My mother shocked OBH by serving him water with flour, a big piece of kielbasa (Polish sausage) and a few cubes of fried onion. He still hasn’t fully recovered from the shock and likes to talk about it from time to time. Well, he grew up on the full feature version of Żurek.
The recipe below gives you this “full feature” soup and, I think, it’s the best. However, you can easily make it vegetarian or paleo just by skipping certain ingredients.
To make Żurek you need:
0-5 to 1 litre of fermented rye flour; see how to get it
a piece of kiełbasa or/and pork belly (preferably smoked)
1 big onion
1 parsley root (if you have exotics like that in your garden or go to a Polish shop, otherwise substitute with a parsnip)
a small piece of celeriac
3 medium potatoes
3-4 cloves of garlic
100-150 ml of pouring cream
When it comes to spices, marjoram is rather important. If you intend to skip this ingredient, you better skip making Żurek altogether.
In Poland, we add pimento and a bay leaf when cooking any kind of soup, but I am not sure if I would recognise by the taste that someone forgot to add it, so can risk saying that it is not necessary.
The traditional way of making Żurek requires cooking kiełbasa/pork belly in water for at least 20-30 minutes and then adding the rest of ingredients.
I make it differently. I put all chopped vegetables except the onion into 2 litres of water (and pimento and bay leaf if you have them) and cook slowly. In the meantime, I fry chopped kiełbasa/pork belly and onion in a pan and add them to the water with veg when they are nice and crispy.
When the vegetables are soft, I take my jar/bottle with fermented flour, stir it well and pour into the soup. It must be done very, very slowly and accompanied by intensive stirring as flour tends to lump in the hot water. If you get lumps, don’t panic; they will dissolve when cooking (if not, just fish them out).
The flour needs to be cooked for at least 10 minutes. At this stage add salt, black pepper, a small fist of marjoram and crushed garlic. I’m not able to quantify how much salt should be added, but definitely more than for any other soup. Try adding a teaspoon for a start and taste.
To finish up, add cream and cook for a few more minutes.
Use lemon juice to balance the taste. It should be rather sour.
I love Żurek served with a hard-boiled egg.