Why I love the dishes of Poland – and you will too

29 Jan 2013 @ 10.08 am
| Food & Drink

Uszka with barszcz – small stuffed dumplings in beetroot soup. Photograph: Czas Wina archive
maxine-forster-bylineMaxine Forster, of York-based specialist tour operator Poland Your Way, says Polish food and drink is a secret well-worth discovering (if a little hard to spell…)


Bigos, golabki and barszcz may not be on your shopping list yet but these traditional Polish products, available in most British supermarkets, are worthy of attention. For the uninitiated, here is an explanation of a few of Poland’s best known dishes.

 

What’s on the menu in Poland?

Pierogi – delicious dumplings traditionally stuffed with potatoes, meat, cheese or even fruit, made in Poland since medieval times
Uszka – or ‘little ears,’ a smaller variation of pierogi with a mushroom filling
Barszcz – the hearty Polish beetroot soup
Golabki – cabbage leaves stuffed with spiced minced meat and rice or mushrooms and rice, served with sour cream or tomato sauce
Bigos – Hunter’s Stew of sauerkraut, game and Polish sausage

Although the Poles are great meat eaters, meat-free fillings for pierogi, kluski slaskie (dumplings) and nalesniki (pancakes) are common, and a variety of delicious vegetable soups and sauces are mainstays of Polish cooking.

Oscypek, a hard, salty cheese from the Tatra Mountain region is made from non-pasteurized sheep’s milk and smoked over a fire. It is often served sliced and fried with cranberries.

Vodka is an essential part of the Polish culture, with perhaps the most unusual being Zubrowka, or Bison Grass, which takes its name from the aromatic plant that gives the vodka its distinctive flavour.

Bigos - the delicious Hunter's Stew. Photograph: Czas Wina
Bigos – the delicious Hunter’s Stew. Photograph: Czas Wina

Small producers in every region make and sell traditional pickles, jams, honey, goat’s cheeses and beers. Kielbasa is Polish for sausage and is a staple ingredient in many dishes. Each region has its own variety and distinctive recipes for preparation and use.

Polish cuisine has its sweet side too with some notable cakes and desserts.

To get you in the mood, here’s a recipe for piernik, a Polish honey cake that is easy to prepare and delicious with coffee. The recipe is kindly shared by Charlotte Jones. Check out her site for more recipes and tales of Eastern European travel, culture and food.

 

Piernik – Polish honey cake

Piernik, or Polish honey cake. Photograph: Charlotte Jones
Piernik, or Polish honey cake. Photograph: Charlotte Jones

Ingredients

For the cake

125g fresh breadcrumbs
115g chopped and roasted hazelnuts
Zest of 1 lemon
2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp vanilla extract
4 eggs, yolks and whites separated
50g light brown sugar
175g set honey
10g butter

For the glaze

4 tbsp runny honey
2 tbsp cold water
Juice of 1 lemon
Extra hazelnuts for decoration

Method
Grease a loaf tin with the butter (23cm)
Use 25g of the breadcrumbs to line the loaf tin
Mix 100g of breadcrumbs with 115g chopped and roasted hazelnuts, add cinnamon and lemon zest
Beat egg yolks together and add vanilla extract
Whisk egg whites until stiff
Heat honey in a bowl over a saucepan of simmering water until runny
Remove the honey from the heat and stir in the sugar
Mix the honey and sugar into the egg yolks (be sure to do this in the egg yolk bowl which is cool, otherwise your eggs may start to scramble)
Pour the egg yolks and honey onto the breadcrumbs and hazelnuts and stir until combined
Carefully fold in the egg whites
Pour the mixture into the loaf tin
Cook in a pre-heated oven at 180C for 40-45 minutes
Insert a skewer into the middle of the cake and if no residue is on it when it’s removed, the cake is thoroughly cooked through
Allow to cool in the tin for 5 minutes before removing it and cooling on a wire rack

To glaze the cake
Once the cake is cool, put the runny honey, cold water and lemon juice in a saucepan and heat until it forms a syrup
Pour the syrup onto the cake
Decorate with some extra chopped hazelnuts
When the glaze is set, slice and serve – an ideal accompaniment to coffee


  • Poland Your Way has teamed up with a 4-star Manor House hotel near Krakow to offer 3 and 4 night cooking and dining breaks. This culinary adventure combines practical daytime kitchen sessions, led by an English speaking chef, with a quality Polish dining experience in the hotel’s restaurant each evening
  • For more information on culinary trips, horse riding, ski, spa or city break holidays in Poland see www.polandyourway.co.uk, contact Maxine Forster on 01347 848714 or email [email protected]