Pearl Barley

I got the idea for cooking pearl barley this way after making krupnik which  is the name of the very traditional Polish pearl barley soup.

Pearl or pearled barley, is whole grain barley that has been processed to remove its fibrous outer hull and polished to remove some or all of the bran layer.  It is the most common form of barley for cooking.

Pęczak is the Polish for pearled barley.

Seeds and grains such as barley, buckwheat and millet were popular in Poland long before potatoes. Rice used to be very expensive, especially before World War 2.

You can cook pearl barley by either  boiling it in salted water or using the absorption method with three times the volume of water to pearl barley, to get a very good plain addition to a meal.

This method adds some cooked vegetables and lots of taste and I think the use of the dried mushrooms is a must.

Ingredients

  • 10g dried mushrooms
  • 1.5 litres of chicken stock or vegetable stock
  • 3 carrots
  • 2 parsnips
  • 3 stalks of celery *(or half a celeriac)
  • 4-5 peppercorns
  • 2-3 allspice grains
  • Salt & ground black pepper
  • 150g of pearl barley

Method

  • Cover the mushrooms with boiling water and leave overnight.
  • Chop the mushrooms into small pieces.
  • Add the chopped mushrooms and the liquor from soaking to a saucepan of stock.
  • Peel and grate the carrots on a medium grater.
  • Peel and chop the parsnips into small pieces,
  • Chop the celery stalks fine.*
  • Add the carrots, parsnips and celery to the stock.
  • Add the peppercorns and allspice to the pot.
  • Bring to the boil.
  • Rinse the pearl barley with cold water.
  • Add the pearl barley to the soup and bring back to the boil.
  • Cook for around 5 minutes.
  • Cover the pot with a lid.
  • Turn the heat down and simmer for around 30 minutes.
  • Check that the pearl barley is nearly cooked.
  • Continue simmering and stirring until all the liquid has been absorbed.
  • Check the seasonings.
  • *
  • *If using celeriac – peel, cook the whole piece – remove when nearly cooked and chop into small pieces and put back in.

 

Served in a J & G Meakin dish – Topic designed by Alan Rogers – 1966 – 1979.

Kapuśniak- Hunter’s Style

I am continuing on the theme of  the Polish classic kapuśniakcabbage soup made with sauerkraut.

I would call this a “posh” version – Kapuśniak myśliwskiHunter’s style  and it could  also be called po staropolsku – in an old Polish style.

Half a large jar of sauerkraut  is enough for this soup, I often freeze the other half to use at a later date.

Ingredients

  • 400g Sauerkraut
  • 200g Polish smoked sausage
  • 200g Smoked bacon
  • 1 large onion
  • 10g dried mushrooms
  • 3-4 grains of allspice
  • 4 juniper berries.
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 litres of vegetable stock (can be from powder or cubes)
  • oil for frying (originally pork fat/lard would have been used)

Method

  • Put the mushrooms into a little bowl and cover with boiling water.
  • Leave to reconstitute for at least 30 minutes.
  • Remove the mushrooms and  chop into small pieces.
  • Chop the sauerkraut into shorter strands.
  • Into a large pot of vegetable stock add the sauerkraut, the mushrooms and the liquor from the mushrooms.
  • Bring to the boil, then cover the pan and allow it to simmer until the sauerkraut is tender.
  • Chop the onion into small pieces and fry till nearly charred.
  • Chop the bacon into squares around 2.5cm in size.
  • Fry the bacon on both sides.
  • Chop the sausage into small pieces.
  • Fry the sausage .
  • Add the onion, bacon and sausage to the sauerkraut.
  • Add the allspice, bay and juniper.
  • Continue simmering for around 30 minutes.
  • I do not usually have to adjust the seasoning or sweetness of this soup.

To Serve

  • This soup is served with a  bowl of hot boiled potatoes topped with skwarki *and the fat poured over them or with fried charred onions.
  • You can have the potatoes on the side or add them to the soup.
  • *
  • Or for an even more olden touch serve with slices of rye bread with skwarki * and the fat poured on top.

Potatoes in a dish by J & G Meakin – unknown design name.

Soup in my late mother’s plates – 3 only left – Crown Devon Fielding – Glenwood from 1939. (Where my mother got these I do not know).

 

Plate by J & G Meakin Topic by Alan Rogers 1966 – 1979.

 

*Skwarki – very small pieces of smoked bacon, heated in a pan until all the fat has rendered out.

 

Uszka – Little Ears – Re-visited

I wrote a long post on pierogi and uszka   over two years ago and this has lots of details on Polish pasta.

This post is an update on how to make uszka in advance and open freeze them.

Uszka –  means ‘little ears’ and traditionally  mushroom uszka are made for Wigila – the Christmas Eve meal  to serve either on their own with butter or floating in barszcz (clear beetroot soup).

I usually make around 250 to 300 uszka on the morning of Christmas Eve.

Last Chritmas I was going to be taking the uszka to my sister’s to cook there and also needed some on another day to cook at home.

I knew that I could make them in advance and open freeze them; so decided that this year I would make them in small batches and freeze them up over the few weeks before Christmas Eve.

In Poland these will have been made with just dried mushrooms, here in England my mother made them with fresh mushrooms with the addition of dried mushrooms when she could get them.  I like them like this the best.

Ingredients – Mushroom Filling

20g dried mushrooms

250g mushrooms – older open ones are better than button mushrooms.

1 onion

1 egg yolk

1 to 2 tablespoons of home-made dried breadcrumbs

Butter to fry the mushrooms

Salt & ground black pepper to taste

Method

Pour a small amount of boiling water into the dried mushrooms and leave these overnight.

You can remove the stalks from the older fresh mushrooms as these tend to be ‘woody’ and then cut the caps into thin slices.

Chop the onion into small pieces.

Fry the mushrooms and onions together in the butter.

Chop the reconstituted dried mushroom (You can save the liquor for other recipes) and add these to the mixture and heat them together for a few minutes more.

It does depend on the mushrooms and the way they are fried as to how much liquid is produced, if you get a lot, then let them simmer gently to evaporate as much as possible or strain some of this excess off (again you can use this liquor in soups or sauces).

Allow the mixture to cool.

The mixture then needs to be minced which used to take me a long time and much effort.  I now use a hand blender which works really well indeed. 

To the minced mixture add the egg yolk and enough breadcrumbs to make a stiff filling.

Add salt and lots of ground black pepper.

You can divide up the mixture into 3 or 4 portions and freeze these in plastic bags or tubs to use at a later date.

 

 

Uszka Dough

The dough is made from flour, egg yolks and water and I have  seen many variations of the recipe.  The following is my mother’s and I think it is the best I have ever used and tasted.

She never used whole eggs, just the yolks and this gives a dough which is soft and not tough and can be easily rolled out.

My mother originally used plain flour and added a tablespoon or two of fine semolina but now that strong flour or even pasta flour is readily available this is what I use the most.

Flour does vary and it is possible to add more flour to the dough as you are mixing it but you cannot add more liquid if it is too dry!

As you mix the ingredients in the first few minutes you should be able to tell if it will be too dry and you can add some more water initially but once it is all mixed together you cannot – if it goes wrong – just start again!

The quantities that I have given work well and but you should allow for extra flour if needed.

Depending on how thinly you roll out the dough, this amount should make around 70 uszka.

Ingredients – Dough

250g pasta flour or strong flour or plain flour & 2 tablespoons of fine semolina

150ml water

1 tablespoon oil – sunflower or light olive

½ teaspoon salt

1 egg yolk

Method

In a jug or bowl mix together the water, oil and the yolk.

Put the flour and salt into a large bowl and make a well in the centre.

Pour in the liquid from the jug and initially use a knife to mix this into the flour and then use your hands to mix the liquid and flour to get a ball of dough.

 

 

Turn this out onto a floured board and knead the dough for a few minutes until you have a smooth ball.

Cut the dough into quarters.

On a floured board roll out a quarter at a time until you have a sheet of thinly rolled dough.

Now prepare a large tray and cover it with a clean tea towel and sprinkle this with flour.

Have a large surface such as a tray covered with a cotton or linen cloth which has been lightly floured ready  and place the sealed uszka on this until they are all made, do not let then touch each other.

I usually make the uszka from squares of dough, about 4cm square, which are folded.

This time,  I made the shape in a slightly different way – so that I got a much more uniform shape and size.

I cut them out using a 6cm diameter cutter. (I also tried a 5cm diameter cutter which was good as the uszka were smaller but much more time consuming!)

The excess dough can be re-mixed and rolled out again.

Around a small teaspoon of filling is put on  each circle and then they are folded over and the edges pinched together to make a good seal.

The two ends are the brought together and pinched to make a round “ear” shape.

You learn from experience how much filling to put in as too much will make it hard to seal them and if not properly sealed they will burst on boiling.  Do not worry if you have a few mishaps – it still happens to me even with experience – it is hard to salvage one that has gone wrong – just accept that there will be a few that you do not cook.

As you are making them place them on the floured cloth.

 

 

 

 

Open Freezing

You need to have a fairly empty freezer to do this

If you have a extra chill button on you freezer, switch that on.

You will need around 3 baking trays – sprinkle flour on these.

Place  the uszka apart on floured baking trays so they are not touching and place the trays in the freezer for several hours – or even overnight – making sure the trays do not squash each other.

 

 

 

 

Once they are frozen, pack the uszka into boxes.

Cook them  straight from frozen by dropping them individually straight into boiling salted water – 8 to 10 at a time.

As they cook they will float to the surface, let them boil for 2 to 3 minutes and then remove them with a slotted or perforated spoon and put into a colander above a pan for a few seconds to drain and serve.  Continue boiling batches in the same water.

Uszka are served with melted butter or they can be served floating in a clear soup such as rosól – clear chicken soup or in barszcz – beetroot soup.

 

 

 

The convention is to serve three or five uszka in each dish.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Any that are not eaten should be spread out so that they cool with the melted butter around them.

P1040527

 

 

 

 

 

 

later, you can then fry them up gently so they are golden in parts.

A new tradition which was stared by my mother is on Christmas Day morning to have uszka fried with bacon and eggs, we always make sure we have some saved!

 

 

 

The Verdict

So much easier making the uszka in advance, so I will continue to make them like this, slowly over the weeks before Wigilia.

Mushroom Soup

Grzyby is the Polish word for mushrooms.

Mushroom gathering in Poland is a National pastime and has been in the past, a source of food and income for many.

Mushrooms can be dried, pickled, salted and marinated.

On those damp misty days in autumn when in England people would think – what a dull day,  a Pole would wake up and think – Great, a good day for gathering mushrooms!

Most Poles think the best dried mushrooms are Boletus edulis, in Poland they are called borowik, prawdzik or prawdziwek(translates as the real thing!), in Italy porcini and I try and use these whenever I can.

Packets of dried mushroom in England tend to be 25g or 30g and can be of mixed types.

My father knew all about mushrooms but never really passed the knowledge on to me – mainly because of the limited availbility of transport to suitable woods around where we lived in Lancashire.

On my first visit to Poland I did go to Białowieża forest and went with a guide and collected lots of mushrooms including chanterelles which in Poland are called kurki.

Dried mushrooms feature in many Polish dishes including ones made for Wigilia – Christmas Eve.

Nowadays, the common field mushroom – Agaricus bisporus – is produced on a huge scale and makes up a large part of commercial mushroom production with Poland being the 3rd biggest producer in Europe, following Italy and The Netherlands.

Mushroom soup in olden days was nearly always made with just dried mushrooms.

I make my soup with both dried and fresh mushrooms.

As with all soups the quantities do not have to be exact.

You can make your own vegetable stock or use cubes or powder.

 

 

Ingredients

25-30g of dried mushrooms – Boletus edulis are good.

250g of fresh mushrooms  – chestnut type are good.

Around 125ml of soured cream

1 onion – diced

Butter to fry the onion

1 – 1.5 litres of vegetable stock – can be from power or a cube (I use Marigold bouillon)

2 tablespoon of cornflour – optional

Salt & Pepper to taste

Chopped Flat-leaf parsley or chives to garnish

 

 

 

 

Method

Start the night before by preparing the dried mushrooms.

Put the dried mushrooms in a jug or bowl and add around 250ml of boiling water.

Leave the mushrooms overnight.

Strain the mushrooms from most of the liquor – saving this for later.

Chop the mushrooms into smaller pieces.

Gently simmer the mushrooms in a little of the liquor for about 5 minutes.

Gently fry the diced onion in some butter till they are golden.

Seperate the caps from the stalks of the fresh mushrooms.

Thinly slice the fresh mushroom caps  – if the caps are large cut the slices into 2 or 3.

Optional

If the stalks are not too “woody”  – chop them into very small pieces  – otherwise discard them.

Add the mushrooms to the onions, mix and fry gently.

Into a large pan or stockpot, add the onions and mushroom, the re-constituted mushrooms and the liquor from the soaked mushrooms and mix well.

Add the  vegetable stock and bring the mixture to the boil, then cover with a lid and leave to simmer.

You could put the pot into a low oven around GM2 – 150°C.

Allow to simmer for a couple of hours.

Add the soured cream and stir gently – check for seasoning.

or

Mix the cornflour with some of the soured cream, add and stir to thicken, then add the rest of the soured cream.

Sprinkle with chopped parsley or chives to serve.

 

 

 

 

Served on Royal Doulton  – Carnation – 1982 – 1998  &  Queen Anne side plates – pattern name unkown.

Potatoes – po nelsońsku

Po nelsońsku  –  in Lord Nelson’s style –  is when mushrooms and soured cream are added to the sauce. (I have not been able to discover why this name is used.)

In the traditional version of this dish, dried mushrooms are used and are soaked overnight.

I have also made a version with dried and fresh mushrooms.

Floury potatoes such as King Edward or Maris Piper are the best for this dish.

Packets of dried mushroom in England tend to be 25g or 30g and I have used a full packet for the recipe (you can use more).

The best dried mushrooms are Boletus edulis, in Poland they are called borowik or prawdzik, in Italy porcini.

Ingredients

1 kg of floury potatoes

10 -15g of dried mushrooms

2 onions

60ml of soured cream

250 ml of milk for soaking the mushrooms & 125ml (or more) for the sauce

100g of butter for frying the onions & the sauce

2 to 3 tablespoons of plain flour

Salt & pepper

 

Method

Start the night before by preparing the mushrooms. Put the mushrooms in a jug or bowl and add around 250ml of boiling water. When this has cooled add around 250ml of milk.

Leave the mushrooms overnight.

Alternately you could start this very early in the morning and make the dish in the evening.

Boil the potatoes till nearly cooked and leave them to cool.

Slice the potatoes into around 2cm thick slices.

Strain the mushrooms from most of the liquor – saving this for the sauce.

You can chop the mushrooms into smaller pieces if you want.

Gently simmer the mushrooms in a little of the liquor for about 5 minutes.

Make a sauce by first melting 2 tablespoons of butter in a saucepan, add the flour, stir together with a wooden spoon and gently cook until you have a thick roux.

Slowly add the liquor from the soaked mushrooms and mix and heat till you have a thick sauce.

Add more milk if needed – you want a very thin pouring sauce.

Then add the soured cream and mix together.

Pre-heat the oven to GM 4 – 180°C

 

 

Halve the onions and thinly slice and then fry them till golden in some butter.

Butter a deepish ovenproof glass or ceramic dish.

Place a layer of potatoes on the bottom followed by the onions, then the mushrooms, some of the sauce and finish with a top layer of potatoes.

 

Season with salt and pepper as you go along.

Pour the rest of the sauce over the top.

Depending on the size and depth of the dish you could have more layers but always start and finsh with potatoes.

Bake in the oven for at least an hour (You can lower the temperature and leave to cook for much longer).

This goes well served with roast chicken or pork.

 

Served on Royal Doulton – Tapestry  1966 – 1988

Ingredients – Version 2

This has fewer dried mushrooms & fresh mushrooms are added.

1 kg of floury potatoes

10g of dried mushrooms

100 – 150g of  fresh mushrooms (chestnut type are good)

250 ml of milk for soaking the mushrooms & 125ml (or more) for the sauce

100g of butter for frying the onions, mushrooms & the sauce

2 onions

2 to 3 tablespoons of plain flour

60ml of soured cream

Salt & pepper

Method – Version 2

Start the night before by preparing the mushrooms. Put the mushrooms in a jug or bowl and add around 250ml of boiling water. When this has cooled add around 250ml of milk.

Leave the mushrooms overnight.

Alternately you could start this very early in the morning and make the dish in the evening.

Boil the potatoes till nearly cooked and leave them to cool.

Slice the potatoes into around 2cm thick slices.

Strain the mushrooms from most of the liquor – saving this for the sauce.

You can chop the mushrooms into smaller pieces if you want.

Gently simmer the re-constituted mushrooms in a little of the liquor for about 5 minutes.

Thinly slice the fresh mushroom caps and fry them gently in butter.

 

Mix the two types of mushrooms together.

Make a sauce by first melting 2 tablespoons of butter in a saucepan, add the flour, stir together with a wooden spoon and gently cook until you have a thick roux.

Slowly add the liquor from the soaked mushrooms and mix and heat till you have a thick sauce.

Add more milk if needed – you want a very thin pouring sauce.

Then add the soured cream and mix together.

Pre-heat the oven to GM 4 – 180°C

Halve the onions and thinly slice and then fry them till golden in some butter.

Butter a deepish ovenproof glass or ceramic dish.

Place a layer of potatoes on the bottom followed by the onions, then the mushrooms, some of the sauce and finish with a top layer of potatoes.

Season with salt and pepper as you go along.

Pour the rest of the sauce over the top.

Depending on the size and depth of the dish you could have more layers but always start and finsh with potatoes.

Bake in the oven for at least an hour (You can lower the temperature and leave to cook for much longer).

This goes well served with roast chicken or pork.

Version 3 – Less Expensive & Quicker

In Poland there are mushroom stock cubes which are very useful especially for making sauces.

Years ago I brought loads back to England, now you can find these in the many Polish food shops.

The ones I use are made by Knorr.  These stock cubes contain a small amount of dried mushroom extract.

 

Dissolve the stock cube im 250ml of  hot water, when this has cooled add around 250ml of milk.

Increase the amount of fresh mushrooms to 150 – 200g.

Follow the instructions as  for Version 2.

Sauerkraut & Mushrooms

Sauerkraut & Mushrooms  is often one of the dishes  for Wigilia (Christmas Eve) when meat is not eaten.

Ingredients

1 large jar  of sauerkraut – around 800 – 900g.

20 – 30g of dried mushrooms

1 tablespoon granulated sugar

1 onion – finely chopped

2-3 tablespoons of plain flour

Butter or oil for frying the onion

Ground black pepper

*The acidity of sauerkraut varies very much and homemade is often not as acid.

*Rinsing bottled sauerkraut before use will lower the acidity.

*The amount of  sugar  you add to the dish is a personal preference – if rinsed 1 tablespoon should be enough – if not rinsed you might need around 3 tablespoons.

Method

The evening before you want to make this dish place the dried mushrooms in a small bowl and cover them with boiling water and leave them overnight.

Cut the reconstituted mushrooms into strips.

Put the strips and the liquor into a saucepan and simmer them for around 5 minutes.

Drain the sauerkraut and keep the liquid (you might want to use it to adjust the acidity of the dish).

Rinse the sauerkraut with cold water.

Place the sauerkraut in a large saucepan and pour boiling water over it until it just covers it.

Add the sugar.

Bring to the boil and then cover the saucepan with a lid and let it gently simmer for around 10  minutes.

Add the mushrooms to the sauerkraut and mix together.

Continue heating either gently on top of the stove or put the pan with the lid into a low to medium oven.

Cook until the sauerkraut is soft.

Fry the onions until they are golden.

Sprinkle the flour over the onions and heat gently to brown the flour.

Add spoonfuls of liquid from the sauerkraut mixture to the onion mix.

Stir and heat to form a thickening roux/paste.

Add this to the sauerkraut mixture and mix throughly .

You can then serve this straight away or put it back in the oven for around 5 minutes.

Sprinkle ground black pepper on the top before serving.

Served here in Carnation by Royal Doulton, 1982 – 1998.

Serve with rye bread or boiled potatoes and hot roast pork or cooked Polish sausages.

For Wigilia (Christmas Eve ) this  would just be served as a seperate dish.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Zrazy – Meat Roll-ups

Zrazy (this word is plural) is a meat dish popular in Eastern Poland & Lithuania and can be traced back to the 16th & 17th century in the times  of the  Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth (1569 – 1795).

(I have seen zrazy  translated as Meat Roll-ups, Meat Olives or Collops)

Classic zrazy have a rolled shape and are made of thin slices of  beef,  beaten with a mallet, which are stuffed with a variety of ingredients including  mushrooms.

You need to use beef which is good for  braising and slow cooking  –  I used a thin cut of topside and this worked very well.

 

The stuffed meat is rolled and secured with thread or thin string, then lightly fried and placed in a casserole dish with stock and slow cooked at a low temperature.

 

 

Stock

For the stock,  I  use chicken or vegetable stock (this can be from a stock cube or powder)  and add bay leaves, whole peppercorns and sometimes whole allspice.

 

 

 

Prior to serving, the threads are removed.

 

 

Zrazy are eaten with the sauce in which they were cooked, though extra ingredients can be added to this such as  soured cream, mushrooms or tomato.

You can add some cornflour to thicken the sauce.

Po nelsońsku  –  in Lord Nelson’s style –  is when mushrooms and soured cream are added to the sauce. (I have not been able to discover why this name is used.)

 

 

Here served on Royal Doulton – Carnation – 1982 – 1998

Zrazy are often served with buckwheat or boiled potatoes, and beetroot or sauerkraut salad.

Classic Ingredients for the Stuffing

There is no end to the variety of fillings you can use, the following are two traditional ones.

The amounts you need will vary according to how many zrazy you are filling – these are a guide to proportions.

Onions & Rye bread

1/2 slice of rye bread – made into breadcrumbs

1 onion – chopped and fried in butter till golden

1/2 teaspoon of caraway seeds

Salt & pepper

You can spread a little made up mustard onto the meat first.

 

 

 

 

Dried Mushrooms

20g dried mushrooms  – add around 250ml of boiling water and soak these overnight – chop into small pieces then simmer in the liquid.

1 onion – chopped and browned in butter till golden

Add the onion to the mushrooms and continue simmering till most of the liquid is gone.

 

Add salt and pepper to taste.