Wednesday, March 08, 2006
A heartwarming sauerkraut soup
It was snowing in Edinburgh last Friday, probably taking by surprise the crocus flowers that had been out for a few weeks already. Snowing as such is not unusual in Edinburgh, but this time was different as patches of snow remained at least in my part of town for a couple of days. As the weather was chillier than usual, a heartwarming soup was in order for dinner. I was cooking for two Estonian girls again (three, including me), and made a wintry classic from home - a sauerkraut soup, no meat. Soups like this are very filling, and would be served as a main course back home. I followed it with the milk curd cream pots with blueberries.
The recipe is from a very old Estonian cookbook classic, Valik toiduretsepte, probably lurking on a shelf somewhere in pretty much every household. No pictures, just lots of recipes. The first edition of the book is from 1965, and the last one probably around 1990. My edition is exactly as young as I am - issued in 1974:)
I've changed the recipe a little. I used potato as a thickener instead of flour, and rinsed the sauerkraut in water to make it less sour. These two ideas were suggested by Katia and Szofi after I made Hungarian sauerkraut and smoked sausage soup Kolbászleves back in November. I think the soup was much better for that, and this shows again that foodblogging can immensely improve your cooking..
One more thing - do not attempt to cook this if you don't have a very good extractor fan above your oven. It smells strongly of sauerkraut, which is an acquired taste/smell. But the resulting soup is worth it:)
Meatless sauerkraut soup
Serves 4-6 as a main course
3 litres of water
1 kg fresh sauerkraut*
100-200 grams vegetable oil, lard or butter
1-2 large onions
1 Tbsp concentrated tomato paste
1-2 chopped floury potatoes
2-3 bay leaves
sour cream to serve
Drain the extra liquid from the sauerkraut, put aside (you may need this to make the soup more sour later on). Rinse lightly under cold water.
Heat the oil in a large saucepan. Add the cabbage and pour over enough boiling water to cover by a few centimetres.
Bring to the boil, add 2 chopped carrots, diced onion, tomato paste, chopped potatoes and bay leaves. Simmer for 1-1.5 ours, until the cabbage is tender. Add the rest of the boiling water in batches during simmering.
Season with salt. Taste the soup - if it is too sharp and sour, add some sugar. If you think it's not sour enough, add some of the preserved draining liquid. Being a sauerkraut soup, it's supposed to be sour, of course. But you're not aiming for gut-scratching sharp and sour that gives you tummy troubles later.
Add 1-2 finely grated carrots for some crunch and colour, and garnish with a dollop of sour cream.
Serve with rye bread.
* Sauerkraut is available either "fresh" or canned. The latter has been partially cooked already, so needs less simmering time. It also tends to be less sour. I got my fresh sauerkraut from the Polish deli**, where it was sold vacuum-packed.
**Bona Deli, 86 South Clerk Street, Edinburgh