Monday, March 10, 2014

Polish Farmer's Cheeses: New Trend and Quality

Krakó Slow Wine is a wine bar and wine shop which opened a couple of months ago in the ex-industrial part of Kraków called Zabłocie. The area, where the Oscar’s Schindler Factory is also located, was a sad and depressing part of the city not so long ago. It has been revitalized during the past few years. The wine bar is run by people who are fascinated by the culture of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and, at the same time, they are importers of Georgian and Middle-Eastern European wines.  No wonder why the place offers genuine and natural wines from this part of Europe, made from local grape specimen. The “slow wine” idea focuses on searching for the roots of authentic, genuine wines. “Krakó” in Hungarian language simply means Kraków, my hometown and at the same time it is the name one of the mountains in Tokay-hegyaljai (the wine territory in Hungary). This is where the Wille-Baumkauff family makes a wine called Pendits Furmint Krakó. “We want to prove that natural wines can be clear, lasting and excellent”- underline the owners. There are around 50 various wines in their offer (Hungarian Tokay, Eger regions, Romanian Nachbil and Georgian producers). The place is not big, but not too small as for Kraków standards. Additionally, when you enter the place, it seems to be actually quite spacious, thanks to high ceilings and skylights which also make the whole premises lighter. Every month the owners organize meetings and discussions about wine and food. Aside from wine, it also offers some regional snacks and specialties, including Polish farmer’s cheeses.

Who's one of the best cheese experts in Poland?

Cheese and wine is a natural and common pairing so no wonder why the owners invited to Kraków one of the most renowned cheese experts in Poland – Gieno Mientkiewicz. The evening and the degustation where I went last week was dedicated to wines from Central Europe and the cheeses for the tasting were brought by Mr. Mientkiewicz from Warsaw. The meeting was moderated by my friend Mariusz Kapczyński, who is a wine passionate, and the owner of vinisfera, a web site about wines. If there is anyone who knows everything about Polish cheeses, this is Mientkiewicz, a guy whose life history is a bit twisted, as he says, but fascinating. Lately he was even interviewed in Warsaw by journalists from the BBC. They tried some Polish farmer’s cheeses and they fell in love with them! He's a walking cheese encyclopedia, no wonder why he has his own TV program dedicated to Polish farmer's cheeses.

Polish farmer's cheeses – sery zagrodowe. What is that?

Farmer’s cheeses are called in Polish "sery zagrodowe". The author of this term, which is commonly used among the foodies to describe Polish farmer’s cheeses, is also Mientkiewicz. "Zagroda" literally means a croft in Polish; as these cheeses are made by small family enterprises.  Mientkiewicz travels all over Poland and visits various Polish cheese makers, finding some jewels.

When one looks at the map of Polish cheeses, one will notice that there is relatively a lot of cheesemakers. Their number is estimated to about 600 but it is probable that there are more than this. Let's hope that we will soon be able to read about them in the first guide on Polish farmer's cheeses. According to Mientkiewicz, there are two most important "cheese areas" in Poland. The first one is located in the north east of the country. This is where the so called "breakfast cheeses" are produced, such as Wiżajny, Tykocin and korycińskie cheeses,  which are delicate, natural in taste, and of course, ideal for breakfast. The second is area is located in Lower Silesia (south west) where eccentric cheese makers experiment with textures, flavours and ideas. 

Making quality cheeses is a tough business in Poland. It is due mostly to the lack of experience. The producers of these cheeses cannot rely on rich traditions, as they are the first generation of people who decided to go into the cheese business. As we know, French or Italians built their cheese reputation over decades and generations. 5, 10 or even 20 years is not enough to build quality, distribution and trademark, even when cheese makers work hard, are determined and patient. Moreover, the Polish Government does not support small food producers. As many say, Gieno Mientkiewicz plays the role of a "locomotive" for the cheese business, finding cheese marvels and trying to promote them in the whole country. To sum up, despite the obstacles the cheese market changes slowly in Poland. 20 years ago the only cheeses that available in stores were: "ser biały" (literally, "white cheese" or tvarog) and "ser żółty" (literally, "yellow cheese" like fake edam, gouda and so on, usually sweet in taste and good for kids). I do not mention traditional and regional cheeses, for example oscypek, bryndza, bundz all from the Podhale region or korycińskie from Podlasie, in the east of the country, which were always present in non formal trading, as it was possible to buy them in the countryside or on food markets.

These Polish farmer’s cheeses are often manufactured in areas which are ecologically clean. The animals are fed naturally and they eat what is available in the season. As a result, the taste of milk differs according to the seasons, and it is a real challenge for producers to keep the taste and the quality of their products consistent all year round. As you may guess, some of the cheese makers are people who quitted the cities and moved to the countryside.  Certain of these cheeses are great, as made by talented people, and tons of them are good. They are, more or less directly, inspired by the heritage of other countries, like for example France or Italy. In the wide range you will find cheeses from fresh, non pasteurized goat, sheep or cow’s milk. Amongst those cheeses you will find some flavoured with domestic or foreign herbs or other seasonings; soft cheeses with a white mold or washed rind crust; blue cheeses, semi hard cheeses (uncooked and pressed ) and cooked and pressed hard cheeses. These homemade cheeses are expensive, but do you know any good farmer’s cheese that is inexpensive?

Because farmer's cheeses are expensive and represent a niche market, their distribution channel in Poland is still bad. However, things look better than a few years ago. First of all one can buy cheeses on food festivals (which are organized mostly in the summertime, like for example the "Gruczno food festival" which takes place every August, the "Good Cheese Festival" in Lidzbark Warmiński and the "Festiwal Nieskończonych Form Mleka" in Sandomierz). Secondly, the most renowned producers sell cheeses on line, vacuum pack them and send via messenger to any private address. Thirdly, there are some internet stores like this one run by Gieno Mientkiewicz, which carries cheeses from various producers. Finally, they start to be available in certain ordinary stores or food markets, especially particular in Warsaw.

Who are the most renowned producers of farmer's cheeses?

Today I will only mention a couple of them, which I know quite well. The producers listed below are known in Poland among foodies and chefs who promote new Polish cuisine.

Sery łomnickie (łomnickie cheeses): Made by the Sokolowscy family, owners of a farm located in the south west of Poland. They specialize in goat cheeses. Some of them won domestic competitions. Their aged goat cheeses are also surprising (natural ones as well as those with spices, for example cloves or fenugrec).

Rancho frontiera: An organic farm in the Masuria region, in the north of Poland. The owners make excellent sheep’s and cow’s cheeses. They produce excellent aged, blue and young cheeses, which most famous is the jersey blue cheese. It won the main award at the Gruczno Festival in 2013.

Gospodarstwo Rolne "Kaszubska koza": Honorata and Tomasz Strubińscy's farm named "The goat of Kashubia" is located in Robaczkowo, in the Kashubia region (northern Poland) is a family business where the two passionate make extraordinary goat’s cheeses from non pasteurized, fresh goat milk. I have tried all of their products and two of them are absolutely excellent: one is called "drunk goat", a goat cheese macerated in fruit marc. The other one is an extremely delicate young and fresh goat cheese called "kozia rura".

Sery z Wiżajn: Cow’s aged hard cheeses made with rennet, according to traditional recipes of older inhabitants of the Wiżajny and Rutka Tartak districts in the northeast of Poland.

Sery grądzkie (Wielkopolska): The owners mainly produce aged goat cheeses, most of them being over one year old. Their cheeses are recommended by the most renowned Polish chefs and restaurateurs, such as Agnieszka Kręglicka and chef Adam Chrząstowski.

Kogel mogel with Goat's Halvah Cheese

This is the simplest dessert to prepare.  Kogel mogel are just egg yolks stirred with sugar. This type of preparation became known under this name in the 17th-century amongst Jewish communities of Central Europe. The dessert was very popular when I was a kid, a period when sweets were difficult to buy in stores. The only requirement is to have top quality eggs which must absolutely be clean and disinfected, if you do not want to risk to catch salmonella.

I had it last summer at Solec 44 in Warszawa with an unusual flavoring: the goat cheese called "goat halvah" made by Mrs. Sokołowska of sery łomnickie (mentioned above). During the event at the Lipowa wine bar, this cheese was offered to me by Mentkiewicz. This cheese is a real must. It is made of the goat’s whey caramelized for several hours, similarly to his far Norwegian cousin, geitost.  It is not as sweet as halvah, but its texture resembles halvah a bit and it also a bit nutty with a delicate after taste of yeast and sourness. The "goat halvah" may be served on a platter with other cheeses, but it is supposed to be at its best as a seasoning or as an addition to desserts. Top Polish chefs use this cheese in their restaurants. The first Michelin star chef, Wojciech Amaro makes an ice cream with it. After I got the cheese, I copied this extraordinary version of kogel mogel and had it as a little dessert.

Seves 2
4 egg yolks, free range eggs
2 heap tbs sugar
A bit of grated goat halvah cheese
Fresh thyme

It is a simple dessert to prepare. Place raw egg yolks with sugar in a bowl. Whip egg yolks with sugar to obtain a smooth and creamy texture. Sugar must be completely dissolved.
Pour mixture into serving dishes.
Sprinkle the cheese on top.
Sprinkle some thyme leaves.

Bon appétit!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Mój wywiad z cukiernikiem Sadaharu Aoki w magazynie Kuchnia

Zapraszam Was do przeczytania mojego wywiadu z jednym z najbardziej renomowanych paryskich cukierników – Japończykiem Sadaharu Aoki, tworzącym od wielu lat we Francji. Artykuł został opublikowany w lutowym numerze magazynu „Kuchnia”. Mam nadzieję, że Wam się spodoba. Poznałam Sadaharu Aoki w ubiegłym roku. To niesamowity człowiek, który odniósł spektakularny sukces w branży nie tylko dzięki talentowi, ale przede wszystkim dzięki mrówczej pracy. Nad Sekwanę przeprowadził się wiele lat temu. Zaczynał tam od zera. 
I invite the Polish readers to my interview with Sadaharu Aoki which was published in the February edition of Polish “Kuchnia” magazine (which literally means “la cuisine”). Japanese Sadaharu Aoki is one of the most renowned pastry chefs and chocolatiers working  in France.
Here's the link to his pastry shops located in Paris.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Poles make wines? Are you crazy?

Poland is not a leading market in the wine business and never will be. However, wine production in the country is currently a tiny industry. There also exists an active amateur winery and viticulture scene in the regions of Podkarpacie (in the southeast), lubuskie - close to the city of Zielona Góra in the west, Wrocław in the southwest, Kraków in the south and Kazimierz Dolny in the east. Although there is no official register, it is estimated that there are about 1,000 of hectares of vineyards today. The passionate meet on yearly wine convents, present and evaluate their wines, exchange their experience. 

What are other renowned Polish vineyards?
The list of the most renowned Polish vineyards (according to my friend, no official statistic):

How come Poles make wines?

One should search for the answer in history. In a distant past, wines were made on the territories of Old Poland. The wine was produced there in the Middle Ages (after the Christianization in the 10th century). At the beginning it was probably made by monasteries, later on by nobles and rich inhabitants of the cities. My friend Wojciech Bosak, a wine passionate, a juror and a renowned wine expert in Poland (link to his blog) is of the opinion that the oldest vineyard was founded in Kraków, in the 10th century, close to the royal Wawel castle. The culmination of wine production was in the 13thand 14th centuries. Until today there are villages and little towns in Poland which name are derived from the word "wine" which in Polish is “wino”. In the 16th century, when beer and vodka (gorzałka) became more popular, wine production started to decrease. Moreover, at a certain point in time, cheap imports of wines from countries where wine making was easier, most notably Hungary, was one of the reasons why the production of wine in the Old Poland started to die slowly. Then, the long wars of the 17th century destroyed Polish vineyards. In the 18th century, people started to experiment again with wine production. It was due to the development of gardening and plantation rules and scientific discoveries. The economic crisis after 1863 forced land owners to focus on other types of productions. Strong winters at that time destroyed again the attempts of winemakers. In the 20th century, the trend to create vineyards was suddenly disturbed by WW2. After 1945 the Polish borders were changed. Poland lost its eastern territories and gained some in the west. For example Zielona Góra had strong traditions in wine making in the past (sparkling wine was produced there in a similar method than French Champagne and accounted to about 800,000 bottles per year). After 1945, communists decided to continue wine production; however it appeared to be a total disaster in the state owned enterprises.

Polish young wine - an alternative to French Beaujolais Nouveau?

The habit to drink young wines in Europe comes from the Middle Ages. St. Martin de Tours, who lived in the 4th century, was the patron of wine makers, and the guardian of cattle and geese.  That was the time of the establishment of the first vineyards in Galia. The cult of St Martin erupted in Germany and then became popular in other European countries (today's Austria, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary).  This young wine was usually served with goose meat, which is supposed to be the best in November.

A couple of weeks ago I was invited to an event promoting young Polish wine ("wino świętomarcińskie" or "wine for St. Martin’s"). It was organized by Slowfood Polska and the owners of the second largest Polish vineyard "Srebrna Góra" (which in English means "The Silver Mountain"). They decided to create a trend for drinking young Polish wines. They have an idea to make an alternative to French Beaujolais Nouveau, which is popular in Poland, but usually not good at all.

We tasted white wines and red wines from Srebrna Góra. Both were created by the best Polish enologist – Agnieszka Wyrobek Rousseau. The white wine (Solaris and Siegerebe), which was semi-dry, met an enthusiastic reception (the vineyard produced only 400 bottles of this wine, so it was practically not available in the stores). However, I preferred the red wine (Rondo and Acolon). This wine should go well with food (in particular with goose meat). The vineyard produced 3,000 bottles of the last one and they have been available on the web store

Srebrna Góra – The Silver Mountain

The vineyard is located in a historical area, on the slope of Srebrna Góra (The Silver Mountain) of the historical monastery of the Camaldolese monks in Bielany. In this area the vineyard tradition is nearly one thousand years old (the first comments about wine making come from the 10th century). The Camaldolese are part of the Benedictine family of monastic communities which follow the way of life outlined in the Rule of St. Benedict, written in the 6th century.

With its 12 hectares, this vineyard is the second largest in Poland, located in the picturesque valley of the Wisła River. The orientation to the south guarantees appropriate exposure to the sun. On the other hand it is naturally protected by the forest called “Wolski”.

This vineyard would not be successful if it was not established by total passionate people. The motto of the owners is their love for wine. It may sound a bit naïve, as probably most of small wine producers make wine because they love wine, and not vodka or beer. They want to create top quality wines, full of emotions, dreams and passions.

Where to buy those wines from Srebrna Góra?
The wines of Srebrna Góra may be bought on line here.
If you are in Kraków, you can try to find them in several places – restaurants and wine bars which have been mushrooming lately in town. For sure you will find the wine in Da Pietro restaurant (on the Market Square) as it is ran by the owners of the vineyard. The other places: Vintage Restauracja & Winiarnia (on the Market Square); Lipowa 6F wine bar on Zabłocie District (close to the Schindler’s factory); and also: restaurant Szara at the Main Market Square and Konfederacka wine bar.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Baked Goose with Jerusalem Artichokes for Polish Independence Day

Yesterday was Independence Day in Poland. Some of you could even watch or read the news in the press, showing riots and numerous acts of vandalism in Warsaw. The Independence Day in Kraków was much calmer, but the whole day was spoiled because of what happened in Warsaw.
Anyway, I ordered an organic oat goose a couple of weeks ago. It arrived on Saturday and we had it yesterday for lunch. You can read more about the goose season in Poland in this post and this one.

Yesterday, I baked the whole bird. The inspiration came from the recipe of Wojciech Modest Amaro who indicates to bake it for 5 hours. The meat was very tasty, although slightly hard ( I believe it could be baked a bit longer at a low temperature). I served it with a Polish style stuffing consisting of buckwheat, dried plums, smoked dried mushrooms and apples. You may prepare the stuffing on the previous day, the taste will even be better. My family could also try Jerusalem artichokes baked in honey. Polish goose goes very well with shredded beats, which is an extremely popular side dish in my country. I also experimented yesterday a red cabbage purée with shallots. The purée was tasty, but its texture was not ideal as it was not smooth).

Polish Baked Goose
Serves 6

For the goose and stuffing:
1 young goose (around 5 kg)
150 g dried prunes, thinly sliced
Around 200 g buckwheat
50 g dried mushrooms, soaked in about 400 ml of water
2 medium onions, peeled and finely chopped
Fresh thyme leaves
1 goose liver, chopped
2 sour apples, peeled and cut into small cubes
1 garlic clove, chopped
Goose grease
Salt and pepper

1. Prepare the stuffing. Soak the mushrooms in water for a couple of hours, alternatively cook them for around 30 minutes until soft. In a sauce pan, heat some goose grease, add buckheat and roast it for 2 minutes. Add mushrooms with the mushroom broth, bring to a boil, cook under the cover for around 6-7 minutes or until water evaporates, leave under the cover.
2. In a hot frying pan, melt goose grease and fry the onions until gold. Add apples, prunes and cook until apples are nearly soft. Add goose liver, thyme, and fry for around 2 minutes, stirring. Finally, add buckwheat with mushrooms, salt and pepper. Taste and put aside.
3. Tight goose legs and wings. Rub the goose with salt and chopped garlic and refrigerate overnight. Rub off the garlic in the morning (so it does not burn). Heat the oven to 90°C. Stuff the bird and sew the skin to close the cavity. Place in a large pan. Bake for 5 hours at 90°C. Then remove the bird from the oven, wrap it in aluminum foil, place it vertically and let it rest for 30 minutes. Warm the oven to 220°C and bake the bird for another 30 minutes. Cut the goose into pieces and serve with Jerusalem artichokes, the stuffing, beets and cabbage purée.

Baked Jerusalem Artichokes
300 g Jerusalem artichokes (peeled, washed and cut along into halves)
2 table spoons buckwheat honey
Goose grease

In a bowl, mix goose grease with honey, add Jerusalem artichokes and bake for 20 minutes at 220°C or until soft (depending on their size, the baking time will differ), mixing occasionally. You can also fry them in a frying pan. Delicately sprinkle with a bit of salt.

Traditional Polish Shredded Beetroots
4 medium beetroots
A bit of lemon juice

You can bake the beetroots the day before baking your goose. Bake your beets in the oven (180°C) for one hour or until soft. Let them cool down completely and peel them. Thinly shred or blend them (I prefer the first option). In a saucepan, melt some butter, add beets and warm them up. Sprinkle with lemon juice, add cream, salt and pepper to taste. Heat well stirring constantly (it may easily burn).

Red cabbage purée
1/2 red cabbage, finely shredded
2 shallots, peeled and chopped
2-3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons brown sugar
Heavy cream
Goose grease

In a large sauce pan, heat goose grease, add cabbage and simmer until nearly soft. In the meantime, in a small saucepan, add about 150 ml of water, the red vinegar and the sugar, bring to a boil, add shallots and reduce the heat down to the minimum. Cook until the liquid evaporates completely. Mix shallots with cabbage, blend them thoroughly until quite smooth (although its texture will not be smooth), add cream and a bit of butter, and salt to taste. Heat well.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Goose Season. Warm Salad with Smoked Goose Breast, Chanterelles and Pumpkin.

Summer in Poland is gone. We are close to November which means that the peak of the goose season approaches. As you might remember it, last year I wrote a bit about the excellent Polish oat goose. I also mentioned the action promoting the Polish oat goose – "Gęsina na św. Marcina" – (goose tastes best on St. Martin’s fest”). This year, the event will last for more than two weeks: from 8th November to 1st December 2013. Selected restaurants, including top ones, have goose specialties on their menu. If you are in Poland at that time, I strongly recommend to visit one of the restaurants listed HERE.

Goose meat is also promoted by the authorities of the Kujawsko-Pomorskie Region. The region and a local touristic organization have created the "Goose Culinary Route" (Gęsinowy Szlak Kulinarny) which is financed, inter alia, by the Polish Ministry of Sports and Tourism. The region specializes in goose breading, and goose meat produced in this area is of a very good quality. You may then taste the classic baked goose, but also the famous "półgęsek" (an ancient specialty made from boneless goose breast with the skin on, cured and slowly smoked) or "okrasa" (a kind of spread which you can use as a topping for tartines). The official opening of the Goose Culinary Route is planned for the 7th of November 2013:

Below is a list of restaurants which are recommended by a special committee and, as a result, are listed on this culinary route:
  1. Restaurant "Weranda", Hotel Bohema, Bydgoszcz
  2. Restaurant "1921", Hotel Pod Orłem, Bydgoszcz
  3. Restaurant "Za piecem", Bydgoszcz
  4. "Regionalna Warzelnia Piwa", Bydgoszcz
  5. Hotelu Filmar Restaurant, Toruń
  6. Hotel 1231 Restaurant, Toruń
  7. Hotel Heban Restaurant, Toruń
  8. Jan Olbracht Browar Staromiejski, Toruń
  9. Sfera by Sebastian Krauzowicz Restaurant, Hotelu Copernicus, Toruń
  10. Ostromecka Restaurant, Ostromecko
  11. Gęsia Dolina Restaurant, Ślesin
  12. Karczma Rzym, Pawłówek
  13. Karczma Borowiacka, Bysław
  14. Vistula Hotel Restaurant, Świecie
  15. Karczma Chełmińska, Chełmno
  16. Hotel Młyn&SPA Restaurant, Włocławek
  17. Pałac Bursztynowy Restaurant, Włocławek

I still have one "półgęsek" in my fridge which I bought in Gruczno as it is practically impossible to buy it in any shop in Kraków (the distribution of local products in Poland is really bad and this is due to various reasons). Some restaurants here serve it occasionally. If I had my own house with a garden and a smokehouse, I would make this "półgęsek" on my own – the recipe itself is not complicated. I also brought from Gruczno an excellent buckwheat honey made by Mr. Wnuk from Lniano. His buckwheat honey won the first place at the Festival (it was also served during our Parisian event by chef Baron. It goes very well with sautéed pumpkin.

Warm Salad with Smoked Goose Breast, Chanterelles, Pumpkin and Spinach
(sałata na ciepło z półgęskiem, kurkami, dynią i szpinakiem)

Ingredients (serves 2-3)
200 g chanterelles
100 g smoked goose breast (półgęsek), thinly sliced (may be replaced with magret de canard)
1 small bunch fresh spinach leaves
200 g pumpkin, cut into thin slices
Buckwheat honey of good quality
1 table spoon, lemon juice
50 g fresh goat cheese
1 garlic clove, thinly chopped
Olive oil or cold pressed colza oil
Arugula flowers (optional)
Fresh thyme

Prepare the mushrooms: Using a brush, delicately clean mushrooms from leftovers of the forest. Scratch the stems to remove soil. Rinse the mushrooms delicately under cold water. In a saucepan, slowly melt butter over minimum heat (do not stir). Remove from heat and skim the foam off the surface. Spoon the butter into a bowl. Discard the milky sediment. In a hot large frying pan, heat butter, add mushrooms (they should not be crowded, so they can grill evenly) and fry them on each side for a couple of minutes, until nicely grilled (depending on the thickness) and until they release their juices and absorb them back in (when frying over high heat, they should not release a lot of juice). Add garlic, fry for about one more minute. Salt and pepper.
Prepare the spinach: clean and wash your spinach, spin it. In a hot large frying pan, heat butter with a bit of olive oil, add spinach and fry it until soft. Salt at the end. At the same time, in another frying pan, melt some butter, add pumpkin slices, fry for a couple of minutes, then add honey with lemon. Reduce the heat and let the pumpkin simmer until nicely grilled and caramelized.

Prepare your salad: roll tiny cheese balls from your goat cheese. Heat the mushrooms. Put the caramelized pumpkin onto your plates. Put the spinach, chanterelles, cheese balls and the goose meat on top. Top generously with fresh thyme leaves, salt and pepper, as well as some olive oil or colza oil if you want.

Bon appétit !

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Polish Institute and Fête de la Gastronomie in Paris. 20-21 September 2013

A couple of months ago the Polish Institute in Paris asked me to co-organize an event promoting Polish cuisine. In September, "La Fête de la Gastronomie" is an important culinary event organized in France which is supported by the French Ministry of the Arts and Crafts, of the Trade and of Tourism (Ministère de l'Artisanat, du Commerce et du Tourisme). Basically, La Fête de la Gastronomie" is designated to the promotion of the French cuisine, but this year national cuisines of other countries were welcomed to present their culinary heritages. We did not have much time; the decision to participate in the event was taken in June, right before the holiday season, while the whole thing was planned for the month of September. We really had very little time!

As I mentioned it many times in this blog, Polish cuisine experiences great times (although you do not notice that so often in most restaurants). After years of fall during the communism, we witness the birth of a new Polish culinary art. Talented and non conformist chefs bravely use ancient traditions of the regions, the richness of nature, the extraordinary history and the unique, traditional techniques of food preparation as well as food products from the best local producers. That is why the Polish Institute invited Aleksander Baron, a talented chef of the young generation, to be in charge of setting up a menu, choosing the products, which arrived straight from some of the best producers in Poland and preparing the meals in Paris.

On Friday, 20th September, some selected guests were invited to the beautiful palace of the Polish Embassy in Paris. The honorable patronage over lunch was performed by Mrs. Urszula Orłowska, the wife of the Polish Ambassador in Paris.

This Friday lunch started with a famous chilled soup (chłodnik) made with Polish Red cattle broth and Polish noble crayfish. Then Białowieża Woodland bison - tenderloin was served with milk cap mushrooms and wild carrots as well as with Jerusalem artichokes baked in phacelia honey and wild Polish thyme. Between the courses the chef served "amuse-bouches", such as for example Vistula trout, pickled river lamprey and smoked goose breast. Dessert was simple but unique, as the chef had elected honeydew honey honeycomb, Polish sour cream and farmers' tvarog from Smykań, all of them brought over from Poland of course. Unfortunately, the artisanal butter which was part of the shipment did not survive the transportation by plane. Thus, the chef was not able to serve what he had anticipated: ice cream from butter from Smykań, Vistula sour cherry in single distilled young potato vodka (Młody Ziemniak 2012). The lunch was accompanied by an assortment of the best, local Polish liqueurs (nalewki) and vodkas, all chosen by the chef.

To make a step into in the culinary future, one has to know the past. That is why the second event, which took place on Saturday evening in one small Parisian restaurant (specializing in Hungarian food) called Beashka, was dedicated to Polish influences in the 19th century French cuisine. The dinner was animated by the renowned food and culture historian professor Jaroslaw Dumanowski, while chef Baron adapted ancient recipes to our more modern culinary language. Our guests could taste revised versions of meals based on ancient recipes from old French cook books like, for example, Vincent La Chapelle "Le cuisinier moderne" (The Hague, 1742) and Urbain Dubois "La cuisine classique" (Paris, 1856). Hardly anybody knows that a couple of hundred years ago, Polish cookery had been appreciated and described by old masters of French cuisine, who had been using Polish inspirations in their cooking.

The dinner started with Polish noble crayfish cooked with dill weed and lemon butter roux. The guests then were served two risky dishes: beets and carps. An excellent Polish borscht was prepared with pickled beetroots and smoked goose breast (półgęsek). Boneless carp from the Land of 1,000 lakes (Mazury) was served with an old fashioned grey sauce with gingerbread (from the pastry shop of Franciszek Pokojski in Toruń) and a parsley mousse. For desert, the chef served a selection of four ancient Polish species of apples (antonówka, grochówka, szczecinka, boskop) which were simply baked. Of course, everything was accompanied by Polish liqueurs (nalewki) and vodka, chosen by the chef.
Here's is the link to the booklet we prepared for the event.

The whole event was recorded by the National Digital Library of Poland and digitalized.

Let's hope that the Polish Institute will repeat the project in the future.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

My Article about Parisian Pastry Chefs in Kuchnia Magazine. And Why I Was Silent.

It's been quite a while since my last post on the blog. Those of you who follow the Tasty Colours profile on Facebook are quite aware of what I was doing for the past couple of months. For those, who are not linked to Facebook: we were involved in a big move from France to Kraków. It took us a couple of months to organize ourselves in our new apartment.

We spent February and March in Paris. A day before leaving Kraków for Paris, my husband broke his leg,  then he had a surgery in Paris and the cast on his leg for 3 months.  Having a broken leg seems a bit stupid but actually is handicapping, so not only I was "working" as a driver for my husband, but also I was involved into many more things than usual. Despite the limitations caused by my husband's broken leg and the organization of the move from one country to another, I succeeded to make a couple of interviews with some top Parisian pastry chefs like Sadaharu Aoki, Gérard Mulot. I also visited the Maison Hermé and la Pâtisserie des Rêves and had a chance to have a chat with their press officers, to try the pastries and to take pictures.  The article was published in the July edition of the Polish culinary magazine Kuchnia

So, as you can see, despite this long silence on the blog, I was not completely disconnected from food matters. I am very happy about my article.  At the moment, I have no time for cooking and presenting a lot of the recipes, as I started to co-operate with some institutions in food related matters, but first of all I also work in my law firm.

It is the season here, in Krakow, for fava beans. Do you like fava beans? As I love pierogi and since I did not make any in months, I decided to prepare some last week and to stuff them with fresh mint, cooked fava beans and local sheep's cheese.

I served them with beurre noisette. When I was a kid, I spent a lot of our holidays in the mountains, where the mint was growing like crazy. Local people were collecting it and drying it out (in particular, around 15th of August – which is a religious celebration) but I do not remember that they were using it for cooking. From the perspective of years, I think that it was one of the result of the communist regime. The food that I remember from my holiday surely was not local and could be found anywhere. Even in the Podhale region, where small farms survived and where I had never seen a state owned agricultural enterprise (PGR) , the local cuisine was never served to us. Only a couple of years ago I found out that fresh mint was traditionally used in this region to make, for example, a garlic-mint soup with potatoes. Fresh mint may also be used to stuff pierogi, for example buckwheat and tvarog, or lamb.

Pierogi with Fava Beans, Bryndza Cheese, Fresh Mint and Potatoes


300 g pierogi dough (follow the basic pierogi doughrecipe)
500 g fava beans (not peeled)
150 g bryndza (or other sheep's cheese)
1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 small potatoes (around 200 g both), peeled
1 handful fresh mint, finely chopped
few mint leaves, for garnishing
around 150 g butter

1. Cook fava beans in salted water. Strain and let them cool down. Then remove their skins off.
2. Cook potatoes in salted water. Once they are cooked, strain and mash them.
3. In the meantime, fry onions over medium heat, until they are gold.
4. In a bowl, mix the cheese well, the mint, potatoes, fava beans and onions. Add generously salt and pepper, taste.
5. To make pierogi, follow the directions in the basic dough recipe
6. When the pierogi are cooked, prepare a beurre noisette, called in English "hazelnut butter" (for its hazelnut colour and nutty flavor). Add around 100 gram of butter, and let it cook over a gentle fire, allowing it to separate into butter fat and milk solids. The milk solids then sinks to the bottom of the pan and start to brown up with the heat, as the cooking process continues, until reaching a color of hazelnut, when the browned butter is finally removed from heat. Add fresh mint leaves, so they can fry gently (over low heat, so they will not become bitter). Serve immediately over your pierogi dish.

Bon appétit !

Friday, March 1, 2013

Ancient Veggies and Slowly Braised Pork Belly by Eric Ospital. Świerząbek – popie jajka i wolno duszony boczek Erica Ospital.

Sometime I find a recipe which I would like to cook right away, but for some reasons it must “wait”, like a good wine.  More than one year ago, when I was in Paris, my husband was awaiting surgery. We were sitting one Sunday morning in the kitchen and we were listening to the program about cooking “On va deguster” which is broadcasted every Sunday on France Inter, a French public radio station. Chefs, pastry chefs, famous bloggers and food producers are invited to the program. On va deguster reminds me that when I was a small girl, I was often sick. When I was sick, I used to stay home alone. I was reading books, but the radio had to be turned on all the time. You might not know about that, but in the middle of the eighties, in Poland, we had only two TV channels and there were no programs for kids during the day.  There was no video recorder in my family. The radio was the only option to be entertained. 

Coming back to this program which we listened to one year ago: it was about pork meat. The special guest of the program was, inter alia, Eric Ospital, a renowned producer of pork and hams from the south of France - close to the Pyrenees (he produces, inter alia, Jambon Ibaiona, Jambon Pays Basque). Today’s recipe is his recipe for a slowly braised pork belly. Why I decided to cook this? Because the idea of this pork belly is to have two textures – “fondant et croquant” – soft, nearly melting meat – “fondant” and covered by crispy external crust ("croquant").  He advises to braise the pork belly for 12 hours. In my case 8 hours were sufficient (I used a relatively small piece of pork belly).  The finishing in butter gives the crispy texture outside. 
I served it with baked, winter, ancient vegetables: “racine de cerfeuil” (tuberous-rooted chervil, bulbous chervil), yellow – violet rutabaga (swede), yellow turnips, Jerusalem artichokes, potatoes and carrots – baked with fresh bay leaves and fresh rosemary. 

Do you know “racine de cerfeuil”? In latin it is called Chaerophyllum bulbosum, in English “tuberous-rooted chervil”, “bulbous chervil”. It is root vegetable which was popular in the past (allegedly a specie from the carrot family), a native of Europe and Western Asia.  The tuberous-rooted chervil was a popular vegetable in the 19th century. 
This mysterious rooted chervil was also known in Poland and was called “świerząbek”. And you will not believe, but it is mentioned as “popie jajka” (“priest  testicles”) in the first Polish cookbook – the famous Compendium Ferculorum, written and published in the  17th century (described in details in my January post

The vegetable can be eaten raw (thinly sliced, sprinkled with olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper), it may be boiled, baked or fried. It is starchy, like topinambur and potatoes (especially once baked in the oven), but sweet like parsley root or parsnip. It grows in Poland in fields, as topinambour (Jerusalem artichoke), but I do not believe that it is available in any store in Poland. Now forgotten in Britain and in the United States, allegedly root chervil is still used in French cuisine, in soups or stews. One more thing: after two weeks in Paris, I have an impression that topinambour is as common as potatoes. I have checked: one can buy topinambour in every food market in Paris, in food stores like Monoprix, in stores with bio food (Bio c’bon), Naturalia,and even in food discount stores. The price is between 3 and 4 euro a kilo.

I found the rooted chervil two weeks ago, on the food market boulevard Raspail – the one, where I used to do my shopping every Tuesday and every Friday when we lived rue de Bérite. Almost everything looks the same.  The same “poissonniers” sell fresh seafood, the same man in glasses pushing you to buy vegetables and the same guy selling farmers’ cheeses. One thing was new – Americans selling specialties including burgers straight from “a food truck”. They called themselves “Cantina California”.  It seems that "street food" is trendy in Paris, which is not so obvious, because: a) a typical French person hates to eat with hands – and the burgers the American guys sell are huge and juicy and you HAVE to eat them with your hands b) a typical French person does not eat outside, standing up – he or she MUST sit down; c) a typical French person does not like to eat in a hurry.  The first “food truck” in Paris was Le camion qui Fume which appeared in some Parisian streets in November 2011 and it was a huge success. The “Cantina California”, the competitor, which has only been in business for a few months is also successful. Both published their burgers cookbooks which are available in Fnac stores. 

Slowly Braised Pork Belly (by Eric Ospital)

(serves 2) 

500-600 g raw, nice pork belly (as it does not contain too much meat, you should count around 300 grams per person (which includes abound 120 grams of meat)
2 grains all spice
Few brines fresh thyme
2 bay leaves (most possibly, fresh ones)
2 small carrots, peeled and washed, cut into slices
2 medium onions, cut into halves
1 liter chicken stock
1 medium leek (white part), washed and cut into slices
50 g butter
Black pepper grains
Chives, finely chopped, for garnishing

1.Brown onions on a dry frying pan or over the fire. Place pork belly in a saucepan. Add carrots, onions, thyme, laurel leaves, all spice, pepper grains and cover with the stock (if you do not have enough, add some white wine or water). Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to a minimum and cook under the cover for 12 hours. You should check the cooking time because my pork belly was “fondant” after 8 hours. 
2. Cool down and refrigerate overnight.
3. On the next day: cut the pork belly into thick slices. Heat the pan, reduce the heat to a minimum, add butter and melt it. Place pieces of belly in the pan, it should caramelize on all sides between 20-30 minutes, until it is brown and crispy. Sprinkle with chives or parsley, serve with vegetables (the recipe below) and also with a green salad (for digestion) as advised by Eric Ospital.

Roasted Ancient Root Vegetables

Serves 2-3

2 medium Jerusalem artichoke (topinambour) - around 100 g
150 g racine de cerfeuil (tuberous-rooted chervil) around 6 pieces
1 medium rutabaga (around 100 g)
1 medium yellow turnip (“boule d’or) 
1 medium potato  
1 carrot
Fresh rosemary 
Fresh thyme
Olive oil
3-4 bay leaves

Peel and wash vegetables. Dry them out. Cut into strips (French fries type). Pour olive oil and mix. Salt generously, pepper. Place in a pan, add rosemary, thyme and bay leaves. Bake in the oven preheat to 180 degrees for around 30 minutes, occasionally mixing. Serve with braised pork belly.

Smacznego !

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