Cookbook 151: Polska – New Polish Cooking

I bought Polska: New Polish Cooking by Zuza Zak because I wanted Pierogi recipes. And then it took me ages to get around to making them, and sadly I haven’t yet made them again. Not all the dishes were successful when cooking from this recipe book, and I know how to fix the one that was the least successful – add more herbs (always add more herbs and spices). The beef dish was a completely surprise to all of us. We weren’t certain how it was going to go and then it turned out amazingly. If you eat red meat, I certainly recommend giving it a try. I want to cook from this book again, so I’m giving it a 4 out of 5 stars.

Beef and Gherkin Old Country Zrazy (serves 2)

Ingredients:

  • 2 x 150g braising steaks (chuck steak)
  • 4 tablespoons Dijon mustard (per steak)
  • 2 – 3 gherkins, cut into strips the size of a little finger
  • 1 red capsicum, cut into strips the size of a little finger
  • 4 – 5 dried mushrooms, washed and soaked in hot water overnight (water reserved) (or 1 cup of good quality chicken stock and a few sliced white mushrooms fried in butter and then added with the wine)
  • 250ml red wine
  • 1 slice rye bread
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4 – 5 allspice berries
  • salt and white pepper, to taste

Method:

  1. Place the meat in a plastic food-safe bag, or between layers of cling wrap, and bash with a rolling pin so that it’s very thin and easy to roll.
  2. Smear a good layer of mustard on one side of each steak, then cut each one in half to create four pieces (two zrazy for each person)
  3. Place your filling of gherkins and red peppers in the middle of your steaks and fold the beef around it, keeping the roll in place with two or three toothpicks. Place each roll into a flameproof casserole dish and add the re-hydrated mushrooms, along with their soaking liquid, red wine, slice of rye bread, bay leaf, and the berries. Season well with salt and white pepper.
  4. Place the casserole dish over a medium heat and bring to a simmer, then reduce the heat right down, cover and cook for 2.5 hours (a minimum of 2 hours). You’ll need to top up the liquid every now and again as it reduces down, using either water or wine.
  5. Serve with mashed potatoes, crusty bread, or toasted buckwheat groats.

Notes on this recipe:

  • I don’t like mustard very much, and I certainly don’t like gherkins. However, in this dish, the combination of all the ingredients was absolutely magical.
  • We cooked ours in a small heavy-based saucepan. This dish isn’t big and a flameproof casserole is going to be (well at least for us) way too big
  • I also used a piece of rye bread that James had made (he was in a bread making mood at the time). It was good.
  • Really, despite none of this recipe making culinary sense to me, it really was great.

Melt-in-your-mouth Mazurian Potato Marjoram Pie (serves 8)

Ingredients:

  • 1.5kg floury potatoes
  • 150g bacon lardons or finely chopped bacon (or mushrooms)
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 2 onions, very finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2 eggs, separated
  • 1 tablespoons plain flour
  • 3 tablespoons double cream
  • 1 tablespoon dried marjoram
  • salt, and white and black pepper, to taste

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C and liberally grease an 900g loaf tin (your guess is as good as mine)
  2. Grate the potatoes as finely as you can. If the potatoes are watery, then you will need to squeeze out some of the excess water. Place the grated potato in a large bowl.
  3. Fry the bacon (or mushrooms), in a frying pan over a medium heat until they release their fat and turn crispy, then set aside on a plate (if using mushrooms, fry until soft). Add the oil to the frying pan over a medium heat and fry the onions for about 5 minutes, until softened. Add the garlic and continue to fry for 2 – 3 minutes. Allow both to cool for 5 – 10 minutes before adding tot he grated potato.
  4. Beat the egg whites until soft and fluffy and then add the egg yolks and beat together until combined. Stir the eggs into the grated potato mixture, then add the flour and the cream.
  5. Add the marjoram and season the mixture with a large pinch of salt and both the peppers (be liberal). As the bacon is salty you need only to add 2 pinches of salt, however if you were make a vegetarian version and substitute the bacon for mushrooms, then you may want to add a little more.
  6. Tip the mixture into your prepared dish, the depth of the babka needs to be at least 8cm, and bake in the oven for 50 minutes – 1 hour. It is ready when the top is golden and crisp.

Notes on this recipe:

  • As you can see I made this with mushroom and it was pretty plain. The bacon version would have a lot more flavour – because bacon. Ways you can increase the flavour of the mushroom version – add more herbs (marjoram, oregano, sage), and if you have any liquid smoke, or smoked salt add that too.

Green Springtime Pierogi with Spinach, Kasza and Cheese (serves 4)

Ingredients:

For the dough

  • 300g plain flour
  • 2 egg yolks
  • pinch of salt
  • 200g spinach, juiced (or 3 – 4 tablespoons spinach juice)
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter
  • salt, to taste

For the filling

  • 200g spinach
  • 100g feta cheese
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 100g toasted buckwheat groats, cooked (bulgur)
  • salt and white pepper to taste

Method:

  1. To make the dough, combine the flour with the egg yolks, a pinch of salt and some of the spinach juice in a bowl, and knead together for about 10 minutes, adding more spinach juice to bring the dough together into a ball that has the consistency of play dough. Add a little oil and butter to make the dough more elastic and continue kneading for another 2 minutes or so. Cover with a damp tea towel and leave to rest for about 20 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, chop the spinach for the filling, place in a bowl and cover with boiling water. Leave for a minute or two and then drain thoroughly in a sieve, pressing down with a fork to make sure all the water has drained away. Return to the bowl, add the feta, lemon juice, nutmeg, buckwheat groats (bulgur) and some white pepper.
  3. Roll out your dough as thinly as possible on a floured surface. Make pierogi.
  4. Bring a large pan of lightly salted water to the boil and add the canola oil. When it’s bubbling drop a few pierogi in, 5 or 6 at a time. When they float up to the top give them another 3 – 4 minutes, then remove them from the pan with a slotted spoon. Cook the remaining pierogi in the same way.
  5. Serve!

Notes on this recipe:

  • I cooked this back in August, and I don’t remember any complaints. Talking to people who were at the dinner, they were successful.
  • Spinach juice is a pain in the arse to get, so we cooked the 200g of spinach and then put it in the food processor – which is why mine look a bit more white and green, versus green.
  • I had been overly ambitions and planned to make two different sets of pierogi recipes for the same meal. I did not have the time or kitchen space to do that when also cooking the other dishes.
  • Will definitely make pierogi again when I am feeling like dumplings and want to do fiddly things.

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