Pasta Salad with Skwarki

There was a heat wave this summer (2018) in England and Europe and during my recent trip to The Netherlands, I had lunch in the sunny garden of my friend’s older sister.

 

One of the dishes was a pasta salad  and included an ingredient which you would find as a garnish in many Polish dishes – skwarki – small, crispy, fried, bacon pieces.

This was a wonderful addition and I think would go well in other salads too.

I recreated this dish when I got home – the exact amounts are not so important.

Ingredients

400g  of cooked Penne or Macaroni

1 small tin of sweetcorn – drained

3 celery stalks

125g of smoked bacon

3 tablespoons of  mayonnaise (I used full fat – which I prefer for cooked salads)

Ground black pepper

Method

Chop the bacon into small squares and place on a heavy frying pan on a medium heat until all the fat comes out and you are left with small, crispy squares.

 

Drain the bacon pieces from the fat and place them on some kitchen roll and leave them until they are cold.

Chop the celery into fine pieces.

You can cut the pasta into smaller pieces if you wish.

 

 

In a large bowl, mix the pasta, sweetcorn, celery and the skwarki together.

 

Add the mayonnaise and the ground black pepper and mix well together.

Note

You are unlikely to need to add any salt as this is provided by the bacon.

This salad will go well with cold meats and barbecued meats.

 

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

 

Pasta Salads

The general word for pasta in Polish is makaron .. from the Italian macaroni or maccheroni which is thought to originate from the Greek makariafood made from barley.

You need some cooked pasta – small shapes are the best – I often use Fiorelli – little tubes with lacy edges.

 

 

 

 

 

 

When I am cooking some pasta for a meal,  I often do a bit more so I have some left to make a salad the next day.

Try not to over cook the pasta.

The weight of dry pasta will result in around double the weight of cooked pasta  eg 250g of dry pasta will result in around 500g of cooked pasta.

I find that mayonnaise or mayonnaise based dressing  are best with these salads.

Cooked vegetables work well with these salads and also tinned or bottled vegetables and so it is a good store cupboard dish.

Below are several ideas – but you can do many variations – I always use a few different colours to make it look attractive.

Pasta, Peppers & Sweetcorn Salad

Ingredients

400 – 500g cold cooked pasta.

1 small tin of sweetcorn, drained (or frozen loose sweetcorn – cooked)

1 or 2  fresh red peppers or 2-3 pieces of  bottled peppers.

1-2 tablespoons of mayonnaise

Salt & ground back pepper

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Method

In a large bowl mix the pasta and sweetcorn together.

If using fresh peppers then remove the stalk and the seeds and chop the flesh into small pieces.

Blanch the peppers by putting them in a dish with boiling water and letting them stand for about 10 minutes then drain and pat dry.

 

 

 

If using bottled peppers then drain them from the liquid and cut into small pieces.

Add the peppers to the salad mixture.

Mix in the mayonnaise.

Add salt & pepper to taste.

 

Pasta, Peas, Peppers  & Sweetcorn Salad

Ingredients

400 – 500g cold cooked pasta.

1 small tin of sweetcorn, drained (or frozen loose sweetcorn – cooked)

1 or 2  fresh red peppers or 2-3 pieces of  bottled pepper

150g of cooked frozen peas

1-2 tablespoons of mayonnaise

Salt & ground back pepper.

Method

Make the salad as above then add the cooked peas and mix well

 

 

Pasta, Peppers & Sweetcorn Salad with Tuna

400 – 500g cold cooked pasta.

1 small tin of sweetcorn, drained (or frozen loose sweetcorn – cooked)

1 or 2  fresh red peppers or 2-3 pieces of  bottled peppers.

1  x  145g tin of tuna chunks in oil or brine – drained

1-2 tablespoons of mayonnaise (variation –  add half a teaspoon of tomato puree or even hot pepper sauce)

Salt & pepper to taste – you will need less salt if you are using the tuna in brine.

Method

Make the salad as in Pasta, Peppers & Sweetcorn Salad up to the addition of the mayonnaise.

Break up the tuna into smaller pieces and add this to the salad and mix it in.

Add the mayonnaise.

Salt & pepper to taste – (you will need less salt if you are using the tuna in brine).

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Variations

Add some chopped chillies to the mixture – I use  green ones to differentiate them from the red peppers.

Pasta, Peas, Peppers & Sweetcorn Salad with Tuna

Ingredients

400 – 500g cold cooked pasta.

1 small tin of sweetcorn, drained (or frozen loose sweetcorn – cooked)

1 or 2  fresh red peppers or 2-3 pieces of  bottled pepper

150g of cooked frozen peas

1  x  145g tin of tuna chunks in oil or brine – drained

1-2 tablespoons of mayonnaise

Salt & ground back pepper.

Method

Make the salad as in Pasta, Peas, Peppers,  & Sweetcorn Salad

Break up the tuna into smaller pieces and add this to the salad. and mix it in

Salt & pepper to taste – (you will need less salt if you are using the tuna in brine).

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Pasta, Peas, Peppers & Sweetcorn Salad with Polish Smoked Sausage.

Ingredients

400 – 500g cold cooked pasta.

1 small tin of sweetcorn, drained (or frozen loose sweetcorn – cooked)

1 or 2  fresh red peppers or 2-3 pieces of  bottled pepper

150g of cooked frozen peas

200g of Polish smoked sausage or ham

1-2 tablespoons of mayonnaise

Salt & ground back pepper

Method

Make the salad as in Pasta, Peas, Peppers & Sweetcorn Salad.

Slice the sausage into thin slices and then chop these into halves and quarters.

Add this is to the salad and mix in

Salt & pepper to taste.

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Hard Boiled Egg Garnish

1 or 2 hard boiled eggs can be chopped and used to garnish the tuna or smoked sausage salads.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Polish Salads – All Year Round – Both Raw and Cooked

Sałata is the Polish word for lettuce.

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Sałatka is the Polish word  my parents used for salad.

However when I visited Poland for the first time I realised that there is another word for salad and that is – Surówka.

Surówka – this come from a Polish word meaning raw.

There is a distinction between the two in that a sałatka is a dish served cold of mainly cooked vegetables and a surówka is a dish served cold of mainly raw, pickled or fermented vegetables.

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Some ingredients for salads for sale

As it is hard in English to differentiate between the two – I will be writing about many classic cold Polish vegetable dishes and will be calling them all salads.

Fruit, cold meats, fish, either cooked or pickled, and hard boiled eggs also feature in these salads.

A salad accompaniment with a meal is often more usual than hot cooked vegetables and a tomato or gherkin salad is normal fare for breakfast.

Vegetables that have been pickled, fermented, bottled or canned will feature throughout the year at least once a day in Polish meals.  Before widespread refrigeration this is how people preserved food for use throughout  the winter.

Old Polish houses always had cellars, the Polish word is piwnica, from the word piwo which means beer so it means the place where beer is kept.  The ones I have seen in Poland were filled with bottled fruit and vegetables as well as jams, ready to make meals and salads throughout the year.  In blocks of flats there is still in the basement level, cellar space for each flat.

My aunties said they could not imagine life without a cellar. Their cellars were filled with many jars of bottled paprika that they had prepared – what in England we call peppers or capsicums,  various mixed vegetables, cranberries and lingonberries.

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Paprika – Capsicum – Pepper

I am very lucky in having  two cellars in my house and spent a week in spring this year organising them – including an area for tinned and bought bottled vegetables ready for making salads amongst other things.

Cellar – Mainly for Food

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Cellar – Mainly for Drinks

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Salad dressings

Three of the most popular salad dressings used are:

Lemon Juice

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One of my cousins came to visit me a couple of weeks ago and brought me this lovely, large, glass lemon squeezer.

If lemons are scarce or expensive or for convenience in Poland you can buy packets of citric acid which you can mix up with water.

Smetana – Soured Cream

Nowadays you can find soured cream in many English stores but if there is none then lemon juice added to fresh single cream will give nearly the same result.

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Mayonnaise

Although I have made mayonnaise, I tend to buy it now and my favourite is Hellmann’s – original or light (the very low fat version I think is horrid as it has a  strange taste and texture). Sometimes if making the salad ahead of time I think the original is a bit better as it does not get as watery from the vegetables but mostly I use the light version.

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Vegetables waiting to be made into salads

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Salad Garnishes

Garnishes  are chopped fine and sprinkled on the top of the dish of salad,  these are often: flat leafed parsley, dill, chives, the green part of spring onions and hard boiled eggs.  If none of these are available ground paprika might sometimes be sprinkled on the salad.

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Spring Onions and Chives

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Dill Garnish
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Chopped Hard Boiled Eggs

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