About the author

Originally from London, I moved to Poland to absorb as much of the culture as humanly posssible. Maybe the biggest influence on me has been the food and I credit my adopted babcia, (Polish for grandmother) Ania, with much of the information here. I lived in Zielona Gora and Szklarska Poreba which are in the west and south-west of Poland respectively.
Please feel free to leave any comments or visit my other site An Englishman in Poland

Friday, 8 May 2009

Kopytka (little hoof dumplings) recipe

As I explained in the article on pierogi ruskie dumplings do not feature largely in the British cuisine and I have had little exposure to them even in foreign dishes.

Dumplings are lumps of various filled or empty doughs and can either be cooked in soups/casseroles or water. Whereas I had experienced dumplings cooked in thicker sauces, ravioli for example, I was introduced to the type cooked in water for the first time in Poland. To me the slimy texture of dumplings cooked in water feels wrong. I much prefer pierogi ruskie od smażone (sma-shoan-ay), or fried.
However, I found myself increasingly growing fond of one type of dumpling called kopytka (kow-pit-kar) which derives it's name from the shape as it resembles hooves of one ruminant or another. It consists mainly of a potato based dough with flour and is quite bland but the secret is in it's topping.
Pierogi in general can be likened to ravioli in all but the fact it is cooked in a sauce and not just water and keeping with the Italian theme, kopytka can be compared with gnocchi which too wonderfully derives it's name by it's physical appearance, lump.

Kopytka recipe

What you need for dough
  • Potatoes (about 5 medium sized)

  • An egg

  • Flour (about a cup and a half but probably more)

  • Salt

for topping #1

  • Breadcrumbs (1/2 cup)

  • Butter (3 tbsp)

  • Sugar (optional)

for topping #2 (also known as skwarki)

  • Generally any type of bacon, the fattier and smoked will give more taste.

  • Onion (1)

  • Butter (3 tbsp)

What you do:

  1. Peel and boil potatoes until cooked and tender.
  2. Mash thoroughly and leave to go cold.
  3. Add egg and add some flour, start to mix it all and add more and more flour until all the dough is not sticky to touch.
  4. Flour a large board and roll out the dough into a snake shape about an inch high and thick.

  5. Cut into diamond shapes that resemble hooves (otherwise it's not truly kopytka).
  6. Boil a large pot of salted water with a little oil

  7. Add kopytka (do not overcrowd pot).

  8. After they start to float, give them extra few minutes then remove to strain
  9. Add topping of your choice

Topping #1

  1. Basically just fry breadcrumbs in melted butter until golden. It should be moist yet crumbly.

Incidentally this topping goes well on vegetables such as boiled green beans or cauliflower with a dinner, obiad).

Skwarki topping.

  1. Cube or finely chop bacon and onion
  2. Melt butter
  3. Saute onion and bacon until browned.

This recipe is so easy with minimal ingredients, the hardest part is making perfectly shaped dough.

I can imagine that this is a recipe borne out of hard times, when food was scarce and a copious amount of ingenuity was needed to stave off culinary boredom. Growing up having Irish parents I have overdosed on potatoes in every way I thought possible but I think employing potatoes in this way is highly laudable.

I believe thinking about this spurred me on to try and introduce a bit of originality into my own culinary skills. Buckwheat groats are popular in Polish cooking and I decided to use buckwheat flour instead of white flour when making kopytka one day (By the way buckwheat flour is not used widely in preparing Polish dishes, I never knew you could get that type of flour until I saw it on a shelf in the shop). The flour has a supposedly sweet taste and I imagined some incredibly looking speckled masterpieces being the result of this amazing twist. However my kopytka turned out the colour of brain and since my dough shaping skills are still ashamedly inferior, looked like brain also unlike the masterclass displayed by babcja Ania.

click here for twitpick photo of kopytka looking like brain.

Share photos on twitter with Twitpic

There are quite a few names for very similar things in this topic which I hope readers will leave a little 'lump' of their insight before 'hoofing' it away to another site to make things a cit clearer.

Kopytka is the name for hoof shaped potato dumplings with no filling. Kluski is a broader term for dumplings without fillings of which there are several types. One type are Kluski śląskie (silesian) which are round with a dimple on one side and these are made with raw potato as opposed to cooked in kopytka. But what is different about Kluchy z łacha, pyzy, kluski drożdżowe or kluski na parze and then there are knedle?

On a similar note there are pierogi leniwe (lazy pierogi). I like the no nonsense straight names that can be given to Polish things. Pierogi are like parcels with fillings but if you you are in a sloth-like mood you can just mix in the filling (cheese) into the dough. Why waste time?

Anyway my favourite adverts on Polish television involve anthropomorphizing food produce in the Biedronka series. In the one below I was sure that they were pierogi leniwe but they look like kopytka and I am confused what pierogi leniwe should look like. From what I have seen they are the same shape as kopytka and have the same fried breadcrumb topping. Is literally the only difference the fact that white cheese has been mixed with the potato dough? If so what a nightmare if your allergic to white cheese and have to choose between seemingly identical looking dishes.

Kopytka are really filling but a few of them are a nice accompaniment to some meat (especially to bolster the protein content of the meal). Why not try them yourself, they are extremely easy with common, default ingredients and you feel like you are really cooking because you get your hands full of dough. One day I will fry them and see about kopytka without that dodgy texture but I have pierogi ruskie od smażone so i'm happy to leave leave it as it should be traditionally...slimy but delicious.

Thursday, 30 April 2009

Polish bread - chleb

My first impression of Polish bread was not a good one. I am a big fan of all types but my digestive system was not accustomed to the basic differences between bread I grew up with in London and the bread I encountered in Poland. I am not sure what exactly caused the insane bloating I experienced, I heard maybe the higher rye to wheat content, but it made me extremely uncomfortable and I probably came across rude by refusing to eat a lot of it. The people of Poland are the largest consumers of bread in Europe and they take it very seriously. Many meals are accompanied by bread (e.g. bigos or fasolka po bretonsku), and there are a great deal of different varieties and types. In fact, once my innards became accustomed to the change I found it quite boring upon returning to London to find a pathetic variety of breads on offer compared with Poland. For instance, I find it hard to find some of the heavier, harder very dark types of bread which are popular in Poland.

The biggest difference I noticed was how I had always assumed that the standard loafs of bread found in shops in London are a specialist type of bread in Poland. Known as 'toast bread' in Poland, it was initially a matter of some confusion as this was the default bread for me, the only choice being white or brown. In Poland however this type of bread was not standard and is employed for quite a specific purpose.....making toast. Quite logical really as it's shape is obviously a perfect match for the toaster. The square shaped toast bread makes packing sandwiches much more efficient which might also explain this particular type of breads popularity in England as Polish sandwiches are different (see kanapka).

Polish bread is one thing I have heard that Poles living outside of Poland miss a great deal, especially in England probably due to the dominance of toast bread but one type of bread which is greatly appreciated by them is Irish soda bread which is compared very favourably to their own and incidentally is one of my favourite breads also.

Friday, 24 April 2009

Fasolka po bretońsku recipe - baked bean and meat stew

Mr Bean is still very popular in Poland. I initially learnt the Polish word for bean, fasola, because it is called Jaś Fasola or John Bean and there were a few jokes made since my name is John and I come from England....I guess it was one of those jokes which did not translate well!
Anyway I thought this dish was called 'beans in a British style' for ages because I mistranslated bretonsku and got really excited for some reason whenever it popped up. Breton beans are a more accurate translation and Bretons are a group associated more with France but do have a history intertwined with England (More information on Bretons). Furthermore baked beans are an integral part of British cuisine so I still have a right to get excited about this dish as a Polish version of what I had on toast, on jacket potatoes and part of fried breakfast for years.
The Polish version has meat (usually pork, sausage-kielbasa, or bacon-Boczek) which adds an extra dimension of flavour and so is also known as a cheap meat and bean stew ideally suited for students. It is quite easy to get bored of the English baked beans on toast so this is a more flexible (and healthier) alternative.
It is a good idea to make this in larger quantities, it can always be frozen.

What you need
  • Large white beans (A large pot full or around a kilogram, dry)
  • Pork/bacon (boczek is fattier and gives more taste but you can use leaner pork) 3/4kg
  • Polish sausage (kielbasa) 1/2kg
  • Large onion (1)
  • Tomato ketchup (2tbsp)
  • Tomato paste (1 tbsp)
  • Flour (2 tbsp)
  • Vegeta (basically just a seasoning of different spices/herbs/vegetables)
  • Salt and pepper, paprika, oregano

What you do

  1. Soak the beans (dry sort) overnight in plenty of water.
  2. Throw away any beans that float on the surface
  3. Add generous amount of vegetta seasoning to the water and beans (keep same water that beans soaked in overnight). Bring to the boil, cover and simmer for about hour and half (do not overcook)
  4. To make the sauce dice the onion and brown in a large pan with some oil, vegeta spices, salt and pepper.
  5. Dice pork and add to pan with some more spices/seasoning and paprika. Stir and cook on low heat for 5mins or so depending on size of meat.
  6. Dice kielbasa, add to pan and stir. Leave on low heat for about 1/2 hour to 3/4 hour. Add extra water to prevent meat burning.
  7. Check beans by trying. Most likely need longer than sauce in pan.
  8. Take pan off heat after 3/4 hour and stir in ketchup and tomato paste (ensure after taking pan off heat)
  9. Add mixture in pan to beans and water in pot and stir thoroughly.
  10. Season to taste, add oregano (perhaps 1/2 tbsp).
  11. Thicken by mixing flour and water in cup and then adding to pot
  12. Cover and heat for 5 mins after thorough stir
  13. Serve with fresh bread

But I found these in a local supermarket so it looks like Heinz have infiltrated the market with their over-sugared chemical version here also.

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Polish food photos

A big thank you to Link Robertson for these wonderful images of some of his experiences in Poland. Link is an American planning to settle in Poland and teach in Warsaw.
Currently his favourite dishes are zurek and placky z gulasz. However if Link is like me my favourite dish changed depending on what I tried that day.

Pierogi ruskie with cubes of fried bacon. The name of this has caused so much controversy as can be seen by my article on them.

Zywiec (soft g, gi-vee-itz) is probably the most famous beer (for foreigners) as it has advertising and marketing on everything (I thought carlseberg was bad in London). But it is not the most flavoursome or strongest and did not see it being popular amongst the natives. My personal favourite is Warka strong and as the name implies...blows your head off! 8 percent sweet nectar in a gold can. (I do not work for their PR department by the way).
Link took this is Zakopane which is on the southern border, in the Tatra mountains. The town itself is the highest in Poland and is known for its skiing and mountaineering.
The stall looks like it is selling sausages but it is actually hard cheese called Oscypek. It originated in Zakopane and can be smoked or unsmoked and is salty. I suppose it was a good way to preserve cheese for the mountain folk but it can be found all over Poland now. Personally I did not like it but I hear it is good with a barbeque or cranberry sauce. I do like the vast array of shapes and sizes though.

This looks amazing. I do not know what it is yet but will update when I find out.

That is what I like to see, meat dominating the plate.

These look like rollmops (pickled herring). I had them at a wedding once...preferred the vodka.

This looks amazing and again am unsure what it is. I must say they do look like raw beefburgers but am very eager to find out what this is. Excellent spread of various spirits around the plate.

Monday, 17 November 2008

Send me your recipes, photos, interesting information

From the simplest to the most complex of recipes.
Perhaps it is just one photo of something food related you took while in Poland.
Maybe someone told you a little bit of information about the culinary traditions of the Polish.

Whatever it is as long as it is vaguely linked to the subjects found here, send it to me and I will publish it here with credit to the sender.

Send to


Get cracking!

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Budyn - Polish custard

Inevitably there was bound to be something I found myself yearning for while living here in Poland. I always felt there was something missing when trying out all the different varieties of cakes, doughnuts etc. Then it hit me...I was so used to any kind of dessert in England being drowned in yellow custard that the lack thereof started to upset me.

I set out to find a suitable substitute for the largely favoured mono-flavoured custard that I had been brought up on but in fact I ended up discovering something so much more! I discovered Budyn (pronounced boodinn and sounds not too dissimilar to pudding)

Perhaps the multitude of visually stunning packages on offer elevates the whole experience to a level I never attained when opening a boring can of ambrosia custard, who knows?

I also discovered it can be used in other ways (see my sernik recipe) and so a tasting adventure began.

Why have the brand 'Emix' decided to use tiny elves to sell their Budyn?

How to make Budyn

If you can not understand Polish then do not fret. I have not seen or been told formal translation of the accepted Budyn preparation technique but by understanding the odd few words above and of course the amazingly colourful pictures, I can give you a brief method for producing top quality Polish flavoured custard.

1. Mix powdered mixture with 0.5l (about a pint for Brits, including me, who hang on desperately to Imperial measurements) of cold milk and add 2 tablespoons of sugar (or perhaps artificial sweeteners).

2. Put in pot and heat. Add teaspoon of butter (optional) and continually stir.

(NB. I do not understand step 3 and so ignore it but it does not seem to make a difference. I have a feeling it might be that the mixture made in step one is not totally put in at one go and this step involves adding the rest once the butter is melted? If anybody wants to help with translation then feel free to leave comment.

3. Stir until becomes thick (approximately 3-4mins)

What is your favourite budyn flavour? Coconut, Chocolate, cream (reminds me of school dinner custard), vanilla, peach? Leave a comment and let me know.

Thanks to Monika S. for providing endless supply of budyn.

Monday, 14 April 2008

Kubuś - more than just a carrot juice

Kubuś (kwuboosh) is different to any other carrot juice I have seen before and I became addicted to this. Aimed at kids with a bear on the front, I have been confused by the fact that the only other usage of this word is for a Polish armoured vehicle used during the war.
I have seen this now in ordinary shops in London (not just Polish shops) under the radically different marketing title of kubus. The flavours are in English on the exported bottles so I thankfully don't have to spend half an hour decoding the various fruit combos now!
By the way the banana flavour rules.


carrot - apple - orange
banana - peach - apple
carrot - peach - apple
carrot - pear - apple
carrot - strawberry
carrot juice