5 classic Czech soups to warm you up this autumn

From creamy kuljada to zesty zelňačka, these traditional soup recipes are easy to make and will impress your Czech friends and family

From creamy kulajda to grandma’s homemade chicken vývar, soup is an essential part of Czech cuisine. For centuries a handful of traditional recipes have offered sustenance, relief from a cold or hangover, and a savory opening act for Sunday lunch. Food blogger Mona Jaoua has shared 5 classic Czech soups from her blog. Keep them in your cooking repertoire to warm body and soul this autumn:

Lentil soup with root vegetables

  • 250g lentils
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 onion
  • 1 carrot, grated
  • 1 parsnip, grated
  • 2 celery stalks, thinly sliced
  • 2.5l water
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 Viennese sausages (sliced) or bacon (crumbled)
  • Marjoram

Rinse the lentils and soak in 2.5l water, about 40 minutes. In the same water, cook lentils until soft. Meanwhile, melt half of the butter in a skillet and add onions cooking until softened. Sprinkle cooked onions with flour and stir until thickened into a roux.

Melt the remaining butter in a pan and add carrots, parsnips, and celery; cook until golden-brown. Meanwhile, if using, gently dry-fry the sausages or bacon until crisp.

Add the thickened roux, vegetables, garlic, and sausage or bacon if using to the cooked lentils. Bring to boil and then simmer for a while, finishing with marjoram. In Slovakia, a squeeze of fresh lemon juice is added just before serving. If you want to make a vegetarian version omit the sausage and add a little smoked paprika.

Cabbage soup (Zelňačka)

  • 2 large potatoes, diced
  • 500g of sauerkraut, roughly chopped
  • 500g of smoked ribs
  • 100ml heavy cream (30% or higher)
  • 1 tbsp of butter
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 1 tbsp paprika
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 5 whole peppercorns
  • 3 balls of allspice
  • Pinch caraway
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Boil the potatoes and cabbage separately. Set aside. In a large stock pot cover the smoked ribs with water and simmer with bay leaves, peppercorns, and allspice until fork-tender, strain the broth and reserve. Pick the meat from the ribs and set aside. Melt the butter in the pot over low heat. Sprinkle with flour and stir gently until thickened, adding the paprika to the roux at the last minute, followed by the cabbage and the cooking broth from the ribs. Cook 15 minutes then add the smoked meat and potatoes, and stir in cream. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Kulajda

  • 1 large tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 300ml of milk
  • 3 large potatoes, cubed
  • 200g mushrooms, to taste
  • Heavy cream (30% or higher)
  • 1 egg
  • 3 balls of allspice, 2 bay leaves, 4 whole peppercorn
  • Lemon juice
  • Salt, pepper, caraway, to taste
  • Fresh dill

Place diced potatoes in a large soup pot and cover with salted water. Add caraway, allspice, bay leaves, and peppercorns. When the potatoes come to a boil add mushrooms and cook until soft. Meanwhile, in a separate pot, melt the butter and sprinkle with flour to thicken, gradually adding the milk while smashing any small lumps as you stir. Add the entire potato-mushroom mixture to the pot with the béchamel.

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Stir until cooked through adding the cream and seasoning with salt, pepper, lemon juice, and dill. Serve with a poached egg.

Potato soup with barley

  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 3 large potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 1 carrot, shredded on the large side of a grater
  • 1 parsnip, shredded on the large side of a grater
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • Handful dried or fresh mushrooms
  • Broth or water, to cover
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced in salt
  • Caraway seeds
  • Marjoram
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Handful cooked barley (optional)

If using fresh mushrooms, wash and slice and set aside; soak dried mushrooms in a bowl of water for at least 20 minutes. Melt butter in a large soup pot; saute the shredded vegetables in the butter until softened then add the potatoes. Sprinkle with flour and cook until softened and golden brown. Cover with broth or water, then add mushrooms and caraway and simmer until cooked through. Finally add garlic, marjoram, and salt and pepper to taste. Finish by stirring in the cooked barley if using.

Roasted chicken broth

  • 5 chicken wings
  • 2 carrots, cut into matchsticks
  • 2 parsnips, cut into matchsticks
  • 1/4 celeriac, cut into matchsticks
  • 1 big onion with peel
  • 5 cloves of garlic
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 5 peppercorns
  • 5 balls allspice
  • Pinch thyme
  • Pinch flat-leaf parsley
  • Olive oil, to drizzle
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Salt the chicken wings and then place on a prepared baking sheet along with vegetables. Season with spices and drizzle with olive oil. Bake in a preheated oven at 170 C for 45 minutes, just until the ingredients are golden. After the chicken and vegetables are baked, transfer to a pot of cold water. Add the parsley and season with salt and pepper. Pour a little hot water over the baking sheet to deglaze and add the liquid to the pot for a nice golden color. Bring everything to a boil skimming off any foam that collects on the top with a spoon. Transfer the broth to a clean pot and add cooked chicken meat. You can also saute a fresh batch of root vegetables and add to the broth or noodles.

For more great Czech-inspired comfort food follow Monovareni on Facebook
This article was first published in 2017.

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