Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Ciorba de perisoare

"Meatball soup"

This popular soup can be found all over Romania. The recipe below is the southern version, although it is also quite similar to the Transylvanian version. A friend from the Moldovian region of Romania once cooked it for me and I was surprised to find it didn't include the tomatoes and lacked the red colour I had come to associate with the soup, having spent a lot of time in Transylvania. It was also a lot more bitter than I was used to. To my shame, once she'd turned her back, I had to add a squirt of ketchup!

Here's my favourite version of the soup. It is usually served hot with freshly chopped lovage (leustean) on top and some crusty bread. Also, if you like, you can add a spoonful of sour cream (smantana) to your dish in the Transylvanian style. And, of course, it often comes with a hot pepper.

Time: About an hour and a half
Servings: Enough for 3 or 4 bowls, depending on size


For the meatballs:
250g of veal or pork or a mixture of the two according to preference (and budget)
30g of plain flour
30g of rice
1 or 2 egg whites (save the yolks for the soup below)
1 teaspoon of finely chopped or grated onion
1 tablespoon finely chopped dill
Ground black pepper for seasoning

For the soup:
Veal stock (made from veal bone, carrot, parsnip, and celeriac) or a stock cube if you're not into making stock
1 onion
1 litre of 'bors'* (a kind of fermented wheat bran)
2 tomatoes (peeled and chopped, or out of a tin if you like)
1 bell pepper
1 or 2 egg yolks
100ml of sour cream (smantana)
2 litres of water
A bunch of lovage (lustean)

*Bors isn't readily available in the UK - you might find it if you have a local Eastern European grocery store near you - otherwise you can get a similar sourness by using some natural sour yoghurt dilutes in water.

1. If you want to make your own stock, then grate the carrot, parsnip, and celeriac.
2. Bring the water to the boil and add the onion, tomatoes and bell pepper (all grated or very finely chopped) and also the stock vegetables and broken up bones (if making stock) or a stock cube (if not). Add a teaspoon of salt. Leave to simmer for half an hour.
3. Mince up the meat (if you haven't bought ready-minced meat).
4. Rinse the rice and drain.
5. Mix together the minced meat with the teaspoon of chopped or grated onion, the rice, the flour, the egg whites, ground black pepper (to taste), a teaspoon of salt, and the dill.
6. After the half hour is up, remove the bones (if you used them).
7. With your hands moistened with cold water, take chunks of the meat mixture and form them into small balls (something just a little smaller than a golf ball) and put them into the simmering soup.
8. Cover the pan and leave it to gently simmer for another half an hour.
9. Add the bors and boil for 2-3 minutes.
10. Taste it and check the seasoning.
11. Finally, before serving, sprinkle on a generous amount of the chopped lovage, and, if you like, mix together the sour cream and egg yolks and stir it into the soup (or serve in a separate bowl for people to add to taste).

I've seen several variations of this recipe on the internet and some people have cooked it with minced chicken or turkey - an option if you don't eat veal or pork. This soup is definitely my one of favourites, especially the slightly redder Transylvanian version. It's quite refreshing in the summer and also a good winter warmer. Pofta mare!

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