Zupa pomidorowa translates from Polish as tomato soup. If you ask me, that name’s just a mere description. That soup is so much more. Zupa pomidorowa is one of the most traditional soups in Polish cuisine. The culinary tradition of Poland is rich in soups, as a kid I did not love all of them. I loved very few soups, actually. But this one was my favourite. It has such a unique flavour, different from any other soup I knew.
When I told my Polish friend here in Sweden I made pomidorowa, her first reactions was: “Was it stock-based?”. “Of course!”, said I. The real deal. This soup features tomatoes, but it is still stock-based. Ideally, chicken stock-based (but it can be made vegetarian with veggie broth). And this is not the only thing that makes this relatively simple soup stand out for its complex flavour. A good pomidorowa has a very peculiar flavour that is more than just tomatoes. It has a round sweet and sour touch to it, and if you’re anything like me it will also always have an extra swirl of cream added at the end. To make it two-toned and marbled. Look how pretty:
The original recipe calls for fresh tomatoes. I hate to always point this out, but it’s the middle of the winter here in Sweden and fresh tomatoes on sale at the moment are far from exciting. Even in Italy, the place where I had the best tomatoes of my life, the tomato production in the winter is not quite right. Whatever arrives here is of course fine, but it doesn’t taste spectacular. So I decided to use canned tomatoes. From Italy! Harvested and processed when they are in season and have their full flavour. Because let’s face it, in the winter Italian canned tomatoes still taste better than Swedish fresh tomatoes.
- 800 g canned crushed tomatoes
- 300 ml chicken broth
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 large shallot
- 1 garlic clove
- 2 tbsp Balsamico vinegar
- freshly ground pepper
- 3/4 tsp dried thyme
- 3/4 tsp dried basil
- 3/4 tbsp salt
- 2 tsp brown sugar
- 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
- 1 tbsp crème fraîche
Set about 350 ml of water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. When it boils, add the stock cube, dissolve, and remove from heat. The reason why I boil a little more than 300 ml of water is because some will evaporate and I want to make sure I have at least 300 ml of broth.
In a frying pan warm up 1 tbsp of olive oil. Mince the shallot and the garlic and add them to the pan. Sautée on medium heat for a few minutes, until soft. Set the heat on medium-high and add 2 tbsp of Balsamico vinegar. Keep moving it around until all the Balsamico has either been absorbed or evaporated. Remove from heat and set aside. This trick to add Balsamico to onion soffritto is a thing I learned from my flatmate when I was living the student life in Pisa. In our flat we used to split the grocery bill and share the food. We were broke but had access to some fine ingredient (thanks, motherland!). A spoonful of Balsamico in the onions was our cheap trick to turn a poor student meal into something better. As you can see I keep doing it here.
In a large pot pour the canned tomatoes and add the herbs and spices: thyme, basil, pepper, salt and sugar. Add the sautéed onion mix, set the pot on medium heat and cook for about 10 minutes, so that it slightly reduces. After 10 minutes, remove from the heat and blend with a hand blender until smooth. Return the pot to the heat, add the broth and the apple cider vinegar. Cook on medium-low heat for another 5 minutes. Finally, remove from the heat and stir in the crème fraîche. The last additions of apple cider vinegar and crème fraîche will balance the sugar added at the beginning. The perfect pomidorowa has a sweet and sour aftertaste and you want to ensure yours has that.
Like I said before I like to add some extra cream when serving it. Personally, I like to go with whipping cream, for a sweeter (and fatter!) note. Another nice decoration is a leaf of fresh basil. Of course fresh basil can substitute the dried one in the recipe, but I like to keep things simple and just go ahead and use my personal reserve of dried herbs that my mom regularly supplies from Italy.
I like it better when this soup is not piping hot, but it has cooled down a bit. At the right temperature you can taste the flavours more distinctly and properly appreciate the sweet and sour quality of it.
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