Soups

Soups

By
Zuza Zak
Contains
11 recipes
Published by
Quadrille Publishing
ISBN
9781849497268
Photographer
Laura Edwards

There are hundreds upon hundreds of Polish soups. However, due to Poland’s complicated national history, some of them aren’t exclusively Polish and many of the recipes have multi-national roots. It would take an entire book to delve into the history of Polish soups and to do them all justice. Instead, this chapter includes a selection of my Polish favourites which are both seasonal and regional.

A typical Polish main meal would be served between 3–4 p.m. and would invariably be a soup followed by a main course – no other starter can replace soup in the heart or stomach of a Pole. Consequently, in any Polish household you enter, there is always some sort of soup on the go, either still cooking, piping hot or chilling in the fridge waiting to be eaten.

There are, of course, specific types of soup for different seasons and regions, indeed some regional soups are so specific that you will not find them anywhere else in Poland, like the beautiful fisherman’s soup that I ate every day on a recent visit to the seaside resort of Sopot. I found this gem, made from various unused boat-fresh bits of fish in a tomato broth with marjoram and other herbs and spices, in an unpretentious hut on the beach next to where the fishermen sold their daily catch. The hut was just 100 metres from the hotel and the soup cost less than a pound, so eating this fish soup on the beach became my daily ritual. Even more local, is a soup called Rakowiecka that a friend of my parents proudly displayed on his restaurant menu, named after a political jail, where most of the Solidarność movement and other anti-communist activists resided at one point or another. It is a very light, vegetable broth (as you would expect from prison food). We like to remember our past here – however unpleasant – and it’s worth taking a moment to applaud the bravery of those that ate this soup until their dying day, because they refused to bow to a regime that forbade them from speaking freely. Historically, there are even certain soups that would be given to a suitor when he came to propose to the family (as that’s how proposals took place in those days). Czarna Polewka (duck blood soup or black broth) would be served as a rejection and pea soup was served as both a ‘yes’ and a ‘no’, depending on how the pig’s tails were arranged on the soup.

Borscht could have it’s own chapter dedicated to it, as there are so many varieties in Poland! We commonly eat clear Warsaw-style borscht with pierogi or uszka, but the only thing our clear borscht has in common with the rich Ukrainian version is that beetroot is a key ingredient. Then there are the Polish fruit soups. We eat these when a particular fruit is locally available, usually in the summer months. Eating a fruit soup in the winter would remove the all-important association between the soup and the time of year. You could cheat a little bit with this seasonal fruit soup rule, as I believe a sunny spring day, with local rhubarb and frozen strawberries is just about acceptable. The one exception to this rule is a soup made from dried fruit, which is really more of a compote and smells of Christmas.

All the quantities given in this chapter are for a large batches of soups – about 8–10 servings per pot and all therefore need approximately 2 litres of water (more if they are cooked for a long time). Remember that, despite what some people say, soup often tastes better the day after it’s made.

Featured Recipes in this Chapter

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