Sunday, January 10, 2010
Vegetarian Kapstunica (Slovak Christmas soup)
I make this soup recipe twice a year: for my family on traditional Christmas eve, and on December 6 when I throw a Slovak Christmas party for my friends back in Vancouver. It's a traditional Slovak Christmas soup—though made a little non-traditionally, given that there's no meat in it. Its base should have a nice big pork hock for flavour, but given that I'm a vegetarian, I've learned how to substitute that out.
The recipe comes from my Aunt Olga, who learned from my Babka (though I'm curious how Campbell's tomato soup became part of the base—I'm certain it wasn't always). For the first few years I made it I would call her on the 24th in a panic to get a recap of how it all comes together, but I've pretty much got it down now. All of the amounts are rough estimates—like most soups, it's pretty flexible. So feel free to up or down the volumes if you like a little more potato, a little less oregano, etc. It makes A LOT, like, enough to serve an army for a week a lot, but if you want to feed even more people, up the potatoes. Easy peasy.
Slovak Christmas Soup Recipe, vegetarian-style
3 cans Campbell's tomato soup
1 jar good-quality sauerkraut (buy from a Polish deli)
4 potatoes, peeled and diced
10-12 prunes, diced
2 medium onions
1/3 cup butter or margerine
1 tbsp caraway seeds
1 tbsp black peppercorns
1 tbsp dry basil
1 tbsp dry oregano
1/4 cup brown sugar
salt to taste
In a small pot, cover potatoes and one onion with water and bring to a boil. Add 1 tsp salt. Cook until just fork-tender, about 7 minutes.
In a large heavy-bottomed pot, combine tomato soup with three cans of water, sauerkraut, cabbage, one onion, prunes, butter, caraway, peppercorns, basil and oregano.
If soup is too thick, add more water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer.
When potatoes are ready, empty the whole pot—water, onions and all—into the soup pot. (Parboiling the potatoes is key: potatoes won't cook in tomato-based dishes).
Simmer the soup for at least two hours, until the fresh cabbage is soft. (You may have to continue adding water if soup gets too thick.) Add brown sugar (because sauerkraut brands vary in acidity, you might want to adjust the amounts up or down) and salt to taste. Serve with a dollop of sour cream in each bowl.
This soup is often even better on the second day!