Every week, I make one dish from Latviešu ēdieni.
When I went to Latvia for the first time, I happened to be there in time for my father-in-law’s vārdadiena, or name-day. (All of the most common Latvian names are assigned to a certain day on the calendar, along with a day for anyone whose name isn’t on there.) The family decided to have a party at “Zvanītāji”, one of the many small ethnographic houses scattered across the country.
This one in particular is near Rucava on the southern Kurzeme coast and is a 19th century wooden house where traditional implements, costumes and food can be experienced, as can traditional music and dancing, thanks to the Rucava Club of Traditions. I have to say it was a lot of fun, though it was extremely odd to be surrounded by Latvians laughing and singing along to dirty ditties (which I didn’t understand until my husband translated for me). If my Latvian had been stronger, it probably wouldn’t have been quite as odd as it felt!
For the party, we were served a full meal (a “Rucava banquet”) consisting of many traditional Latvian dishes, including dumplings, potatoes with white butter, and my favorite dish of the night: maize zupa or bread soup.
Maizes zupa is a dessert made out of sweetened dark rye bread, dried fruit, water and whipped cream. Something about this cold, thick, sweet soup just captured my heart. I was able to source some traditional dark rye (Borodinsky brand from Brooklyn) available locally for a somewhat reasonable price and tossed a few slices in the freezer for this dessert sometime in the future.
Tonight, it just sounds right. We don’t have any dried apples, but we have fresh that we toasted up in the toaster oven for a while. It’s not the same, but it sure does taste good!
Maizes zupa — Latvian Bread Soup [printable recipe]
- 150 g stale or toasted dark rye bread1
- 2 cups (1/2 l) boiling water
- 20 g sugar
- 20 g brown sugar
- 2 tbsp cranberry juice concentrate2
- 40 g dried fruit (apples, raisins, prunes), finely chopped
- ground cloves
- sweetened whipped cream3
Soak bread in water until soft, then force through a fine sieve.
Grate toasted bread coarsely (we used our food processor), then bring water to a boil in a small sauce pot. Soak bread in water until nicely soft.
Stir in sugar, cinnamon, cloves and fruit. Add water as necessary to make it soup-y. Cook over low heat until soup is the consistency desired and the fruit flavors have permeated throughout. Remove from heat and stir in cranberry concentrate (if using).
Chill thoroughly. Serve with a dollop of whipped cream on top.
- No dark rye? Try the darkest pumpernickel you can find. It won’t be the same, but you’ll get the idea
- Why cranberry concentrate? Because outside of Thanksgiving, frozen plain cranberries aren’t available in my local stores. I did, however, have a not-so-sweet jar of cranberry concentrate that served well.
- I’m not even going to tell you what the recipe originally called for when it came to the whipped cream. Ever tried to whip less than a tablespoon? Just whip up a small batch or use a bit of Cool Whip that’s hanging about in the freezer.