In honor of Yom haShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day, I'm sharing a recipe from Recipes Remembered, a cookbook of recipes preserved by Holocaust survivors, published by the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York. This old-world Slovak-Hungarian caraway soup comes along with an amazing story, as well as complex flavor that belies its simplicity. You'll need some cheesecloth for straining the seeds out of the soup before poaching the eggs inside.Yum
This not my own family recipe, but it's one that, I hope, might have been made for my young grandfather, whose parents were murdered in concentration camps and about whom I have little information. My grandfather, z"l, was born in the very southeast corner of what was then Czechoslovakia, and is today in the Ukraine. At home they spoke Hungarian as well as Yiddish, which was a factor in sparing his life: in the processing line at Auschwitz, he was able to communicate with his brothers in a language that the Nazis could not understand. In this way he told his brothers, ahead of him in line, that that they must give different last names so that they would not be separated, and that he must pass for 16, which fortunately he did. I know that my great-grandmother was named Frieda, and I wonder if this soup, or one like it, is something she might have served in their home before the war. I was delighted to find, when I poked around online, that many recipes for this soup came from Slovak food blogs, as well as Hungarian ones.
The recipe belongs to restaurateur George Lang, whose story is preserved in his own words in the (warm-my-punny-heart) memoir Nobody Knows the Truffles I've Seen, as well as in Recipes Remembered. He survived the war by obtaining false documents, changing his name, and joining the extremist, Nazi-like Arrow Cross party where he organized with others to inside the party to secretly help Jews, personally saving some two dozen lives. He was later tried, and acquitted, of warm crimes when it was found that he had worked undercover providing humanitarian aid! He was able to find his way, perilously, to the US, where he was first a professional violinist before becoming a celebrated chef and restaurant owner. At the erstwhile Cafe des Artistes, he had a Hungarian tasting menu, which would include one dish that he termed "poor people's good food." This soup is that one dish, which, Lang recorded, was often his favorite on the menu. With the eggs, it becomes more of a rich man's soup.
I wasn't sure what to expect in terms of flavor from this soup, not having had anything like it. Verdict: burn-your-mouth good. The melding of the egg yolk with the caraway is amazing. Also, I added in a few sprigs of fresh dill at the last moment, and this turned out to be a winning combination. Optional but recommended.
Straining out the caraway seeds
George Lang's recipe has you strain out the caraway seeds through a cheesecloth. Other methods I found are to make a "caraway tea" and then add the essence to the soup, or use a tea strainer. However, his recipe emphasizes the flavor of the toasted caraway seeds, so I went with the cheesecloth method. My big tip here: be generous in cutting the cheesecloth a bit bigger than your colander. It will be easier to strain with no errant seeds escaping. And you won't have to do it twice, like me.
Poaching the eggs in the soup
To poach the eggs, you'll want to carefully crack them one at a time into a measuring cup or small bowl. Then, you tip the whole egg into the simmering soup and let it cook for a few minutes until it's set, but still runny. As soon as you add one egg, start on the next, so that the eggs all have about the same time to cook.
Hungarian Caraway Soup with Poached Eggs (meat)
- cheesecloth, for straining
- 2 Tbsp neutral-flavored oil
- 1 Tbsp caraway seeds
- 2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
- ½ tsp sweet Hungarian paprika
- 3 cups water - 720 ml
- 2 cups beef stock - 480 ml
- 1 tsp salt - or to taste
- 4 eggs
- 2-3 sprigs fresh dill - optional, for garnish
- Heat the oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Sprinkle the caraway seeds into the oil. Stir and saute until the seeds begin to sizzle, about 30 seconds.
- Sprinkle the flour over the oil, stirring constantly until the mixture thickens and turns a golden color. Remove from the heat.
- Stir in the paprika and salt, then immediately add the water and stock, so that the paprika won't burn. Return to the heat and bring to a boil.
- Reduce the heat to low and simmer, uncovered, for 25 minutes.
- Pour the soup through a cheesecloth into a large bowl, removing the caraway seeds. Return the soup to the pot, making sure there are no seeds left.
- Return the soup to a simmer. One at a time, crack the eggs into a measuring cup. Pour gently into the soup, then continue with the remaining eggs. Place a lid on the pot and simmer, covered, for 2 minutes, so that the yolks remain soft.
- To serve, first scoop out the egg, then ladle the soup around it. Garnish with sprigs of fresh dill, if using.