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Barszcz z Uszkami - Polish Beetroot (Beet) Soup Recipe: vegetarian version
Beetroot (beet) soup with mushroom-stuffed pasta
Poles traditionally eat this dish on Christmas Eve. I delighted in it as a child. After some experimentation, I managed to produce a dish that tastes almost the same as my mother's did.
You might also like to follow a beautiful tradition that takes place in Poland during the Christmas Eve meal. Each person takes one of these edible wafers (oplatek, plural = oplatki) and shares it with everyone else present as a symbol of love and friendship. Before Christmas itself, people also break oplatki and mail the pieces to friends and relatives they are unable to see in person. These pieces are also eaten during the Christmas Eve meal while thinking of absent ones.
Measures in cups use the US cup size
2 carrots, sliced
1 medium parsnip, sliced
1 leek, sliced
Half medium celeriac (celery root), diced
(alternatively, use 2 sticks of celery, sliced)
Note: The vegetables listed above are used to prepare a vegetable stock. This is my option, because one of my daughters is vegetarian. If you wish to be more authentic, use 1 litre (4 cups) of freshly made or ready-prepared chicken stock (my mother's choice) or beef stock.
2 medium beetroot (beets), raw, grated coarsely
1 clove garlic, crushed
2-3 bay leaves
1 glass dry red wine
Balsamic vinegar (optional, not really traditional, but adds that extra touch)
Place prepared vegetables, except for the beetroot, into a pan with 4 cups (approximately 1 litre) water
Bring to the boil and simmer for 30 minutes
Strain off the liquid and keep
Discard the vegetables (or use them in another dish)
Note: You can add salt to the cooking water if you wish. I tend to add it to the finished soup.
Beetroot (beet) base
Place grated beetroot and crushed garlic into a pan with 1 cup (approx. 250 ml) water
Add bay leaves and a few peppercorns
Bring to the boil and simmer until the beetroot is soft, approximately 20 minutes.
Add the beetroot and cooking water to the vegetable stock.
Add the wine, a splash of balsamic vinegar if desired, and season to taste
Notes: It is simpler to prepare the barszcz in advance and reheat it while you make the uszka .
My father was adamant that the taste was infinitely better if the barszcz was made the day before.
In fact, a very traditional method is to place the beetroot and its liquid in a bowl, add a slice of rye bread and leave this to ferment at room temperature for a week. Discard the bread and combine the ferment with the vegetable stock and wine. Reheat when required.
My mother did not ever do this, and I have not attempted it so far, thus I cannot vouch for it.
Keep a Polish theme with these lovely Christmas ornaments made out of straw. They are based on traditional designs used in Poland, when people in rural areas made their own straw Christmas decorations.
8oz (250g) dried boletus (porcini) mushrooms (other mushrooms can be used but these give the best and
most authentic flavour)
1 onion, chopped finely
2 cups (300g) plain flour (all purpose flour)
Soak the mushrooms in a small quantity of hot water until they become soft
Drain the liquid into the soup
Fry the mushrooms with the onion until soft (butter gives the most authentic flavour)
Blend and season to taste
A metal sieve, mincer, hand blender or food processor can be used. If using a blender or processor, it is best to stop before the mixture becomes totally homogeneous.
Place the flour into a bowl and break the egg into the flour.
Mix together with sufficient cold water to obtain a pliant dough
Roll dough out thinly on a floured board.
Cut into circles using a 2-inch (5cm) cutter or use a knife and cut into squares, approximately 2x2 inches (5x5 cm) in size
* If required, start reheating the barszcz on low heat at this point.*
Place a small quantity of mushroom mix slightly off-centre on each dough piece
Fold squares diagonally or fold circles in half.
Pinch the edges together to seal.
Fold over the two points of the semicircle or the two base points of the triangle so that they overlap and pinch them together. Use the photograph as a guide.
Cook in boiling, salted water for 5 minutes
Note: Uszka means "little ears" in Polish and that is the shape you are aiming for. Ideally, the dough should be rolled out so thinly that it is practically transparent, and smaller pieces should be used so as to make the smallest possible packets. In practice, unless you're skilled in these matters, the dough tears, which means you end up with fewer uszka or have to prepare a fresh batch of dough and start over.
Place the uszka into serving bowls
Pour over the soup
Distribute the grated beetroot between the bowls.
Note: You may see recipes in which sour cream is mixed into the soup when this is served on its own. When it is served with uszka, the clear soup is always used.
The name of the dish in Polish is Barszcz z uszkami (barshch z ooshcarmee)
For more general information on Polish food, see my hub.