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AGNES’ recipe of Easter Żurek soup with blessed salt

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The Easter Żurek soup is made with fermented rye or sourdough and is traditionally eaten for Easter Sunday breakfast in Poland. For Agnes, this is the most spiritual of all dishes because it includes ingredients, such as salt, that have been blessed in a basket in church on Holy Saturday. This practice is centuries old in Poland, and is found wherever Poles have settled. The wicker baskets that people take to church usually have a decorative lace or embroidered cover and the foods in them symbolise the resurrection of Christ. As a key ingredient, salt represents purification. Typically, the baskets also include: horseradish and pepper, which symbolise the bitterness and harshness of the passion of Jesus; smoked bacon or sausage, which refers to God's abundance and generosity; butter, which celebrates the end of lent, often shaped into a lamb (symbolic of the Paschal Lamb); a small babka cake (Easter bread), which is symbolic of Jesus; and hand-coloured hard eggs (pisanka), which symbolise new life and resurrection.

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In Poland, Agnes used to go to church with her family every Sunday. When she moved to London fifteen years ago, she lived in Chiswick for three months before moving to Ealing, where she joined the Polish Roman Catholic Church, Parafia Ealing. Over the years the community has become increasingly mixed, as Polish people have married English people or people from other nationalities. However, the masses are still in Polish. Agnes does not go to church as regularly as she used to. However, she has kept her faith and likes to take her daughter Klara to church to teach her about Jesus, so that she sees him on the Cross and experiences the blessing of the Easter basket.


Serves 4

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2 bay leaves
4 whole peppercorns
1 onion, diced
1 large carrot, cut into large pieces
2 white sausages
200g smoked bacon
1L water or vegetable stock
500mL zakwas (fermented rye flour)*
4 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tbsp dried marjoram
Salt, blessed, to taste**
Pepper, blessed, to taste**
White wine vinegar, to taste (optional)
1 tbsp vegetable oil
4 tbsp 18% fat soured cream
1 tbsp vegetable oil
4 hard-boiled eggs, blessed, to serve**

*    Available in Polish grocery shops
**  Blessed in the Easter basket the day before Easter Sunday

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  • Put the bay leaves, peppercorns, onion, carrot, sausages and bacon
    in a pot, then cover with the water or stock and bring to a boil. 
  • Simmer for 30 minutes, skimming the fat off the top occasionally. 
  • Remove the sausages and bacon, and set aside to cool. 
  • Mix the zakwas into the soup, then add the garlic and the marjoram. 
  • Season with blessed salt and pepper to taste, then continue to simmer for  5–7 minutes. If the soup is not sour enough, add some white wine vinegar to bring up the flavour.
  • Meanwhile, dice the bacon and thickly slice the sausages. Brown the bacon in a frying pan in a tbsp of oil.
  • Pour 4 tbsp of the soured cream into a mug or a bowl. Add some of the soup and mix well, then slowly pour the cream mixture into the soup, stirring constantly. This prevents the soured cream from curdling.
  • To serve, halve the eggs. Pour the soup into bowls, then top with two egg halves, some sausage and some bacon.


Agnes’ Easter Żurek recipe is part of the SPIRITUAL FLAVOURS photo/cookbook, which brings together recipes from people who belong to different faith communities in one neighbourhood in the suburbs of West London, in Ealing. These faith communities comprise a synagogue, a Sri Lankan Hindu Temple, a mosque, a Sikh Gurdwara, an Anglican church, a multicultural Roman Catholic church, a Polish Catholic church and an ethnically diverse Pentecostal church. These recipes have been chosen because of their biographical and spiritual significance and reveal the diversity of contemporary suburban London, but also show the many different ways that food and faith are inter-related. Through interviews and cooking sessions, the book pays attention to affective relationships with food, as a vehicle to explore notions of home, family, tradition, diversity, migration, adaptation, past/future aspirations and belief. The book is available at The Photographers' Gallery Bookshop.

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The book SPIRITUAL FLAVOURS is part of the wider Spiritual Flavours project, which also includes a twenty-eight-minute film with the same name; the photographic series 'Spiritual Flavours: Meals'; and the interactive installation 'Spiritual Flavours Spice Lab'. These complementary pieces form part of an exhibition installation and explore different dimensions of food and spirituality.

All images courtesy of the artist.

Laura Cuch

Laura Cuch is a photographer, filmmaker and researcher in the geography department at UCL. She's the author of the Spiritual Flavours project, where she explores the relationship of food and spirituality of different faith communities in the suburbs of west London. She also teaches at Goldsmiths, University of London, and is a member of the Urban Photography Association.