Polish Zurek Soup Recipe

I was so excited to cook this recipe. I cannot even start to explain! It’s been pretty much 2 years in the making for me. If you read my recipe for Sweet Potato Horseradish soup you may have seen me allude to the fact it was coming – and here it is! My first experience with this Polish Zurek soup was 2 years ago in October 2017. I was on a long weekend in Warsaw with a friend. One evening, after a long day of sightseeing and shopping, interspersed with bouts of hiding in doorways from showers of rain, we meandered over to Warsaw’s old town. We’d been on our feet all day, and as night drew in it was absolutely freezing! We decided hot food was in order and, by chance, stumbled on a restaurant called Gościniec Polskie Pierogi.

It was quite a basic place but warm and cosy, with the best authentic Polish food. We asked the waiter to recommend some traditional Polish dishes to us. 15 minutes or so later we had a table full of great Polish delicacies. In among the varieties of Pierogi was this Zurek Soup, served in a hollowed out bread bowl.

Polish Zurek Soup

The taste of this soup is so different and unusual I couldn’t really put my finger on it. It has this sour flavour with a slight zing of horseradish. It’s a pretty meaty soup too – served with piles of sliced white sausage and bacon. I was hooked. Unfortunately we were going home the next day and alas, I’ve not found this stuff since.

Back home, I decided that I would simply find a recipe and cook this Zurek soup for myself. I got to researching. My first hurdle was that you need a liquid called Zakwas – which does not seem to be available here in Dubai. But fear not, you can make your own. It just takes some patience as it requires 5 days to ferment. For this you need rye flour. Which I could not find ANYWHERE. At least, not until now. Amazon launched in Dubai this year and to my surprise, they were selling it! 

Zakwas for Zurek Soup

So, after a 2 year wait for this soup, I could finally go about making it. My next challenge was to pull together a recipe. As with so many traditional foods, everyone has their own spin on how to make it. I just wanted mine to be as similar as possible to the one I had in Warsaw. So, I spent a lot of time pouring through the recipes out there and pulling together a ‘version’ that would best work for me. Shout out to Polish Housewife, In Ania’s Kitchen, and Splendid Table for providing me with inspiration and instructions for at various parts of the recipe.  

I made this with a homemade soup bread bowl. Recipe here. They definitely weren’t that difficult and I did the lot by hand as I don’t have a mixer. It did add a bit of something extra special to the dish. If you have the time and you are entertaining then I would recommend it. 

Zurek Soup Bread Bowl

Would I make this again? For sure! Was it as good as the one I had in Poland? I’m not sure. I think it’s pretty damn close. You can never fully substitute eating a local dish in it’s home country. It was definitely worth the wait though and hopefully one day in the future I’ll have the pleasure of eating Zurek soup whilst actually in Poland again. 

Lakeland 20cm Chinois

Stainless steel multi-purpose strainer. Extra-fine mesh for sieving, sifting or puréeing. Great for making coulis and sauces

Lakeland Fermentation Jar

The jar I used to make this recipe – I just used a napkin instead of the lid for this recipe!

Leak Proof Soup Bowl

On-the-go leak proof bowl – perfect for taking soup to work!

Polish Zurek Soup

Recipe by carolineCourse: LunchCuisine: PolishDifficulty: Medium
Servings

2

servings
Prep time

20

minutes
Cooking time

1

hour 

20

minutes
Calories

570

kcal
Marinade / Rest Time

5

days

Polish Zurek Soup – a dish that stayed with me way after I returned from Poland. So much so I had to make it. An unusual flavoured soup – sour, warm and with a kick of horseradish.

Ingredients

  • Zakwas
  • 5 tablespoons of rye flour

  • 700ml / 3 cups tepid water

  • 5 allspice berries

  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed

  • The Soup
  • 1 large parsnip, around 200g

  • 1 large carrot, around 200g

  • 1.5 large onion

  • 5 allspice berries

  • 5 peppercorns

  • 2 peeled garlic cloves

  • 2 bay leaves

  • 6 cups / 1.5l water

  • 2 tbsps horseradish

  • 1 tsp marjoram or oregano

  • 1 large egg, boiled and quartered

  • 2 white sausages (around 250g total) – Polish white kielbasa or white bratwurst (see note 6)

  • around 4 slices streaky bacon (100g)

  • Optional, to serve (not included in calorie count)
  • Bread

  • Sour cream

Directions

  • The Zakwas
  • Combine all ingredients in a jar and stir together well. Cover with atea towel, paper towel or paper napkin secured with an elastic band.
  • Leave in a warm place, such as a windowsill. Stir the mixture each day.
  • After 5 days your Zakwas is ready – I actually left mine for 6 to strengthen the flavour.
  • The Soup
  • See note 1. First make the vegetable stock. Peel and chop the parsnip and carrot and peel and quarter one onion. Place in a large pan with the water, the allspice berries, the peppercorns, the bay leaves and the garlic cloves and bring to the boil. Salt the liquid well and boil lightly for around 1 hour – the liquid should have reduced by half.
  • Strain the broth into another large pan – press down on the vegetables while you do to get all the flavour out of them. Place the pan over a low heat.
  • Towards the end of the cooking time for the stock slice the sausages, dice the other onion half and slice the bacon. Add the onion to a frying pan over a medium heat. After a couple of minutes add the sausage meat and bacon and fry for a further 8-10 minutes, making sure that nothing burns.
  • Remove the sausage, onion and bacon from the pan. If they mixture is particularly oily (from the sausage juices), then place on a plate on some kitchen towel for a couple of minutes.
  • Add the sausage, bacon and onion to the drained stock. Add 1 tsp of marjoram (see note 2) and the horseradish. Add 1 cup (250ml) of the zakwas mixture (see note 3 & 4) .Stir well and simmer the mixture for 5 minutes.
  • Serve in bowls with 2 egg quarters on top. Optional: You can also serve with bread and a dollop of sour cream on top. (see note 5)

Notes

  • Some recipes used ready made stock or stock cubes for this part. I’ve not tried this but you could if you were short on time. I have to say that this wasn’t the most flavoursome/strong stock so I’d suggest 1 stock cube in 750ml water would work.
  • I could not find marjoram, so I used oregano. This worked fine, although marjoram is the authentic option.
  • I found most recipes had a 1:3 mixture of broth to zakwas which is what I followed. However feel free to add more if you want it to be more sour.
  • I mixed the zakwas liquid before adding to the broth. Some recipes advise to strain while others do not. I decided that incorporating some of the flour to the soup would help thicken and possibly give more flavour.
  • Several recipes suggest adding sour cream to the soup and mixing before serving. I tested this and despite mixing with a little of the soup before pouring in, found that it almost ‘curdled’ resulting in little white flecks in the soup. Therefore I suggest it better to add at the time of serving if you wish to add cream.
  • Authentically, this is served with Biała Kielbasa – a white Polish sausage. I could not find this so I used white Bratwurst and it was yummy. Please don’t lynch me for this. I had to make do with what I could find!

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