We’ve just enjoyed a wonderful long weekend in Warsaw. One of the things that struck me was how incredibly reasonable the prices are there. Even sitting outside in the autumn sunshine in one of the main squares, the prices were extremely fair – a couple of drinks (alcoholic) costing just a few pounds – far less than we would expect to pay for one in the UK. The city has developed a lot since we were last there about ten years ago and there is so much to see and do. Everyone is so friendly and helpful.
And the Polish food…what can I say? I am hooked now on pierogi – those yummy little mini packs of deliciousness. Sweet or savoury, breakfast, lunch or dinner, hotel, restaurant of café, they hit the spot. I know you can buy packs of them in the many Polish supermarkets we have locally but if you fancy making some yourself, there is a recipe on the website Tasting Poland here
Bigos is the Polish hunter’s stew and the perfect ‘gut fill’ but with good flavour. Very inexpensive to prepare, one of the main ingredients is cabbage but it benefits from long, slow cooking – so get that slow cooker out of the cupboard soon and put it to use!
The Best Polish Bigos Recipe (from polskfoods.com)
This bigos recipe makes a dish for 8+ people (so cut quantities according to amount wanted):
4 slices of hickory smoked bacon
2 yellow onions, chopped
1 lb Polish Sausage, quartered
1 lb beef or pork stew meat (or double sausage)
2 cups mushrooms, sliced (wild is best)
4-5 large garlic cloves
3-4 medium carrots, diced
1.5 lb. drained sauerkraut (do not rinse)
5 cups cabbage, shredded
1.5 teaspoons dried thyme
1.5 teaspoons dried marjoram
1 teaspoon allspice
1 large bay leaf
2 tablespoons sweet paprika
1 teaspoon caraway seeds, crushed
Pinch of cayenne
salt & pepper to taste
1 cup dry red wine
4 cups beef stock
1 can diced tomatoes (optional)
Mushroom powder (optional)
Salt and Fresh Ground Pepper to taste
1 cup chopped prunes
1. CARAMELIZE ONIONS & MUSHROOMS WITH BACON. Place chopped onions in large stock pot with chopped raw bacon on medium heat. COVER. Mix occasionally until the onions start to brown. Add mushrooms and cook until soft. Do not make the bacon crispy.
2. ADD MEAT. Add sausage and all meat, mixing and browning. If you need more fat, add olive oil. You do not want to over cook the meat, just brown on the outside. If you use good smoked Polish sausage, you do not need to brown very long.
4. ADD REST OF INGREDIENTS. Put all ingredients together in your large pot, but not the prunes. If there is not enough room, add the cabbage first to reduce it a little.
5. SAUTÉ FOR 2 TO 3 HOURS ON LOW. Cook until you reduce the liquid and it becomes more of a thick stew. Mix every 20 minutes or so and make sure it is not dry. You can add more red wine or broth if needed. Bigos should always be juicy. Taste, but it will not have the flavor until the next day. But, you can add more paprika or pepper.
6. ADD PRUNES. Mix thoroughly and heat with prunes for another 10 minutes–until soft. Enjoy with Rye bread (if you can’t wait), or store in fridge.
Really good with Potato Cheese pierogi too–and Cabbage, Mushroom, and Kraut.
And, finally, I have to confess that I have developed a penchant on my trip for Żubrówka Bison Grass Vodka, which contains a bison grass blade in every bottle. The grass is sourced from the Białowieża Forest. Each blade of bison grass is hand-picked and dried under natural conditions. You can buy it here in most supermarkets (On offer currently in Asda £15, or Waitrose Cellar has it for £16). You can either serve it in a frozen shot glass or I prefer it in a larger glass on the rocks. It makes a stonking Bloody Mary too!