Śmietana – Soured Cream – must be one of the most used salad dressings in Poland.
Soured cream is used just on its own and sometimes if it is thick or because they like it that way people will add lemon juice to make it more runny.
I am going to write about the three classic salads which will have soured cream on them.
Legend has it that this salad was beloved by Queen Bona, the Italian princess, who married King Zygmunt 1 in the early part of the 16th Century.
She is famous for bringing her chefs and a variety of vegetables to Poland and many vegetables names in Polish have Italian roots.
The word mizeria comes from the Latin meaning misery.It is said that this salad made the Queen homesick for Italy. I can understand the cucumber – not sure about the soured cream – but that is the story.
It certainly is a delicious cooling salad for a hot day.
I was talking with one of my Polish friends earlier last week and I said that I was going to write about mizeria and she said “Oh there were 20 people for dinner yesterday and I made a huge bowl of mizeria – it was delicious and it was all eaten!”
It is the salad that everyone loves to make in the summer and it is so easy.
Just – Cucumber, Soured Cream and a little salt.
Lemon juice added to the soured cream.
Some people add little bit of icing sugar.
Dill or chives as a garnish.
Take a cucumber and peel off the skin. If the skin is thin then sometimes I do not peel it all off, just stripes so that you have a nice pattern later of dark and pale green.
Cut the cucumber into thin slices and put them into a bowl
Lightly salt the cucumber.
Add several spoonfuls of soured cream to the cucumber and mix them together, you want to coat most of the slices.
Sprinkle with a garnish of chopped dill or chives if desired and serve.
This is delicious with Polish style smoked meats and sausage and also with hot roast meats as a lovely contrast.
This is best made with young fresh cucumbers in summer. However now that you can get greenhouse grown cucumbers all year round I sometimes find that they are a bit old and woody, if this is the case I would remove the seed area – this is best done by cutting the cucumber lengthwise in two and removing the seeds by pulling a teaspoon down the seedy middle. Then you can slice the cucumber as before.
Some cooks salt the sliced cucumber and leave this for about half an hour and then discard the liquid before adding the soured cream. I do not usually do this unless I am making it for serving at a much later time.
Radish and Soured Cream.
Chives or Spring onions to garnish.
Prepare the radishes by removing the hairy roots and stalks.
Thinly slice the radishes.
Put the radish slices in a bowl and add several tablespoons of soured cream (thinned with lemon juice it desired).
Garnish with chives or the green part of spring onions, finely chopped.
I love the way the radish skin colour seeps into the soured cream after a while and makes it pale pink.
This is the most simple salad you can make – just use lettuce leaves pulled off from the head of lettuce, wash and dry them using a tea towel or a salad spinner and add several tablespoons of soured cream (thinned with lemon juice it desired) and mix them together.
Garnish with a few chives if you have them and serve.
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.