cuisine-european-2

Cuisine of Poland

A wide variety of grains and pulses is a trademark of Polish cuisine, among which most popular are rye, buckwheat, wheat, barley, oats, lentils and millet. Grains are mostly ground into flours, which are used to make different kinds of bread. Sourdough rye and pumpernickel hold a special place in hearts of Poles as do popular porridge style dishes called kasha (kasza).

Vegetables are important part of everyday meals and kohlrabi, cauliflower, turnips, cabbage, beets, carrots, peas and potatoes are especially loved and a feature of many traditional meals. Due to cold winters pickling was a traditional method of preserving vegetables. “In fact, the taste for the sour flavour pickling brine is so great that Poles actually make a pickle soup. Pickled vegetables accompany many dishes in Polish cuisine. Pickled cabbage, or sauerkraut, is the most common, but Poles also enjoy pickled cucumber, beets, cauliflower, fish and mushrooms. ” “Hearty soups play a central role in Polish cooking… traditionally served as an appetizer but may be also eaten as a main course. While Poles enjoy vegetable barley, pea, fermented rye (zurek), beer (zupa piwna), pickle (zupa ogorkowa) and other soups, beet soups are the most popular and common in Polish cooking. Hot beet soup (barszcz) was traditionally made with fermented beet juice, but today it is often soured with citrus or vinegar. ”

Traditional Polish cuisine is quite rich and heavy and features lots of meat and dairy. Fermented flavour of milk products is much appreciated, for example “sour cream turns up everywhere in Polish cooking. It is used as garnish to roast meat, dress salads, thicken soups, bind cakes, flavour kasha and more. One would be hard-pressed to find a food that a Pole would not enjoy more with at least a dab of sour cream. A few herbs are central to Polish cooking and flavour many recipes. Dill, commonly found throughout central European cuisines is the most popular. Parsley is considered second best and leaves as well as roots are an important flavouring. Other common herbs and spices are caraway seed, marjoram and juniper berries, which are mostly found in heavier dishes and marinades.

Riding through Poland one can see red fields, where red poppies are grown for their seeds, which are extensively used, especially in desserts . One can witness an interesting trend of rediscovering traditional or ‘old Polish cuisine’ (kuchnia staropolska) started after the fall of Communism and ending of suppression of cultural heritage .

Barszcz Beetroot soup

  • 2 large beets approx. 300g peeled
  • 1 medium onion or ¼ cabbage head finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove or 1 tsp asafoetida
  • 1 celery stalk sliced
  • 1 tbsp butter or refined coconut oil
  • 200g organic mushrooms (optional) sliced
  • Handful of fresh parsley or dill chopped
  • Vegetable stock or water
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 2 tbsp vinegar or lemon juice or more traditionally 1 dcl fermented beet juice*
  • Few tablespoons of sour cream or vegan alternative

* To make fermented beet juice use a few small beets,1 slice of rye bread and 1 l warm water

Sauté onion or cabbage on medium heat with fat and a pinch of salt until translucent. Add garlic or asafoetida, celery stalk and beets. If using mushrooms make mushroom stock or even better infuse vegetable stock with mushrooms by bringing to boil and simmering for 5 minutes, then leaving to steep for at least an hour. Pour stock or water over the beet soup base, season and simmer covered until beets are cooked. You can blend the soup using blender or immersion blender or just cut beets into cubes or slices. At the end add vinegar or lemon juice or fermented beet juice, which you can make by dicing a few small beets and fermenting them with a slice of rye bread in warm water covered for 10 days. Transfer the soup into individual bowls and garnish with parsley or dill and a dollop of sour cream if desired.

Pierogi – filled dumplings

Dough:

  • 400 g all-purpose flour
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • 50 ml vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3 tbsp sour cream or vegan sour cream/yoghurt
  • 120 ml water

Potato filling:

  • 2 large potatoes cooked in skin peeled, mashed and cooled
  • 1 small onion minced or ¼ small white cabbage minced and 1 tsp asafoetida
  • 300g curd or crumbled soft tofu and 2 tbsp vegan sour cream with 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 3 tbsp sour cream or vegan sour cream
  • 1 tbsp butter or refined coconut oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Sauerkraut filling:

  • 500g sauerkraut drained and minced
  • 2 tbsp butter or olive oil
  • 1 small onion or 1 tsp asafoetida
  • 1 tbsp marjoram chopped
  • Salt and pepper
  • 3 tbsp butter or olive oil for frying

Potato filling:
Sauté onion or cabbage and asafoetida with fat until golden on medium heat. Transfer to a bowl and add all of the remaining ingredients. Season to taste and mix well.

Sauerkraut filling:
Sauté onion with fat on medium heat until golden or asafoetida for just a few seconds. Add the sauerkraut and 500ml water. Cook for covered 1 hour or until the sauerkraut is soft. Take off the lid and cook until the water is evaporated. Add the marjoram and season to taste.

Dough:
Mix all the ingredients in a bowl and kneed into a smooth and very soft dough. Do not overwork the dough. Let it rest for 10 minutes. Roll to a 3 mm thickness and cut circles using a ring cutter. Fill with a table spoon of desired filling and seal the edges. Cook the pierogi in salted boiling water for 3 minutes or until they rise to the top. Drain the pierogi and fry them in butter or olive oil until lightly golden brown. Serve either hot or cold.

Sauerkraut stew

  • 300 g sauerkraut
  • 600 g white cabbage shredded
  • Handful of dry tomatoes chopped
  • 2 tbsp butter or olive oil
  • 5 prunes diced
  • ½ apple peeled and diced
  • 200 g smoked tofu (optional) cubed
  • 2 large bay leaves
  • 3 allspice berries
  • 3 juniper berries
  • 2 cloves
  • 1 tsp caraway seeds
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 2 tsp marjoram
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • 200 g tomato paste
  • 1 tbsp honey or agave syrup
  • Salt and pepper

Heat up the butter or olive oil in a pot and fry bay leaves, cumin seeds and allspice for 30 seconds. Be careful not to burn the spices. Add the white cabbage, cloves, caraway, juniper berries and cover with water. Simmer until cabbage is tender then add sauerkraut, prunes, dried tomatoes apple, tofu and remaining spices. Simmer on very low heat for 1 hour or until sauerkraut is soft. Add the tomato paste and cook for additional 15 minutes. Finish the stew with seasoning and sweetener. It is best the next or the third day. Serve hot with fresh rye bread.

Sernik – Cheesecake

Pastry:

  • 100 g butter or vegan butter or soft vegetable shortening cold
  • 70 g icing sugar
  • 2 tbsp sour cream or vegan yoghurt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 150 g all-purpose flour
  • Water if needed

Filling:

  • 1 kg semi-skimmed fine curd or vegan cream cheese
  • Sour cream or vegan yoghurt if needed
  • 100 g caster sugar
  • 125 g butter or vegetable shortening
  • 1 ½ packet of vanilla custard powder (pudding)
  • 1 tbsp semolina
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 vanilla sugar or 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • Zest of one organic orange

Icing:

  • 60g icing sugar
  • 2 tbsp desicated coconut
  • 2 tbsp water or as needed

First make the dough by sifting together flour, sugar and baking powder. Incorporate the fat with your fingers but be careful that it does not melt. Add sour cream or vegan yoghurt and make into a stiff dough. If needed add a splash of water. Do not overwork the dough – kneed just so it comes together. Cover in plastic wrap and let it rest in the fridge for 30 minutes. Meanwhile prepare the filling. If your curd is not of fine variety blitz it in a food processor until it’s very fine. If it’s too dry add sour cream or vegan yoghurt. In a separate bowl cream butter and sugar and add vanilla custard powder, semolina, baking powder, vanilla and orange zest. While mixing add the curd and fold it through.

Roll the pastry dough to 3 mm thickness and place it in springform baking pan. Prick the bottom with a fork so it bakes evenly. Next add the filling and tap the pan against the counter to release any air bubbles. Bake in preheated oven at 180°C for 40-55 minutes or until golden brown. Let it sit in an oven for extra 20 minutes. Meanwhile prepare the icing by mixing all of the ingredients together. Pour the icing over baked cheesecake and wait until it hardens. The cake should be served on room temperature.