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You really have to have to like pig and dill in this region of the world, and potatoes, potatoes are big, but mostly pig and dill.  Thankfully we’re both fans. 

 This soup did not taste anything like I expected.  The stock was beautifully smoky and I thought the addition of oats would give it the distinctive sour taste I’ve grown accustomed to with Eastern European cooking, but it went the opposite way and sweetened it.  It was a thick, creamy almost gelatinous sweet soup, which contrary to what your eyes tell you includes exactly 0% cream.

 The meat in this soup has to be smoked, the stock is cooked for such a brief period of time that anything less would result in just coloured water.  Up until this week I have struggled finding unsliced smoked ham hock in London at this time of year without spending silly amounts of money, then I tried the little Romanian shop in Lewisham, Casa Transilvania, where they have a fridge jam packed with the stuff and it’s reasonably priced to boot.  Romanian shops are far and few in between in England at present, so if you don’t have any nearby you may have more luck with a Polish Deli.

 If you cannot find any oat flour, blitz some porridge oats in a food processor. This is what I did and it worked perfectly.


 Tseja – Zhur Base
  • 100g oat flour (3.5oz / 0.8 cups)
  • 500ml water (0.9 pints / 2 cups)
  • 200g smoked ham hock (7oz)
  • 1 litre water (1.8 pints / 4.2 cups)
  • 1 onion
  • 2 turnips
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 6 peppercorns
  • 2 carrots
  • 1 parsnip
  • 4 garlic cloves crushed
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 tbsp dill
 To serve
  • Boiled buttered potatoes


  • Calories | 130
  • Fat | 4.9g

Serves | 6 portions

Prep Time | 15 minutes (plus overnight soaking)

Cooking Time | 18 minutes


  1. To make the tseja stir the water into the oat flour in a non-metallic bowl. Cover and leave to soak for a minimum of 8 hours.  Strain through a muslin, reserving the liquid and discarding the oats.
  2. Finely chop the meat. Peel and chop the onion, turnips, carrots and parsnip into large pieces, place in a large saucepan together with the meat, peppercorns, bay leaves and water.  Bring to the boil and simmer for approximately 15 minutes until the vegetables are tender.  Strain the stock into a clean pan, reserving the meat and vegetables.
  3. Spoon a couple of tablespoons into the tseja mix and stir, then add the tseja to the stock and bring to the boil.
  4. Finely chop the cooked veg, and stir in the crushed garlic and finely chopped dill. Add to the stock together with the meat and simmer on a medium heat for three minutes.  The soup will thicken very quickly due to the tseja, and it can burn easily so be sure to keep stirring.
  5. Serve with boiled buttered potatoes.

Based on a recipe found at

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