Sourdough soups are a feature of Slavic cuisines, with regional variations favouring different fermented grains like rye, oat, barley, or wheat.
I first encountered the Polish rye sourdough soup known as żurek in February. I'd landed in Warsaw a couple of hours prior and was famished. I crammed my bag in the hostel locker and headed around the corner to Chwast Polski, a restaurant focussed on vegan versions of Polish classics (even zimne nóżki, or meat aspic). My first meal in Poland was this soup, and it remains one of the most memorable during my short time in Warsaw.
I'm not about to claim my version compares (or that I have a solid understanding of Polish cooking) but, hey, this riff is just an easy lockdown recipe.
A very salty vegan bacon (not the rice paper sort, which won't stand up to the liquid) elevates this soup, so if you have some then by all means use it here. Failing that (or in addition to), liquid smoke complements the dish well.
Vegan rye sourdough soup
- 1 litre water
- 1 - 1 ½ cups of ½ inch dice root vegetables such as carrot, celeriac, and/or parsnip
- ½ onion, roughly chopped
- 2-3 large cloves garlic, smashed
- ⅛ - ¼ teaspoon ground allspice
- 3 peppercorns
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 teaspoons dried marjoram
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 5-10 grams dried chanterelles or other dried mushrooms (about 2-4 tablespoons)
- ¾ cup 1 inch pieces new potato
- 2-3 vegan sausages, sliced and/or bacon pieces, fried and diced
- 1 teaspoon liquid smoke (optional)
- 5-7 tablespoons rye sourdough starter
- Additional salt for seasoning
- White pepper for serving
- Chopped fresh herbs like parsley and/or dill for garnish
- Vegan cream, creme fraiche, or yoghurt (optional)
- Add the water, root vegetables, onion, garlic, dried herbs and spices, salt, and mushrooms to a saucepan. Bring to the boil and then turn to medium low heat. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes.
- Add the potatoes and sausages/bacon. Cook for 10-15 minutes, covered, or until the potatoes are done. Decrease the heat to the lower temperature setting and cover.
- Remove about 1 cup (aim for 200-250 millilitres) of stock only. Leave to cool (you can chuck a few ice cubes it to hurry it along). When room temperature (or a little above), add 5-7 tablespoons of rye sourdough starter, whisking through to ensure it blends with the liquid.
- Knock the heat of the soup back up to medium. Pour the sourdough liquid back into the pot, stirring the entire time. The soup should thicken substantially. Add the liquid smoke, if using (if you aren’t using vegan bacon I recommend using the liquid smoke). Taste and add salt as you see fit.
- Serve with white pepper and fresh herbs. If you'd like, swirl some cream/creme fraiche/yoghurt through the soup.
- Author: Kip Dorrell
- Serves: 3-4
- Cuisine: Polish-ish
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