Soup plays such huge part in Polish meals and I will be writing much on the subject soon (I could write a huge book on Polish soups alone).
Soups are usually served with some sort of accompaniments or garnish.
Some soups have traditional accompaniments but every cook will improvise with what they have.
These accompaniments include a wide variety of pasta and noodles, dumplings, rice, potatoes, croutons, hard-boiled eggs, pulpety (little meatballs) chopped, cooked sausage and crispy fried bacon and so on …. the list is endless.
Many of the soups to which these are added are of the clear consommé type.
Pasta, Noodles & Rice
Very small pasta shapes are used or larger pasta is cut into small pieces.
The pasta, noodles or rice are all cooked beforehand and a small amount is placed in the soup dish and hot soup poured over them to serve.
Often a small amount of pasta, noodles or rice is kept back from when they are being cooked for another dish – these are best kept in the fridge.
Salted herrings are very, very popular in Poland, they have been a staple in Northern Europe since Medieval times as this was the way to preserve and transport fish – usually in barrels.
Śledź is the Polish word for herring.
Matjes herrings (matjasy in Polish) are young herrings which are caught throughout May and June before they start spawning in July.
The way that they are prepared originated in The Netherlands and the name comes from the Dutch word maagd which means maiden(because they are young fish).
Often you will see the phrase à la matjas – this means that they are in the style of the matjes herring but they will be a slighty older fish and not as expensive .
Salted herrings need to be soaked, often for up to 24 hours, in water to remove some of the salt.
I have used already prepared à la matjas herrings and I think they are stilltoo salty – so I take the fillets out of the oil they are packed in and put them in milk for 10 to 15 minutes (you can do longer) and then pat them dry and slice them.
These herring salads are often served as an hors d’oeuvre (zakąska in Polish – something to bite after), appetizer, entrée or starter.
They are usually one of the dishes served at Wigilia (Christmas Eve).
Thinly sliced onions are a must to serve with the herrings!
Capparis spinosa isthe caper bush. The plant is best known for the edible, unripened flower buds – capers – kapary (in Polish) which areoften 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.
The recipe for this salad with leeks was given to me by one of my cousins in Białystok, Poland.
This salad goes well with cold meats & smoked Polish sausages, but with all its ingredients it can even be a little meal on its own.
Vegetable names in Polish
Leek in Polish is por & in Italian it is porro
Many vegetable names in Polish have origins in Italian, this is because when, the Italian Princess, who became Queen Bona of Poland on her marriage to King Zygmunt the Old, came to Poland in the 16th Century with her chefs she introduced many vegetables into the Polish diet – the most notable being the tomato. Because of this many of the Italian names or slight variations of them have become the names used in Polish.
There is also Włoszczyzna – which means Italian stuff – is it used in Polish cookery all the time – it translates as soup vegetables and is mixture of: carrots, celeriac or celery leaves, leek or onion, parsnip or parsley root & parsley leaves & sometimes savoy cabbage which is used as the base for many soups and casseroles. When written in a recipe every Polish cook will know what it is though some may have different versions of the mixture.
Although this is not an old Polish recipe it is certainly in the traditional Polish style with cooked vegetables and hard boiled eggs.
The chopped hard boiled eggs to garnish is very much in the tradition of à la polonaise.
Cheese is used in this recipe and is the type that is calledser zółty – yellow cheese and is of the semi-hard type such as Edam, Gouda or Massdam from the Netherlandswhich you can buy in England.
Gouda – The Last Thursday In August – 2013
The last Thursday in August is always the last cheese market of the year in Gouda.
Red kidney beans and sweetcorn are also used in this recipe. Now my father would never eat sweetcorn – he considered it fit only for animal fodder – as this was what it would have been used for in his youth!
You can vary the quantities to what you have available – the ones below are for guidance.
2 leeks – the white part finely chopped
1 tin of red kidney beans – drained
I small tin or half a large tin of sweetcorn – drained
“Yellow” cheese such as Edam, Gouda or Maasdam – chopped into small cubes
2 hard boiled eggs – very finely chopped or grated.
3 tablespoons of mayonnaise
2 teaspoons of ketchup or tomato purée
Salt & pepper to taste
In a large bowl mix together the leeks, red kidney beans, sweetcorn & cheese.
In a small bowl mix together the mayonnaise and ketchup or tomato purée.
Mix the dressing with the vegetables combining it all well.
Add salt & pepper to taste.
Place the salad into a serving bowl and sprinkle the chopped or grated hard boiled eggs over the top.
The serving dish is Royal Doulton – Carnation – 1982-1998.
Palm Sunday is the Sunday before Easter and marks the beginning of Holy Week.
Palms are blessed in church on this day to commemorate Christ’s entry into Jerusalem.
Of course palm trees do not grow in Poland and so other plants are substituted. Often pussy willow is used as the catkins are usually out around this time. My mother always called pussy willow – palma – the Polish for palm.
Twigs For Sale in the Old Square in Kraków
Palms are also made from dried grasses and corn which are often dyed to make them colourful or from coloured paper which is rolled and the edges cut to make a fringe.
In many villages the farmers would make huge palms for the procession completing with each other to see who had the biggest and best.
The Main Square in Kraków – Decorated with Large Palms
It is still Lent in Holy Week so the food eaten is simple and often meat, butter and egg free. Most baking and cooking done now is to make food to eat at Easter.
As well as going to church services it is a time for houses to undergo a massive clean-up especially inside.
Holy Saturday is the last day of Lent – the day before Easter.
This is the only day in the Catholic year on which Mass is not celebrated.
In Poland there is the tradition on this day to have the food for Easter blessed.
This has its roots in the early medieval church in the 12th Century and the food would have originally been just bread and eggs.
In times past in villages the priest would have gone around to people’s houses and blessed the food there. Nowadays people bring a basket of food to the church and the food is blessed with Holy Water and is then taken home and not eaten till the Easter Sunday Breakfast.
Once blessed this basket is called święconka meaning that which has been blessed
The basket is lined with a cloth – often white linen and sometimes embroidered. A white linencloth is used to cover the basket. These cloths represent the white shroud in which Jesus was wrapped.
What goes into the basket depends on several factors but hard boiled eggs and bread are usually present. Everything in the basket has a symbolic meaning.
Eggs – Christ’s Resurrection – a symbol of life.
Bread – Christ as the Bread of Heaven.
Salt – Preservation & Purification & Zest for Life
Horseradish – The Harsh & Bitter sacrifice of Christ.
Cooked Meat & Sausage – Joy & Abundance of God’s mercy.
Babka – The risen dough – this represents the Risen Christ.
Shaped Lamb (butter/cake/bread) – Christ – The Lamb of God -(see Lamb Bread)