🎅 LG,BE’s 12 Days of Christmas🎅
A common soup made many different ways depending on where you live in Europe. In Polish? we call it BARSZCZ, say it with me guys! Baaaaa-rsh-ch. A very clean soup packed with layers of flavour and featuring a mighty, yet humble veg: beets. Barszcz was another staple on the table for our Christmas Eve (Wigilia) dinner and was almost always served with uszka, which are wild mushroom dumplings that look very similar to small tortellini.
This summer I discovered that a local European deli in Ottawa carried the same brand of uszka that my parents usually buy, so naturally I stocked up for December. If you can’t find these anywhere, have no fear, actual mushroom ravioli or a mushroom/sauerkraut pierogi would work just fine.
- 10-12 of dried mushrooms
- 12 cups of water (you will need a big pot!!)
- 4-5 medium beets, peeled and quartered
- 1 carrot, peeled and cut into chunks
- 1/2 celery root (celeriac), peeled and cut into chunks
- 1 celery stalks, cut into chunks
- 1 parsnip, peeled and cut into chunks
- 5-6 black peppercorns
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tbsp of dried marjoram
- 2 tbsp of fresh lemon juice
- 1 tsp of sugar
- salt + pepper to taste
- prepared uszka dumplings for serving
Place the dried mushrooms in a small heat proof bowl or Pyrex measuring cup and pour boiling water over the mushrooms to rehydrate. Leave to soak for about 20-25 minutes, and then strain the broth with a fine sieve. Reserve at least one cup of the broth (or more if you’d like) and dispose of the mushrooms.
Next, place the beets, parsnip, celery, celery root, and carrot into a large pot or dutch oven. Add the water and mushroom broth you just created for added depth, plus the bay leaves and peppercorns. Turn on medium heat and allow to simmer, before covering with a lid and cooking for about 1.5 hours, stirring every 20 minutes or so.
The goal here is not really worry about cooking the vegetables too far as much as it is to extract all the flavour they can give. Beets are naturally earthy in flavour, and the addition of parsnip and carrot will bring a sweetness to the end result in the broth. So in this case, it is completely alright to have very mushy vegetables as they won’t actually be part of the final soup.
Once your broth is finished simmering, set up a large bowl with a cheesecloth draped over it and carefully strain the broth from the rest of the vegetables, bay leaves and peppercorns. Discard everything and place the broth back into your simmering pot.
Once the soup is brought back up to a low simmer, stir in the fresh lemon juice, sugar and dried marjoram (Bulk Barn carries!). The acid will help the soup keep it’s deep ruby red colour. If you don’t have any fresh lemon juice, good ol white vinegar will do the trick. Season with salt and pepper and add another teaspoon of sugar if you wish.
Before you’re ready to serve, go ahead and drop your uszka into some boiling water and cook according to package instructions. When they are ready, serve at least 5 in a nice big soup bowl along with the broth. If you ask any person on my mom’s side of the family, this soup is best served hot as LAVA.
As much as I would love to have had the time to try making FRESH uszka – this girl’s got a lot going on in December. Truthfully, I have never actually eaten real deal non-frozen uszka in my entire life –my family has always relied on making a trip out to Mississauga, Ontario to pay the annual visit to Starskys or another local delicatessen where they carry the product. Starskys, if you haven’t heard, is the Polish version of Superstore — a massive (really, it’s massive) and overcrowded grocery store selling the very best straight from Eastern Europe.
TIP: This soup is considered ‘clean’, as in we are only making a broth to go with our mushroom dumplings. However, I grew up eating the chunky type of barszcz with grated beets, more wild mushrooms, and sometimes even the beet greens if Babcia was feeling extra nutritional. So if you really like to have that added texture, feel free to roast extra beets on the side for grating back into the soup later.
I hope you all enjoy this little slice of home as much as I love to eat it every single year. It is a staple in my childhood, a staple in my adult life, and will definitely continue to be a staple in my own family’s life one day.
Smacznego! – A❁