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.
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.
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.
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
Cellar – Mainly for Drinks
Three of the most popular salad dressings used are:
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.
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.
Vegetables waiting to be made into salads
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.