Pierogi, gołąbki and barszcz
What’s the best way to describe Pierogi? Polish ravioli, perhaps?
Small parcels of pasta, containing a savoury or sweet filling, Pierogi are very much a staple of Polish cooking. John is still getting his head around the idea of eating ravioli without a sauce, but as is the Polish way he now eats his either boiled then fried with chopped onions or bobbing in a sea of barszcz (not the sweet ones, obviously!).
In general, Pierogi will be filled with one or more of:
– mashed potatoes
– fried onions
– ground or minced meat
– sweetened curd
– soft cheese
On Xmas eve, it is traditional to eat a meat-free pierogi dish, either normal sauerkraut and mushroom filling or smaller, mushroom, pierogis served in delicious barszcz.
This is one of those foods which is SO much better than it sounds. How would you feel if we offered you “cabbage parcels”?
But gołąbki are so much more.
They’re basically parcels of lightly boiled cabbage containing minced pork, beef or chicken, chopped onions, mushrooms and rice or barley, baked in a tomato sauce.
Served with mashed potatoes (watch out for the dill) they’re a cheap filling meal on a cold day.
Rajmund grew up eating foods like these (and loving dill). John’s getting used to his “dry ravioli” but his favourite Polish meal is gołąbki and mash.
A favourite of both J and R is barszcz. The proverbial beetroot soup, known as bortsch further east.
We make it from scratch, and it could hardly be easier. You need:
– chicken or vegetable stock
– salt and pepper
Peel, then grate your beetroot. Whack it into a pan with lots of water and 4 chicken stock cubes. Bring to the boil, then simmer for about 2½ to 3 hours.
It’s then a matter of checking the beetroot is cooked and tasting to test the flavour of the liquid. Too weak, continue to simmer, with the lid off and/or add stock cubes.
When you have the right degree of beetroot flavour in the liquid, add salt and pepper to taste.
Serve, with sour cream, mashed potatoes or pierogi.
Of course you can (we do) pickle beetroot. To get to an English flavour:
– clean the beets. Cut off any skanky bits
– bring to the boil, the simmer of 3 hours
– allow to cool
– peel and slice your beets
– fill a jar with your sliced beetroot, then add vinegar to which you’ve added some peppercorns and any other spices you’d like to try.
Put the lid on, leave it for a week, then consume! In the meantime, you’ve got clear barszcz to drink
Rajmund prefers beetroot salad – follow the barszcz recipe then strain the grated beetroot out of the soup (which you can still drink), add some chopped apples and anything else you fancy and a light dressing.