Bigos

Bigos (cabbage stew) belongs to the top dishes of the Polish cuisine. If you visit Poland it should be on the must try list together with pierogi (Polish dumplings >>>), żurek (sour rye soup >>>), schabowy (pork chop) and flaczki (chitlings). (The latter although their Polish version is quite a tasty one belong however to dishes that would not be touched by many people of some other cultures).

Bigos is a stew made of cooked (better to say braised) sauerkraut enriched with different kinds of meat as well as forest mushrooms (dried) flavoured with spices and red wine. The ingredients must be prepared and processed separately. However, after they are added together, it is allowed to cook (or warm) the stew many times. It is said that it tastes even better after it was cooked over and over again. About this feature, Poland had a dispute with the European Commission as food warmed many times has been considered unhealthy. But absolutely not in this case. As bigos belongs to ‘heavy’ meals it is recommendable to serve it with an alcoholic drink. This time I took a beer, but red wine or one, or two shots of vodka are quite recommendable. The latter, and in bigger quantities, would be served if we want to make our dinner a traditional one.

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Bigos in its richest form, with much meat and mushrooms.

Bigos may also have a lighter version. Sauerkraut in its preparation process is first suffused with boiling water and then cooked till it softens. If water is exchanged in this process (twice or three times), the sauerkraut would become lighter (in colour and in taste). Furthermore, you can put in less meat ingredients (like only pure meat but no bacon) into the stew. In fact, bigos with no meat but only with dried mushrooms (the recommended kind is boletus) is considered as a fasting dish.

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Bigos served with bread.

Bigos may be eaten as on the photo above with bread. For many it would be sufficient as a main course. However, a very rich Polish meal (do not even try to calculate calories) would be dark meat (or pork chop) with oil roasted potatoes and bigos.

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Pierogi

Pierogi (Polish dumplings) belong to the top dishes of the Polish cuisine. If you visit Poland they should be on the must try list together with bigos (cabbage stew), żurek (sour rye soup >>>), schabowy (pork chop) and flaczki (chitlings). (The latter although their Polish version is quite a tasty one belong however to dishes that would not be touched by many people of some other cultures).

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Pierogi, backed served with cream.

Pierogi is a kind of dumplings made of dough pockets (no leaven used) wrapped around a filling cooked in boiling water, backed or fried (on a pan with only little oil). The filling may be of different kinds like fruit, cottage cheese, sauerkraut with forest mushrooms, ground meat, etc. They may be eaten as appetiser, main course or desert. A portion you can see on the picture above would be sufficient for many as a main dish (so do not exaggerate when ordering).

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Pierogi filled with sauerkraut cooked with forest mushrooms. In Poland they are often served during Christmas or sometimes Easter time as a fasting dish. Thus they are edible for a vegetarian. 

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Spur of the moment

Today, on the Holy Saturday while having my morning coffee, I was thinking what to eat before I go out to enjoy the Easter holiday with my family. Today evening, and tomorrow and the day after tomorrow I will spend dining with my family. Yes it is dining. In Poland it is tradition to spend Easter (and Christmas) dining with the family. With years we have learnt not to take as much food as in previous years and spent at least part of the day on doing other things. The best solution is to go outside to take a walk or even run a bit to burn all those calories we take eating our traditional meals.

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As travelling I usually try to enjoy as much of the local food as I can, and in a daily routine I prefer lighter meals than our traditional ones in a spur of the moment I decided to make my my morning as traditional as possible. I boiled eggs, left them to cool a bit and quickly went to the shopkeeper just round the corner (they will close around 2-3 pm for two and half days). I bought fresh rye bread, a sour rye concentrate and white sausages. The next step was to boil water, put in the concentrate and cut sausages. I left it all for a couple of minutes to boil. The eggs I added already as my soup was in the bowl. To finish I needed some pepper and parsley. My Easter soup called żurek was ready after 10-15 minutes. (It would of course take longer if I had to make the concentrate myself.)

Żurek (sour rye soup) belongs to ABC of Polish traditional kitchen and to my knowledge is a typical Easter holiday meal. If you are in Poland, and want to try local food this one is on the must-try list together with bigos (cabbage stew), pierogi (dumplings), schabowy (pork chop) and flaczki (chitlings). (The latter would not be however touched by many of my international colleagues.) The traditional additions are besides bread and potatoes in different form, buckwheat, barley and millet.

My photo is a bit staged. I added some other requisites. First, these are a small glass and a bottle of (bison grass) vodka. I skipped drinking it today, but if I had to choose an alcoholic drink that goes best with żurek, this would be vodka. (Instead I took the orange juice, but it was against any tradition). The other important requisite is tea pottery. Poland is a country with really high consumption of tea. There are no special traditions around it like around afternoon tea in England. Black tea is simply taken by many as a main drink accompanying almost all meals.

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