Polish Salt-Brined Cucumber Soup with Coconut Milk

cuc_souppAs soon as I wrote the title of this post I realised that probably for the majority of my dear readers salt-brined cucumber sounds much more unusual than coconut milk, but I was so pleasantly surprised to see how such geographically distant products go well together, I decided to post this international version. Anyway, whether it’s coconut milk or the traditional cow’s cream, this is one of the most delicious soups I know and I hope some of you will be tempted to make it. Maybe due to its tanginess or maybe due to the refreshing presence of the dill, I consider it a perfect springtime dish.

Since it’s a very popular soup, every Polish cook has her/his own method. I have based the instructions below on my mum’s recipe with, as always, my own slight modifications, including a lightened option (see the TIPS). I have experimented here with coconut milk instead of adding the traditional cow’s cream, but both options are equally delicious. Though not heavy at all, it’s a nourishing soup with potatoes, so, depending on the amounts served, it can be considered as a full meal (you can serve it with bread).

TIPS: Salt-brined cucumbers are fermented/pickled in a mixture of salt and water, with herbs and spices. They become sour, but not as harsh as vinegared ones. They are also relatively healthy (they have vitamin C, absent in raw untransformed cucumber), unless they contain too much salt of course. They cannot be replaced with vinegared pickles. Apart from Polish, Russian and Ukrainian shops, salt-brined cucumbers can be found in some German or Austrian shops too and I know they are also sold in “normal” organic grocery shops. Not to mention online sources.

If you cannot find fresh or frozen dill, forget this recipe (I must be very strict here because without dill it’s just not the same soup, while dried dill is almost as useless here as dried basil in a caprese salad…). It’s used here in big amounts, so its presence is very important. If dill is not used in your country’s traditional cooking, you might still find it at farmers’ markets and even in some Asian shops (I see it regularly in my Vietnamese/Thai shop). The good news is chopped fill freezes very well, so if your farmers market or Asian shop is far away, buy a big bunch, chop it and freeze. (It also grows very very easily from seeds, even on a window sill). Dill is also very popular in Greek cuisine, so you will find many ways to use your frozen batch.

I always remove fat from my stock, so here, once the stock was ready, strained it and put into the fridge. After several hours the fat will solidify at the top and thus will be easy to remove. You don’t have to follow this procedure of course!

Preparation: minimum 3 hours (depends on the choice of meat and fat removal or not, see TIPS)

Ingredients (serves 4 as a main dish or 6 as a starter):

2 chicken legs (I prefer skinned) or the equivalent of other meat (pork/beef), preferably with bone

4 big salt-brined cucumbers (see the TIPS)

leek leaves

1 big carrot+1 to be added at the end

1/4 celeriac (or 2 stalks celery)

(optional, but worth looking for: 1 small parsley root)

4 medium potatoes

salt, pepper

coconut milk/cream or cow’s liquid cream (2-3 tablespoons per person)

1 big bunch of fresh or frozen dill

Put the meat, the leek leaves, the carrot, the celeriac and parsley root (if you can get it) into a big pan. Cover with water, add some salt and simmer, covered, until the meat falls off the bone (the time depends on the meat, but it’s minimum 3 hours to make sure the stock has deep flavours).

In the meantime grate the salt-brined cucumber (vegetable grater, not the one with smallest holes). Do not throw away the brine! You might discover you prefer your soup even more sour and add it later on.

Place the grated cucumber into a small pan, cover with water and simmer for about 20 minutes.

Put aside.

Once the stock is ready (or rather the meat is tender enough), remove the meat and the carrot. Strain the stock and throw out the remaining cooked vegetables (unless you like them).

Here you can either refrigerate the stock in order to remove fat (see TIPS above) or continue the preparation without the fat removal.

Remove the bones and cut up the meat into bite-sized pieces.

Cut up the cooked carrot and grate the raw one.

Peel the potatoes and cut into bite-sized pieces.

Put back the stock into the pan, add the potatoes and cook until soft.

Then add the grated cucumber, the meat, the carrots and let it simmer for about five minutes.

Adjust the taste with freshly ground pepper, salt and, if you find the soup not tangy enough, add some of the brine from cucumbers.

Just before serving chop some dill to every plate, add a splash of cream or coconut milk and serve.

10 Replies to “Polish Salt-Brined Cucumber Soup with Coconut Milk”

  1. This is one of the most unique soups I’ve seen in a while. I love salt-brine cucumbers and coconut milk, but never would have thought to have combined them. I’m sitting here right now trying to imagine the combination of these two flavors. Taste pretty darn good. 🙂 With the other ingredients, it’s like a chicken chowder with a serious twist. Great soup Sissi!

    1. Thank you so much, MJ. Coconut milk is only my crazy idea 😉 The soup is equally delicious – and more traditional – with cream, but since I had some coconut milk, it was too tempting… If you like tangy or acid food, you would love this one.

  2. Hungarians also have a salt brined pickle that is s fermented simply by putting a slice of rye bread on top tucked into the neck of the jar. It is my favourite pickle (my cousin has a source in Toronto). My dear mom used to make small batches on the top of the stove. This soup intrigues me. I adore dill and sour pickles and the addition of coconut milk is very creative. My dear Mom used to make a squash stew (tökózelék) that sounds very similar to this (using cream of course). It was sour and had copious amounts of dill. I abhorred it as a child but I feel like I would love it as an adult. I will definitely try this very unusual dish, particularly the pickles.

    1. Thank you so much, Eva. I have talked to Hungarians about this bread’s presence and I think it’s mainly to accelerate the process. Polish salt-brined cucumber requires only salt and water (and spices+herbs of course to taste better), but you have to wait a week at least to have slightly soured result and longer for fully fermented cucumbers (though my mum has a trick to accelerate it 😉 ). Since in Poland it’s long-term pickle rather (apart from freshly made only slightly tangy cucumber) on one is in a hurry.
      Strangely I’ve always liked sour food (vinegared pickled herring, etc.) and I liked this one too. The soups I hated were the sauerkraut one (because of the texture I think) and the barley soup I still am not a fan of…

  3. I have no trouble imagining how delicious this soup is and yes, I am tempted to make it! Do you make your own brined cucumbers too Sissi or generally purchase them? I just had the pleasure of enjoying some celeriac soup the other night at a nutrition conference – a grounding flavor that adds such a nice base to soups… The addition of dill is just perfect here (and you never have to convince me of coconut milk – in my world it works with virtually everything ;o). Delish!

    1. Thanks a lot, Kelly. I wish I could make brined cucumbers…. I did several times my own brined cucumbers in Poland. It’s very easy. Sadly, here only one farmer I know sells pickling cucumbers and he adds tons of pesticides/manure just before selling because it’s impossible to ferment his cucumbers (my mum knew at once why it didn’t work!). I wasted about 5 kg the first (and last) time I tried doing it… Fermenting other vegetables is less demanding and maybe farmers are more honest or/and controlled. I buy now fermented cucumbers in Germany. Always bring back several litres when I go on a trip.

Comments are closed.