Today I went to my favourite local Polish shop. Lech, the owner is so friendly, my kids love him (and it’s not just for the free lollipops he gives them). Of course I was the only non Polish person there. I did get few puzzling looks for speaking English as the entire clientele seems to be from Poland :) I tend to shout Thank You in Polish very loud when I am there.

I love going to the Polish shop, here I can impress my kids with being able to translate what’s written on the packets (I grew up on the Czech/Polish border) and of course I can get certain groceries that are the same or very close to some of the foods I grew up with. Pickled gherkins and sauerkraut are always on the list.

I was complaining to Lech that there aren’t any Czech food shops around and he, bless him, offered to get me some Czech groceries via his friend who is driving to Slovakia. How very nice! That’s what I call customer service.

My friends, just like my cooking, come from different countries. And as much as I love to explore foods from around the world it is always comforting to have something that brings me back to my roots. Sauerkraut soup is definitely one of those things. Yes, it is an acquired taste if you are not used to sauerkraut. My husband loves it (he has been converted to more than just Czech beer) however my mother-in-law was less than impressed when I put a bowl in front of her the other day. She however likes my other Czech offerings so I won’t hold this one against her :)

In true international spirit I used Czech dried marjoram (the best in my opinion), Hungarian paprika (legendary), Polish sauerkraut and Devon grown Riverford potatoes. They all came together into a very familiar taste of home. This soup is one of my favourite quick lunches, not only because I love it, but mainly because I always have all the ingredients on hand.

If you want to keep the soup gluten free, as I often do, just omit the flour and leave the soup more of a broth consistency. When I fancy thicker, more goulash soup, consistency I add flour at the beginning to make a roux. As you know I tend to use very little or no oil in my recipes. You could go totally oil free but I believe that cooking the paprika in oil brings out the flavour and 1 tbs between 4 portions amounts to almost nothing.

Please make sure you don’t use your best (and expensive) raw sauerkraut from a health food shop. A jar (or a bag from the Polish shop) is perfect here. If you are a sauerkraut novice use just 1 cup and drain it (or even rinse it). I love it full on!


The added flour will help thicken the soup, you can easily omit this as I very often do for a more broth like soup and of course to make the recipe gluten free. They are equally delicious.
Add some sliced vegetarian sausage or cubes of smoked tofu to make the soup more substantial.

Serves 4 (or 3 hungry people)

1 tbs rice bran oil (or organic rapeseed)
1 large onion, finely chopped
1tbs paprika
1 tsp caraway
1 tsp dried marjoram
1tbs flour (optional)
4 cups vegetable stock
3 medium potatoes, cut into bite size pieces
1-2 cups of sauerkraut
1 clove garlic

The one without flour

  • In a large sauce pan heat the oil and add the onion. Sauté gently till translucent.
  • Add the caraway and paprika and cook for a few seconds in the oil.
  • Add the flour and cook for about 30 seconds stirring constantly (you can omit the flour for a thinner soup)
  • Add the stock. If using flour add a small amount fist while stirring to combine with the flour, than add rest of the stock.
  • Add the potatoes, bring to a boil, turn the heat down and simmer for 20minutes.
  • If you are not used to the flavour of sauerkraut than add just 1 cup and drain if first. I cut through it with a knife or scissors to avoid long strands of cabbage in my soup. If like me you love sauerkraut add 2 cups. I don’t even bother to drain all the liquid…
  • Let the soup simmer for further 5 minutes.
  • Before serving add crushed clove of garlic, stir into the soup.
  • You can serve some sourdough croutons on top, I just eat it on its own :)




It is the 1st of January 2013. The first day of the new year. After a night of celebrating many of us are making new year’s resolutions. Weight loss will and exercise will be at the top of the list for sure. The papers are already rating diets and introducing new ones. Manhattan diet anyone? This morning I have received an email suggesting I hold a detox party!

Eating healthy shouldn’t be reserved only for January. It should be something we simply just do. I have a big appetite. My mum in law asked me how come eat as much as I do and don’t put weight on. It certainly is the foods I choose to eat, and the foods I choose not to. And I don’t always have a New Year’s Eve buffet in front of me.

So for a healthier 2013, let’s eat real food. Cook from scratch more. Eat more raw foods. Let’s realize our health is in ours hands. Move, smile, love more and stress less. Make time for yourself, the people you love. Make choices right not only for you but for the planet. Live with compassion. Be a part of the big picture.

And if you have over indulged the last week or so, try my grandma’s cleansing salad. Three ingredients, minimum effort and it is incredibly healthy. One of the salads ingredients is the super sauerkraut. It only contains 27 calories per cup, while being full of Vitamin C and probiotics. What a perfect start to the new year!


You may notice carrot in my salad, this was part of the sauerkraut that I bought from my Polish shop. If you can, get some unpasteurised raw sauerkraut to get the beneficial bacteria. If you can’t find it you can use sauerkraut from a jar too.

Serves 4

3 cups sauerkraut
2 medium apples, diced
1 medium red (or sweet white) onion, finely chopped

Just add everything together and enjoy.



Yesterday I went out with my girlfriends to an Indian restaurant. We were seated next to an Indian family with two young children. While admiring the children’s impeccable restaurant behaviour (don’t we all wish...) I noticed they were all eating in the traditional Indian way, with their hands. I also noticed a plate of very English chips (French fries) on the table.

This made me think about traditions and habits we all have, treasure or perhaps sometimes even endure. Food seems to be strongly associated with habits and traditions. As John Robbins puts it: “Our familiar foods give us comfort, reassurance, and a sense of identity. They are there for us when the world may not be. They can be friends, loyal and true.”

Unfortunately this notion of tradition (or a habit) can stand in the way of change. All vegetarians and vegans have experienced conversations about their choices. We have all heard opinions that humans are omnivores and it is unnatural for them not to eat meat. However research is showing us that a plant based diet is the most beneficial one to adopt.

I wouldn’t dispute that humans have always included some meat in their diet. One thing is clear it was never consumed in the quantities we see today. My grandmother was born in 1926 and she used to describe her family diet as mainly meatless, they only had meat on Sundays. Her father became an incidental vegetarian when the times were hard, offering his meat portion to the children.

It may be a strange thing for a veggie to write about meat, but my aim was to show that many of the traditions we embrace may very recent. It is time to take a step back and embraced diet based on whole plant foods; the most natural way to eat. I accept that not everybody will take the plunge and stop eating meat and dairy, but even a small step can make a difference. We can and should create new traditions for a better future.

My friend G., during our dinner yesterday, said that even if she is not going to stop meat completely, knowing me had inspired her to eat more vegetarian meals and explore new ingredients. This left me with a warm feeling indeed (or was it the curry?).

The recipe I decided to make is steeped in my country’s history. For some 400 years the Czechs were part of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire, and even these weren’t the easiest times for my compatriots, we embraced foods of both Austria and Hungary as our own. I grew up never questioning whether Apple Strudel or Gulyas is Czech or not. It became part of my country’s culinary tradition. Szekely Gulyas (or as we call it Segedinsky Gulas) is one of these dishes. Here I present the veganised version using seitan as a replacement of the traditional pork.


We always had Czech dumplings with this gulyas but rice, quinoa or even pasta work great.

Serves 4

1 Tbs rapeseed oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 tsp caraway seeds
2 tsp sweet paprika
2x285 g (10oz) tins seitan, cut into bite size pieces
250g (1 and 1/2cups) sauerkraut, drained
500ml vegetable stock
1 Tbs liquid aminos
1/2 cashew cream (made out of 1/2cup cashews and 1/2 cup water, you may have some leftover)

  1. In a large wide pan heat the oil and saute the onion till softened, about 10 min.
  2. Add caraways seeds and paprika, saute for about 30cm, take care not to burn the paprika.
  3. Next add the seitan, sauerkraut, vegetable stock and liquid aminos.
  4. Cook on low heat for about half an hour.
  5. Add the cashew cream and let warm through.
  6. Serve with rice or pasta. Garnish with extra paprika.