To truly understand the beauty of Erdäpfelsuppe, I’m going to run you through a quick language lesson. When Columbus first encountered the indigenous peoples of the Caribbean in the late 15th century, they presented him with the sweet potato–batata in the Taíno language–which he first brought to Europe. But on subsequent trips, explorers returned with the white potato, first cultivated in the Andes mountains–papa in the Quechuan language–and people started confusing the two. In truth, it was a little unfair to introduce two very similar tubers, with similar names, to unsuspecting Europeans. This confusion endures today; the Spanish word patata, and English potato, are the result of compounding both batata and papa.
But as the potato traveled across the continent, filling the bellies of hungry Europeans along the way, people perceived the vegetable differently. For example, the Italians first supposed that the potato looked a lot like a truffle–tartufolo–and the sentiment spread to Eastern Europe (examples include the German kartoffel and the Russian картофель).
Personally, I think the French had the most elegant interpretation. Although they first went the truffle route, with the word cartoufle, they eventually switched to pomme de terre (“earth apple”). You see, the concept of earth apples isn’t new – the phrase had been used throughout history for various vegetables, including cucumbers and melons, as documented in Old High German, Old English, and Middle Dutch. And the French weren’t the only one to make this connection, because the word Erdapfel appears in Switzerland, Austria, and Southern Germany–all used to describe potatoes.
So in reality, today’s Erdäpfelsuppe is not really different from the more famous German Potato Soup (Kartoffelsuppe), but it’s an excellent moment to highlight the connection that many of us shares at the dinner table…no matter which name we use.
Today’s recipe is packed with flavor, mostly thanks to its use of dried porcini mushrooms (although in truth, it’s the liquid you soak the mushrooms). Another tip is to use the more economical bacon ends and pieces in the dish, since you’ll be using chopped bacon anyway.
A couple additions, like celery leaves, caraway seeds, and sour cream, all present a distinct Eastern European feel to this heartwarming stew.
Erdäpfelsuppe – Austrian Potato Soup (Gluten-free, Perfect Health Diet, Paleo, Primal, Whole30 adaptable)
1/2 ounce dried porcini mushrooms (about 1 handful)
1/2 lb bacon ends and pieces, chopped
1 onion, chopped (about 2 cups)
2 carrots, peeled and diced (about 1.5 cups)
3 stalks celery, diced (about 1.5 cups, retain 1 tbsp chopped celery leaves)
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp marjoram (oregano okay)
1/2 tsp caraway seeds
2 cups chicken broth
2 cups beef broth
2.5 lbs white potatoes, peeled, diced, and rinsed
salt and pepper to taste
2 tbsp sour cream (coconut milk okay)
1 handful fresh parsley, chopped (about 2 tbsp)
1. Place the mushrooms in a small bowl and cover with warm water; set aside to reconstitute, about 15 minutes. As the mushrooms soak, warm a stockpot over medium/low heat, then add the bacon and saute until crispy, about 10 minutes. With a slotted spoon, remove the bacon pieces and set aside.
2. Increase the stockpot heat to medium, then add the onion; saute until softened, about 5 minutes, then add the carrot and celery. Saute until bright in color, about 2 minutes, then add the chopped celery leaves, marjoram, caraway seeds, chicken broth, and beef broth. Remove the mushrooms from their liquid and coarsely chop, then add them to the soup – add the water you soaked the mushrooms in, too, minus any sediment that collected at the bottom of the bowl.
3. Bring the soup to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer until the carrots are tender, about 8 minutes. Add the diced potatoes; if needed, add water to ensure they are covered by liquid. Return to a boil over med/high heat, then reduce heat and simmer on low until the potatoes are very tender, about 15 minutes.
4. Using a potato masher or immersion blender, partially mash/blend the soup so that it is smooth, it should take just a few pulses. Add salt and pepper to taste, then remove from heat and stir in the sour cream (or coconut milk), reserved bacon, and parsley, then serve.