Sour Beet Clear Soup

Recently when I saw the news of a drive to get Unesco recognition of borscht, I was reminded on my trips to Wrocław and Warszawa. I was particularly smitten by their sour soups.

Here is my version of the Polish barszcz. Although many suggest to simply use lemon juice or vinegar for the sourness, I just simply could not not sour the beets (kwas). I found the beet fermentation is not as daunting as one might think. Moreover, kwas is a refreshing drink as well, with all the goodness of fermentation.

The clear ruby soup is not just an eye candy but also a delectable delight. Enjoy!


SPECIAL TOOLS:

Fermentation Crock, pressure cooker.

INGREDIENTS

Makes 4

  • Kwas: 2 lbs beet, peeled and sliced + 2 slices of rye bread
  • Soup:
    • Beet stock : 2 large beets + vegetables (1 medium celeriac root+ 1 large carrot + 1 large onion), peeled and sliced
    • 1 oz dehydrated mushroom (lion’s mane) soaked in a cup of water for few hours
    • Seasoning: 2 crushed garlic + 1 tbsp butter + salt & sugar to taste

METHOD

Kwas: Place the beet in the crock. Boil plenty of water and let cool till lukewarm. Then add to the beets, so that it is 1 inch above the beets. Add the bread slice. Cover with cheese cloth and a lid and let ferment for at least three days. Then remove the bread with a spatula. Using a strainer lined with cheese cloth, strain the liquid and store in mason jars.

Beet stock: Pressure cook all the vegetables in 8 cups of water (or about 1/2 inch above the level of vegetables) till tender. Strain to extract the clear stock.

Soup: Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 30 mins: 7 cups of stock + 3 cups kwas + 1/2 cup hydrating mushroom liquid + 2 cloves of garlic. Mix in 1 tbsp butter and turn off heat. Serve with sauteed mushrooms.

NOTES, HINTS, TIPS:

  1. I adapted from Fresh from Poland (by Michal Korkosz) and this online source.
  2. Kwas turned out to be a delicious drink, with a touch of sourness (think of it as a vegan chaas). If you don’t have a Fermentation Crock, you can use just a mason jar or a ceramic pot.
  3. You can use lemon juice (or vinegar) to taste, if you don’t want to go through the kwas fermenting process.
  4. You can also use parsnip, celery, leek etc. For the beet stock, as a rule of thumb use 2 lbs beet to 1 lb veggies.
  5. Instead of mushroom dumplings, I use simply sautéed mushrooms.
  6. The pressure cooker really softens the veggies, so the leftover pulp can be mashed with a masher. Mix with some chickpea flour (besan) to soak in the moisture + salt + spices (chilli powder, garlic powder and cumin) and press into a thin layer on a parchment lined tray. Score and bake for 25-30 mins. See picture below. Peel off the parchment and enjoy!

Kwas:

Soup:

Root Cakes: Three Ways

Want to take your mind off the pandemic for a few hours ? The produce sections of the groceries are still bursting. Perhaps not the canned and frozen sections, but we don’t much care about those, do we ? Here is something good for your body, that is even better to your palate! These root vegetable cakes are so delicious that you will forget you are sheltering-in-place.

There are enough cakes to even feed your neighbors. But at this time of physical distancing you can only wave to them; so simply freeze the excess.

SPECIAL TOOLS:

Food processor, waffle maker (optional).

INGREDIENTS

  • Peel and shred in the coarse blade of your food processor:
    1/2 celeriac root + 1 large beet + 1/2 fennel bulb + 1 sweet potato
  • Aromatics and seasonings: 2 medium onions sliced + 1 large jalapeno thinly sliced + 1/4 cup ponzu sauce + 1 tbsp garlic salt
  • Tignum (to hold together): 1/4 cup oil + 1 cup besan

METHOD

You may have to cut each into chunks that your processor can ingest. Add all ingredients and combine gently till the mixture holds together lightly. Taste and adjust seasonings. This results in roughly 8 cups of mixture which gives about 20 patties. Here are 3 different ways to cook the patties.

On skillet in medium heat: Lightly oil the the skillet and heat. Make 3 large lemon sized balls and place on the skillet. After about 1 minute, gently flatten the balls with a spatula (till they take the shape of crab cakes). After about 3 minutes –when bottom is browned– flip and cook on the other side for about 2 minutes or so.

At 375 F in oven: Line a baking tray with silicone mat. Place lemon sized balls, well-space, on the mat. Then gently flatten them and tuck in the shreds that stick out. Bake for 15-20 mins. Flip each and bake for another 5 mins.

Waffle maker: Follow instructions on your waffle maker. Use about 3/4 cup in the center of the waffle plate.

NOTES, HINTS, TIPS:

  1. You can use a melange of your favorite vegetables (such as turnips, parsnips, carrots, kohlrabi and such). For cabbage, check out the cabbage rolls.
  2. You can use a mixture of soy sauce and lime/lemon juice instead of Ponzu sauce. Just soy sauce is fine too.
  3. Needless to specify, garlic salt can be substituted with 1 tsp garlic powder and salt to taste.
  4. Make sure that it binds lightly with the besan and doesn’t get too doughy.