Soljanka, an old-fashioned Eastern European soup is almost as famous as Borscht, the Russian beet soup. It’s a hearty, sweet, spicy, and sour soup with red pepper, tomato, and chopped Sauerkraut. Back in the days of the DDR you could find this soup on every East Berlin menu, and it never really disappeared. There are many variations to this soup. Originally it was made with fish, but later the fish was replaced with loads of meat. Since I am not that fond of big chunks of meat in my soup, I’ve used a little salami sausage which does the trick too. Serve with a large dollop of sour cream: the cream is a must in this soup.
Soup, serves 4
Action Time: 20 minutes + 1 hour on the stove
1 small salami sausage (about 6 oz/150 g)
splash of olive oil
1 red pepper, diced
3 spring onions, finely chopped
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 14-oz (400 g) can of tomatoes, crushed
4 ¼ cups/1 liter hot vegetable stock
4 sour gherkins*, chopped
1-3 tbsp pickle brine (from the gherkin jar)
9 oz/250 g sauerkraut, chopped if needed
chopped fresh herbs, such as parsley or chives bread
1. Dice the sausage. Heat the oil in a soup pot and cook the sausage for 5 minutes. (You probably don’t need to use the oil if your sausage contains a lot of fat.) Add the pepper and spring onions and cook for another 5 minutes. Add the tomato concentrate, bake for 1 minute and add the crushed tomatoes and vegetable stock. Add the gherkins, pickle brine, and sauerkraut, bring to a boil and reduce the heat. Cook for 1 hour over a very low heat.
2. Check if the soup has the right amount of sourness and add some more pickle brine if you like. Season with salt and pepper.
3. Serve the hot soup with a dollop of sour cream, sprinkle over some fresh herbs. Serve with bread.
* I use Spreewald gherkins, which are sort of famous in Berlin ever since they appeared in the movie “Good Bye Lenin”. If you can’t buy those, just replace them with French cornichons or other sour gherkins.