What is the real pearl of the Czech culinary tradition? What is unique and distinguishes it from the rest of the world? The answer is easy and without any doubt: soup! Today, I am sharing with you the recipe of kulajda polévka!
Prague, Bohemia, Moravia… And you immediately think of romantic walks, historic towns, mansions, ancient castles, precious crystals… Yet there is also another Czech Republic, very typical, made of strong flavors and authentic ingredients. Czech cuisine is definitely worth discovering. Delightful aromas, spicy flavors, robust dishes, irresistible desserts, and… excellent soups that are the soul of the country.
Czech cooks are the specialists in the preparation of soups. These soups have a very ancient tradition in Czech gastronomy and they are so important that their preparation has been practically promoted to an art. From garlic soup to tripe soup or simple broth, Czech soups are just delicious and have an almost magical effect.
Polévka je grunt! (soup is the base) as the very popular saying goes in the Czech Republic.
Polívkování, the soup festival in Prague, offers a wide variety of soups from around the world. First of all, it features an extensive menu of all the most famous Czech soups (polévky): for example, kyselica or sauerkraut soup, bíá fasolová or white bean soup, bramboračka or potato soup with vegetable and obviously our kulajda.
In addition to Czech cuisine, you can also taste the most famous soups from around the world at the same festival, such as hot and sour soup, Japanese miso soup, Azerbaijan dovgha, Moroccan harira or the famous Spanish gazpacho. After savoring the soups, you can also enjoy delicious Czech desserts such as kremrole or bublanina.
Our kulajda, just like the buchty brioche and many other Czech recipes, was born in southern Bohemia. This thick soup consists mainly of mushrooms and potatoes, but also sour cream, and poached quail or chicken eggs. It is deliciously scented with dill.
There are various speculations about the birth of the name kulajda. The most probable is that it may come from the modified name of the famous Southern Bohemian chef Adelajda Kuhová (1805-1898), who was the first to make this soup. She was from Germany. Her name, according to the Šumava tradition, was pronounced “Kuh Adelajde”, and after the suppression of some letters, it became kulajda.
It is also said that the name kulajda is related to the dialect verb zakulat or zakudlit, which means “to thicken”. Indeed, the kulajda is thickened with flour.
The word kulajda has various regional variations. In the Bohemia-Moravia highlands, it is called kudlavka, and in Milevska and the whole district of Pisek, it is called kulimajda.
One of the main ingredients of kulajda is the mushroom. All of us have tasted them on pizzas, in salads, in soups or simply in sauces. Perhaps you have been intrigued by their bizarre shape, which inspires many people who illustrate children’s stories. But have you ever wondered what mushrooms are, and what makes them grow, and how?
It is usually easy to recognize mushrooms. They have no leaves, no flowers, and no chlorophyll that would make them green. Often, they stand out in the middle of the vegetation. Many have a stem topped with a big hat. But there are different shapes and colors. Some mushrooms look like corals, others grow on tree trunks. Some are even luminescent!
We all often say, “It grows like mushrooms,” to define anything that develops very quickly.
Indeed, mushrooms spring from the ground in a very short time, often in one night. In reality, these strange living beings are formed of thin and long filaments, called hyphae, formed by very long cells which are under the ground and what we see emerge, commonly called mushroom, is only the fructiferous body.
In the Czech Republic, mushrooms are sacred! Mushroom picking is a national sport. As much as that of wild berries.
Mushroom picking is therefore very popular in the country. The Czechs have earned the reputation of “mushrooms fanatics” for their love of picking them, a phenomenon that has no equivalent in the world. The Czechs are also among the greatest specialists and connoisseurs of mushroom species.
The search for mushrooms is an ideal way not only to pick them, but also to relax with friends or family while enjoying nature outdoors. Mushroom enthusiasts must however take certain precautions because the forest can often become a hostile and dangerous environment. It is very important to recognize the edible fungi very well to avoid any poisoning.
In the Czech Republic, the mushroom season starts in May and is in full swing in September. In most cases, the Czechs prefer to dry them for storage. This is also the oldest and most natural way of preserving mushrooms.
“The lungs of Europe”. This is one of the names given to the wooded area that stretches along the borders of the Czech Republic with Austria and Germany. The Bohemian Forest features hundreds of miles of marked hiking and biking trails and, through the valleys, streams and rivers. A huge natural space to collect mushrooms!
The mushrooms that can be found in the Czech forests are mainly the classics: cepe, boletus, chanterelle, russula, lepiota or parasol mushroom. Other mushrooms, a little less common, are very much in demand and often grow in large quantities: it is especially the case for blusher (also called amanita), considered one of the best mushrooms.
We absolutely loved the kulajda!
This recipe is validated by our culinary expert in Czech cuisine, Kristyna Koutna. You can find Kristyna on her food blog CzechCookbook.com.
- 8 oz. various fresh mushrooms (cepes, boletus, chanterelles, lepiotos, etc.)
- 3 tablespoons flour
- 4 cups vegetable broth (or water), boiling
- 8 tablespoons butter
- 5 medium potatoes , diced
- 6 tablespoons sunflower oil
- 1 cup sour cream
- 1 small bunch dill
- 1 teaspoon caraway seeds
- 4 whole allspice berries (nové korení)
- 6 tablespoons white vinegar
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 2 bay leaves
- 8 quail eggs
- Pepper , freshly ground
- In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of sunflower oil over medium heat and sauté the mushrooms for 5 minutes, stirring very regularly.
- In a large pot over medium-low heat, melt the butter and add the remaining 4 tablespoons of sunflower oil.
- Stir in the flour until the mixture turns slightly browns.
- Add the broth and beat a few seconds with a whisk.
Add the potatoes, mushrooms, caraway, bay leaves and allspice. Cover and cook until the potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes.
- Remove the bay leaves and allspice. Add the cream.
- Cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly.
- Season with salt and pepper and add the dill, sugar and 3 tablespoons of vinegar.
- Open each quail egg on the most curvy part of the egg with the tip of a knife, being careful not to pierce the yolk.
- Pour the eggs into a small bowl and add 3 tablespoons white vinegar.
- Set aside at room temperature for 5 minutes.
- Bring a pot of salted water to a boil.
- Create a swirl with a whisk and drop the eggs one by one into the whirlpool.
- Cook each egg for 1 minute and cool immediately by placing in a large volume of ice water.
- Serve each bowl of kulajda with 2 poached quail eggs on top.