Saturday, July 10, 2010

About One Calm Weekend and Two Salads with Our Local Cheeses

I spent a nice weekend in a fantastic place last week. If you think that I went to Rome or Barcelona and spent hundreds of Euros at fancy restaurants, you are completely wrong. Actually, I only went 75 km away from Kraków, to reload my batteries in a peaceful place. Some friends of my family's, Ela and Adam, decided a few years ago to escape from the city and to spend the rest of their lives conducting a small "chambre d’hôtes" in Koninki, a village close to Gorce National Park
The village itself, although surrounded by low mountains and forests, like thousands of other Polish villages, is full of architectural mess. Amongst simple and nice houses in local, rustic style, one can find some ugly constructions built without any sense of architectural order. Some of them are not even finished (people live on the ground floor and the other floors are not completed). But, well it is mostly a heritage of the previous era, like in every ex-communist country.

Ela and Adam's house is one example of how a house and its environment can create an harmony with nature. Their property is remote from the village and is surrounded not only by a forest, but by a small river as well.

The owners are warm people, who spoil their guests with homemade food and one can notice straight away their engagement for this piece of land. They like what they do and they found a sense to their existence living there. Ela and Adam not only renovated the old wooden house and created a small, but charming garden; they also collected hundreds of regional and artisanal gadgets and sculptures. On the other hand if you wish to take a bath in a Jacuzzi, it is not a problem at all – Ela and Adam installed one.

This reminds me of my holidays in the Podhale region. Usually, in the eighties, houses in villages did not have running water. Baths were taken in a metal tub or in the river. Often, iron beds did not have mattresses, but instead just a padding filled with hay. We did not have any civilized WC, too. Instead, one was going to fix his or her physiological needs in a wooden privy. Even toilet paper in the crisis of the eighties was a crucial problem and that’s why one could always find old newspapers cut into pieces and hanging on a nail in the privy. We did not have TV (even if we did, the quality of the network was awfully bad and there were only two state-owned channels at that time). Milking the cow from time to time, helping owners to collect hay in the fields, picking up mushrooms or forest fruits, sitting by the river and constructing stone dams, or just going on an escapade to the Tatra Mountains were amongst my daily attractions. If it was raining, we could play cards for the whole day (I knew tons of card games at that time).

Coming back to Ela and Adam. Ela is a specialist in homemade preserves, both savory and sweet. She makes tons of confitures, jams and juices from ecological fruits. She knows where to buy the best strawberries, gooseberries and other seasonal fruits in the neighborhood. In the season, she collects bilberries and mushrooms. And she cooks lunches for the guests.

Her husband, Adam, bakes bread and bread rolls from scratch (he mills grains to obtain his own flour).  He makes his own charcuterie, too (unfortunately, he made it only when I left – I hope I can watch the process the next time I will visit them). He has a habit to spoil children by picking up some wild strawberries in the morning and serving them on a blade of grass as an accompaniment to breakfast.

On Saturday, we also visited a tiny wooden shepherd’s house nearby in the mountains, to order some authentic local cheeses, made from the sheep milk produced by his 400 animals.

I already was mentioning to you two of local cheeses from the south of Poland - oscypek and bryndza.
The third one, called bundz (or bunc), is made in the south of Poland as well. It is rather difficult to buy it in the other regions of Poland (still, the production is small and distribution is badly organized).
Authentic bundz should be made only from sheep’s milk between May and October (some say the best comes only in May). The shape resembles a round meat loaf of bread. Fresh cheese has a sweet and delicate taste. I dare to say that cut into thin slices and served with some fresh herbs, ripe tomatoes and a good olive oil constitutes an alternative to Italian caprese, which here, in Poland usually is served from industrially made gummy and chewy mozzarella.  The first phase of the production of bundz resembles the production of oscypek - unpasteurized sheep's milk with the addition of rennet turns into a kind of curd – and takes about 24 hours.

The cheese is available in some shops in Kraków and on food markets, like Kleparz. It is sold by farmers coming from the Podhale region. The cheese found at those food markets is not 100 percent made from sheep’s milk, that’s for sure, and that is mostly why you can get it all year round. They use cow’s milk instead, sometimes less, sometimes more, but even amongst those one can find quite good ones. Two weeks ago, when I visited the food market where the cheese is sold, I bought 4 types of it: a freshly squeezed one, which was quite sweet in taste; an older salty one; a spicy one and a smoked one. 

Should you visit Kraków one day, try to find this cheese. In the season, it is served in some restaurants or on food markets (the best place to buy it is straight from farmers on Kleparz – a food market operating every day except on Sundays, in the center of the city).
I made several salads and starters using bundz, which I present today. You can try to replace this cheese by your favorite one.

Salad with Smoked Bundz Cheese, Fava Beans, Green Peas, Spinach and Chanterelles

Makes 1 big lunch salad

4 thin slices of fresh bundz cheese (around 100 g) – depending on its size
A handful of fava beans
A handful of green peas
A handful of baby spinach
100 g chanterelles
1 tablespoon butter
3 to 4 tablespoons olive oil
½ onion or one small shallot, peeled and finely chopped
1 garlic clove, peeled and finely chopped
1 tablespoon chopped scallions or fresh thyme

Firstly, cook both fava beans and peas al dente separately, in salted boiling water. Strain the vegetables and mix them in a bowl (peel the fava beans first).
Wash the baby spinach and drain them in a salad spinner or with a paper towel and add them into the bowl with fava beans and peas.
In the meantime, start preparing the chanterelles. Delicately clean the mushrooms from leftovers of the forest. Scratch the stems to remove soil. Rinse the mushrooms delicately under cold water. Cut some mushrooms in halves, should some of them be too big.  They all should be about the same size, so they will fry evenly. In a hot frying pan, melt butter, add 1 tablespoon of olive oil, add onions and cook on a medium flame for 10 minutes. After 5 minutes, add garlic. Mix occasionally and do not let the onion and garlic burn. Add the mushrooms into the frying pan and sauter them on a medium flame until they release their juices and absorb them back in.
Salt and pepper generously at the end. Pour hot mushrooms into the bowl with vegetables. Mix everything (the spinach should soften a bit). Add 2 tablespoons or more of olive oil, scallions or thyme and adjust to taste, if necessary.
Put some slices bundz on the bottom of the plate and place the warm salad on top of it.

Salad with Fresh Bundz Cheese, Strawberries, Pepper Mint in Balsamic – Strawberry Dressing

Serves 1

4 thin slices of fresh bundz cheese (around 100 g) – depending on its size
100 g strawberries, washed and cut into slices
A few nice leaves of pepper mint
1 tablespoon balsamic sauce (see below)
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons strawberry purée (see below)
1 tablespoon grilled and chopped walnuts (you can use hazelnuts, too)

Thick balsamic sauce
120 ml balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons flower honey
1 little spring (around 7 cm long) of fresh rosemary

Pour balsamic vinegar and rosemary into a small saucepan and cook over a low flame until it is reduced by around one third (about 10 minutes). Remove rosemary, add honey and cook over a low flame until the sauce thickens a bit (do not thicken it too much, because it will get completely solid once cooled down). Add a bit of freshly ground pepper.

Strawberry purée:
100 g of nice strawberries, washed
Reduce strawberries into puree. Strain through a chinois to get rid of strawberries’ seeds.

Preparation of the salad:
Put slices of cheese and strawberries onto a plate. Mix 1 tablespoon of balsamic sauce, 1 tablespoon of olive oil and 2 tablespoons of strawberry puree. Add quite a lot of pepper and taste. Pour over the salad or on the bottom of the plate. Add mint. This time I served it without any green salad, but it goes really well with rucola or baby spinach.
If you do not like strawberries, you can prepare a similar dressing using raspberries or even bilberries. I made those dressings, too, and they go excellent with cheeses, nuts and green stuff.

Good luck!


Szalony Kucharz said...

First again, yee-haw!

Magda, you are way too modest in claiming that you're just an intermediate begginer in the foodie world. And you have some very affluent friends, I must say. They must have been slaving at least for a decade or so as CEO's to one of those big multinationals to be able to afford such an arcadian lifestyle. I'd give away my good eye just so I could grind my own grain. Really. ;o) As for bread-baking, I already have that dream fulfilled.

That charming, little farmhouse really stands out in comparison to what is usually available for tourists looking for some peace and quiet in Podhale. Looks like straight out of a luxury agroturismo catalogue, and could as well be in Italy, Switzerland, Austria or Slovenia. Breathtaking.

Not to mention the salads, impeccable, as always. I can't imagine any Michellin-starred chef not accepting such as starters or light lunch dishes. Not that I'm Michellin star-obsessed. ;o) But if I were to choose between these two, I'd probably go for cheese, greens and mushrooms. And leave strawberries and walnuts for desserts. Provided there would be any room for that. ;o)

Sanjana said...

This is lovely... I love light salads so this is perfect for me! I will be making this very soon. Thanks for visiting my blog- I look forward to following you!

Paula said...

niesamowicie pięknie ujęłaś uroki tych miejsc! patrzę i patrzę :)

Katie@Cozydelicious said...

What a beautiful house! And all those jams... amazing! Your salad looks lovely, a perfect country lunch. The mushrooms an dthe cheese and the fava beans, I can almost taste it!


Oh, I love this post! Beautifully written! And the photos are just glorious!

In my opinion any salad is made better with good cheese!

Unknown said...

I also enjoyed reading your post and of course the beautiful photos. The salads look so good first I would have the one with fava beans and mushrooms followed by the strawberry. I would like to enjoy both of them outside in the garden of the beautiful home in the countryside that you featured!

LidKa said...

Jak zwykle pięknie, lubię Twoje opowieści, przepisy i oczywiście zdjęcia.
Na szczęście już niedługo będę zajadać regionalne przysmaki:)

anthony said...

Magda ta saltka z bobem i innymi az sama wchodzi do ust... mniam...
Podziwiam ludzi ,ktorzy pasje umieja przeksztalcic w sposob na zycie.

Mary Bergfeld said...

It sounds like your brief getaway was successful. Your photos are beautil and the house you shared with us is really charming. As to the food - well it looks magnificent. The salads both sound delicious. I hope you are having a wonderful day. Blessings...Mary

Heather S-G said...

Wow! That's all that I can say right now. This post is packed full of beauty...everything is absolutely gorgeous...from the scenery to the cheese to the food...I am in sensory overload right now.

Monika said...

Rety, jakie cuda! Zastanawiam się czasem, czy jakbym miała oscypki i całą resztę na wyciągnięcie ręki to nadal bym tak za nimi szalała? :) Bardzo lubię, bardzo, nawet ten bundz - niby niczym nie smakuje a jednak taka pychota! A ta sałatka z serem, truskawkami i miętą - jakie to musi być dobre.. :)
Pozdrowienia upalne :)))

Agata Chmielewska (Kurczak) said...

Ty wiesz Madziu czym mnie urzec, ta sałatka z bundzem bardzo przypadła mi do gustu :)

Inspired2cook said...

Love the photos from your weekend getaway; it truly does look like a tranquil place. Your Bundz salads look delicious!
p.s. Did you really have to use newspaper for toilet paper in the 80s??? I can't even imagine what that must be like.

my little expat kitchen said...

What a wonderful place to visit Magdalena. Your photographs are amazing. The house looks beautiful.
I love your mushroom salad. The fava beans are a great addition!

tasteofbeirut said...


I was enraptured by your story; first of all that weekend at these folks charming cottage sounds wonderful but most of all, your description reminded me of the contrasts found in Lebanon between ugly and beautiful, new and old; love the homemade jams and cheeses and breads; sounds like stuff I am encountering here too, except Polish-style; would love to taste it all!

lisa is cooking said...

What a charming home! You must have had a wonderful weekend. Your salads look delicious with those lovely cheeses.

Reeni said...

What a lovely place! I would find it hard to leave such beauty - and the food! I would love to try the cheeses - and the salads. Delicious works of art!

zlamushka said...

HI there :-)

Your post was so enjoyable. Growing up in Slovakia, I know exaclty how nice oscypek and bryndza are. Now you got me all hungry :-)

Konsti said...

Pieknie opisane i pieknie sfotografowane. Miejsce urokliwe, a salatki: palce lizac!
Tylko jak tu teraz ludziom dokladniej wyjasnic dawne problemy z papierem toaletowym...?:)
Pozdrawiam serdecznie.

Margot said...

Beautiful salads, I miss bryndza sooo much!

Glad to see RSS working :)

Bea said...

O matko, alez tam pieknie! Wspaniale uchwycilas ten klimat na swoich zdjeciach. Dom cudny! Chetnie bym sie kiedys w takim zaszyla na wakacje... A te rzadki konfitur na poleczkach rozbrajajace :)
Po oscypka zas siegam wirtualnie przez ekran ;)

Pozdrawiam serdecznie!

Tasty Trix said...

What an incredibly interesting post - I am so happy I found your blog. (Well, that you visited mine and I in turn found yours.) That house looks like something from a fairy tale. I would LOVE to visit Poland someday soon and I will take your advice on the cheese for sure!!

Magdalena said...

In Polish:

Dziękuję wszystkim za odwiedziny. Przepraszam Was, że odpisuję dopiero teraz...

Lidko, a Ty już jesteś pewnie w Polsce...zajadaj przysmaki, a po powrocie dziel sie wrażeniami. Udanego odpoczunku, pozdrawiam!

Anthony, też podziwiam takich ludzi, ale do tego jeszcze trzeba mieć łut szczęścia (pieniądze to chyba mniejszy problem). Znaleźć odpowiednie miejsce!

Moniko, a bo ten bundz to taki sam w sobie jest troche bezsmakowy. W sałatkach smakuje wyśmienicie – akurat w Krakowie łatwo o niego, więc kuouję dość często (w przeciwieństwie do mozzarrelli). Pozdrowienia równie upalne...

Konsti, wielu nonsensów peerelowskich nie da sie wytłumaczyć....Miejsce super, byliśmy w ostatni weekend również, w ramach ucieczki od miejskich upałów.

Agaa-aa, polecam, jeżeli kiedykolwiek będziesz mogła kupić świeży bundz, to nawet ze zwykłym dojrzałym pomidorem, oliwa i bazylią świeżą jest teges.

Beo, dzieki za wizytę. Oj, jest tam pięknie i spokojnie, karmią smacznie, człowiek caly czas głodny chodzi (jak wiadomo, apetyt rośnie w miarę jedzenia). Pozdrawiam również !

Magdalena said...

In English:

Guys, thanks for visiting my blog and leaving interesting comments. Sorry for answering them only today.

Kucharz, yes, a think I am an intermediate beginner. I do not believe I would survive one or two days in a professional kitchen! I have no idea if Ela and Adam have been slaving – in fact, they were lucky to buy this house from a person, who wanted to sell it into “good hands”. For sure, it required years of hard work. They have a kind of arcadian lifestyle, but they also work for the whole day. It is not only about cooking and bread baking, but also about the maintenance of the house, and so on. Michelin star? Thanks, thanks!

Inspired: yes, sometimes (very rarely, but it happened few times) we had to use newspapers. And our toilet paper was grey, hard and rough !

My little expat kitchen, I prefer the salad with mushrooms, too. But the sweet version with fruit dressing was ok. Have a nice afternoon!

Joumana, yes, Lebanon is full of contrasts, I am sure. That is why we are more sensitive to find a nice and extraordinary place…because we grew in poor and destroyed countries. I hope that you will have an occasion to taste Polish delicacies one day.

Zlamoushka, hi! Thanks for stopping by. Yes, in Slovakia you know both types of cheese – we are close neighbors. There was even a dispute between Slovakians and Polish mountaineers before registration oscypek in the EU as the regional product...

Girlichef, Sanjana, Mary, Patty, Lisa, Cinnamon-Girl, Katie, Spicy Perspective: thanks for visiting! Food was great there – traditional, but awfully tasty!

Margot, finely it is working. But is was pain in the ass to activate it. Now we face a problem with food aggregators – I have changed the RSS and my posts do not appear on some of them.

Trix, I hope you will visit my country some day. Thanks for visiting , warm comment and have a good day!

Karolina said...

Such a house in such a location would be my dream come true. Thanks for this journey, Magda and for lovely pictures. Bundz is my absolute must have when I am next time in Poland, I hope I can visit Krakow when I am next there and get hold of some...

I hope the temperature will drop down soon, take care!

Deeba PAB said...

Dreams are made of places like these. Thank you for sharing the experience so beautifully. That blade of grass, the fire, the blue ceramic spoons, the jars of jam, the cheese ... oh I could go on forever. PURE JOY!!

MZ said...

Witam !

Tez juz bylam w Domku w zakrecie !
Wspaniala atmosfera, zarowno latem jak i zima;
Diabel tu tkwi w szczegolach
Idealne wyczucie stylu i smaku;
A smak szynki w sosie borowikowym sprawia, ze chce sie wracac


buruuberii said...

A no nie ma jak bundz, nie ma jak poziomki nanizane na zdzblo trawy :-)

Pozdrawiam Cie Magda!

Magdalena said...

MZ, ale jaja - swietnie, ze bylas, i ze znasz, choc wlasciciele nie prosza o reklame (dlatego nie podawalam adresu). bundz, zwlaszcza ten ze sprawdzonej bacowy, jest nie do podrobienia. Nieznany, niszowy ser, ktory jem w kolko, gdy jestem latem w Krakowie. A poziomki - chcialoby sie byc dzieckiem znowu :)

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