Kopytka – Polish Potato Dumplings

My mother called these grube kluski  – fat noodles but on my recent visits to Poland I have had these under the name kopytka, this means little hooves, which I think describes their oval shape very well.

They are very much like  Italian gnocci made with potatoes rather than semolina. (The Italian word comes from either nocchio – a knot in wood or nocca – a knuckle). I think the usual size of gnocci is smaller than the kopytka.

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These were often made with boiled potatoes which had been left over from another meal. I do not remember my mother boiling potatoes especially to make these as the potatoes have to be boiled and then left to go cold. I always hoped that she would peel lots of potatoes so that there would be some left to make these, as I just loved to eat them.

We had them served with either melted butter or skwarki (crisp, fried, small squares of bacon). Recently in Poland I was served these with a creamy mushroom sauce*.

I  often boil potatoes the day before to make these as the potatoes need to be cold. The exact amounts are not critical but you must use starchy potatoes. When you have made these once you will have a good idea of the amounts involved and I am certain that my mother never weighed out the ingredients, just judged this by eye and consistency.

Ingredients

600g of starchy potatoes – such as King Edward or Maris Piper

1 egg  & 1 egg yolk

200g of plain flour

salt

Method

Peel the potatoes cut them up into pieces and boil them in salted water.

Drain the potatoes and then mash them so that there are no lumps. I have a ricer which is very good for this. Leave the potatoes to cool.

Use a large bowl and put the cold potatoes into the bowl.

Lightly beat the egg and the yolk together and add this to the potatoes.

Add a little salt.

Weigh out the flour to give an idea of how much is needed; this will depend on the type of potato and the size of the eggs. Add the flour and mix first with a wooden spoon and then by hand, you might not need all the flour or you may need more. Mix until you have a soft dough.

Divide the dough into quarters and using a floured board shape the dough and roll it with you hands until you have a long sausage about 3cm in diameter. If the dough sticks to the board then you need to add more flour.

Use a sharp knife to cut the dough into pieces, make the first cut at a diagonal and make the thickness about 1 to 1.5cm. You will get a sort of oval shape.

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Repeat this with the rest of the dough.

Fill a large pan with water, add some salt and bring this to the boil.

When the water is boiling, add the dumplings one by one, do not over fill the pan or they will stick together. I tend to do this in 4 batches.

As they cook they will float to the surface, give them about another minute and then remove them with a slotted  or a perforated spoon and put them in a colander. I have a colander sitting in an empty pan by the side of the large pan in which I am boiling the dumplings.

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I find that the maximum from putting  them into the water to taking them out will be 3 minutes, if you cook these too long they will start to fall apart.

Serve as suggested above with melted butter, bacon bits or with a sauce.

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Cooked Kopytka Waiting for Butter,      Bacon or Sauce

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*See my earlier post

Gołąbki – Cabbage Rolls  – with Mushroom Sauce

For  mushroom sauce recipes.

Kartoflane Placki – Polish Potato Pancakes

Placki (the plural of placek) are any sort of flat cakes usually round in shape – baked or fried – sweet or savoury.

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These fried potato pancakes are so wonderful and although they take a bit of time to prepare it is worth it.

I tend to make these in the winter months as they are best made with older starchy potatoes.

They are best eaten straight from the frying pan – more a family dish than fine dining.

They should be thin and slightly crispy at the edges.

My father said he used to have them for breakfast in Poland.

My mother served them with fried eggs and bacon; one of my aunties serves them with curd cheese and chopped spring onions or with sour cream, in some parts of Poland they are eaten with sugar or jam!

I think this recipe crossed the Atlantic and is one of the origins of Hash Browns –  but I prefer these!

In Poland a  large breakfast size plate pancake topped with gulasz  – goulash  is known as –

placek po węgiersku –  Hungarian pancake.

Ingredients

4 large starchy potatoes such as King Edward or Maris Piper.

1 medium or large onion

1 egg or just the egg yolk

plain flour

salt & pepper

oil for frying

Peel the potatoes then grate them using the fine size of the grater into a large bowl, this is the part that takes time – I have tried using the coarse grate but they are not as good.

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Grating the potatoes

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Leave to stand for a few minutes and the water from the potatoes will rise to the surface. If the potatoes are very watery pour of some of the water. The easiest way is to tip up the bowl slightly over the sink and hold down the potatoes with the palm of your hand.

Peel the onion and also fine grate it and add to the potatoes. This is the part that would often result in the grating of my knuckles  as I tried to use every last bit of onion – I now often use some form of electrical mini-chopper to get a pulp of onion.

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Onion Pulp

Add the egg, salt & pepper.

Add enough plain flour so that the mixture is thick.

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Heat some oil in a frying pan, a thick cast iron one is ideal, place large spoonfuls of the mixture onto the hot oil and flatten them out with the spoon or spatula. A pan should be able to hold 3 or 4. Fry till golden on both sides. They should be thin and  slightly crispy at the edges.

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Do not have the pan too hot or they will burn on the outside and be raw in the centre.

Do not have the pan too cool or they will end up too greasy and not crispy.

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Serve immediately or keep them warm in the oven on a low heat whilst you make more.

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Polish Mixed Vegetable Salad

Before the days of shops that sell fresh and frozen produce all year round from all over the world, this salad could be made in the autumn and winter using bottled or tinned vegetables.

This salad is made using mainly cooked chopped vegetables and the aim is to make it colourful and to balance the colours and size of the ingredients.

The main three colours are white, green and orange.

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Salad in a Royal Doulton Dish – Carnation – 1982 to 1998

White

The white is achieved from: potatoes, celeriac or  white beans such as haricot or cannellini  or even tinned baked beans with the sauce rinsed off.

Green

The green is achieved from peas , whole green beans or gherkins. I use frozen peas or whole green beans.

Orange

The orange is achieved from carrots or bottled paprika.

The following salad was made from potatoes, carrots and whole green beans which were cooked before assembling.

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Steam the Potatoes and Carrots

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Boil or steam the whole green beans.

Once the vegetables have cooled then chop them into small pieces.

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Mix the vegetables together with several tablespoonfuls of mayonnaise – original or light – just enough to lightly coat the vegetables.

Add salt and pepper to taste.

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Variation 1

Add 2 hard boiled eggs which have been chopped to the salad.

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Mixed Vegetable Salad with Hard Boiled Eggs

Variation 2

Use Celeriac instead of potato.

Peel the celeriac then cut it up into large pieces and steam these – chop the cooked celeriac into smaller pieces when it has cooked and cooled.

Polish Potato Salads

Potato salad is very popular in Poland especially as it can be made nearly all year round.

This can be served with cold meats and Polish style sausages as well as with hot dishes such as roast pork or chicken.

I like to make potato salad using starchy potatoes as I love the soft fluffy texture.

My favourite starchy potatoes are King Edward and Maris Piper.

The King Edward variety was introduced in the  United Kingdom in 1902 and was named after King Edward VII as this was his coronation year.

The Maris Piper variety was released in 1966  and was named after  Maris Lane in Trumpington on the outskirts of  Cambridge which at that time was the home of the Plant Breeding Institute.

Classic Potato Salad

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Ingredients

Starchy Potatoes – from 3 large potatoes upwards

1/2 – 1 onion – chopped fine

Mayonnaise – I like to use Hellmans – original or light

Salt and pepper to taste.

Method

Peel the potatoes and cut any large potatoes into quarters and then boil or steam them to cook them.

Strain the cooked potatoes in a colander and leave them to cool slightly.

Rough chop the cooked potatoes using a knife or a spoon – you do not want the pieces to be too uniform in size.

Add the chopped onion to the potatoes and then several tablespoonfuls of mayonnaise and mix together.

I like to use potatoes that are still slightly warm as I find the mayonnaise coats them better.

However you can use cold potatoes – maybe some you have left from another meal – the salad will still be good.

Add salt and pepper to taste.

Leave to cool completely before serving.

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Simple Classic Potato Salad

Variations on the Classic Salad

Potato Salad with Gherkins

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Chop 2 or 3 gherkins and add these to the Potato Salad.

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Chopped Gherkins

 

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Potato Salad with Gherkins

Potato Salad with Gherkins and Boiled Eggs

Chop 1 or 2 hard boiled eggs and add these to the potato salad with the gherkins.

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Chopped Hard Boiled Eggs
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Potato Salad with Gherkins and Hard Boiled Eggs

Potato Salad with Peas

Cook some frozen peas and add these to the classic potato salad

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Cooked Peas
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Potato Salad with Peas

Poles Adopt The Potato and Make it Their Own!

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There are so many recipes and uses for the potato in Poland you would think that this was the country it originated in.

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There are dozens upon dozens of recipes for potatoes, as part of a meal where it is very recognisable as potato such as when boiled or mashed, as a pancake or as a dumpling, or cold in a salad, or hot in Polish potato soup. As well as that potato starch is used as a thickener in savoury and sweet dishes and to make cakes and pastries. Potatoes have also been used to make  wódkavodka and often  samogonka -home brew vodka.

The potato plant originated in the Andes mountains of South America and was cultivated by the Incas. The part we eat is the tuber, which stores starches and sugars, of the plant Solanum tuberosum.  It is related to the deadly nightshade and the tomato (also from South America)

The Spanish Conquistadors came into contact  with the potato in around 1537 and it came across the Atlantic to Europe in around 1570.

King Jan III Sobieski grew potatoes on his estates in the 17th century – from tubers he sent back after the Battle of Vienna which was in 1683.

In the 18th century around 1760 – King August III – had potatoes on his estates and it became a fashionable vegetable.

Potatoes became part of the diet alongside kasza – porridge/groats/grits – made from buckwheat, barley or millet.

There are two words for potato in Polish – kartofel  and  ziemniak

Kartofel  is from the German word kartoffel – this was the word my parents used.  This German word itself comes from the Italian word tartufuli which means truffle like, whereas the Italian word for potato is patata.

Ziemniak  comes from the word ziemia which means earth or ground – so ziemniak means something which is from the earth – this word seems to be more popular nowadays.

The potato is well suited to grow in cold  waterlogged and often frozen  soil – which is often the case in Poland.

Care must be taken when storing potatoes so they do not  get frozen or the starches change to sugars and the potatoes will quickly go rotten.  I remember my father saying that that they stored potatoes in pits in the ground in their barn.

In post World War 2, Poland has became one of the top three potato producers in the world.

Look out for many future posts with potato recipes – below is a preview of some of the photographs

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