Tomato soup is something of a classic in Poland. A staple. An establishment. An iconic position on preschool menus, inseparable part of many homemade dinners, one of the symbols of so-called milk bars. A nightmare of many childhoods (if you don’t like tomatoes, that is), and a highlight of many return-home dinners.
Polish tomato soup is made with fresh tomatoes or tomato concentrate (the latter probably more common), mixed with chicken or vegetable stock. It’s rather chunky (due to pieces of carrots and parsnips), watery (it’s never blended), and enriched with a healthy dollop of cream (sour cream most commonly used by many Polish tomato soup aficionados). Served with pasta, rice or pieces of kluski, homemade tiny dumplings, dropped directly onto the simmering soup to boil. Often sprinkled with freshly chopped dill or parsley. Very, very satisfying combination.
TOMATO AND PASTA SOUP
1l of vegetable or chicken stock
1 can of plum tomatoes or 1kg fresh tomatoes
1tbsp tomato concentrate
2 celery sticks
2 garlic cloves
1tsp freshly chopped parsley
freshly ground pepper
1/2 tsp sugar
2 bay leaves
2-3 tbsp sour cream
half a pack of dried pasta (any type will do)
HOW TO MAKE?
1. Heat about 2tbsp of olive oil in a heavy-bottom saucepan over a low heat. Add chopped shallot, chopped garlic and sliced celery and mix together with a wooden spoon. Add sliced carrot and parsnip. Cook the vegetables for about 5-7 minutes, stirring them from time to time.
2. Add 2tbsp of tomato concentrate, chopped tomatoes from the can (together with the juice) to the saucepan with vegetables. If you are using fresh tomatoes, make sure to peel the skins off, and to get rid of the core beforehand.
3. Add sugar, pinch of salt, crushed bay leaves and a generous pinch of freshly ground pepper. Give the vegetables a good stir and cook on low heat for another 10 minutes or so. Remember to stir the vegetables often.
4. In a separate saucepan, cook the pasta according to the instructions on the packet. You can also use rice instead of pasta, long grain white or brown rice go very nicely with the soup. Once cooked, set aside to be used later.
5. Add the stock to the saucepan with vegetables, stir well and bring everything to a boil. Once boiled, turn the heat back to low, cover the saucepan with a lid and let the soup simmer for about 20 minutes. We don’t want to overcook the carrots! Nothing worse in a soup than a mushy piece of a cooked-to-death carrot.
6. Try the soup and season to taste. If satisfied, sprinkle the soup with a good handful of parsley, stir and take off the heat. In a mug or small bowl, mix 2 tbsp of sour cream with a ladle of soup. This is a very important step, in which we are heating up the sour cream with the ladle of warm soup, and thus preventing it from curdling, as that’s precisely what usually happens when one mixes sour cream directly into the saucepan of piping hot soup.
7. Add the sour cream into the soup, stir well and we are ready to go. Some people mix pasta or rice into the soup, which is okay if you are planning of eating all the soup on the day. If left until the next day, the pasta will swell into ugly, soft pieces of saggy memories of yesterday’s deliciousness. Up to you.
8. Serve the soup with yet another sprinkle of freshly chopped parsley. Enjoy!