30 September 2013

Sour Cucumber Soup

One of the favourite Polish classics, done in a very traditional way. The stock is based on pork ribs, which give it a wonderfully sweet, aromatic flavour, much more hearty than chicken or vegetables. The meat is juicy and melt-in-your-mouth tender, and together with the sweet carrots and dill mellows down the sourness of the cucumbers a little bit, adding up to a flavourful, moreish combination.

  • About 900g of pork ribs
  • 1 jar (should be about 0.9-1l) of sour cucumbers, or cucumbers in brine – easily available from any Polish section in any major supermarket.
  • 2 large carrots, grated
  • 1-2 parsnips, chopped into pieces, sliced up or however else you like it.
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 4-5 allspice berries (or a tsp of ground allspice)
  • 3-4 bay leaves
  • 1 tbsp of ground black pepper (or less or more, depending on your taste)
  • 1-2 stock cubes (vegetable, pork, bacon or chicken will do)
  • A small bunch of finely chopped fresh dill (about 2 tbsp)
  • 500g of potatoes, peeled and chopped into bite-size pieces
  • 2 tbsp of butter

  1. Place the pork ribs in a large soup pot with about 2 litres of cold water, add the bay leaves, allspice, pepper, grated carrots, chopped parsnip and 1 stock cube. Place on very low heat and slowly bring to boil. Make sure it doesn't boil too hard – you just want it to simmer away very gently. Leave it like this covered on very low heat for about 2-3 hours, or until the meat is so soft it falls off the bone as soon as you touch it. By then you should have quite a lovely, aromatic stock.
  2. Fish the ribs out of the stock and place them on a plate or in a bowl. Let them cool until they are safe to touch and peel the meat off the bones. Dispose of the bones, chop up the meat into small bits and put the meat back in your soup.
  3. Take the sour cucumbers out of the jar (keep the water) and grate them. In a pan, melt the butter and roughly gloss the onion in it. Add in the grated cucumbers and fry them up a little bit until they become a bit softer and soak up the butter.
  4. Add fresh dill, and the cucumbers with onion to your soup. At the same time, pour in about half of the cucumber brine water you had left over. Bring the soup back to boil and let it simmer for about 20 minutes. After about 20 minutes taste the soup and decide whether it needs any more spices – if you'd like it a bit more sour, add the rest of the cucumber brine water. If it needs more salt, add another stock cube. If you want it to have a bit more heat, add some black pepper. If you decide to add some more cucumber brine, leave it simmering again for a while before you try it again, as it will gradually become more and more sour over the next few minutes.
  5. In a separate pot, parboil your potatoes in salty water. Once they are ready, drain them and add to your soup.
  6. Simmer it all together a little longer until the potatoes are fully cooked.
  7. Plate up and garnish with a bit of fresh dill. If you want the soup to be a bit more creamy, you could add a spoon of sour cream to your plate. My other half even likes to add a splash of Tabasco!

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