(traditional Slovenian) Wild Mushroom and Potato Soup

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If you were to ask me what a traditional dish from where I come from is, I’d probably say Potica, because it’s what every Slovenian says from the top of their head. And I would then explain to you that’s it’s a cake and all of it’s variations and … But then you might ask me about savoury dishes and I’d probably have to take a minute to think about my answer. It’s hard to define our culinary national identity, lots of the dishes we claim are “ours”, you can also find all around central and eastern Europe. But then I’d remember this wonderful soup, so simple and ubiquitous in the specific area where I come from (The area around the Pohorje mountain), no-one probably even thinks about it as anything special. Every shady restaurant will serve a variation in mushroom season (late spring-early autumn), but if you’d actually take the time to go to one of the mountain cottages (they’re usually quite large and can host more than a hundred people, the “cottage” part is just an expression) you’d get something so delicious, you’d speak about it for years. (Just ask my friend D….).

Traditionally it would be served with one of the best things that ever came out of a kitchen, something I’m going to call buckwheat polenta, because I don’t think the word “Žganci” has an actual translation. You make it by cooking coarse buckwheat flour until you get something resembling potato mash – but because I had no buckwheat flour on hand, I couldn’t make it here and won’t write a real recipe until I try it with available products (In Slovenia you can obviously buy a product called buckwheat žganci). Then on top of the poletna and soup, you’d get a large spoonful of ocvirki – pig fat and cracklings, which is pretty much the only thing in the world that’s slightly better than bacon.

Anyway, here’s the recipe for the soup part of the dish. It has potatoes in there, so the buckwheat is more a luxury than a necessity and if you really wanted to have something meaty in there (and didn’t have “ocvirki”) you could add bacon lardons and that would probably be almost as good as the version you’d get on Pohorje. My version also had carrots in it, because I feel guilty if there’s almost no vegetables in my dinner and because that’s how I’m used to making it.

You’ll need

(for 2 hungry people if it’s a main, 4 if it’s a starter)

  • 2 cups wild mushrooms, cleaned and cut into strips (I had 4 porcinis and 1 chantarell that I brought back with me from Slovenia. The soup is better with more chantarells, but it’s really tasty with just porcinis. Using store bought button mushrooms would probably produce something good to, but that just wouldn’t be the same.)
  • 1 cup diced potatoes (very small dice. Around 0.5 cm)
  • 2 medium carrots, diced
  • 1 medium brown onion, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp dried majoram (or use oregano, but than use ¾ tsp. They are basically the same, oregano is just a bit stronger)
  • 1 bunch of fresh parsley
  • around 700 ml (3 cups) vegetable stock
  • around 100 ml (around 1/2cup) dry white wine, preferably from the north east of Slovenia;) (if you don’t want to open a bottle of wine, use around a tbsp of white wine vinegar and add more stock)
  • 3 tbsp soured cream
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • salt and pepper to taste

sestavine

1. In a soup pan heat the oil and butter and add the onions and carrots. Saute on medium heat until the onion gets translucent. Add potatoes, saute for 2 minutes.

2. Add the garlic, saute until you can smell it (30 seconds) then add the mushrooms. Add a good pinch of salt and saute for 5 minutes, all while mixing everything gently. (don’t break the mushrooms into too small pieces)

3. Add enough stock to cover all of the dry ingredients and the oregano and let simmer for 15 minutes or until the potatoes are cooked. In the meantime chop parsley.

4. Add the white wine or vinegar (it is VERY important to wait with the wine until the potatoes are cooked. If you add acid to cooking potatoes they magically won’t cook at all), cream and a tbsp of parsley and cook for 5 more minutes.

5. Sprinkle with more fresh parsley, serve and enjoy.

6. Dober tek!;)

juha

Jerusalem artichoke cream soup with balsamic glazed smoked bacon lardons

I just cooked and ate Jerusalem artichokes for the first time. I always thought thy are just another weird kind of sweet potato that I wouldn’t know how to prepare. I got the idea after I learned they are neither from Jerusalem, nor artichokes, but something that looks like ginger and potatoes had a baby.

Then Norb ordered some with our veg box and I had to learn more about them. Turns out they are called artichoke, because they actually taste remarkably like artichokes, even though they are a kind of tubular, most closely related to the sunflower (that’s why they are often called sunchokes nowadays). And I LOVE the taste of artichokes, it’s one of my favourite tastes ever. My research (googling) also thought me that one of the most common ways to prepare them is to make a soup. I also read somewhere (think it might me Jamie Olivers site) that they go perfect with smoky flavours. I also knew from previous cooking that artichokes and balsamic vinegar are a match made in heaven, so this recipe was born:

sunchoke soup

Jerusalem artichoke cream soup with balsamic glazed smoked bacon lardons 

You’ll need (for approximately 4 people):

  • 2 cups (around 10) peeled and chopped Jerusalem artichokes
  • 1 large or 2 small carrots (half a cup), also chopped
  • 1 stick celery, chopped
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • about 4 cups of broth (chicken, vegetable, whatever you have on hand)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 thick slices of smoked bacon
  • 2 tbsp of balsamic vinegar

1. Heat the oil and add the onion, carrots and celery. Saute for 5 minutes.

2. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Add the Jerusalem artichokes.

3. Cover with broth and cook on medium low for about 25 minutes, or until all vegetables are soft. The soup should simmer, not boil.

4. When the soup needs no more supervision, start preparing the lardons. Heat a cast iron pan (or a non-stick one, but you should really think about investing into a cast iron pan:)).

5. Cube the bacon into small pieces (around 1/3 of an inch, half a cm) and add it to the pan. Add the balsamic vinegar and mix well. Lower the temperature to medium or medim low and cook untill the bacon is crisp (around 15 minutes). Mix often, so it doesn’t burn.

6.Blend the soup and add a bit more liquid (broth) if it’s too thick.

7. Serve together with the lardons and dober tek!

Creamy Cauliflower, Leek and Rosemary Soup (vegan, paleo)

I’m not on any special diets, I eat everything but tend to try and eat more or less healthy most of the time. I do like experimenting with vegan/vegetarian/gluten free/… recipes though. Sometimes the restrictions bring out my creativity. This soup recipe is a result of such an experimentation and I love how it tastes. I also like to think it’s way healthier than cauliflower soup made with cream, but who knows what really is the healthiest option these days… I tend to go with the one that’s most delicious – and I think this recipe is really worth sharing.

For approximately 4 servings, you’ll need:

  • 1 cup of cashews, soaked over night (measured before, not after soaking)
  • 3 cups of cauliflower florets
  • 1 cup chopped leeks
  • 2 cloves of garlic (minced)
  • 1 tbsp Olive oil
  • 2 tbsp (or less, if you don’t want it to be too pungent) chopped rosemary leafs
  • salt and pepper to taste

1. Heat the oil in your favourite soup pot. Add the leeks and the cauliflower ans sauté on medium high heat for about 5 minutes, so some roasting aromas develop.
2. Blend the soaked cashews in 3 cups of water until you get cashew milk. (You could also use approximately 4 cups of cashew milk, if you were lazy).
3. Add the garlic and the rosemary to the pot and sauté for 30 more seconds.
4. Pour in the cashew milk and season to your liking. Cook for about 15-20 more minutes or until the cauliflower is soft.
5. Blend with whatever kitchen appliance you usually use for the job. (I like to use my regular blender. The mess me + a soup + an immersion blender make is pretty much unbelievable.) If the soup is too thick, add some water.
7. If you eat grains, serve with some delicious whole wheat bread.
6. Dober tek! (That’s like bon appetit in Slovenian. I never know how to finish recipes in English and not sound like a wannabe Julia Child.)