Hi Everyone! As you know, we are in the midst of our transition to living in Spain right now. We’re in ournew home, and we’re working on getting settled in and the 101 details that come with this season. In the meantime, I have some guest posts I’m excited to share with you, on the topic of our experiences At The Table, a continuation of celebrating the release of my cookbook.
This guest post is from Naomi of Almost Bananas. I love reading her stories about life in Slovakia, and her photos are gorgeous. Definitely go have a look at her beautiful site!
This clear bone broth based soup is a staple for any celebration in Slovakia, including Sundays. While some of us might be after the nutrition and digestion benefits, here it’s just a traditional way to eat a meal with family and friends.
As I grow older, live in far away countries, and see close connections pass away, connecting with family and close friends becomes more important to me.
As a child in rural Canada, I grew up in a large extended family that regularly got together at my grandparent’s farm. Cousins ran everywhere, adults talked about whatever they talked about, and we all had our fill of heaping piles of food. Later the instruments came out and adults played music while we children listened and capered to traditional Scottish tunes.
As an adult now, I appreciate that my husband’s family also gets together often. Babichka (Grandma) prays for good weather so that when the large brood of grandchildren descends upon the house, they can play outside. Adults catch up on news, coats pile up, and feet trip over copious shoes.
Many elements of the family gatherings are the same. Lots of energetic cousins. Lots of food. Lots of connecting with people who, despite sometimes driving you nuts, you still come back to because they are family.
A few elements are very different, however. One is the formal greeting in Slovakia, given even among family members. Men shake hands, women/men and women clasp hands and kiss each other on each cheek (in the East men kiss as well, and there are three kisses instead of two). When one family enters the house, everyone gathers around for their turn to greet hello, including the children.
Another differing element is the formality of eating. In Canada we would often eat potluck style, balancing a plate wherever there was room, on the porch, in the living room, or leaning against the kitchen counter. In Slovakia, lunch is always the main meal and everyone sits down together to a formally set table. A wide shallow bowl site atop a plate, with fork, knife, and spoon. Napkins might be simply placed or folded into some fancy shape if someone has taken the time to fold a tall stack of napkins.
The extended family has outgrown space and plates, so we often sit in shifts, first the children, who both are dying of hunger and then impatient to run off and play, and after the more sedentary adults, who linger talking over the meal. “Obed! Podte sa najest!” “Lunch! Come eat!” rings the call in various parts of the house and yard. The hungry ones come quickly and sit waiting, the distracted ones take their time. The sound of chattering children, clinking cutlery, and creaking chairs fills the air.
The first course is always the same – a clear bone based brothy soup. A massive pot has sat over heat for three to four hours, with just an occasional bubble breaking to the surface. Some bones, water, salt, and vegetables are all it takes to create this staple of Slovak cuisine.
My mother in law makes this soup every Sunday and for celebratory occasions, even during the summer. The wedding soup is the same but, I’ve heard, has seven kinds of bones in it, including wild pheasant, rooster, beef, and boar. Even during the week soup is the first course at lunch, even in school cafeterias, although unfortunately no longer made with bones.
Most Slovaks aren’t aware the of benefits of starting a meal with bone broth, such as healing the gut wall, aiding digestion, and supporting healthy connective tissue. It’s just what they’ve always done. I hope that they learn, in order to help consciously maintain the tradition.
And I hope they – and we all – continue to sit together with others over a meal, whether family or not. Sharing a meal together gives us a context within which to share our lives with others; a way to build the community that celebrates with us in joy and supports us in sorrow; a place to cultivate those connections that give our lives meaning and purpose.
Slovak Sunday Bone Broth Soup
- Use only raw bones. No roasting bones beforehand, no leftovers from roasted carcasses. The flavour is different.
- Use bones from any animal, preferably raised in a sustainable manner. Pork, beef, poultry, go for it, you can even mix types.
- A bit of fat (or skin) and meat on the bones adds flavour.
- Note that the vegetables are put in whole, or cut in half, don’t cut them up when putting the soup together.
- If you don’t have parsley root, parsnips would do as well. If you don’t have either, leave it out.
- The more vegetables go in at the beginning, the sweeter the broth will be, you can choose as many or as little as you like. I save green cabbage cores or cauliflower stems in the freezer and throw them in as well.
- I’ve used zucchini noodles although traditionally thin egg noodles are used.
- This recipe is for three liters / quarts
What You’ll Need
- a 3 L/quart stockpot
- bones (roughly 600-900 g/20-32 oz)
- 1 onion
- chunk celery root, 1/2 kohlrabi, cabbage core, etc
- parsley top
- 4-6 carrots
- 2-3 parsley root
- 1 small zucchini
- dried vegetable flavoring (this is the kind I use, and this would work well, too)
- parsley for garnish
What to Do:
1. Wash bones, place in pot and fill 3/4 with cold water. Add about 1+1/2 tbsp of salt (more or less to preference) and set over low heat. The broth should never boil away, only have the occasional bubble rise to the top. If it does boil, of course it’s still tasty, but the broth will be cloudy instead of clear.
2. Add a peeled onion cut in half, the first vegetables (celery root, kohlrabi, cabbage core, etc), and parsley top (if you have one). Leave the broth on low heat for at least 3-4 hrs, if not longer.
3. About an hour before serving, add carrots and parsley root. Do not slice, although you can cut them in half lengthwise if they are bigger.
4. Make zucchini noodles and cut into 2 inch/5 cm lengths. I like to put them in a sieve and put the sieve into the broth for a few minutes to warm up and soften the noodles but not cook them.
5. Strain out the carrots and parsley root, cool for a minute, and chop. Put carrots, parsley, and zucchini noodles in a soup tureen, large mixing bowl, or another pot.
6. Ladle the hot broth through a sieve into the soup tureen, sprinkle some dried vegetable flavoring and/or salt to taste, add a handful of chopped parsley.
7. Serve piping hot. Hot pepper can be added to individual bowls if desired.
A Canadian transplanted to Slovakia, Naomi aims to cook real food and create an environmentally friendly and beautiful home for her family of six. The closest she’s come to her dream farm is growing tasty live bacteria on the counters. The simple life is an elusive ideal that she nevertheless continues to strive toward, although two year old twins make sure it’s never boring. Naomi shares her food creations and life in Slovakia at Almost Bananas. She looks forward to connecting with you on Pinterest, Facebook, and Instagram.
Thank you so much for sharing your family’s traditions and recipe with us, Naomi! This sounds totally delicious.