Wednesday, December 26, 2012

A Christmas Must Have: Root Vegetable Salad

This vegetable salad is a traditional Polish accompaniment. I suppose that it is made in nearly every Polish home at least twice per year. Also in my family, everybody cooks and chops root vegetables before Christmas Eve and Easter. My grandma Pola, who now is 86 years old, and always was an excellent cook, used to serve it for other occasions like, for example, her name day (“imieniny”), which, in Poland, used to be more popular than birthdays. When I was 3 years old, my parents took me to my grandma's to celebrate her name day. I wanted to help her and I offered to carry a large glass bowl containing the salad from the kitchen to the dining room. Unfortunately, the floor was polished and slippery, so I fell on the floor. I do not have to mention that the bowl broke and the salad was everywhere, except on the serving table. Anyway for me, at that time, it was not a big loss as I hated this vegetable salad. I do not remember at what age I realized that it is edible. I like to eat it nowadays but my favorite recipe is this one of my mother. Usually this vegetable salad contains mayonnaise and canned peas which I hate. My mum does not add any non edible canned peas nor mayonnaise; instead she prepares a simple dressing based on sour cream, mustard, hard boiled egg yolks and lemon juice. In my opinion such a salad is lighter, more delicate and tastier. Do not spoil the salad with overcooked canned peas! It is a matter of individual taste of course, but in my opinion the idea of this salad is to serve root, winter vegetables; canned peas are summer vegetables and do not have their place here. Some people make variations by adding cooked corn (which is wrong), or pickled bell peppers which is also wrong. Do not add raw chopped onion into it as some people do, because the whole salad will stink on the next day. Besides the taste will be too rough. I like it when the taste of sweet root vegetables like carrots, parsley and celery does not dominate and that is why I counterbalance the taste with acid ingredients such as (quite a lot of) sour cucumbers (gherkins) and sour apples (Polish russet apple – “szara reneta”). To summarize - as many households, as many recipes for the salad. 

Serves 4

2 medium root parsley or parsnip, peeled and washed
2 medium carrot, peeled and washed
¼ medium celery root, peeled and washed
4-5 medium potatoes, washed but not peeled
350 g sour cucumbers, peeled
1 hard boiled egg
1 sour apple
2 tablespoons mustard
200 ml crème fraiche or heavy cream
1 tablespoon lemon juice

Cook vegetables: Put root parsley, carrots and celery root in boiling water and cook until soft but not overcooked. Strain vegetables and let them cool down. In the meantime, cook potatoes. Strain them and let them cool down completely.
Dice vegetables: Dice vegetables, potatoes and apple into small cubes – around 0,5 cm. Place them in a bowl. Chop cucumbers into cubes of the same size as the vegetables. Put into the salad bowl and mix everything thoroughly. The salad itself should be a bit sour. If necessary, add a bit of lemon juice or one more cucumber. Peel the egg. Separate the yolk from the white. Chop finely the egg white and add to the salad. Mix well.
Prepare the dressing: In a bowl or a mortar mash well the egg yolk. Add mustard, mix well. Add cream, salt and pepper generously, mix, taste, and pour into salad. Mix well. The salad should be quite moist. Place into the fridge for at least one hour.
Serve as an accompaniment to cold meats, pâtés, hams, herrings and marinated mushrooms.


AniaPP said...

Your mother´s dressing seems very interesting and sounds lighter. This Christmas I decided to do "sledz pod pierzynka", a dish that resembles a lot the vegetable salad and it was a big hit among my Portuguese family. So now I want to try the dish with your dressing. Thank you for the recipe!

Magdalena said...

AniaPP, actually yesterday I had a long chat with my father re. the vegetable salad. The author of the dressing is my grandma Pola. She used to prepare it because 50-60 years ago in Poland it was impossible to buy good oil or olive oil. Nevertheless, I am not a great fun of mayonnaise (even home made one) I and I love this dressing which my mother "acquired" from my grandma :)

Jack said...

Its really mesmerizing and healthy with the touch of tradition. I would love to make this salad this weekend. I loved the recipe and healthy ingredients . Very delighting !

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