What is barszcz z uszkami?
Barszcz z uszkami, aka Christmas beetroot broth, is a savory, lightly sour soup that was usually prepared once a year in every Polish house. Traditionally, it is reserved strictly for Christmas Eve dinner, along with the other 11 dishes served. A small portion of barszcz is served with around 5 uszka filled with wild mushrooms. It’s like tortellini sunk in a beetroot soup. Its purpose is to be the opening dish, warming up everyone’s appetite and bringing the traditional tastes of Christmas into the air.
It’s intense, earthy and sweet taste is complemented by the deep flavor of wild mushrooms that cannot be conveyed by any other dish. It is unique and absolutely irresistible.
Barszcz is a vegetarian soup, because many Poles observe Advent up until the Christmas Day. Therefore, all 12 Christmas Eve dishes are meatless or include fish. If you’re not one to observe this traditional Catholic rule or you can’t resist meat, you can also prepare a meat version.
What are uszka?
The word uszka literally means “small ears”, and it is a plural form of the word “uszko” (welcome to the Polish language). Uszka are small dumplings, you could say that they are a very small and twisted version of pierogi. They are typically filled with flavorsome and aromatic wild forest mushrooms or minced meat. Uszka are usually served with barszcz, although they can also be eaten simply with melted butter and herbs, for example chives, sprinkled over. The vegetarian variants are stuffed solely with mushrooms or onion, and they are a part of traditional Christmas Eve dishes in Poland and Ukraine, and are either added to the soup, or eaten as a side dish.
Recipe for barszcz z uszkami
- 100 g of dried mushrooms (ideally porcini mushrooms, Polish: borowiki)
- 1 kg of beetroots
- 2 carrots
- 1 parsley root
- 1 celery root
- 2 onions
- 0,5 kg of flour
- 2 eggs
- 4 peppercorns
- 1 tablespoon of breadcrumbs
- half a lemon
- salt, ground pepper
- vinegar, olive oil
The day before (!)
Put all the mushrooms in about 500 ml of water. Let them soak overnight.
- Wake up in the morning ready for preparation, but a bit irritated because you probably forgot to soak the mushrooms. Get into your time machine, go back to the previous evening and soak the damn mushrooms.
- Boil the mushrooms in the same water for about an hour. Place a lid on, but leave a little gap and cook it on small heat.
- Peel the beetroots, carrots, parsley, celery, and one of the onions. If you’re not sure which vegetable parts to keep and which to throw away, you may want to remember about one rule: keep the green part of parsley, and the non-green parts of everything else.
- Put it all in about 2 liters of water, add peppercorns and two tablespoons of vinegar. Boil it for about 1 hour.
- Now you can use this 1 hour for trying to get rid of beetroot stains on your hands and probably clothes too.
- Once you’re done boiling both liquids, combine them. Keep the mushrooms elsewhere. Vegetables are no longer necessary (if you are creative, you can use the leftover vegetables for another meal, if you’re not, your loss). Add 1 tablespoon of salt, and squeeze the lemon into the broth.
Uszka – the filling
- Chop the boiled mushrooms into tiny pieces. Some Polish people who remember communist times have manual meat grinder at their home and they use this machine to do the job for them. If you’re just a poor knife owner, it will also work.
- Chop half of the other onion, and fry it a bit on a pan on olive oil.
- Combine the mushrooms, the fried onion, and breadcrumbs. Season it with 1 teaspoon of salt, and half a teaspoon of ground pepper.
Uszka – the dough
- Empty about 2 cups of flour on your working space. Make a hole in the middle, and put in the entire raw egg. Keep kneading it while adding warm water, until it stops being sticky.
- Make the dough very thin by using a rolling pin. Use flour as an anti-sticker. This is probably the most irritating part of the whole endeavor.
Uszka – finally the creative part
- Cut out a 5×5 cm square out of the flat dough. Put a bit of filling in one of the corners. Join one of the corners diagonally with the opposing corner to form a triangle. Use your finger or the tip of the fork to join the edges together. Then take the two points on the long edge and join them together to form an uszko. Put it on surface where it won’t stick, e.g., a cloth, so that you don’t get irritated for the 3rd time this day.
- Repeat the action until you finish up the stuffing and the dough. Probably for the next 3 hours until you get practice.
- Boil about 2 liters of water and add a tablespoon of salt. Once the dumplings are finally created, put them into the boiling water. They will go to the bottom first, but eventually they come out to the surface, and this is when they’re ready. Make sure you stir things around since they might stick to the bottom, which is something you definitely don’t want.
The most complicated activity at the end:
Place a few finished uszka in the barszcz.