In many ways I am quite traditionalist, and I like keeping certain habits, sticking to them year after year, or season after season, or occasion after occasion when such occur.
I often go sceptical about surprising changes, or unexpected new turns in life, which doesn’t mean, I immediately deny them or that I don’t accept them at all, but the truth is that I like to observe them from afar initially, and adopt them only if I find them useful or life – enriching for my own self. And I also do love surprising endings in detective movies, where “the gardener” is not the only option for the crime convict.
To come to a simple point here, I am just going to say, that despite life changing events, which at some point might have surprised me a lot, or despite changing ways of life as they are, and which I accepted at many other points, too, even with thesaue open arms, I still truly enjoy sticking to certain habits and customs. I find something reassuring, comforting in it. I suppose many of us do anyway.
In food and eventually, photo taking, this leads me to certain meals and occasions I wouldn’t like to imagine as separate ideas.
So, as other years before, here come my winter usuals, starting with the delightful Christmas cabbage soup, as well as the potato salad, and if I don’t feel lazy or unmotivated (because sometimes I do), there’s also the traditional honey cookies.
You can always find one or the other, or all of them on our seasonal dinner table.
And to prove the point about accepting changes, I really like to add other courses within our festive days menu, those, that I didn’t stick to before. Yes, you can also find the roast turkey, or cranberry sauce on our table, too. This might explain my attitude to traditions and changes… in the kitchen. Wink.
I could also add, that for this gorgeous sauerkraut soup, or you may like to call it stew as well, for its thickness and definite richness, this rule applies, too. Once, I used to make it with pork meat only, nowadays I and my family are very happily savouring the newer version with smoked chicken meat. A little amendment, that steals nothing from the original idea neither fabulous taste.
Well yes, call me mad, calling sauerkraut stew fabulous, but we truly love it.
Take a large cooking pot, place chopped onion on hot oil, let go golden brown, add 1kg of sauerkraut, about five smoked chicken legs (or a 500g good smoked pork ham or gammon, which you can slice before, cooking as long as the packaging suggests), cover all with few cm above the cabbage level with hot water, or vegetable broth, add 100g dried woodland mushrooms ( or, have them prepared a couple of hours ahead – pour hot water over them, and then use both the mushrooms and fragrant water in your stew), 2 – 3 tsp salt, 1 tsp black pepper, 2 tsp smoked paprika, one ring of sliced smoked paprika sausage – if you cannot get any originally coming from eastern Europe (like our fantastic homemade smoked meats & delicacies), try Chorizo or Hungarian sausage, which are easier to find, and let all cook for good two hours, stirring occasionally, adding water or broth. If you do the chicken legs version, take those out then, bone them, and leave only the meat back in the stew. Add 200g prunes, add up water or broth if needed, and let cook another thirty minutes.
Finally, add 150 – 200ml single cream – I add that gradually, and while keeping the stew off fire, then heat it back again, but very slowly, let boil gently for a minute or two, not more. Season with salt, black pepper and smoked paprika to your liking.
You end up with this rich, comforting and very filling dish, that calls for family sharing, and is usually eaten with nice fresh artisan bread. As it has become one of our family favourites, I prepare it few times a year, not only in winter or Christmas anymore. Thinking of the health side of the sauerkraut, it is not a miss anytime you try it.
So these are my two pennies worth in the seas of traditional ideas, habits and customs of so many different sorts of kitchens and cuisines. Sauerkaur stew has always been in my life and I doubt I would willingly let it go..