Yeast Babka – Polish Yeast Cake

Babka is the name of a Polish cake. The name means grandmother and it is thought to refer to the the shape of the cake which is round and dumpy or tall and tapered and looks like the full and pleated skirts found in Polish costumes.

A yeast babka  is a classic Polish cake. It is usually made  with the addition of some dried fruits or peel.

A yeast babka is traditional for Easter Sunday.

My mother never had much success with making yeast cakes and so abandoned the process.

In the past I have tried to make a yeast babka also without much success.

Once I started writing this blog I went back to my old Polish cookery book – “my bible”

Kuchnia Polska – Polish Kitchen or Polish Cookery – 15th edition published in 1971.

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Book title

I used one of the recipes from this book and the result was wonderful!

I have now realised where I was going wrong:

I had been treating this cake as if I was making bread and in fact the technique is quite different.

  1. You have to use ordinary plain flour not strong flour.
  2. The mixture is a batter – you do not knead it.
  3. You have to have lots of patience – the yeast can take hours and hours to rise.
  4. The yeast will rise even in a coldish kitchen – it just takes a long time – even overnight or in the fridge.

Note

I used dried yeast for this recipe as that is easier for me and nearer to using fresh yeast.

I am sure you can adapt this to use the quick action yeast although I have not tried this myself.

Ingredients

Starter

100g plain flour

250 ml of milk

50g of fresh yeast or 25g of dried yeast

25g of granulated sugar

Rest of cake

5 egg yolks

150g of granulated sugar

400g of plain flour

pinch of salt

2 drops of vanilla essence

100g of melted butter or margarine

50g of raisins or sultanas

Method

First make the starter

Mix toIMG_20151210_072305828gether the yeast and sugar.

Add this to the milk and flour.

Leave in to bubble and rise to around double its size.

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Grease and flour a babka tin

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Pre-heat the oven to GM5

Place the egg yolks and the sugar in a bowl and whisk until they are pale and creamy.

Add the rest of the flour, the risen starter, the pinch of salt and the drops of vanilla essence and mix it all together.

Add the melted butter a little at a time, mixing it in after each addition.

Add the raisins or sultanas and mix them well in so you have a unified mixture.

Place the mixture in the prepared tin – it should fill around a 1/3rd of the tin.

Cover the tin with a clean tea towel and leave the mixture to rise  and nearly fill the tin.

This can take several hours.

Bake in the oven for around 40 to 45 minutes.

Leave to cool and then carefully remove out of the tin.

Dust with icing sugar.

The  tea plates are Greenway Hostess designed by John Russell 1960 – 1979.

Easter babka

The babka for Easter is normally glazed with a thin icing made with lemon juice & icing sugar or instead of lemon juice you can use vanilla essence and a little water or you can use rum.

Also prior to this glaze you can make a poncz (this word originates from the English word punch) and drizzle this over the babka.

A rum poncz can be made from around 150ml of weak black tea, 45 ml of rum, 1 to 2 tablespoons of granulated  sugar and a squeeze of lemon juice.  These are mixed together until the sugar has dissolved. (You can use tepid tea to dissolve the sugar but not too hot to evaporate the rum.)

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Weak Black Tea

A lemon poncz can be make from the juice of a lemon and around 2 tablespoons of icing sugar.

A yeast cake which is fresh will not absorb as much of the liquid poncz, so if you have time you can made this the day before you want add the poncz or wait for several hours at least.

I am hoping to make a yeast babka for Easter with a glaze and will include photos of this in my post for Easter.

Wigilia – Polish Christmas Eve

Wigilia means  vigil  and in Poland this word is used for the meal that is eaten on the evening(vigil) before Christmas Day  – so that is the evening  meal on Christmas Eve.

In Poland Christmas is celebrated from Wigilia and parties and visiting relatives and family happens from then on. It seems very strange to the Poles to have all the Christmas parties before Christmas which is still Advent.

This Christmas Eve meal is very important to people and most  will try to go to family to share this meal.

It is a meal that has many traditions, many more than Christmas Day itself.

It is a meal which is filled with memories, many from childhood, and you will find that every family has developed its own traditions. Many years ago when I spoke with my cousins in Poland – my mother’s family – I discovered that the meal they had at Wigilia though based on the same principles was very different that the one we had at home.

Advent

Advent is the time leading up to Christmas is observed from the 4th Sunday before Christmas (this will be from the 27th November to the 3 December) so that there will be 4 Sundays in Advent.  It is a time of reflection, prayer and preparation.

24th December is the last day of Advent  and used to be a day of  Fasting & Abstinence.

  • no meat was eaten on that day (abstinence) and
  • there was only 1 main/large meal (fasting).

Many people, myself included, keep to this custom.

The Christmas days are called Gody – days of Harmony and Goodwill.

The official end of the Christmas celebrations in church is the 2nd of February the feast of Candlemas or The Presentation of Christ in The Temple  when  karniwal – carnival starts in the lead up to Lent.

 Traditions Around The Wigilia Meal

12 dishes to represent the 12 apostles

Meat is not served.

Some people have 3 soups, 3 fish dishes, 3 vegetable dishes and 3 cakes or dried fruit dishes.

The meal starts after the first star is seen in the sky as a reminder of the Star of Bethlehem used by the 3 Kings to find the Infant Jesus. (This is much later than the usual main meal of the day in Poland).

The food should be from: the fields, the orchard, the garden, the forest and from water.

I try to use only foods that would be found in winter in Poland such as seasonal vegetables &  preserved foods which have been dried, bottled, fermented, smoked etc.

You should try to taste every dish to ensure that there will be nothing lacking in the house & harvest in the coming year.

The main dish is the fish – and in olden times some people had up to 12 fish dishes and counted these as ONE!

Fish  is the symbol of harmony, freedom and liberation – from the Greek  ICHTHYS – for fish & the initials of  Jesus Christ Son of God and Redeemer

The table should be covered  with a white table cloth over straw or hay to remind us of the manger. (People in towns often have a token bunch of hay).

Sheaves of wheat are placed in the 4 corners of the room.

An extra place is always set so that there will be a place for Jesus as the stranger who may knock at the door. The Poles think that on this night no one should be hungry or alone. (The Poles are very hospitable and I think there will always be a place no matter what time of year.)

Opłatek

At the start of the meal is the sharing of opłatek which was  originally bread but now is a wafer (like the communion host) and is a  symbol of forgiveness, unity and love.

Each person has a piece and shares it with everyone else offering each other best wishes for the coming year.

People often send a piece of  opłatek to family and friends who live far away.

 

Dishes for Wigilia

The following is a short list of some of the dishes that are often served at Wigilia:

Some of these recipes I have already covered & the links have been inserted  – others will be appearing throughout the coming year.

 

 

Christmas Tree

The Christmas tree tradition came from Germany in the late 18th Century and early 19th Century into the towns and into richer villages in the 1920s and took over from an earlier Polish Tradition of hanging from the ceiling just the tip of a spruce/fir tree (tip side down) decorated with apples, nuts which were either wrapped in silver or gold paper or painted and ribbons. Old Polish  village houses are made of wood so it is easy to attach the tree tip to the ceiling.

Doorways and walls were often decorated with separate boughs of the remainder of the tree.

People in small apartments and in towns or with limited funds often still just decorate a branch of a fir tree.

This custom originated in pre-Christian times and texts dating back to the 15th and 16th centuries referred to this use of the tree as a pagan rite. Unable to halt the growing trend, the church then reinterpreted the tree to be the Tree of Knowledge – the tree of good and evil.

The tree is put up on Christmas Eve (or maybe a day or 2 before) – the whole family helps – though the candles or lights are not usually lit until Wigilia.

 

Decorations for the Christmas Tree

Apples symbolise health and beauty.

Nuts wrapped in Silver or Gold guarantee prosperity and vitality.

When I was young we tied wrapped sweets and chocolates on the tree.

Bombki – Glass baubles – in the past these were often blown eggs decorated with glitter. There are also many straw decorations – angels or stars.

Glass baubles originated in Germany in the 19th century  but they were soon being made in Poland with their large glass blowing industry.  Many are made in small family run workshops, some making around 150,000 per day! Some now specialise in individual and unusual designs.

 

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Mama’s Old Nut Shaped Baubles

Candles  in clip on holders with real candles – though now more likely to be artificial lights.

My mother’s candle holders

 

Candles and baubles guard the house from malevolent deeds.

Paper chains guarantee love within the family.

The star on the top of the tree helps guide back home absent family and friends.

Bells symbolise good news.

Angels are the guardians of the house.

Presents

If there are presents they are placed under the tree and opened at the end of the meal.

It used to be that presents were given on  December 6th, St Nicholas Day and Christmas Eve was more about the meal and carols and Church.

Nowadays likely to get presents on both days. In some parts of Poland these gifts are said to be from  aniołek – little angel.

Before the Second World War the presents were small tokens such as mandarin oranges (a luxury – as they were imported), chocolate, and an item of new clothes or a small toy.

Pasterka  – The Shepherds’ Mass – Midnight Mass

After the meal people  go to Mass in memory of the long wait for the Messiah and the Shepherds coming to pay homage to the Infant Jesus.

Kolędy – Carols are sung from midnight mass till the 2nd  of February in Church.

Carols are rich and varied with examples from many different centuries with ones originating from church music, to many with music from the Royal Court such as the Polonaise and to folk & dance music.

The oldest carol in the Polish Language is Bogurodzica (Mother of God) and has been  known from the beginning of the 13th Century.

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Kopytka – Polish Potato Dumplings

My mother called these grube kluski  – fat noodles but on my recent visits to Poland I have had these under the name kopytka, this means little hooves, which I think describes their oval shape very well.

They are very much like  Italian gnocci made with potatoes rather than semolina. (The Italian word comes from either nocchio – a knot in wood or nocca – a knuckle). I think the usual size of gnocci is smaller than the kopytka.

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These were often made with boiled potatoes which had been left over from another meal. I do not remember my mother boiling potatoes especially to make these as the potatoes have to be boiled and then left to go cold. I always hoped that she would peel lots of potatoes so that there would be some left to make these, as I just loved to eat them.

We had them served with either melted butter or skwarki (crisp, fried, small squares of bacon). Recently in Poland I was served these with a creamy mushroom sauce*.

I  often boil potatoes the day before to make these as the potatoes need to be cold. The exact amounts are not critical but you must use starchy potatoes. When you have made these once you will have a good idea of the amounts involved and I am certain that my mother never weighed out the ingredients, just judged this by eye and consistency.

Ingredients

600g of starchy potatoes – such as King Edward or Maris Piper

1 egg  & 1 egg yolk

200g of plain flour

salt

Method

Peel the potatoes cut them up into pieces and boil them in salted water.

Drain the potatoes and then mash them so that there are no lumps. I have a ricer which is very good for this. Leave the potatoes to cool.

Use a large bowl and put the cold potatoes into the bowl.

Lightly beat the egg and the yolk together and add this to the potatoes.

Add a little salt.

Weigh out the flour to give an idea of how much is needed; this will depend on the type of potato and the size of the eggs. Add the flour and mix first with a wooden spoon and then by hand, you might not need all the flour or you may need more. Mix until you have a soft dough.

Divide the dough into quarters and using a floured board shape the dough and roll it with you hands until you have a long sausage about 3cm in diameter. If the dough sticks to the board then you need to add more flour.

Use a sharp knife to cut the dough into pieces, make the first cut at a diagonal and make the thickness about 1 to 1.5cm. You will get a sort of oval shape.

kopytka

13 Feb 150

Repeat this with the rest of the dough.

Fill a large pan with water, add some salt and bring this to the boil.

When the water is boiling, add the dumplings one by one, do not over fill the pan or they will stick together. I tend to do this in 4 batches.

As they cook they will float to the surface, give them about another minute and then remove them with a slotted  or a perforated spoon and put them in a colander. I have a colander sitting in an empty pan by the side of the large pan in which I am boiling the dumplings.

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I find that the maximum from putting  them into the water to taking them out will be 3 minutes, if you cook these too long they will start to fall apart.

Serve as suggested above with melted butter, bacon bits or with a sauce.

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Cooked Kopytka Waiting for Butter,      Bacon or Sauce

13 Feb 152

*See my earlier post

Gołąbki – Cabbage Rolls  – with Mushroom Sauce

For  mushroom sauce recipes.

Gołąbki – Cabbage Rolls – with Mushrooms

I have tried this out as a just vegetable variation.

In my Polish cookbooks there are many variations without meat and they use mushrooms or other vegetables and grains,  but these tend to use just dried mushrooms and often rather than rice use buckwheat or pearl barley.  Whilst these grains are maybe more traditionally Polish in style I wanted to do a recipe which would initially be more appealing to the English taste.  Also   I wanted to use mainly fresh mushrooms.

Ingredients for the filling

150 to 200g of rice

400g of mushroom caps – white and/or chestnut

Some butter to fry the mushrooms

5g of dried mushrooms (more if you desire)

A few tablespoons of boiling water

Salt & pepper to taste

Method

In a small bowl add the boiling water to the dried mushrooms , just enough to cover them, and leave overnight.

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Stepped Dried Mushrooms and Chopped Fresh Mushrooms

Parboil the rice and leave to go cold. (You can use any already cooked rice you might have cooked already – it is not that critical  – it will just have a softer texture).

Finely Slice up the mushroom caps (You can chop them into smaller pieces) and fry them in the butter until they are soft. IMG_20150718_151816584_HDR

Making a Pulp of Mushrooms
Making a Pulp of Dried Mushrooms

Using a knife make a pulp of the dried mushrooms or chop them into small pieces if they have not softened enough.

Add the mushroom pulp and the liquor in which they were steeped to the frying mushrooms and continue cooking the mixture evaporating of most of the liquid or about 10 minutes.

Leave the mushrooms to cool.

In a large bowl mix the parboiled rice and mushroom mix, add salt and pepper to taste.

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Mushroom & Rice Mixture

Prepare the cabbage leaves

You need a large white cabbage or a savoy cabbage or I have now started using sweetheart cabbage  – you might need 2 of these as they are not usually so large.

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Patience is called for here to avoid getting scalded fingers. You have to heat or steam the cabbage to make the leaves pliable so you can remove them one by one and use them to encase the filling.

You need the largest pan you have into which you place the cabbage head.

I boil some water in a kettle and pour this over the cabbage in the pan. With some heat under the pan I let the cabbage cook a little. The temptation is to boil too quickly so making some of the leave too soft and runs the risk of getting scalded as you try to remove the leaves.

Another method is to place the cabbage into a metal colander and set this over the pan of water so that it is steamed rather than boiled – I think this method is the one I like best.

As the leaves become soft, you have to cut them off from the stalk and stack them up for to use later, you can cut out the thickest part of the stalk from the first few larger leaves. Pre heat the oven to GM3 – 160oC

Fill the leaves with the rice & mushroom  mix and roll them up from the stalk end, tuck in the sides and secure with the outer edge of the leaf to make a small parcel.

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Place the rolls into a large casserole dish, packing as many rolls as possible in rows in the dish. Depending on the depth of the dish repeat this for another layer.

If you have any extra cabbage leaves place these on the base of the dish and then to put extra leaves on the top of the rolls.

The rolls sometimes have a habit of getting slightly burnt on the top as they come out of the liquid and sometimes at the base if they have been in the oven a long time, these extra layers protect the rolls and can be discarded at the end.

Make a vegetable stock  and pour this over the cabbage rolls.

Ingredients for Vegetable Stock

Vegetable stock  – I like to use the Swiss  Marigold Bouillon vegetable stock powder which is in a tub mixed with boiling water

1 tube of tomato purée

2 bay leaves

3 or 4 peppercorns or allspice or both.

salt & pepper ( note there might be enough salt in the stock cube)

Mix up the stock powder in a jug with boiling water, add the tomato purée and then the rest of the ingredients. You need a large amount to cover the cabbage rolls.

Pre heat the oven to GM3 – 160oC

Cover the rolls with this liquid. It is a good idea to have extra which you can use to top up as they are cooking.

Cover with a lid and place in the oven and cook for several hours. Check them occasionally and keep them covered with liquid as much as possible.

As mentioned earlier I make these a day beforehand and then put them back in the oven for an hour or so before serving.

They are a complete meal in themselves but you can give serve them with some bread to mop up all the liquid sauce.

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Note

Wigilia – Christmas Eve

I will be writing a post all about the special meal on this day later when all the dishes are meatless.

This recipe is one dish which can be served then.

 

Gołąbki – Cabbage Rolls

 

Kuchnia Polska - Polish Kitchen or Polish Cookery

My Polish Cookbook “bible”

A Selection of Polish Cookbooks
A Selection of Polish Cookbooks

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IMG_20150715_181051975IMG_20150715_182325856Gołąbki are made using  fresh cabbage and the name means little pigeon or dove. This name comes about from its size and shape and also from to the idea of this being a little delicacy.

The cabbage leaves are used to make a little parcel with a meat and rice filling and these are then cooked in a liquid stock or sauce.

I have read that this is a very old dish which originally came from the Byzantine Empire and was made with vine leaves, as it came north; cabbage leaves replaced the vine leaves.

The main 3 ingredients are: cabbage, rice and minced meat, and you also need a liquid to cook them in, which in my mother’s case was always a stock with tomatoes.

You can use white or Savoy cabbage. White cabbage has softer more pliable leaves and I think make the best  gołąbki . Savoy cabbage has firmer leaves that are easier to work with but take longer to cook; these can be easier for a novice to use.

You need a large head of cabbage to get large leaves.

You can use any type of rice but the stickier types are the best.

The traditional Polish version uses pork.  My mother used beef as this was more readily available in England.  Now that minced pork is more  available and you do not have to hand mince it, I use either or even mix the two.

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There are many variations using, fresh or dried mushrooms, buckwheat instead of rice, and a stock without tomatoes.  In fact buckwheat is a more older version as it grows in Poland and rice would have to be imported.

This recipe is my mother’s and for me this is just right!

Mama’s Classic Recipe

Ingredients

1 large head of white cabbage or Savoy cabbage

400g rice

500g of minced beef or pork

chicken stock – a cube or concentrate will do

1 tube of tomato purée

salt & pepper

2 bay leaves

3 or 4 peppercorns or allspice or both

Although the gołąbki take a while to put together, you then leave them to cook in a slow oven for hours which is easy.

You can reheat them on the next day and in fact I think they taste better the longer they have been steeped in the cooking liquid and I always make them a day in advance.

They also freeze very well, so I pack any left in portions of 2 or 4 for a later date. Because of  this I like to make as big a batch as I can in one go.

I use a very large enamelled oval dish with a lid which is ideal for this.

As you need whole largish cabbage leaves I sometimes use 2 cabbages to get the bigger leaves.

You need to parboil the rice in salted water so that it is about half way to being cooked and then strain the rice and let it go cold, but if you have some plain boiled rice left from another day you could use this as this is not critical.

In a large bowl mix the rice and minced meat and add salt and pepper. The exact amounts do not matter. I like it to look about 50/50 white and pink but these can be made with much more rice to eke out the meat available.

Next comes the hardest part and patience is called for here to avoid getting scalded fingers. You have to heat or steam the cabbage to make the leaves pliable so you can remove them one by one and use them to encase the filling.

You need the largest pan you have into which you place the cabbage head. I boil some water in a kettle and pour this over the cabbage in the pan with some heat under the pan I let the cabbage cook a little. The temptation is to boil to quickly so making some of the leave too soft and runs the risk of getting scalded as you try to remove the leaves. Another method is to place the cabbage into a metal colander and set this over the pan of water so that it is steamed rather than boiled.

As the leaves become soft, you have to cut them off from the stalk and stack them up for to use later, you can cut out the thickest part of the stalk from the first few larger leaves.

Instructions from my Polish cookbook “bible”

Pre heat the oven to GM2 – 150oC

Place a small handful of the rice & meat mixture onto a cabbage leaf and roll up from the stalk end, tuck in the sides and secure with the outer edge of the leaf to make a small parcel.

Place the rolls into a large casserole dish, packing as many rolls as possible in rows in the dish. Depending on the depth of the dish repeat this for another layer.

A tip I got from my late cousin, Krystyna, is to use extra cabbage leaves on the base of the dish and then to put extra leaves on the top of the rolls.

The rolls sometimes have a habit of getting slightly burnt on the top as they come out of the liquid and sometimes at the base if they have been in the oven a long time, these extra layers protect the rolls and can be discarded at the end.

Make a large amount of liquid stock with hot water and tomato purée and add bay leaves, peppercorns and allspice.

Cover the rolls with this liquid. It is a good idea to have extra which you can use to top up as they are cooking.

Cover with the lid and place in the oven and cook for several hours. Check them occasionally and keep them covered with liquid as much as possible.

As mentioned earlier I make these a day beforehand and then put them back in the oven for an hour or so before serving.

They are a complete meal in themselves but you can give serve them with some bread to mop up all the liquid sauce.

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Quick Bigos

Bigos is often called Poland’s national dish. It is Poland’s sweet and sour dish using sweet (fresh) cabbage and sour(fermented) cabbage (sauerkraut).

Quick Bigos

This is a smaller, quicker version than the traditional bigos recipe.

I often make it somewhere  in between the traditional recipe and this quick recipe as all the amount are very flexible.

If you can only get large jars of sauerkraut then you can put half the contents into a plastic bag or box and freeze it for later use.

Getting Ready to Cook Bigos
Getting Ready to Cook Bigos

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Bigos
Bigos
Bigos
Bigos

Ingredients

500g sauerkraut (1 small tin or jar or half a large jar)

300g fresh white cabbage – 1 small head or half a large head

100g of Frankfurters or Polish Ring

100g smoked bacon

1 large onion

100g tomato purée (1/2 tube)

20g plain flour

2 bay leaves

3 to 4 peppercorns

sugar or lemon juice to taste – optional

fat/oil to fry in

note – salt should not be needed as the sausage and bacon contain salt.

Finely chop the fresh cabbage into long strands and place in a large pan with the sauerkraut.

In a jug mix the tomato purée with some hot water and then add this to the pan. Add more boiling water to cover the cabbage mixture.

Add the bay leaves and peppercorns and then boil gently till the cabbage is becoming soft.

Slice up the various smoked sausages, chop the bacon into small squares and add to the cabbage mixture and boil gently till everything is soft.

Chop the onion into small pieces and fry till golden, add the flour and fry till the mixture is just about to burn and then add this mixture to the bigos.

Adjust the sourness to taste with sugar and or lemon juice.

Now you can either heat it all together gently over a low heat with a lid on the pan, stirring the mixture occasionally or put the mixture into a large oven proof dish (I use an enamelled dish) with a lid and put it in the oven at GM 4 – 180oC for about 2 hours.

Bigos tastes better if made one day, left overnight, and then reheated in a saucepan or in a dish in the oven.

Note

Bigos freezes well – I portion it up into manageable portions which will serve 2 or 3 – wrapping it in plastic bags within a plastic box to prevent the tomato staining the plastic.

Serving

Bigos is usually served with rye bread but I often serve it with boiled or mashed potatoes.

Bigos

Bigos is often called Poland’s national dish. It is served at every large gathering: christenings, weddings, funerals and every other excuse for getting together for food and drink. It is best made in advance by at least a day and then reheated. My father used to talk about using a horse and cart to take large wooden barrels of bigos to where there was going to be a celebration.

It is Poland’s sweet and sour dish using sweet (fresh) cabbage and sour (sauerkraut) cabbage. How sweet and sour you make it depends on taste, I always use roughly equal amounts of fresh and sour cabbage – a large white cabbage to a large tin or jar of sauerkraut. You can add sugar or some lemon juice to alter the sweet/sour balance.

This was a Hunter’s stew with all the meat and game that was available in the long hard winters going into the pot with the cabbage. A variety of mixed fresh and smoked meats and sausages are used, the amount can vary with how much meat you have.

Served with rye bread with or without butter and a glass of beer or vodka, it is delicious.

The mixture of cabbage and tomato in bigos is very Polish, as a little girl I thought that cooked cabbage was always orange to red rather that pale to dark green as my mother always used the two together in all her cabbage recipes.

Tomatoes were brought to Poland in the 16th century by the Italian chefs who came with the Italian Princess Bona Sforza who married the Polish King, Zygmunt the Old. The Polish word for tomato – pomidor, shows its Italian origin.

Getting Ready to Cook Bigos
Getting Ready to Cook Bigos
Dried Mushrooms
Dried Mushrooms

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Enamel Pans
Enamel Pans
Enamel Pans
Enamel Pans

I have many of these enamel pans they are good for slow cooking in the oven.

Bigos
Bigos
Bigos
Bigos
Serving up Bigos
Serving up Bigos

Traditional Bigos

There are lots of variations you can make to the following recipe and everyone seems to have their own version. I find the following proportions work out very well every time and the bigos is moist but not like a soup.

This makes a large amount which is good for a family gathering.

Often I make this in advance and then portion it up into 4 parts and then pack these into large plastic bags or tubs and freeze them – so I always have some on hand.  Note – the tomato stains the plastic tubs so I often put a bag inside a tub. I also then wrap the tub in another bag as the aroma is strong even when frozen and this stops it affecting other food in the freezer.

Ingredients

900g sauerkraut (1large tin or jar)

500g fresh white cabbage (1 large head)

200g to 400g Pork (shoulder or spare rib)

150 to 300g mixed smoked sausage such as kabanos, Polish ring or Frankfurters

150g smoked bacon

1 large onion

10g dried mushrooms

100g tomato purée (1/2 tube)

20g plain flour

2 bay leaves

3 to 4 peppercorns

sugar or lemon juice to taste –optional

fat/oil to fry in.

note – salt should not be needed as the sausage and bacon contain salt.

Put the sauerkraut in a large pan and add boiling water until it is covered and boil gently for 1 hour till it is soft. Take care not to let it boil dry and push the sauerkraut down occasionally so it stays under the water.

Finely chop the fresh cabbage into long strands and place in another large pan with the dried mushrooms, add water to cover the cabbage and boil till soft and as with the sauerkraut take care it does not boil dry.

Pre heat the oven to GM3– 150o C

Chop the pork into small cubes and fry till brown on all sides.

Chop the bacon into small squares.

Add 100g of the bacon and all the pork to the sauerkraut and boil gently till everything is soft.

Make crisp skwarki* with the rest of the bacon and add to the sauerkraut.

Chop the onion into small pieces and fry till golden, add the flour and fry till the mixture is just about to burn.

Add the cooked fresh cabbage with all the liquid and the fried onion mixture to the sauerkraut.

Slice up the various smoked sausage and add to the bigos.

Add the tomato purée, bay leaves and peppercorns.

You can add some sugar or lemon juice at this stage; this depends on how sour you like the bigos and often depends on the sauerkraut used. I rarely do either of these.

Now you can heat it all together gently over a low heat with a lid on the pan or put the mixture into a large oven proof dish; I use a large oval enamelled dish, and put it in the oven for about 3 hours.

Bigos tastes better if made one day, left overnight, and then reheated in the pan or in the dish in the oven.

*skwarki – small squares of bacon fried till the fat comes out and you are left with little crisp bits.

Makowiec – Poppy Seed Cake 4

A Very Easy Method

Weighing the poppy seeds

This cake is a more modern version as soft tub margarine is used and it is an all-in-one method which is so easy to do with an electric hand whisk.

I use either Flora original or Stork for baking – both of these have given good results.

Cake Ingredients

175g soft tub margarine for baking

225g self-raising flower

1 ½ teaspoons baking powder

175g caster sugar

Grated rind of 2 lemons

3 eggs

3 tablespoon milk (full fat or semi-skimmed)

100g poppy seeds

Lemon Glaze Ingredients

Juice of 2 lemons

175g caster sugar

Pre heat the oven to Gas mark 4 – 1800C.

Make this as a tray bake in a tin about 31×22 cm.

I have a selection of Mermaid Hard Anodised rectangular baking tins and they are superb.

Grease the tin and use one piece of greaseproof paper to line the base and the two long sides of the tin.

Place all the ingredients except the poppy seeds into a large bowl and beat well for about 2 minutes until they are well blended.

Add the poppy seeds and beat till they are well mixed in.

Put the mixture into the tin and bake for about 30-35 minutes.

Leave to cool for about 5 minutes and release the cake from the tin and put on a cooling rack.

Mix the lemon juice and caster sugar to dissolve the sugar.

Prick the top in several places with a thin cake testing skewer.

Dribble the lemon glaze over the cake so the top in covered.

You can dust with icing sugar before serving.

 

Poppy Seed Cake 2

Makowiec – Poppy Seed Cake 2

 

There are many versions of Polish poppy seed cakes and many of them use yeast pastry.

This one does not have a yeast based pastry and is much easier to make as it does not take as much time as the more traditional roll.

I often make this one now for Wigilia – Christmas Eve.

The original recipe used twice this amount but I often found it would sink in the middle which did not look as nice so now I always make this smaller one.

This version has a lemon glaze followed by lemon icing – this is my favourite but you could just dust the cooled cake with icing sugar or use the glaze then dust with icing sugar before serving.

Ingredients

125g caster sugar

1 egg

5ml vanilla extract

100g poppy seeds

Grated rind of 1 lemon

65g self-raising flour

½ tsp baking powder

Pinch of salt

60ml milk

65g melted butter

15 ml sunflower oil

Lemon Glaze & Icing 

Glaze – Juice of 1 lemon & 50g caster sugar

Icing – Juice of 1 lemon & 200g icing sugar

Method

Pre heat the oven to Gas mark 4 – 1800C

I find this easer to remove using either a loose bottom or spring form tin –  Grease a 20cm diameter tin.

or

grease and line with one piece of greasproof  for the 2 long sides and base -so you can remove the cake from the tin easily – a 16 x 27 cm tin.

 

 

 

 

Whisk the egg, sugar and vanilla extract until they are thick and creamy.

Stir in the poppy seeds and lemon rind.

Sift the flour and add the baking powder and salt.

Fold this into the egg and poppy seed mixture alternating with the milk – do this in about three batches.

Fold in the melted butter and the oil.

Pour the mixture into the tin and bake for around 30 to 35 minutes.

 

Leave to cool for about 5 minutes and release the cake from the tin and put on a cooling rack or remove using the 2 ends of the greaseproof.

Prick the top in several places with a thin cake testing skewer.

Lemon Glaze

Mix the lemon juice and caster sugar to dissolve the sugar, dribble this over the cake so the top in covered. Leave till nearly cool then put the cake on a plate or stand.

Lemon Icing

The amount of icing sugar you need will vary depending on the size of the lemon and the dampness of the sugar. (If you want less icing use a small lemon or half a large one and 100g of icing sugar)

Place the lemon juice in a bowl and slowly add the sugar mixing it with a wooden spoon is best, use more or less sugar to make a soft runny icing which will coat the back of the spoon.

Pour this over the cake.

You can aim for just the top covered or to have drips down the sides.

My Polish Background

My parents met in England after the Second World War. They had come from different parts of North East Poland through many countries and many hard times; they met in Hereford and married there.

I was born in Penley (Polish Hospital) in the then County of Flint in North Wales.

I grew up in Lancashire with a large Polish community around us and my mother cooked very traditional Polish food.

I now live in West Yorkshire  and continue to cook traditional Polish food although often with a modern twist.

The winters are long and hard in Poland and the traditional dishes use ingredients which will survive through these winter months: smoked meats, picked herrings, potatoes, cabbage, pickled cabbage and gherkins, dried mushrooms, buckwheat, rye, dried fruits, poppy and caraway seeds and honey.

The summers are usually warm and there are lots of red berries, apples, fresh dill, flat leaved parsley, tomatoes, carrots and spring onions. Soured milk, soured cream and curd cheese feature in many dishes as this was the way to extend the life of dairy products before refrigeration. Much of the summer produce that was not eaten would be preserved for the winter by drying, bottling, pickling or made into jams.

Both my parents had grown up in the country side on small farms and their families had grown crops, kept animals and knew how to cure meats and preserve fruit and vegetables.

My father’s family’s land had some woodland and bordered onto a small river, and he used to say that with this they were very rich as they could hunt for small animals and birds, catch fish and find mushrooms, nuts and berries.

The Poles are very hospitable and passionate about good food, no guest invited or unexpected is ever sent away hungry. My childhood memories are filled with every occasion possible celebrated with tables filled with delicious food and people of all ages together.

The Polish kitchen seems to rely on one cook who spends a great deal of time preparing food for the extended family and “fast food” is not a description one would use of many of the dishes. However although many take a while to prepare they can then be left to cook slowly and are ideal to be reheated so there is no last minute panic and what is made can serve for several meals.

I would help my mother in the kitchen and when we went to visit my father’s family in London I would always be interested in what was the same and what was different and looked for new ideas.

I visited Poland for the first time in 1979; a time of shortages and queues however I have never tasted food with so much flavour as then. I tried old favourites and found new ideas. When I visited family and friends in the United States of America a few years later I once again tried lots of my old favourites to eat.

I have now visited Poland many times, sometimes to aunts and cousins on both my mother’s and father’s side and also to places in which I do not have family and have then eaten in hotels, restaurants, cafes and found teashops with such a variety of cakes that I have never been able to sample everything in the time I was there.

I am always pleased to have such wonderful food and take the opportunity to have my favourite dishes but in the last few trips I have been doing some research into regional variations and new versions of older recipes.

In my blog I will feature a selection of my favourite recipes from family and friends and some new discoveries, as well as some dishes that have evolved from older recipes.

So as you follow my blog and try the recipes may I wish you, as they do in Poland before eating, smacznego! (may it taste delicious).