Posted by: Ernest Barteldes | October 10, 2017

Polish Cooking Adventures: An Amazing Cookbook


By Ernest Barteldes

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As I mentioned in a recent post, Renata’s aunt and uncle Marek and Iwona gifted us with a book on Polish cuisine – during our 2016 visit, I mentioned that I had been looking around bookstores all over but had been unable to find anything in a language I could understand.

Traditional and Modern Polish Cooking is an impressive volume with 984 pages that details various recipes – some surprisingly simple, others that seem almost impossible to make. The author,  Hanna Szymanderska, (1944-2014), made a point of not only describing very traditional recipes from the past but also looking into the future of her nation’s cuisine and the influences it continues to receive from other countries.

On the preface, Szymanderska details how Polish cuisine has changed over centuries, giving examples of how royal weddings brought foreign-born queens to the country, and with them their culinary preferences and probably servants who introduced new ingredients to the royal kitchens. Of course, these innovations trickled down from the aristocracy and eventually made their way to the people, who then moved on from simple meat and root dishes to more elaborate concoctions that included cream, vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower and saltwater fish.

The tome includes recipes that date hundreds of years back that I feel are almost impossible to make – for instance, stuffed wild boar’s head (described as “An Easter table piece-de-resistance”) that involves cutting the hear off the animal, removing hairs and tusks and then de-boning it – something I am sure I would not easily accomplish (also, where the heck can I find a wild boar’s head in New York?) Another that made me cringe a bit was “black soup,” which calls for “bleeding a duck into a pot”.

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Hunter’s Stew (stock photo)

What impressed me the most was the different takes on a single dish – there are eight varieties of bigos (also known as “Hunter’s stew”), including a vegetarian choice made with beans.

Other recipes were simple enough and quite easy to prepare. Finding ingredients is not much of an issue since most are commonly found in local supermarkets – none too exotic or hard to find. Over the weekend I made beer-based pancakes filled with farmer’s cheese. The beer batter resulted in fluffier pancakes than usually achieved with milk, and the filling, which also included green onions, potatoes and yogurt, was light and fresh-tasting.

I also made a couple more dishes, including codfish in mushroom cream (layered with potatoes, eggs, dried mushrooms, cream and onions) and a beet, pineapple, apple and walnut salad in a cream and mayonnaise dressing – a tropical flair to an Eastern European staple.

I am still working through its pages and learning about the history of some of these recipes. As I said before, some of them are unlikely to be prepared in our kitchen, but I will definitely study them in the years to come – and lots of fun to be had with Polish food.

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Krokiety (stock photo)

Tatra Croquettes

Note: The Tatra Mountains in southern Poland are famous for their unique culinary flavors, which are not found anywhere else in Poland. Renata and I visited in 2016 and had a great time there.

 

Batter:

1/ ½ cups flour, 2 ½ cups lukewarm lager beer, 2 eggs, 1 tbsp. olive oil, 1 tbsp. brandy, salt to taste, ¼ tbsp. each dried marjoram, thyme, sage, tarragon and black pepper.

Beat the eggs with the beer, whisking all the time. Gradually add the flour, brandy, oil, herbs, salt and pepper. Beat slowly for 10 minutes, then cover and leave for an hour. Before frying the pancakes, mix vigorously and add more beer if needed.

 

Croquettes:

200 g. bryndza (farmer’s cheese), 2 tbsp. yogurt, 2 eggs, 3-4 cooked potatoes, 4-5 green onions, salt, pepper, breadcrumbs and fat for frying

 

Beat the bryndza with the raw egg yolks, salt and pepper. Mash the potatoes, mix them with the yogurt and chopped onions. Then combine with the bzyndra, Mix thoroughly. Spread some filling in each pancake. Roll the pancakes up, coat them in lightly beaten eggs and breadcrumbs, and fry golden brown. Serve with a light green salad.


Responses

  1. Codfish in cream sounds pretty delicious!

  2. […] few weeks ago I wrote about the Polish cookbook that Renata’s aunt Iwona and uncle Marek thoughtfully gave me during our quick visit to Poland […]


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