Polish Christmas in June: Marta’s Barszcz

Summer is taking a break this weekend in The Hague. And so today Marta is making a traditional beetroot soup from Poland that is usually eaten for Christmas but that we will have the audacity to eat in June! The name is fascinating – Barszcz. Well, any word that has 7 letters and only one vowel in it is fascinating by default. We, Eastern Europeans, all have our varieties of borsch but today we wander to Poland for a taste of their tradition.

As I arrived, Marta already had the ingredients ready and was excited to get started. I was, too, I mean, look at this.

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I am in love with the scent of fresh dille. And today was all about familiar smells blending beautifully together. It was not just about feeding the eyes, it was equally about scent and memory. You know how some smells immediately transport you to certain memories, dug deep down in the brain and only occurring as if out of nowhere when you dip your nose into something? Ahh.. it was constant flashbacks to a simpler time, all the time, today.

Beetroot is the star of this dish. And so beetroot is the star of my pictures, too.

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Raw, fresh from the Rijswijk Saturday market, ready to make any fingers that dare touch it red as blood.

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Slowly but surely, the chopping board was turning into a canvas. Feeding the eye has begun.

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Marta chopped the beetroot, one big onion and a couple of skillets of garlic.

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She also said that she knows this recipe from her mother and she doesn’t really need a recipe for it (my favourite kind of dishes!). The onion, though, was a small tip from the Internet and Marta decided to try it.

Time to put the pot on the stove. The cutest green stove and the cutest pot.

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She started with frying the onion with some oil and then adding a good amount of water into the pot. And in went the chopped beetroot.

After that, the secret ingredient – a glass of juice from a pickle jar! But beware, these should be proper sour pickles, not the sweet Dutch version that I cannot really comprehend. Why pickle juice, you may wonder? To keep the colour of the beetroot, said Marta! I love this. Marta also said her mother has always cooked the soup this way but she didn’t find a recipe on the Internet that includes that. Well, dear Internet, here’s something for you to learn today!

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Then the royal dille and parsley (don’t worry, it’s not some kind of special variety of dille and parsley, they just seem to me deserving to be called royal). Fresh and green and beautiful and… aah summer.

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Then squeezing in half a lemon (Marta squeezed in the other half later on as well).

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Lid on top, 15 min boiling, then it was time to check – cooking time is measured by “you taste and see if it’s good,” according to Marta. Ladies and gents, once again, trust your senses and you’ll get it just right. Another 10-15 min of boiling, some black pepper for edge, and the soup was ready.

Did you really think we would only be eating liquid? Come on, this is Poland! In go the Uszka (“ears” in Polish). These are a kind of mini dumplings with mushroom filling that only take around 10 min to cook (separately, just in salted water) and are ready to go (in).

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Now, I’ll let you in on a little secret – there was a lot of experimentation in making the pictures that follow. It was not easy to get these just right. But that’s the best part of these sessions, we work with what we have and whatever happens. But, I leave it up to you to figure out how we “cheated” for these pictures.

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Bottom line is, it doesn’t matter. We got to this beautiful outcome and we got to enjoy it together after that.

Dziękuję!

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