A meal from every country – Poland

We have been in Poland for five days and we have eaten better here than in any other country so far. We were extraordinarily well fed by Oder Delta Safaris, and we chose our friends wisely in the Ciacheras, with whom we stayed in Ostrzeszów: Karol is a chef….

Dill. Because its traditionally Polish and we needed a picture here.

So I was rather nervous about attempting a Polish meal – not only did I know what I was attempting to live up to but I am also aware that a number of lovely Polish people are likely to read this. It is with apologies to them that I begin…

Menu planning

We are staying in central Krakow. Our Polish is absolutely, definitely, not good enough for us to shop in a market or butchers (ie anywhere I might have to speak) and we have access only to city-centre type supermarkets. So the meal had to have easily available ingredients. We’re also here for only two days so have quite a lot to pack in. Much as I enjoy cooking (if I didn’t I wouldn’t be doing this), I didn’t want to be spending two hours skimming soup or folding cabbage leaves, both of which were required by some of the “simple” recipes I found here.

The other difficulty I had was, once again, the language. I do want my cooking to be as authentic as possible. Clearly any actual Polish website or recipe book was out. And it’s hard to tell how many of the Polish-sounding people who blog about Polush cuisine actually are Polish or just have an ancestor who was. Fortunately a lovely Polish friend recommended a recipe on Spruce Eats. The writer is American, but I thought that if a real Pole (albeit one who has lived in Scotland for longer than I have) could follow her methods so could I.

This week’s cooking team

We didn’t use that recipe, because we’d been fed it in the Oder Delta, and I knew I couldn’t compete, but the same writer had a recipe for pork cutlets which Lucy rather fancied, and which we already had lots of the ingredients for, so the decision was made.

Kotlety Schabowy z Mizeria

The shopping

This was fun. I know it’s weird but I honestly love a strange supermarket or grocery store. It’s completely fascinating to see what other people cook and eat and this was no exception.

We needed boneless pork. Easy I thought. Oh no. No pre- packaged, pre-labelled (thanks Google translate) here. Just a fridge of meat and a grumpy-looking lady. We went for the tried and tested approach of pointing at the one we wanted. Yes, that lump of what we think is pork will do nicely. I’m sure she would have cut it up for us too but we didn’t dare ask. Take it, smile, move on. Dziękuję!

Erm. That one. Point and smile.

Apparently these cutlets should be served with Mizeria. That’s a cucumber-y, sour cream-y, dill-y salad to you and me. Cucumbers I can do. And dill too, but what about the sour cream? We had a nasty dairy incident in the Netherlands when what we thought was milk turned out to be fermented and not so good on cereal. I didn’t want to risk accidentally making a cucumber and lard salad.

But it was all ok: for the n-th time since we arrived in Poland I was grateful for what remains of my Russian, as it turns out that sour cream is effectively the same in both languages (Why I can remember the word for sour cream when I can’t remember the word for drive is an entirely different question.)

You say śmietana, I say sour cream

We needed pickled cucumbers too. It may or may not surprise you that these were not hard to find.

How to choose? They go very nicely in sandwiches too.

The equipment

This may be the oddest kitchen  of the lot.  It has good knives, a grater and a colander. It has a variety of attractive serving dishes.  It has an egg slicer.  It has two meat tenderisers, one with axe attachment. It has a thing that I don’t know what it is.

What is this for? Answers on a postcard

It has no scissors and only one, very small, broken chopping board.

Egg slicer and axe. For all your creative needs.

But still, with a grater and a knife, I was good to go.

The cooking

If you a Polish and proud of your culinary heritage you may want to look away now.

We sliced the bit of pork (I’m 98% certain it was pork but have absolutely no idea which cut) into thin slices. We bashed them with the smaller of the two meat tenderisers (the axe seemed excessive), really just for the fun of it.

Cooking is a dangerous sport

Then we dipped them in flour (bought in Belgium), eggs (German) and breadcrumbs (also Belgium so probably different from the Polish version) before leaving them for 10 minutes.

We chopped some potatoes and put them on to boil.

For the Mizeria – which apparently literally does mean misery, I don’t know why – we grated (probably inauthentic but it would drain quicker that way) the cucumber and put it in the sieve (there’s a sieve) to drain. We chopped the dill (the whole bunch because we didn’t want leftovers) and put that in a bowl with the śmietana and some salt. Apparently vinegar is an optional extra but we didn’t have any so we opted not to use it.

We then fried the pork in a little oil on both sides for about five minutes until golden brown. (Figuratively.  Some of it was rather more brown than golden.  I’m choosing to blame the fact that we only have olive oil, which I’m sure is wrong for Polish cuisine). We popped the cooked ones in the oven to keep warm.

Today’s compulsory green vegetable was cabbage (seemed appropriate) which we steamed.

Smacznego!

We all loved it. This recipe’s coming home with us.

Pudding

Poland looks to have great puddings. I really fancied having a go at the cheesecake, Sernik, but the recipe I found online called for 10 eggs and over a kilo of cream cheese which seemed a little excessive. They did have it in the supermarket, along with lots of other tasty looking confections, but it was behind glass, and flushed with our success at the meat counter, we decided not to chance our luck.

Choosing was nearly as difficult as ordering

So it was another pudding in a packet, although I drew the line at jelly. We picked a fruity, strudel thing that tasted, as Aurora correctly identified, of cough sweets.

Sophie was a fan. The rest of us rather wished we’d bought the sernik.

Challenge for Hungary: do the baking myself….

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