Carrots are a popular ingredient in ciorba, the Romanian national dish
In “My taste of home”, expats in Luxembourg contribute recipes from their home countries, but with a twist: they have to use a local, seasonal ingredient.
Looking for warming winter food for the soul and belly? Oana Marangoci likes to turn to ciorba, a Romanian soup which she makes in large pans, just like her mother used to.
“When I came home from school, I would reheat it. When I was a child I hated it because we had it all the time, every meal a different variation,” Oana recounted.
Since moving to Luxembourg in 2008 for work, she regularly makes ciorba herself and likes to invite friends over to eat it together.
She explained that ciorba is originally an Arabic word with borş being the Slavic equivalent. What sets it apart from regular soups is the ingredient borş, a liquid ferment of wheat flavoured with cherry leaves and bay leaves, which Oana said is an excellent probiotic.
It can be purchased in powder or liquid form at Romanian shops or as Brotrunk in Naturata, Oana explained.
The dish has also seeped into many Romanian expressions, among them the “don’t reheat old ciorba, it’s not good”, which Oana adapted into her stand-up comedy material about bad dates.
What sets ciorba apart from regular soups is the ingredient borş. Photo: Oana Marangoci
Recipe for ciorba (10-15 servings)
The base is made of boiled vegetables. There is no right or wrong, you can get creative and add your personal touch (e.g., a few tops of broccoli or any kind of vegetables):
2-3 big carrots
1 small parsnip and/or ¼ celery root
1 pepper (green or red--the long ones are the best)
1 big tomato
Optional--1 parsley root
Borş--1 litre for 4 litres of water or 2 dessert spoons of powder
1 small can of tomato purée--50g or 100g tomato paste
600g minced meat--“personally I use 400g of low fat (5 to 15%) beef plus 200g of pork but you can do only beef”
100-200g rice (preferably quick boiling rice. Rice types with long boiling times need to be boiled before being added to the meatballs)
1 small onion (or echalot)
1 fistful of fine minced fresh dill (or parsley)
Salt and pepper
300g of beans cut in spoon-size pieces plus optional 1 courgette and 2 boiled potatoes cut in bigger cubes
Fresh chopped green parsley leaves (preferably long leaves one) and optionally dill
Preparing the meatballs
Mix the meat, rice, onion (chopped very finely--as close to the rice size as possible) and the greens. Add the egg to tie everything together. This part has to be done by hand, therefore a very strict hygiene is needed. Make the meatballs of the size of Swedish Ikea ones and put them aside for the grand finalé.
Finely chop the onion, cut carrots, celery, parsnip in small cubes (1 cm). The tomato should be peeled and cut into small cubes as well but it will be added at the very end due to short boiling time. (Tip: to easily peel the tomato, dip it into boiling water for a few seconds then in cold water).
Bring water (add 1 spoon of salt at the beginning) to boiling point and throw in the veggie base.
Leave to boil 15-20 minutes (basically until the carrots are boiled). The beans also need to be added at the beginning (for the vegetarian version).
Add the meatballs and leave for 5-10 minutes (until they float).
At the same time add the borş (you can add it gradually checking the taste--the risk is that it becomes too sour).
Add the chopped tomato and tomatoes concentrate and add the salt and pepper. Optionally, to make it more rich, beat one egg and add it, mixing it immediately to get fine egg threads. Leave to boil together for another 5 minutes of boiling. At the very end, sprinkle the green parsley on top.
Add some more green when you serve it. The sour cream should be beside it with a hot pepper for those who want to add more spice to their ciorba.