Lentils – Polish Style

The lentil  is Lens culinaris,  an edible legume –  which means its seeds grow in pods.

The seeds are lens-shaped from whence it gets its name –  meaning  little lens.

The Polish is soczewica and is also from a word meaning a small lens.

It belongs to the bean family and these seeds are classed as pulses – dry seeds for consumption.

Lentils originated in the Near East and Central Asia and are the oldest  pulses and among the earliest crops domesticated in the Old World.

The first evidence of pulses comes from 11,000 years ago in the Fertile Crescent, a region in the Middle East which was home to some of the earliest human civilizations.

They are mentioned in the Bible –  Genesis 25:29-34 – when Esau gives up his birthright to Jacob for a mess of pottage.

” …let me eat the red soup … then Jacob gave him bread and lentil soup

Figures for 2016 show the top four countries for lentil production as:

    • Canada
    • India
    • Turkey
    • United States of America

I bought a packet of whole allspice (ziele angielskie) and this recipe was on the back.

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I think it is related to Breton beans – a popular Polish recipe.

Ingredients

200g – 250g dried lentils

100g smoked bacon – chopped into small squares.

200g Polish sausage (I used Toruńska) – sliced

2 onions – chopped

3 cloves of garlic – sliced

1 tin of chopped tomatoes

200 ml of chicken stock (can be from a cube or concentrate)

5 grains of allspice

2 bay leaves

1 teaspoon of sweet paprika (not smoked)

1 teaspoon of Italian herbs

Sunflower oil for frying

Ground black pepper

(salt might not be needed because of the bacon and sausage)

Yoghurt and chopped flat-leaved parsley to serve

Method

Pre-heat the oven to GM3 – 160°C

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Cook the lentils in water until they are soft.

Use a sieve to remove some of the excess water – if any.

Fry up the bacon and the onions and garlic.

In a jug or bowl mix the stock, paprika, herbs and pepper.

Get an oven proof dish with a lid and add the lentils, fried bacon, onions and garlic.

Add the tomatoes and the stock mixture.

Add the sliced sausage, the bay leaves and allspice and mix all together thouroughly.

 

Put the lid on the dish and place into the oven.

Cook for 45 -60 minutes.

 

 

Serve garnished with flat – leafed parsley or this and a dollop of plain yoghurt or soured cream as well.

Here served in Royal Doulton – Carnation (1982 – 1998) dishes.

Tomato Salad

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The  tomato is botanically the fruit of Solanum lycopersicum, although from a culinary point of view it is a vegetable.

It belongs to the deadly nightshade family as does the potato.

The tomato plant originated in the Andes in South America and tomatl was the name  in the Nahuatl language give to it by the Aztec people, which then became tomate and then tomato in English.

The tomato was brought over to Europe by the Conquistadors in the late 15th Century.

The original fruits were yellow hence the Italian name pomodoro (pomo d’oro – apple of gold).

When the Italian princess, who became Queen Bona of Poland on her marriage to King Zygmunt the Old, came to Poland with her chefs in the 16th Century , the tomato was introduced to the Polish diet.

Tomato in Polish is pomidor – so you can see or rather hear its Italian root.

Home grown tomatoes are of course the best, however here in the North of England I have not had much success in growing them outdoors.

To get the best flavour from tomatoes it is best NOT to keep them in the refrigerator.

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Keep your tomatoes at room temperature

A simple tomato salad is served in Poland, always it seemed to me with the addition of onions, chives or the green part of spring onion.  For many it is standard fare for breakfast with cold meats or Polish curd cheese.

Ingredients

Tomatoes – thinly sliced into whole rounds if small or halved if large.

Half an onion – finely chopped  or

Chives or the green part of spring onions  – finely chopped

Lemon juice

Salt and pepper to taste.

Method

Arrange the tomato slices on a plate

Squeeze a little lemon juice over them

Sprinkle a little salt and pepper over them

Garnish with onion or chives

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Chives & Spring Onions

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Tomato Salad with Onions
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Tomato Salad with Chives
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Salads for Breakfast
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Tomato Salad, Curd Cheese & Rye Bread – Typical Breakfast Fare

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

kapusta 3

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.