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

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.