Thursday, November 29, 2012

Christmas Nut-Potato Croquets. Who Likes Croquets?

Do you like croquets? If yes, how do you prepare them? Polish people eat a lot of croquets. The most popular ones are made with meat and/or cabbage and/or mushrooms. Very often they are rolled into pancakes, which are later breaded in eggs and bread crumbs and then fried in oil or butter. Not so good for those on a diet. I have never liked croquets rolled in pancakes, I do not know whether such croquets are a "discovery" of the communist cuisine – I will check some other time. Anyway, you will find croquets everywhere in Poland – in restaurants, famous "milk bars" which I wrote about in a post more than 2 years ago. You will also find them in many food stores – just put them in the oven to warm them up and eat them with (or without) a soup.

The nut-potato crockets presented below are traditional although forgotten nowadays, as many other traditional preparations (actually, this really starts to change in Poland as more and more people search for old recipes, and more and more interesting food events are organized nationwide). But I have not seen, so far, this specific type of potato coquets anywhere. It is very probable that you will not find them in restaurants and households.

In my family they are served once per year as an accompaniment to Christmas cabbages or borscht.  In my, opinion they are delicious, because of the addition of powdered almonds and walnuts. You can serve them hot with Christmas cabbages, bigos (hunter's stew) or optionally as an accompaniment to meat dishes, borscht or other soups.

The original recipe comes from a book which was published in the eighties which of course is only available in Polish language. It calls for grind walnuts and potatoes, but sometimes (like in this recipe) I like to change the proportions and add some powdered almonds as well.

They are lighter than regular croquets, as they are not rolled in pancakes. You just have to fry them a bit in a frying pan and then put in the oven to complete the cooking.

You can freeze the crockets raw. In such a case, you should wrap them in a plastic film prior to puting them in the freezer. You may replace fresh parsley with your favorite fresh herbs.

Christmas Nut-Potato Croquets

Serves 4 (makes about 20 small crockets)


320 g potatoes, peeled and washed
50 g ground walnuts
50 g ground almonds
2 eggs
50 g bread crumbs
1 bunch fresh parsley, washed, dried and finely chopped
5-6 table spoons vegetable oil for frying / clarified butter

Cook potatoes: Place potatoes in boiling water and cook until soft, with the addition of salt.
Strain them, and mash while still warm.
Mix potatoes with walnuts and almonds: Place potato purée at the bottom of a bowl, add walnuts and almonds, one whole egg, salt and pepper generously, add parsley. Mix everything well until it becomes homogenous. Taste and, if necessary, add some more salt and pepper according to your taste.
Make croquets: form crockets 6 cm long and 1,5 cm wide.  Prepare two plates. Break the second egg, pour it on your plate and bit delicately.  Pour bread crumbs on a second plate.
Bread each crocket delicately – firstly in the egg, and then in the bread crumbs.
Fry croquets: In a large frying pan heat well the oil/butter and fry the crockets for a few minutes, flipping them from time to time, until they are gold.  Finish by baking them in a hot oven for about 5-10 minutes. Serve hot.

Monday, November 26, 2012

A King from the Baltic Sea: Herring.

2 years passed already since I wrote a long post about Polish culinary traditions for Christmas in my family. I shared with you my family recipe for Christmas borscht with cep raviolis  – “uszka”.

Christmas 2012 approaches. I had the idea that some of you might be interested in other traditional family recipes for Christmas Eve.  In the post which was published nearly 2 years ago, you can see the picture of the herrings. I have just realized how impossible it is that I have not written any other posts or recipes about those stinky, little fish!

I have the impression that only a few people like herrings. I can understand why. I love to eat them, but I never buy, from any shops, herrings that are already prepared for salads because they usually are far too sour for me.

I do not eat herrings all the time, but I do eat them quite often in the autumn and in the winter, meaning, once a month maybe. Sometimes I prepare them in a traditional way, just with cream and onion; sometimes more twisted like, for example, with some sweet additions: raisins, curcuma or garam masala. My favorite herrings are so-called “matjes”  - herring filets stored in brine in order to preserve them.

Herrings which are sold nowadays are, in my opinion, less salted than those which I remember from my childhood. Consequently, they do not require to be soaked in water or milk for a long time – just one hour or two is usually sufficient. Abroad, you can buy them in food stores carrying Russian and Polish food items. The best ones are sold straight from big barrels and as I once read, they do not contain any preservatives.

I also like spicy Russian herrings – the only city where I can buy them now is Warszawa – they are sold in large metal cans. On the other hand, quite recently, I discovered Dutch pink matjes, which are simply delicious and do not need anything else but just a slice of bread.

French people do not like herrings, I believe. They have smoked herrings, which are sold in plastic sleeves, and this is just fine. The rest of what I tried in France was not good – in general, they were very acid.  To be frank, I prefer matjes than rollmops which are marinated in vinegar and awfully acid. 

The recipe below is my family recipe. I prepare them usually only twice per year – before Christmas Eve and before Easter. Salted matjes, marinated for one night in a delicate, vinegar based marinade, water, onion and spices become very delicate on the next day. They are not too acid and not salty. The addition of good cream or even some thick, natural yoghurt is a must, as well as some finely chopped sour apple.  I prefer herrings served with some heavy cream than those in oil, but I must tell you that herring in extra virgin organic colza oil (described as an “olive oil of the North”) and hot potatoes, is also great. The recipe below usually goes in my family with a simple potato – gherkin salad.

And what are you favorite herring recipes?

Bon appétit!

Herrings with Cream

Serves 4

4 big or 8 small salty herrings’ fillets (“matjes” - available in barrels in stores carrying Polish food)
100 ml milk
4 tablespoons white vinegar
1 big yellow onion, peeled, washed and finely sliced
4 grains allspice 
6 grains black pepper
1 bay leave
2 cloves
2 sour apples
200 ml sour cream
1 l jar

Soak the herrings: Put the herrings for at least two hours into a bowl with some cold water mixed with milk, to get rid of the brine.
Prepare marinade: In a saucepan, boil 250 ml of water with white vinegar. Add onions and spices: allspice, black pepper, a bay leave, cloves and boil for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and put aside to cool down. Strain the marinade, reserve the liquid and onions with spices separately. You can store herrings in the marinade up to 5 days (but always add the cream just before serving).  You can season the dressing with some fresh dill. For this salad, you can use herrings in oil. In such a case, discard the oil with a paper towel so you will not have to soak them in milk beforehand.
Prepare the salad: Remove the fish from the soaking water. Dry it with a paper towel and cut into 2 cm slices. Wash and peel the apples, wash them, remove the seeds and make fine slices. Take one or two jars, depending on their size. Make one layer of herrings in the bottom of the jar, then add one layer of onion with spices and apples on top. Repeat the layers in the same order and at the end pour the marinade into the jar.  Squeeze a bit, to remove excess of the air. Close the jar and put it into the fridge overnight. Before serving, strain the marinade. Mix the herrings with the sour cream right before serving.
Serve with potato salad.

Potato – Gherkins Salad

Serves 4

6 potatoes (around 400 g), washed, but not peeled
400 g sour cucumbers 
1 bunch chives, washed, dried and finely chopped
6 tablespoons of the olive oil / good vegetable oil

Put potatoes in boiling water and cook until soft, with some salt. Strain them and let them cool down completely. Cut them in small cubes of about 0,5 cm.  Peal the sour cucumbers, make cubes of the same size as potatoes. In a large bowl, mix cucumbers and potatoes. Add chives, olive oil, salt and pepper and mix everything. The salad should be quite sour. Let the salad rest in the fridge for about one hour.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Goose Confit and “Barlotto”. St. Martin’s Day. Polish Independence Day.

November the 11th is not only Independence Day in Poland, but it is also Saint Martin's Day - which has been celebrated in Europe since ages, and came to Poland from France via Germany. In the past, St. Martin’s Day used to mark the beginning of the goose season.
Since a few years, we also have here in Poland, in November, a public event organized, most notably, by Slow Food Polska -  “Gęsina na św. Marcina – which means “goose tastes best on St. Martin’s fest”. The event has been advertised in the media, including TV, as well as in the Polish Parliament. Why? The answer is very simple: goose meat was one of the most popular ones before the Second World War. After 1945 it disappeared nearly completely from our tables, like some other meat and fish. Before 1939, every November, young geese were traditionally killed and eaten for St. Martin’s Day.
Those intelligent birds are nowadays again produced in Poland (mostly in the north of the country). Poland is the largest European producer and exporter of goose meat, so one could think that it should be easily available in the whole country. That is wrong. To find fresh goose meat in stores is a nightmare. In particular here, in the south of Poland. Moreover, around 90 per cent of all its production is exported to Germany and other European countries, where it enjoys a very good reputation for its quality and its taste. I hope that this will change sooner than later and that Poles will have goose meat in every good grocery store.
Exceptional young Polish oat goose (“polska młoda gęś owsiana) is a meaty race of goose which not only is great in taste but also healthy and rich in omega 3 non saturated acids. It is named “oat goose” because the birds eat oats before they are killed.
The November goose event (“gęsina na Św. Marcina”) is supported by the renowned Polish chefs, such as, for example,  Wojciech Modest Amaro (Atelier Amaro, Warszawa), Adam Chrząstowski (Ancora, Kraków), Karol Okrasa (Plater, Warszawa) and many, many others.  Between the 9th and  the 25th of November those chefs invite to their restaurants to taste their authors’ version of goose dishes. If you are in Poland between the 9th and the 25th of November, you can visit one of the restaurants participating in the “goose” event (the complete list – unfortunately in Polish only, is linked HERE). If, by accident, you visit one of the restaurants in Kraków, feel free to share your opinion at:
The geese which are traditionally eaten for St. Martin Day are young birds, around 1 year old and 4-5 kg in weight. The most popular stuffing for the whole baked goose in my region is buckwheat and mushroom.
Today I am proposing to you a goose confit served with “barlotto” mushrooms. Barley (pęczak) is the largest cereal grain of the pearl barley family, easily available in Poland. It is a whole, uncrushed grain of barley, and it needs a longer cooking than regular pearl barley – you can see on the picture below, what it looks like.
I must say that this time I am 100 hundred per cent happy with my confit – since I decided to cook it slowly in, of course, a big amount of goose grease, but also in some wine. That prevents the meat from roasting – the problem which I was facing while preparing rillettes, for example. My dish was served with red sauerkraut braised with pumpkin, honey and lemon.

Goose Leg Confit and Pearl Barley – Mushrooms “Risotto”.

Serves 2
Goose Confit:
2 nice goose legs (around 500 g each)
700 – 800 g goose grease
1 bay leave
2 cloves
8-10 rosemary stalks
2 black pepper grains
600 ml dry white wine (400 ml for the marinade and then for cooking)

1. Marinade the goose legs: wash and wipe the legs. Pour around 350 ml of wine over them, add the bay leave, cloves, rosemary stalks and pepper. Put aside for around 4 hours, flipping occasionally.

2. After four hours take a large, wide, but not very deep saucepan and melt the goose grease (over medium heat). Add goose legs with spices and wine.

3. Confit your legs: cook over minimum heat until tender – in my case, it was around 3 hours. You have to make sure that the legs are always covered with the liquid. If the grease starts to sizzle despite the fact that the legs cook over low heat, just add some more wine. This prevents the meat from roasting in the grease and secure that the meat will remain soft and tender.  Check quite often if your goose legs do not start to roast in the grease. I was using dry white wine, as I did not want to kill the natural taste of goose and the colour of the goose grease with red wine. Note also that my goose legs were quite big (over 0.5 kg each) so you have to adjust the cooking time accordingly.

4. When the meat is soft and tender, remove it from the heat. You can either cool it down and keep the grease, jarred and use when you need it, or pan fry it over low heat, still warm, until the skin is nicely roasted. A lot of recipes call for roasting in the oven, but I believe that the meat remains juicier and the skin crispier, if roasted in a pan (of course, you will have to remove the excess of grease at that point). Salt before serving according to your taste.

Barley “Risotto” (“Pęczotto”)

Serves 2
150 g pearl barley
100 ml dry white wine
30 g dried ceps (appx 700 ml forest mushrooms liquid*)
1 tablespoon, fresh thyme leaves  
150 g pine mushrooms caps, cleaned and cut into quarters
2 tablespoons clarified butter
2 tablespoon goose grease
1 shallot, peeled and finely chopped

1. Prepare the mushroom broth: Place the mushrooms in a saucepan and add 750 ml of water. Let them soak for around 1 hour in warm water. Cook them in the soaking water, under the cover, for 20-30 minutes or until they are soft. Strain the liquid, put it aside, reserve the ceps and cut them into stripes. You will need them for “barley” risotto (“barlotto”).

2. Prepare the pine mushrooms: In a hot large frying pan, heat 1 tablespoon of butter, add pine mushrooms, and fry them for about 3-4 minutes, until nicely grilled (depending on the thickness of their caps) and until they release their juices and absorb them back (when frying over high heat, they should not release a lot of juice). Salt and pepper and leave aside.

3. Prepare “barlotto” (pearl barley "risotto"): heat the mushroom broth and let it simmer over low heat. In a deep pan, fry the shallot in goose grease, until slightly softened but not browned. Add the barley grains, and fry, stirring until it starts to turn translucent. Next, add the wine and cook, stirring until wine is absorbed. Add chopped ceps and thyme. Pour a ladle of hot mushroom stock and stir. Turn down the heat to a simmer so the pearl barley doesn’t cook too quickly. Keep adding ladles of stock, and stirring. However, you will not notice so much creamy starch as when preparing a risotto with rice. This will take around 30 minutes, until the barley is cooked. Season with salt and pepper, add the remaining spoon of butter, cover and let it rest for around 2 minutes. Serve with your goose confit.

Polish Style Braised Red Sauerkraut with Pumpkin
This recipe is inspired by one of the recipes of Polish young chef Karol Okrasa, who made this cabbage with regular, white sauerkraut

Serves 2
150 g red sauerkraut (you can replace it by the regular white sauerkraut which you will find in food stores with Polish food).  
100 g pumpkin (after removing its skin) – cut into thin, 2 cm slices
2 tablespoons good quality flower honey
Juice from ½ lemon
2 tablespoons goose grease

1. In a frying pan, heat the goose grease, add honey and pumpkin, and sauté it until slightly transparent. Add red sauerkraut, heat well and braise for a couple of minutes. Add lemon juice, season with some salt and pepper if necessary.

Bon appétit !!!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Do You Like Burgers? Try My Polish Style One!

Burgers are popular in Poland, of course. Unfortunately, usually they are an imitation of those served at McDonalds’, with this horrible something that pretends to be meat, spongy bread rolls and mayonnaise full of sugar, salt and conservatives. This starts to change slowly, very slowly. In bigger cities like Kraków or Warszawa, as well as probably in some others, one can find a few restaurants and bars specializing in good quality burgers, which try to resemble those which are known from NYC and London. I love to eat good burgers and probably a lot of people do as well. So, for the God’s sake, how is it possible that, when going to the Tatry mountains and the Podhale region, one will find easily fake kebabs, awful quasi burgers, and terrible “pizzas” but no food made with good, local ingredients. This, unfortunately, is still a reality in our Polish provinces – due to many reasons, one amongst them being the low consciousness of people on how good their local products are in the region.

My burgers presented below are fully homemade and use local, fresh ingredients: onion buns, pine mushrooms fried in rosemary butter, oscypek  cheese fried with bacon strips, homemade lingonberry mayonnaise and marinated pumpkin. It is best is to use lamb meat, but this time I could not get any (Poland produces lamb meat, but I have no idea where it is sold – maybe abroad and to restaurants?), so I used beef. Do not be surprised by the rosemary – this herb was already popular in Old Poland (much more than nowadays), in the 17th century.

You can prepare those burgers with onion buns that can be bought in regular bakery shops. You can, of course, replace the smoked slow foodie mountain cheese by an industrial one, add industrial mayonnaise and industrial pickled pumpkin and cranberries. It will be edible, and probably even good, but for sure you will not have this satisfaction when everything is made from scratch and when you are responsible for the final taste of your burger.

The proportions given below are for one burger (of course, this does not refer to buns, mayonnaise, and lingonberry preserves etc – you have to make batches of these ingredients).

I made onion buns for this burgers using the recipe for Lublin style onion buns (“cebularze”) – the recipe, with some, adjustments, comes from Karolina’s blog (see below).

Slow Foodie Burgers with Oscypek Cheese, Rosemary Pine Mushrooms and Lingonberry Mayonnaise

Ingredients (1 person):

1 home made onion bun * (recipe below)
2-3 table spoons of clarified butter
1 small fresh rosemary sprig
100 g of good quality beef or lamb meet, ground
1 slice of red onion
1 slice of oscypek cheese
1 long and thin slice of smoked, raw bacon
1 table spoon homemade mayonnaise* (recipe below)
2 table spoon of lingonberry (or cranberry) preserves* (recipe here on my blog you can omit pears)
3-4 medium pine mushroom caps
2 table spoons pickled pumpkin* (recipe below)
Vegetable oil for frying
3 frying pans, most preferably

1. Heat the oven to 200°C.
2. Prepare the lingonberry mayonnaise: sieve the lingonberry preserves through a fine sieve, and mix it with mayonnaise until it is homogenous and the color is intense pink. 
3. Using your hand, form a flat burger, around 1 cm thick – the diameter should be a bit wider than the diameter of your roll (meat will shrink during baking).
4. Prepare your frying pans (for frying the mushrooms, grilling meat and cheese with bacon) 
5. Roll tightly the slice of oscypek cheese into the bacon. Cut the bun into halves.  
6. In a hot large frying pan, heat butter, add rosemary sprig, remove it after 30 seconds,  add mushrooms, and fry them on each side for about 3-4 minutes, until nicely grilled (depending on the thickness their caps) and until they release their juices and absorb them back in (when frying over high heat, they should not release a lot of juice). Salt and pepper and leave aside in a warm frying pan, to prevent them from cooling down. 
7. In the meantime, in a second frying pan, heat oil, add meat and fry it for around 4 minutes on each side, until grilled (the cooking time depends on the thickness of your burger). Salt and pepper at the end. 
8. At the same time, in another frying pan, grill the cheese rolled in bacon, until bacon is nicely grilled and crispy, and the cheese starts to melt. 
9. Place cheese with the bacon on top of your meat and put it into the oven for a couple of minutes. Do the same with the bun, so it becomes crispy. 
10. Remove the bun from the oven, oil it with the rosemary – pine butter, add pine mushrooms, the slice of red onion, meat with cheese and bacon. Pour the lingonberry mayonnaise on top. Place the second half of the bun and serve immediately with pickled pumpkin, some extra mayonnaise and lingonberry preserves.

Home Made Mayonnaise (around 300 ml)


1 egg, most preferably organic (blanched in boiling water)
Around 170 ml vegetable oil
2 teaspoons mustard (according to your liking)
Juice from ½ a lemon
2 pinches salt
½ tea spoon, sugar
½ tea spoon, white powdered pepper

Break the egg into a bowl, add and mustard lemon juice, salt, sugar and pepper.  Mix it well. Start to add oil little by little, whipping constantly, until the sauce becomes a bit white and thick. Eventually, adjust according to your taste.

Quick Pickled Pumpkin (makes around 1 liter*)


Around 700 g pumpkin, cut into julienne (around 0.5 cm) – around 900 g before peeling
200 ml red wine vinegar
150 g cane sugar
150 g water
1 lime
1 red chili
Fresh coriander (optional)

* this recipe is inspired by the recipe of Polish chef Tomasz Jakubiak

Onion Rolls
Makes 8

- By Karolina from Senses in the Kitchen. I quote here her recipe, with some adjustments (I did not add any poppy seeds or caraway as it would be too much for burgers) and I put onion in the middle (not on top) of buns.


500g strong bread flour 
7g instant yeast 
1 tsp salt 
3 tbsp melted butter 
approx. 300ml lukewarm water 
3 large onions, peeled and diced
50 g butter

1. Mix all dry ingredients in a large bowl. Add butter and water and knead for a few minutes with hands (or use a stand mixer), or put them in a bread machine and use the “dough” program. Dough should be firm and quite flexible. If using a mixer or hands put the dough in slightly oiled bowl and cover with a clean cloth. Leave it to rise in a warm, draft-free place until it has doubled in size. If you are using a bread machine, you don’t have to do anything until the “dough” program ends.
2. Prepare the onion filling: Fry the onions in butter over a low heat, until tender. Let it cool slightly. 
3. Place the risen dough onto a lightly floured, flat surface, add onions and knead for five minutes to release the air from it. Divide into 8 equal balls and using your hands flatten each one into a circle. Place them on a baking tray lined with baking paper, cover with a clean cloth and leave to rise at room temperature for about 30-40 minutes. 
4. Bake in a preheated oven (190C) for approx. 15-20 minutes, until golden and sound hollow on the base when tapped.
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