A Little Caper!

Capparis spinosa is the caper bush.  The plant is best known for the edible, unripened  flower buds – capers – kapary (in Polish)  which are often used as a seasoning and are usually  pickled in brine, vinegar or wine.

These perennial plants are native to the Mediterranean and some parts of Asia. Their use dates back to around 2,000 BC  where they are mentioned as a food in Sumerian literature.

The caper buds are picked by hand which can make the cost of a small jar expensive.

Pickled nasturtium (Tropaeolum maius) (nasturcja in Polish)  seeds – often called poor man’s capers are a good substitute.

Cooking With Capers

Capers have long been used in the Mediterranean region especially  in Italian cooking.

Capers are usually  added to the dish toward the end of the cooking process, to keep their shape and flavour.

Sos kaparowy – Caper sauce

This is very popular in Poland and is made with chopped capers and mayonnaise  and is served with hard-boiled eggs.

Potato Salad with Capers

This is my variation of the classic Polish potato salad with caper  sauce.

Ingredients

200g  waxy potatoes

100g whole green beans

100g peas

2-3 spring onions – green part

2 tablespoons of capers – drained

2-3 tablespoons mayonnaise – home-made or a good full fat bought variety

1 tablespoon of made up mustard

Salt & pepper

2 – 3  hard-boiled eggs

Method

The potatoes, green beans and the peas all need to be boiled or steamed, drained and then dried as much as possible using a clean tea towel.

I usually use starchy potatoes for potato salad but have found that waxy ones are better for this one.

Chop the beans into small pieces.

Chop the green parts of the onion into fine pieces.

In a bowl mix the cooked and dried vegetables, the capers and the spring onions.

 

 

 

 

Mix together the mayonnaise and the mustard.

I have found that the lighter sort of mayonnaise soon makes this salad have a watery dressing after a very short time. It is better to use home-made mayonaise or a good bought one – I use Hellmann’s.

 

 

 

Mix the vegetables with the dressing and add salt & pepper to taste.

Chop the hard-boiled eggs and scatter these on the top of the salad to serve.

 

 

 

Served here in a bowl by Meakin  –  Cadiz  – 1964  – 1970

 

à la Polonaise

Polish Style

I was well into my 20s before I realised that there was a special French culinary phrase to describe, what to me, was just the regular topping that my mother and aunties put onto certain cooked vegetables.

Within my family I had never been served cauliflower, Brussels sprouts  or whole green beans without a lovely crispy buttery breadcrumb mixture.

I have not discovered when this term was first used in France but some sources think it might have come into use in the early part of the 19th century when many Polish political émigrés came to France and in particular Paris.

Method for the Vegetables

Cook your cauliflower, Brussels sprouts or whole green bean in whatever way you like best.

You can if you wish cook the cauliflower whole – this can have quite a good effect when served.

I like to steam the vegetables as I find I can get them just right – cooked – but still with a bit of bite this way.

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Steamed Brussels Sprouts

Place the cooked (and drained if necessary) vegetables in a serving dish.

Pour the buttery topping over the vegetables.

You will get a buttery crunchy taste which is a contrast to the vegetables.

Method for the  à la Polonaise topping

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Butter & Breadcrumbs
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Preparing the Breadcrumbs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The topping is made by melting in a saucepan 2 to 3 tablespoonfuls of butter.

(If you use unsalted butter then add a pinch or two of salt)

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Melting the Butter

 

 

 

 

 

Add to this around 2 tablespoonfuls of dried breadcrumbs and keep on the heat and stir for a few minutes.

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Preparing the Breadcrumbs
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Butter & Breadcrumbs

 

 

 

 

 

Pour the buttery mix over the vegetables.

Cauliflower à la Polonaise – served in a Royal Doulton serving dish. The pattern is Carnation produced from 1982 to 1998.

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Brussels Sprouts à la Polonaise – served in a Royal Doulton serving dish. The pattern is Roundelay produced from 1970 to 1997.

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Royal Doulton – Roundelay

Whole green beans à la Polonaise

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Added Note

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Some cookery books say that chopped hard boiled eggs and chopped flat leaf parsley are added to the topping.

Personally I have not found this to be usually so, although chopped hard boiled eggs are added to many salads and to certain soups in Poland and chopped flat leafed parsley is very often used as a garnish.

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.