The Susta strudel is an establishment you simply have to know about to find. There are not signs, directions, no online presence, no advertising, nothing. Mr Susta bakes his strudels in a side street of the Zizkov district in the shadows of the Vitkov National Memorial (a sight we definitely recommend that everyone visit), in the "kocarkarna" (formerly a small storage room for baby carriages) of a prefabricated panel house from the 1970s.
I know you probably want me to write about Czech cakes and sweets, and believe me, I will. But first, I have to share this warming soup recipe with you because it’s cold outside, which means I can only think about meals that will warm me up. Besides, you can't live on cakes alone. Believe me, you can't. Jan has tried, and ultimately failed (although he had a good run...).Well, this sauerkraut soup might not look cool or hip, as it has Eastern Europe written all over it. But for all the disagreeable clichés about Eastern Europe and its sauerkraut-based cuisine, this is a hell of a winter dish. Once you try this substantial, rich and quite filling soup, your doubts will melt away. This isn’t just a starter: it’s a whole meal by itself.
You should know that there is no one recipe to make the "zelňačka". Every cook has their own magic formula, and as far as I can tell, the only given constants are: meat, sauerkraut, potatoes and black pepper. The meaty version is more traditional; however, you can also make it vegetarian. I think that the use of sauerkraut as well as sugar and sour cream is key to this soup in terms of flavoring. The recipe below is an accurate description of how my mom used to make this soup, and she always got raves from everyone who tried it. So even though this is not the only way to prepare this soup, this recipe is our family gold! Respect!
Sauerkraut soup with sausage
- 2 tablespoons sunflower oil
- small piece of bacon
- 2 pieces of sausage (different kinds for texture), sliced or diced
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 2 teaspoons sweet paprika
- 3 teaspoons tomato paste
- 1/2 teaspoon caraway seeds
- 4 balls all spice
- 1 cup peeled and cubed potatoes
- 1 cup chicken stock
- 2 cups water
- 2 sprigs fresh thyme
- 2 cups sauerkraut, drained, rinsed briefly and chopped roughly (save the juice)
- 8 prunes
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- salt, sugar, ground black pepper and sauerkraut juice to adjust the taste
- 1 cup sour cream
- Heat a large soup pot over medium-high heat and add oil and bacon. Cook until the bacon is golden, 4 minutes.
- Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and golden, about 4 minutes. Add sausages and cook for 2 more minutes.
- Take off the stove and add the paprika, caraway seeds, all spice and tomato paste, stir properly, put back on the stove and cook for 1 minute.
- Add the potatoes, stock, water and thyme and cook until potatoes are almost tender (if you put the sauerkraut too early, potatoes will not cook properly and will be crunchy), about 15 minutes.
- Add the sauerkraut, garlic, chili, prunes and pepper and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a low simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, for 20 min.
- In separate cup mix 3 tablespoons of sour cream with 3 tablespoons of broth and add the mixture to the soup. Taste and adjust the seasoning - the combination of sauerkraut juice which gives the soup a great tang, sugar, salt and pepper makes a perfect sweet-sour flavor that I think really makes this soup shine.
- Serve immediately, with a spoon of sour cream on top.