Polish Christmas hot beet soup with mushroom dumplings
It used to be a Christmas tradition in my family back in Poland. In my home town of Szczecin, it was also typical to serve it as something to drink, usually with paszteciks.
- 0.2 lbs of dried mushrooms (ideally porcini)
- 2 lbs of beets
- 2 carrots
- 1 parsley
- 1 celery
- 2 onions (red or white)
- 1 lb of flour
- 2 eggs
- 3–4 peppercorns
- 1 tbsp. of breadcrumbs
- lemon or lemon juice
- salt, sugar, vinegar, ground pepper, olive oil
Serves… I don’t know. It really kind of depends on how hungry people are. 6–8 people, though?
The evening before
Put all the mushrooms in about 16 ounces of water. Let them soak overnight.
Wake up to the wonderful/weird smell of mushrooms permeating your apartment. Then get into your time machine, go back to the last evening, and put the lid on.
Boil the mushrooms in the same water for about an hour. Covered, but leave a little gap. Small heat. Might need to add water if it boils away.
Peel the beets, carrots, parsley, celery, and one of the onions. (Marcin’s note: I wasn’t sure what to keep and what to throw away. I kept the green part™ of parsley, and the non-green parts™ of everything else.) Put it all in about 2 quarts of water, add peppercorns and two tablespoons of vinegar. Start boiling until the beets become soft (try with a fork). It should take about 40–70 minutes.
(Washing your hands in vinegar should help with the beet stains if you don’t use gloves. I probably should have mentioned the gloves as an option earlier. Sorry about that.)
Once done boiling both things, combine the liquids. Keep the mushrooms elsewhere; everything else (vegetables) is no longer necessary. Add salt (one tablespoon), a pinch of sugar, and lemon juice (half a lemon) to taste. (Marcin’s note: I usually add even more salt and pepper at this point.)
Uszka (dumplings) — the filling
Chop the boiled mushrooms into tiny pieces (Marcin’s note: My Mom used a manual meat grinder. I have no such thing. The one my Mom has is probably still from the communist times. I will take a photo whenever I’m home again, and report back.)
Chop half of the other onion, and fry it a bit on a pan on trace amounts of olive oil. (Marcin’s note: Originally butter.)
Combine the mushrooms and the fried onion, add a white of one egg, and one tablespoon of breadcrumbs. Also: one teaspon of salt, and half a teaspoon of ground pepper to taste.
The resulting filling should be thick; if not, add a bit more breadcrumbs.
Uszka (dumplings) — dough
(Uszka is plural of uszko. It means “little ears.” Welcome to Polish. It’s all downhill from here.)
Empty about 2 cups of flour on the table. Make a hole in the middle, and put in the entire raw egg. Keep kneading it while adding warm water, until it stops being sticky. You can add more flour if it doesn’t.
Then make it very flat/thin using a rolling pin. Use more flour if it sticks to the table or the rolling pin. This is literally the most annoying part of this endeavour.
Uszka (dumplings) — assembly
Cut out a 2-by-2 inch square out of the flat dough. Put a bit of filling in one of the corners. Join one of the corners diagonally with the opposing corner to form a triangle. Use your finger or the tip of the fork to join the edges together. (You can put a bit of warm water on the edges so they stick well.) Then take the two points on the long edge and join them together to form an uszko! Put it on a porous surface (e.g. a dishtowel) so it doesn’t stick.
(Why are you still parsing the above paragraph rather than finding a YouTube video explaining it is above me.)
Start boiling about 2 quarts of water. Add a tablespoon of salt. Once the dumplings are constructed, put them into the boiling water. They will submerge, but eventually come to the surface — this is when they’re ready. It should take 5–10 minutes per uszko. Make sure you stir things around since they might stick to the bottom.
Put a few finished uszka in the barszcz; serve with panache and some simulated Catholic guilt.
Originally written down by my Mom, Maria Wichary. Translated/converted/improved by her most favourite son.