Chicken Noodle Soup (Kuracia Polievka)
Ingredients: few carrots, parsley root, few small onions, one small chicken, oil
Prep Time: About 30 minutes
My grandma makes, hands-down, the best ever chicken noodle soup. Part of her secret are her hand-made noodles. The other part is the recipe, which is posted here. As you will see it’s quite simple.
The Slovak version of chicken [noodle] soup (kuracia or slepačia polievka) is bit different from the American kind. First, it is always clear and “brothy”. Second, Slovaks use slightly different ingredients. While celery is an integral part of the American version (or at least the canned version I buy in the supermarket), celery is not used in the Slovak chicken soup. Instead, we use parsley (petržlen). The root that is. While in America parsley is used almost exclusively for its leaves, in Slovakia it is used predominantly as a root vegetable. For those unfamiliar with parsley, it looks like a small carrot, but is white.
Besides parsley, you will also need carrots (mrkva). My cooking started on a bit interesting note. I prepared this soup at my grandma’s. She is now living in a house built in 1886 in which my great-grandmother (from the other side of the family) grew up. I spent many summers there as a kid. It’s customary for Czechs and Slovaks living in a city to keep a small cottage (chalupa) in a near-by village to escape to on the weekends. This house was our chalupa. I thought I knew the house inside-out, and hence I was quite surprised when grandma asked me to go to the cellar (komora) and bring the veggies. I did not think this house has a cellar. To my surprise, it does.
The cellar is located underneath the living room. It is a small dugout accessed by lifting up the carpets and then pulling on one of the wooden boards making the floor. Even more surprising was finding out that this hole was used by the partisans (guerrilla fighters) during World War II. During the War, Czechoslovakia was split up into two parts. The Czech Republic was annexed into the Third Reich but Slovakia became an independent state under a puppet government installed by Berlin. Local population opposed this, and a large homegrown opposition to the Nazi presence sprang up. These guerrilla fighters were known as partisans or partizáni. The center of the Slovak national uprising (Slovenské Národné Povstanie) was my hometown of Banská Bystrica, which now houses a large memorial dedicated to this historical event. Anyway, turns out that, just like in the movies, Nazis came by the house to look for partisans. It’s good they did not find them, as I am sure my great-grandparents (and thus my predecessors) would have been dealt with quite fast on the spot!
In the cellar, I found the largest carrot (mrkva) I have ever seen. Besides the carrot, you will need parsley (petržlen) and onion (cibuľa). You can also use parsley leaves (petržlenová vnať) and kohlrabi (kaleráb). Peel the root vegetables and the onion and fry for about 2 minutes on oil (olej).
Cover and let cook for a while. Once the soup starts boiling, lower the heat, otherwise the soup will end up muddy. Once the soup is done, i.e., the vegetables are getting soft, take a small strainer and scoop out the brown muck that formed on the surface. Also add salt (soľ) to taste. We used two of these small spoons.
Let the soup go through few more bubbles, so the salt has a chance to dissolve. Serve by placing cooked noodles in the bowl and then topping off with the soup. Enjoy! It goes great with the home baked flat bread and rolls.