Eastern European Milk Soup

Broad beans with milk and sage
Laurence Mouton / Getty Images
  • Total: 25 mins
  • Prep: 5 mins
  • Cook: 20 mins
  • Yield: 4 servings

Milk soup is one of the oldest and most basic foods. Among farmers around the world, milk soup was a means of using up cow, goat, or sheep milk that couldn't be turned into cheese, butter, or buttermilk because of time or manpower constraints and would otherwise spoil. What started as an economic measure turned into a cultivated taste sensation.

It is always eaten hot either for breakfast or as a meatless Lenten offering, sometimes with sugar, and is an easily digested meal for the sick. Milk soup was a staple at Polish milk bars (bar mleczny) during the Communist era.

Milk soup exists in nearly every culture and is common among Poles (zupa mleczna), Czechs, Hungarians (tejleves), Lithuanians (pieninės sriubos), Ukrainians (sup molochnyy), Russians (sup molochnyĭ), and other Central and Eastern Europeans.

Today, it is a universal comfort food often served with noodles, bread, rice, barley, farina, millet, or potatoes.

Ingredients

  • 4 cups milk
  • 2 cups cooked rice (or egg noodles)
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • Salt (to taste)
  • Sugar (to taste)

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

  2. Place milk and cooked rice or noodles in a saucepan. Heat to boiling.

  3. Portion the hot soup into four bowls or mugs. Dollop each with 1 tablespoon butter and season with salt and/or sugar to taste.

Variations

Milk soup lends itself to experimentation and variation. Let your creativity and flavor preferences be your guide.

  • Milk soup with poured noodles: In a small bowl, mix together 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour, 1 large egg, and 1/8 teaspoon salt until smooth and pourable. If too thick, add a little milk. Place 4 cups milk in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Pour noodle batter all over the surface in a thin stream. Stir gently and return to a boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer 2 minutes. Serve with 1 tablespoon butter in each bowl and salt and/or sugar to taste.
  • Milk soup with grated noodles: In a small bowl, mix together 3/4 cup all-purpose flour with 1 large egg and 1/8 teaspoon salt until a stiff ball of dough forms. If too crumbly, add a little water. Grate onto a lightly floured cutting board, sprinkling with flour so the noodles don't clump together. Place 4 cups milk in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Sprinkle grated noodles into milk, stir, and bring back to the boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer 5 minutes. Serve with 1 tablespoon butter in each bowl and salt and/or sugar to taste.
  • Milk soup with farina: In a saucepan, mix together 3/4 cup uncooked farina, 1 cup water, 1/2 cup milk, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat, and simmer 15 minutes. If too thick, add a little boiling water. Add 3 cups hot milk. Serve with 1 tablespoon butter in each bowl and salt and/or sugar to taste.
  • Milk soup with millet: In a saucepan, mix together 1/2 cup millet, 3 cups cold water, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes or until tender. Drain and combine with 3 cups hot milk. Serve with 1 tablespoon butter in each bowl and salt and/or sugar to taste.
  • Milk soup with oatmeal: In a saucepan, mix together 2/3 cup uncooked oatmeal, 2 cups cold water, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes or until tender. Combine with 3 cups hot milk. Serve with 1 tablespoon butter in each bowl and salt and/or sugar to taste.