With its intriguing blend of Gothic and Renaissance architecture, Krakow’s town square blanketed in a thick layer of February snow is one of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen. But it’s not for the faint hearted – stinging Siberian winds whip around the buildings and a post-wander warm-up was definitely required. So it’s fortunate that the Poles have comfort food pegged, and bigos (hunter’s stew) is everything you could hope for on a wintry day. Polish kabernos sausage has an amazing, distinctive smoky flavour that makes it the star of this soup, which is roughly based on that classic Polish dish.
10g [1/3oz] dried mushrooms
1 Tbsp olive oil
125g [4 1/2 oz] smoked bacon lardons or pancetta
100g [3 1/2 oz] kabernos sausage, sliced
1 large onion, finely sliced
150g [2 cups] baby button mushrooms (chestnut if possible), quartered
1/2 tsp caraway seeds
1/2 small white cabbage, cored and finely shredded (about 150g [5 1/2 oz] prepared weight)
8 juniper berries, crushed
1 apple, grated (leave the skin on)
1.2 litres [5 cups] beef stock
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Put the dried mushrooms in a bowl, cover with about 100ml [1/3 cup] hot water, and leave to soak.
Heat the oil in a large saucepan over high heat and add the lardons. Fry them for a few minutes until they are turning golden and the fat is rendering out, then add the sausages and cook for another couple of minutes.
Turn the heat down to low–medium, add the onion, mushrooms and caraway seeds, and cook for about 8 minutes more until the onions are softening and the mushrooms are picking up some colour. Add the cabbage and juniper berries and cook for a further 5 minutes, until the cabbage is well wilted.
Meanwhile, strain the dried mushrooms, reserving the soaking water, and chop them. Add them to the pan along with the apple. Add the mushroom soaking water too, pouring it in slowly and discarding any gritty looking liquid at the bottom of the jug. Cook for 1–2 minutes until the liquid has reduced, then add the beef stock.
Turn the heat up to bring the liquid to a boil, then once boiling, turn it back down so that the soup is simmering. Cover the pan and leave to bubble away for 30 minutes, until the cabbage is really soft and all the flavours have got to know each other.
Taste and season with salt and plenty of pepper, then ladle into 4 warmed bowls to serve
Recipe excerpted with permission from Nourish Soups by Rebecca Woods, published by Quadrille November 2019, RRP $22.99 Hardcover.
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