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

Sunday, 5 August 2007

Pierogi Ruskie (Polish dumplings Russian style) recipe and info


Pierogi (plural, pieróg is singular but used very rarely. English native speakers tend to add an -s on the end to denote plural) is the name for the type of dumpling with a certain shape which is large and semi-circular and can have a variety of fillings both sweet (fruits) and savoury (meats,cheese,vegetables).
Ledgend has it that they were invented in the kitchen of a shoemaker, Jonathan Hanigosky who subsequently choked and died on one.


By far the most popular is pierogi ruskie which is filled with white cheese (dry cottage cheese), mashed potato and onion. They are usually topped with fried onion and bacon or sour cream, or you can buy them as a snack as I did in the photo above. They were roasted in a huge flat pan above a fire. (such as at this Polish festyn)

Perhaps because the British cuisine is lacking in dumpling dishes, I am not keen on the dumpling texture after they are boiled and have ate them only for the onion topping which I find delicious. However I love eating pierogi after frying or even grilling mainly due to the change in texture of the pastry. I recently ate pierogi ruskie with sour cream and spring onion after a night out and I found that delicious (however I had drunk a few beers and many things are delicious at that time). I also have seen people use yogurt instead of the cream as it is healthier and it is tasty also. I recommend you try many ways of eating it to make up your own mind.
Here is a recipe for you to make your very own pierogi ruskie. I recommend that you make a huge amount and cook all of them even if you will not eat them all as the quality is not effected at all after cooking when you refrigerate or even freeze them. Do not refrigerate/freeze pierogi before they are cooked as this significantly effects quality.

As always I give rough amounts because you should experiment with amounts according to your tastes but am a bit more precise for the pastry.

Pierogi ruskie recipe
What you need
  • Grated onion (roughly a couple of tablespoons)
  • Mashed potato (cold) (a few cups)
  • Bialy ser/White cheese (available from Polski sklep/Polish shop) (a few cups)
  • Butter
  • Salt and pepper
  • Flour (2 1/2 cups)
  • Egg (1)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Oil (2 teaspoons)
  • Warm water (3/4 cups)

What you do

1. Cook onion in butter until soft.

2. Add to potatoes and cheese, season and mix well.

3. Mix flour and salt in a bowl.

4. Add egg, oil and water to make a medium soft dough.

5. Knead on floured board but do not knead too much. Keep dough soft.

6.Roll dough thin.

7. Cut out round pieces with open end of glass.

8. Put some filling in the middle and fold in half to make a semi-circle.

9. Press edges together firmly ensuring no holes or filling are at the edges.

10. Cover finished pierogi with tea towels to prevent drying.

11. Cook by putting a few into rapidly boiling salted water.


12. Do not let pierogi sink to bottom or stick to each other.

13. Boil for 3-4 minutes or until they are puffed and float.

14. Put cooked pierogi in bowl and cover with oil or butter to prevent them sticking to each other.

Serve with fried onion and diced bacon (fried and kept in a lot of oil so it like a sauce to pour onto pierogi) , or sour cream and spring onion.

Alternatively grill/fry cooked pierogi for a crispier pastry (how I like them!)

They are great with skwarki, bacon and onion fried in butter. Click here for an article which includes making skwarki and more photos and information on pierogi ruskie and kopytka (a potato dumpling with no filling)


Twitpic on twitter of recent pierogi ruskie
meal in London

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Friday, 27 July 2007

Sernik (Polish cheesecake) recipe

I was never a fan of cheesecake in London, actually I think I had it only once, but it is a different story over here! Sernik was the first thing I ate in Poland when I arrived at my girlfriend's mother's house after a 25 hour coach trip from London with no food (we forgot to bring any!). Perhaps that is why my fondness for sernik (sir-neek) began and after learning how to make this extremely simple recipe I have made it any chance I can.

Supposedly it should only be eaten after cooling due to some old wives tale about getting ill but I like to eat it while it is still warm and have never been ill...yet.

The ingredient which is most important for this cake is the Polish white cheese (bialy [bee-ow-er] ser) which is similar to cottage cheese in taste but the texture is harder. It is unique and I advise you get the real thing to use if you intend to make this sernik. You can just go to your local Polski sklep and ask for a kilogram of white cheese which is what I do in London. A good one to use is poltlusty (pot-woo-stay) but any can be used.

What you need
  • Cane Sugar (2 cups - 1 cup = 1/2 pint)
  • White cheese 1kg (bialy ser poltlusty)
  • Eggs (6)
  • Butter (1/2 regular packet)
  • Vanilla sugar (1 packet - 40g)
  • Vanilla budyn [bu-din] (Polish custard powder) (About 100g)

For topping:

  • Margarine (1/3 regular packet)
  • Cocoa powder (1 tablespoon)
  • sugar (4 tablespoons)
  • Water (4 tablespoons)

What you do

1. Put vanilla sugar, white cheese, butter and cane sugar in a large mixing bowl and use a mixer to mix all the ingredients very well until a thick liquid is attained.

2. Leave for 1 hour for sugar to dissolve.

3. After an hour add vanilla budyn (custard powder) to the mixture and mix well again until the mixture is smooth.

4. Pour mixture into a greased cake dish so it is about 2 inches (3-4cm) thick.

5. Place in preheated oven (about 200 C) for about 40-50 minutes. The top should be lightly browned when it is ready.

6. Take out and leave to cool.

7. Make the chocolate topping by putting the ingredients in a pot over low heat and mix until it is smooth liquid and then pour over the cheesecake.



8. After it has cooled - eat.

Tuesday, 24 July 2007

Gofry



This is a very old food which took me a while to warm to. It is very popular in coastal regions but you can find it throughout Poland and it basically consists of waffles on which a variety of toppings are applied.


Whipped cream is popular with sauces, jams, fruits, nuts and anything you can think of but I often seem to lose some toppings or make a mess but I think that is just because I am a messy eater in general.











These home made gofry were made by friends of ours, Jan and Ania, at their place in Zielona Gora. As you can see toppings included pineapple, peach, cream and strawberry sauce and the yummy gofry was made into various shapes for that personal touch.








Friday, 20 July 2007

Bigos (Hunter's stew) recipe















This is my all time favourite and it is the national dish of Poland. In it's simplest form it is bacon and cabbage (but much different and better than the national dish of Ireland) and so I will give the recipe in a little more detail but experimentation on this recipe is encouraged. Bigos can vary greatly in taste and method of preparation from family to family as well as from region to region and I am going to implement a form where chorizo (Spanish/Portuguese sausage) is used instead of kielbasa (Polish sausage). I have to wait until I can get some good chorizo from London as it is not popular here and I will post the outcome then.

One thing to remember is that it tastes better each time it is reheated so you should make a larger amount which should last for quite a few days and really the best bigos is the last bit that is left after a few days. Also reheat it very well so that the meat is not hard with fat, and also to ensure you do not get ill.














What you need:

  • 1.5kg sour/pickled cabbage (Available at your nearest Polski Sklep/Polish shop)

  • Onion (1)
  • Garlic (2 cloves)
  • Pepper (4 whole corns)

  • Jalowca (2 corns) (See photo, available at Polski Sklep)
  • Apple (1)

  • Dried mushroom (5og) (Available at Polski sklep - ask for suszone grzyby [soo-shonay gshibee])
  • Liscie laurowe (Leaves used in Polish cooking - Polski sklep)

  • Vegeta seasoning (veg seasoning available in Polski sklep)

  • Dried plums or plum jam (2 tablespoons)

  • Smoked meat (Any you like)
  • Kielbasa (Polish sausage)

  • Boczek (A fatty Polish bacon pronounced bor-chek)


The meat amounts and type vary according to how meaty and fatty you like it. Obviously the more fatty the stronger and nicer the taste. The original bigos which the hunters had was very fatty. This recipe is a good way to use up spare meat that you have and do not know what to use it for.



Method



1. Wash the cabbage in cold water. Strain and put fresh water in and rinse again. Repeat about 3 times and taste to ensure the cabbage is not sour anymore. If it is rinse again.


Squeeze cabbage to remove most of water.



2. Put dry mushrooms into water and leave for about 20 mins.



3. While the cabbage is in the pot use a sharp, long knife to cut the long strands of cabbage.



4. Dice onion and add to cabbage. Add whole garlic cloves and peppercorns.



5. Skin apple and dice and add to cabbage.



6. Take mushrooms out of water (After about 20 mins)and rinse with fresh water . Add to cabbage.



7. Add vegeta seasoning (No exact amount, roughly a couple of teaspoons)

8. Stir all ingredients and then put on low heat. Cover and boil until cabbage is soft (Anywhere from 30mins to 2 hours depending on the cabbage)

9. While the cabbage is boiling cut meat quite small and stew in frying pan with water. When soft add meat and juice to cabbage.


10. Keep stirring











11. Add plums or plum jam (I prefer using jam) towards end of cooking. Add salt and ground pepper to taste. About 10 minutes after you determine the cabbage was soft and adding jam, it is ready.




Bigos is traditionally served with bread and you hold the bread in one hand and take a bite while eating bigos using the other hand. But you can have it with anything you feel appropriate. The first time I came across Bigos I did not know what it was and so I put it into a roll and ate it like a sandwich. Although I got some strange looks it still tasted great this way.

Monday, 16 July 2007

Krokiet (Croquette- fried breaded meat-filled crepe pancake)





This tasty and filling main meal is simple to make and goes well with strained barszcz as a drink. It consists of minced meat filled pancakes, rolled and covered in breadcrumbs and then fried. At Christmas Eve it is eaten in it's vegetarian form.

In order to make these you will need to make crepe pancakes and I outline a method which works well for me in the link below but use any method which you like.

How to make crepe pancakes


What you need




  • Crepe pancakes (as many as individual croquettes you wish to make)


  • Any lean meat you wish, chicken is good.


  • Breadcrumbs


  • Eggs


  • Seasoning - Thyme, salt, pepper


Recipe



1. Boil meat (You can use boiling water for soup stock)



2. Mince it and add seasoning to taste. Add some breadcrumbs to the mix to give it a better consistency



3. Add mixture to centre of flat pancake with a border around the edge of about 5cm



4. Fold in half so that ends overlap by a few centimetres and roll perpendicular to this fold (You should end up with something like in the photo).



5. Mix whole raw eggs in a small flat bowl to which you dip folded pancakes.



6. Straight away dip pancakes with egg coating into plate of breadcrumbs.



7. Repeat process of dipping in egg and then breadcrumbs until desired thickness of breadcrumb coat is attained.



8. Fry in pan with oil on low heat until breadcrumbs brown and inside hot.



9. Serve straight away with cup of barszcz.

Uszka


These are dumplings (pronounced oosh-ka) and a translation of the name is 'little ears'. They can be filled with mushrooms and cabbage or minced pork and a good way to serve them is with barszcz czerwony. This is how they are traditionally eaten during Christmas eve.
I ate uszka only once and I just bought some frozen uszka from the sklep (shop) and put them in boiling water with oil for a small time. It is important to keep checking frozen dumplings when heating as overcooking destroys the pastry. When they are soft add unstrained barszcz and serve.
I tried the mushroom uszka and I must say they were not my favourite dumplings but I have been told that I have to try them fresh and so I will update this when I do.

Zapiekanka




This is not traditional but it is one of the first 'fast foods' to appear in Poland and common throughout the country. Basically it is a halved baguette covered in meaty toppings and cheese and then heated to melt the cheese. To finish off lots of ketchup (Polish people love ketchup) and mayonnaise are added. The two shown in the picture are topped with ham and garlic, but toppings vary just like pizza (which is also very popular here). We had these in a cool wooden restaurant in Zielona Gora.


I was not overly impressed by these. It is not that original as I have often eaten melted cheese with toppings on French baguettes in England and the huge amount of sauce did not enhance the experience, it was rather sickly. But a good snack if your ravished, or as an inferior alternative to a kebab after drinking.


Polska Kuchnia (Polish cuisine)


My name is John Connolly and I moved to Poland with a plan to absorb as much culture as possible. You can read about this more at my blog, An Englishman in Poland(Click below)




I learnt much of if not all of the recipes in these pages from my adopted babcja (polish for grandmother pronounced bup-cha) Ania who could not speak any English. I learnt through observation and communicated through my broken Polish and hand signals. The most widely used by far was two thumbs up. I have tried to reflect this in my site by not relying too heavily on exact amounts of this and amounts of that because I believe it is more fun to roughly follow a recipe and experiment. I hate the method of cooking where it is supposedly necessary to measure exactly 250ml of milk. I understand if it is for bread, pancake or cake recipes where you need to be more exact and I do use exact amounts for cakes here but mostly exact amounts are not essential here and I urge you to follow your instinct and experiment - it is so much more fun and there is many times that I have found ways to improve dishes just because I experimented. Furthermore I become bored if I eat something with exactly the same taste again and again, remember....

"variety be the spice of life!"


I am going to add anything that relates to Polish cuisine and I apologise for that I am not using Polish letters in Polish words yet, but I will rectify that soon.


Please feel free to comment on anything and I will try to reply as quickly as possible :)




Introduction to Polish food


Polish cuisine is very traditional in it's own right but also heavily influenced by foreign tastes and consequently uses a large variety of ingredients. The Slavic influence can be seen e.g. with the usage of kaszsa, but there is also signs of Jewish, Turkish, Hungarian, Italian and French influences largely due to many times in it's history when it was occupied by different nations. There are quite large differences that can be seen depending on where you are situated in Poland, and so I am going to concentrate on the Western and South-western areas since this is where I lived.
For a more comprehensive account of history visit the link below

Polish food history


Salatka (Polish salad)


Salatka (pronounced sa-wat-ka) is a Polish salad but not like the green leaf salad that I was used to. In fact in London I made a green leaf side salad for a Polish person at work with large cuts of onion and tomato etc. but the fresh out of her country pole was at a loss as to how to eat this salad because the pieces were so large! A Polish salad has the ingredients cut small (see photo above) and has a quite different appearance from leaf salad but resembles a pasta salad with no pasta. Salatka is one of my favourite new foods but it will not replace a green salad for me, perhaps pasta salad.

There are many types of salatka with different ingredients but my favourite is this one:
Ingredients

  • Potato (2 med)



  • Eggs (4)



  • Carrot (2)



  • Parsnip root (2)



  • Celery root (0.5)



  • Apple (1)



  • Gherkin (2 large, marinated)



  • Mustard



  • Mayonnaise (full fat tastes best)



  • Salt/pepper

Recipe


1. Boil all veg until soft and hard boil eggs.

2. Peel veg and apple.

3. Dice veg and eggs as small as possible and place in dish.

4. Add mustard, mayonnaise, salt and pepper and mix. There is no right amount of these. When a different person makes it they add different amounts and it comes out slightly different each time. Experiment and have fun with it.

Babcia uses Polish mayonnaise made by Winiary which is better than any I tasted in England.

There are many types of mustard in Polska kuchnie (Polish cuisine) and although babcja uses a type called sarepska (see photos).













Try this if you want (get them from Polski sklep or Polish shop), or use other mustards, mayos and vegetables in different ratios. There is no exact recipe - experiment.

Salatka is great on it's own or with kielbasa or on a kanapka. I have tried it with most things and it's great.


Kotlet Schabowy (Pork cutlets in breadcrumbs)


Kotlet Schabowy is a delicious traditional meal for obiad (Polish dinner in early afternoon) and extremely easy to make. Check out An Englishman in Poland with the section on food.

http://talesofenglishman.blogspot.com/2007/07/kotlet-schabowy-yummy-obiad.html

Here is a simple method that Babcia (grandmother) Ania uses:



1. Get some quality lean pork, clean and tenderise with mallet until about 1/2 cm thick and as wide as you want.



2. Add sprinkle of salt and pepper according to how much you like. A lot of pepper is not needed.



3. Use raw mixed egg whites/yolks to dip meat in.



4. Next dip meat mixture of breadcrumbs and spice mix like in photo below




'Jarzynka' przyprawa do mies from Winiary is a lovely seasoning for meat available from your local Polski sklep (Polish shop). This will make the kotlet a bit hotter but you do not have to include it, just use plain breadcrumbs. If you do then mix in ratio 5:1 with breadcrumbs, usually about a teaspoon but experiment.

5. Fry in olive oil (Mediterranean but healthier) until golden brown.

Serve with boiled ziemnaki (potatoes) and raw pickled kapusta (cabbage) or eat cold next day on kanapka.

Sunday, 15 July 2007

Barszcz czerwony (Red beetroot soup) recipe/info


This deep red soup is believed to have originated in what is now Ukraine and there is many varieties throughout Central and Eastern Europe, Borshch being a famous Russian form.

The list below provides links to other varieties
German: borschtsch
East Prussia (where the dish was native): was called bartsch
Lithuanian: barščiai
Russian: борщ borshch
Polish: barszcz
Romanian: borş
The main ingredient of this delicious soup is beetroot, garlic and sometimes potato. As with most soups here it can be eaten as a main meal or strained, to be drunk with krokiet for example.

Barszcz can also contain dumplings called uszka. These dumplings usually have a mushroom filling.




Barszcz ingredients



  • Beetroot (about 1kg)

  • A couple of litres of meat or vegetable stock (See 'Making a soup stock')

  • Garlic cloves (2)
  • Potato (optional)
Recipe

1. Peel and chop beetroot roughly into chunks any size you want. I usually do them the size of large dice.

Use gloves as beetroot stains your hands!

If you want potato, skin and cut it like the beetroot.

2. Add to soup stock (See 'Making a soup stock).


3. Add garlic, crushed.


4. Cover and boil until the beetroot and potato are soft. (Approximately 1 hour depending on size but increasing the length of time increases softness.


5. Add beetroot concentrate, either home-made (sorry must wait for link) or ready made from the Polski sklep (Polish shop). Here is an example of one below. Add about a 1/4 litre and taste.



This is sweet so taste as you go and if it is too sweet for you, lessen the sweetness using lemon juice.

6. Add herbs (My babcja adds marjoram, majeranek in Polish. I have never heard of this herb until I came to Poland. It is from the same family as oregano but sweeter and used a lot in sausage making here and in Germany).


There it is. Extremely simple and quick.


Here I am enjoying strained barszcz after eating krokiet.


Saturday, 14 July 2007

Soups of Poland

Polish people really love soup

I had only really eaten tomato soup in London if I was ill because it is easy to eat and very warming. But since being here I have eaten so many types of soups both as a first course of obiad (dinner) or with the main meal as a drink. I enjoy them now, especially on winter nights. It is probable that the association of Poland and soup originated for this reason also with long, cold winters being the norm.
Now I always have some sort of soup around because

  • They are a handy way to use up anything you would otherwise throw out
  • They are extremely easy to make
  • They cook themselves
  • They last a long time
  • They can be quickly reheated
  • There is a huge variety

I have selected the most important (and tasty) soups that I have tried over here and I strongly suggest you try these recipes for yourself at any time of the year.

Home made jam recipe

I have never been a huge fan of jams and at first being here I was reluctant to say no when something was offered to me in case it was offensive. And so I started to eat the jam that my girlfriend's mother and grandmother made but I must admit that I became quite addicted to finishing off sniadanie (breakfast) with a few dollops of whichever particular fruit jam was on offer on a lovely sweet, fresh, soft roll. I decided to find out how it was made expecting some old, exceedingly complex recipe but it actually it is extremely simple and straightforward.


Method

1. Choose your fruit. Get loads of it.


Whatever you feel like - I like strawberry most. The photos are of babcia making blackberry jam.


2. Clean the fruit of twigs, stalks, hard stuff whatever, while in water.



3. Put roughly 1kg of fruit into a pot and add the jelly powder sachet (Your local Polski sklep[shop] will have this. See photo below). Heat and the berries produce juice.






4. When it is boiling add about 500g of sugar, mix, and bring back to boil for 5 minutes or so.



5. Take of heat and keep stirring until the white foam at the top dissipates.


6. Pour the hot mixture into clean jars, close and turn upside down for a few minutes.


7. Once they have reached room temperature they can be stored in the fridge.




Tell me what you think of this recipe.