I’m sitting on my balcony this bright sunny day; it’s only 11 am and the temperature has already hit 27°C (81°F). I’m wearing shorts and a thin tank top, beside me is a glass of ice-cold water pouring condensation down its sides. The only sounds I hear are the palm and tree leaves swaying with each gentle breeze. Now and then I hear calls from Great-tailed Grackles that live in the trees nearby. A setting which has now become normality, yet one quite different than the last time I made a pot of hearty potato soup.
The last time I cooked bramboračka, or Czech potato soup, was a cold, overcast Autumn day that is typical to Prague during this season. Instead of shorts I was wearing jeans, a heavy sweater, thick socks and sipping tea. The very first time I tasted this soup was a day exactly like the last time bramboračka took it’s place on my table. We had only just arrived to the city; we didn’t speak one word of Czech and were clueless about the cuisine of this beautiful country. Somehow we stumbled upon a quiet restaurant in the city centre that offered traditional Czech cuisine in a pretty setting. The staff spoke English and were able to gives us recommendations of their favourite foods on the menu, this delicious soup was one of them.
Bramboračka is made with potatoes as the base (brambor means potatoes) and a variety of roots vegetables are also mixed in. The other component which gives this soup even more flavour is the dried, and soaked, wild mushrooms. I’ve read some recipes where people don’t use them, but the soups I was served in Czech restaurants always included mushrooms. Another ingredient that may or may not be used and that, to me, is one of the strong flavours of Czech cuisine is marjoram. Typically the soup is served inside a small hollowed out loaf of Czech rye and caraway bread, this is a meal all its own. The other way of serving bramboračka is in a regular soup bowl. My preference was always the bread bowl but if you want just a small starter then go with the ceramic bowl option.
I know many of you are in need of a hearty soup to warm you right up, and this soup is it! Bramboračka is no ordinary potato soup; it is a complex mix of flavours that will arouse your tastebuds and leave you wanting another bowl. This creamy hearty soup is one I highly recommend cooking for a dinner party or your Christmas dinner. The ingredients are all in season right now and it is also quite an economical meal, which can come in handy this time of year.
Okay, here’s the way I learned to make Czech potato soup.
- 500 gm or 1 lb. of potatoes, peeled and evenly cubed (cut larger than other vegetables)
- 35 gm or 1.25 oz dried wild forrest mushrooms, or variety of choice*
- 1(200 gm or large) carrot, peeled and evenly cut
- 200 gm or 7 oz piece of celeriac root, peeled and evenly cut
- 200 gm or 7 oz Napa (curly) cabbage, throughly rinsed and evenly cut
- 1 small leek, green and roots cut off, use only white part, evenly sliced
- 1 small onion, finely chopped
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 tbs olive or vegetable oil of choice
- 1.5 Lt. or 6 cups of vegetable broth (or dissolve low-sodium, no MSG bouillon in water)
- fine sea salt, to taste
- ground black pepper, to taste
- 1 tbsp dried marjoram, or adjust to taste
- 4 tbsp all purpose flour (I’ve also used spelt and fine gluten-free oat flour)
- small bread loafs to use as bread bowls
- finely chopped chives or parsley to serve over soup
- Rinse the mushrooms to remove any dirt or debris, then place in small bowl and pour hot water over them; allow to soak until needed. In a large pot heat the oil and once warm add the onions, cook until soft and translucent. Add the garlic and sauté until soft, about 2 minutes. Add all of the chopped vegetables, except for mushrooms, and sauté for about 8 minutes, stirring often to prevent burning. Pour in the mushrooms, I also pour in the soaking water but that is up to you. Next sprinkle in the salt and pepper, then gently pour in water and stir until it is well combined. Over medium-low heat simmer until the vegetables become soft. After the vegetables have soften prepare the roux by mixing the flour with a bit of the soup broth until you have a lump-free thick liquid; pour it into the soup and allow to simmer for 15 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning if desired, at this time add the dried marjoram and allow to simmer another 10 minutes. Again, taste and adjust seasonings if desired — sometimes I like to add a bit more marjoram but that is up to you.
- Preheat the oven to 200°C or 390°F and have a baking sheet ready to use. Cut a circle in the centre of the top of the bread loaf. Use a spoon to hollow out as much space inside of the bread as you wish. Gently brush the other part of the bread and the cut out “lid” with a some oil, lay on baking sheet and place inside oven. Allow the bread to crisp up a bit, or toast, this should take anywhere from 6-15 minutes depending on the size of your bread bowl. Carefully remove the toasted bread from oven place on serving plates. Ladle in the soup into the toasted bread bowl, garnish with either chopped chives or parsley if desired. You can place the bread lid over the bread bowl or serve it on the side for people to break off pieces and eat along with their soup.
Bramboračka quickly became one of my most favourite soups, and even though I can no longer eat it inside a toasted bread bowl it will still continue to be among my favourites. Regardless if you serve it in a bread bowl or not this is a hearty meatless meal that your whole family will love.
Speaking of meatless meals, I have some great news to share with you. I am thrilled to announce that I am now an Official Blogger for the Meatless Monday movement. It’s great becoming an official part of the movement as meatless meals are among my favourite ones to cook, eat and share with you; I also think the work they are doing is wonderful. You know you don’t have to follow a vegetarian or vegan diet, just go meatless on Mondays.
Have a super (meat-free) Monday and don’t forget to check out my archives for many more meatless meals. Enjoy!