Hello, let’s start today with discovering Old Polish cuisine, as announced in my previous long post. You know what I was doing last Saturday and Sunday? I spent entire Saturday chopping, peeling, slicing, dicing, cooking and trying to understand how to deal with ancient recipes from the 17th century written in archaic Polish language. I cooked a few dishes. I discovered new food compositions and I will share those recipes with you in upcoming posts, one by one. Have a look at the teaser below:
When I finished my cooking, it was already dark. Because I photograph my meals only using day light, I got up early on Sunday, did the session and shot the pictures in bizarre positions which made my back hurt like hell.
Below is the reprint of the first Polish cookbook by Stanisław Czerniecki. It is not an easy “cookbook”. It does not provide for any measurements or proportions so, really, you have to rely on your own imagination, taste and some historical knowledge which fortunately is presented in an interesting and very well written introduction of professor Jarosław Dumanowski. The book, published recently within a series called “Monumenta Poloniae Culinaria” - is an elegant and very nicely published work of 240 pages done by the Wilanów Museum in Warsaw, the Nicolas Copernicus University in Toruń and Lubomirski Foundation. There are 333 recipes, which are short, even extremely brief (“take an animal, cut it into smaller parts, cook it, and in the middle of cooking add this and that”). Fortunately the book contains a glossary of old Polish culinary terms and quite a lot of reproductions of old paintings and pictures which somehow guide you.
Remember that the recipes presented below reflect my personal attempts to test ancient, Old Polish cuisine rather than an attempt to reconstruct an authentic taste and flavor which – as I wrote in my last post – probably would not be edible according to our present taste. Those cooks of the 17th century used to add too much pepper, sugar and acids. I started with the dish which I liked most - braised lamb roll - which I decided to do at the last minute, after I discovered that I had some spare, cheap lamb’s meat, perfect for braising. The combination of acid and salty capers with sweet raisins and vinegar, enhanced by home made veal stock was tasty, in particular with an ancient root vegetable called Jerusalem artichokes fried with goose grease, rosemary and garlic. Jerusalem artichoke was very common in Poland 200 or 300 years ago but disappeared completely from Polish tables and menus. I tried it for the first time two years ago. A week ago, I was given one kilogram of these interesting roots by my friend, who writes an excellent blog about wines. The Jerusalem artichoke arrived in Old Poland, to the best of my knowledge, from America and became popular later on. Nowadays you will not buy it in the groceries. People who have family houses in the countryside say that it grows widely in many locations, it is extremely expansive as a plant, so it is not so difficult to find.
Sweet and Sour Braised Lamb Rolls with Capers and Raisins
(słodko – kwaśna rolada jagnięca z kaparami i czosnkiem)
For this type of dish you can use a cheaper and greasier type of meat like, for example, ribs - once you separate the meat from the bones, you can roll the meat and tight it with a string; such a meat in my opinion is best when braised slowly so it melts into your mouth. However, you can use other meats like poultry, goose, duck or veal. Pork would be fine as well, although don't forget that in 17th and 18th century Old Polish cuisine pork was not popular at all. My addition to the recipe has been homemade veal stock as well as wine, to enhance the taste. It was pretty delicious!
Makes 1 roll, serves 2 small portions
300 g boneless lamb's brisket (or any other type of meat which will be good for rolls – not necessarily lamb)
100 ml veal stock (optional)
200 ml stock (meat or vegetable)
Clarified butter / goose grease for frying
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
100 ml white wine
12 caper berries or 30 capers
1 garlic clove, chopped
1 handful raisins (soaked in some liquid or stock beforehand)
1 tea spoon brown sugar
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
Rub the meat (at room temperature) with salt and pepper on both sides and with garlic on the inner side. Roll the meat tightly and knot it with string. In a sticky saucepan, warm the grease (clarified butter) and fry the meat on all sides. Don't burn it. Put into a small skillet. Deglaze the pan with white wine and pour the liquid into the skillet. Pour the stock, veal stock and braise until soft (in my case, it took nearly 2 hours – the meat was of a rather poor quality - it needs long, slow cooking). Occasionally check if the juices did not evaporate, pour some juices with a ladle over the meat. When the meat is nearly soft, add caper berries, raisins with the soaking liquid, cinnamon, vinegar. Play with you taste and adjust accordingly. At the end, add sugar, salt and pepper. My guess that this dish should be sweet and sour. Cut into slices, and serve with sauteed topinambur. If you do not have any, make a pea puree or millet (potatoes were not eaten in Poland in the 17th century).
Jerusalem Artichoke with Rosemary and Garlic
(topinambur z rozmarynem i czosnkiem)
Serves 2 small portions
250 g Jerusalem artichoke (topinambour), delicately peeled and washed and diced (if you do this in advance, keep the vegetable in water with some vinegar to prevent it from darkening)
1 hipped tablespoon, fresh chopped rosemary
2 small garlic cloves, chopped
100 ml white wine
1-2 tablespoons goose grease or clarified butter
Heat a saucepan. Once hot, add the grease and Jerusalem artichoke (if kept in water before, dry it out with a paper towel). Sauté for one minute over a quite high heat and add garlic, sauté for one more minute being careful - do not burn the garlic. Add wine and cook over a quite high heat until wine evaporates - approximately 5-10 minutes. In the meantime, add rosemary. Once the Jerusalem artichoke is quite soft, add salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot as a side dish to your meat.