This traditional hearty meatless soup, known as zupa grzybowa in Polish is a national culinary treasure. Mushroom hunters (read about my grandfather's secret mushroom spot here), who seek out borowiki mushrooms in fall, dry them for use year-round. The soup combines dried, reconstituted mushrooms (preferably Polish borowiki but Italian porcini are a good substitute), stock and either cooked with barley or served with kluski (Polish noodles) and finished with sour cream before serving.
If made with vegetable stock, this mushroom soup is perfect for fasting, when no meat is allowed, like Lent. On Christmas Eve in our family, after sharing the wafer known as opłatek with one another, our first course is this mushroom soup with kluski. We might not have the traditional 12 courses for our wigilia dinner, but mushroom soup, pierogi, and fried fish are three items that are indispensable for our celebration.
This soup is representative of the sour soups popular with Eastern Europeans -- the Slovaks, Rusyns, and Ukrainians have their machanka, the Romanians have their ciorba, the Poles and Russians have their barszcz, żurek, chłodnik, and so on. Read all about Polish soups. Here are more Eastern European Mushroom Recipes.
Here are step-by-step instructions for making Polish mushroom soup.
- 4 ounces dried mushrooms (Polish borowiki or dried Italian porcini mushrooms)
- 3 1/2 cups water (hot)
- 3 quarts beef stock (regular-strength, or chicken or vegetable stock, the latter if fasting)
- 1 cup pearl barley (optional)
- 2 cups sour cream
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Garnish: sour cream
- Garnish: chopped parsley
- Optional: kluski noodles
- Combine mushrooms and hot water in a large, heatproof bowl. Let stand 1 hour. With your fingers, work mushrooms to release any grit. Let stand until very pliable, about 1 hour longer.
- Lift mushrooms from the liquid. Cut mushrooms into large pieces and set aside. Reserve bowl of soaking liquid.
- In a 5- to 6-quart pot, combine stock and chopped mushrooms. Pour reserved soaking liquid into the pot, taking care not to disturb grit in the bowl.
- Rinse and drain barley and add to the pot, if using. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered until barley is tender to the bite, about 1 hour.
- Note: If making the soup ahead, at this point cool, cover and chill up to overnight. Reheat to simmering and proceed with the next step.
- In a medium bowl, mix sour cream with flour and temper by whisking in a little hot soup. Pour contents of the bowl into hot soup, whisking constantly on medium-high heat until it comes to a boil. Adjust seasonings.
- Remove from heat and ladle into warm bowls. Serve with kluski noodles, if desired. Garnish with sour cream and parsley, if desired.