succulent and makes super sandwiches with some mayonnaise.
Rosół is often used as the base of many other soups.
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.
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)
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.
1 bottle of Żurek concentrate
1 large onion
3 medium potatoes (waxy type can be better but not essential)
2-3 medium carrots
1/2 a celeriac*
1 white turnip*
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.
Mushroom gathering in Poland is a National pastime and has been in the past, a source of food and income for many.
Mushrooms can be dried, pickled, salted and marinated.
On those damp misty days in autumn when in England people would think – what a dull day, a Pole would wake up and think – Great, a good day for gathering mushrooms!
Most Poles think the best dried mushrooms are Boletus edulis, in Poland they are called borowik, prawdzik or prawdziwek(translates as – the real thing!), in Italy porcini and I try and use these whenever I can.
Packets of dried mushroom in England tend to be 25g or 30g and can be of mixed types.
My father knew all about mushrooms but never really passed the knowledge on to me – mainly because of the limited availbility of transport to suitable woods around where we lived in Lancashire.
On my first visit to Poland I did go to Białowieża forest and went with a guide and collected lots of mushrooms including chanterelles which in Poland are called kurki.
Nowadays, the common field mushroom – Agaricus bisporus – is produced on a huge scale and makes up a large part of commercial mushroom production with Poland being the 3rd biggest producer in Europe, following Italy and The Netherlands.
Mushroom soup in olden days was nearly always made with just dried mushrooms.
I make my soup with both dried and fresh mushrooms.
As with all soups the quantities do not have to be exact.
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
250g Marrow fat peas
2 large onions chopped
400g piece of smoked Polish bacon (boczek in Polish, which means side)
2-3 allspice grains
1 Bay leaf
2 litres of vegetable stock (can be from a cube or powder – I often use Marigold powder).
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.
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.
Tomatoes and many other vegetables were brought to Poland in the 16th century by the Italian chefs who came with the Italian Princess Bona Sforza who married the Polish King, Zygmunt the Old in 1518. Many of the names of vegetables in Polish have Italian roots.
To this day, soup greens* are known as włoszczyzna or “Italian stuff”.
Włoski is the Polish word for Italian.
Some writers say that vegetables other than cabbage and root vegetables were virtually unknown in Poland until Princess Bona introduced them, and her cooks helped to bring in the use of vegetables in royal Polish cuisine; however records show that the court of King Jagiello (who died in 1434) enjoyed a variety of vegetables including lettuce, beets, cabbage, turnip, carrots, peas and cauliflower.
*Soup Greens is a phrase found in American cookery writing – I have not really seen it in British writing.
Soup Greens are a vegetable stock basis for soups and other vegetable or fish dishes.
(They are also the vegetables that are used in any casserole type dish).
In German they are known as suppengrünand in French mirepoix.
The following is a general description and of course times will vary with people and circumstances.
The Polish day seems to start a lot earlier than in England with many people starting work at 7.30am and finishing by 3pm.
Schools often start at 8am and are finished by 2pm.
There are four meals in a Polish day.
1 śniadanie – breakfast
This is a hearty meal from about 5.30amto 7am to set you up for the day.
This will consist of: cured meats, Polish sausage, cheese, hard boiled or scrambled eggs, gherkins, cucumber and tomatoes with bread and rolls, all served with lots of tea. (Tea is quite weak served with slices of lemon or fruit syrup such as raspberry). There may also be some cake.
2 drugie śniadanie – second breakfast
This will be eaten at about 11am. It is a lighter meal than the first breakfast, though often with the same types of food – sometimes it will be just a sandwich – especially if eaten at work or school.
3 obiad – dinner – the main meal of the day
This is eaten between 1pm and 5pm with around 3pm being a very popular time.
This will consist of 2 or 3 courses:
Dessert of fruit or cake – optional course
Soup is very popular in Poland from hot or cold soups, light consommé types to thick and hearty featuring throughout the year.
I heard a saying on one of my visits to Poland –
Polak bez zupy robi się smutny
This translates as –
A Pole without soup becomes sad.
I think this is very true.
4 kolacja – supper
This is the lightest meal of the day eaten between 7pm to 9pm. It can often be just a slice of cake.