For centuries the Polish kitchen has been the arena for competing influences from France and Italy, along with what was extensively from more exotic tables: Jewish, Armenian, Lithuanian, Cossack, Hungarian and Tartar.
Traditional Polish cuisine combines the refined and elegant tastes introduced to Poland centuries ago by the French court of Henri de Valois – the first elected Polish king, with the wild, mysterious flavours of the Lithuanian forests, the sweet aroma of the dishes served for the Jewish Sabbath supper, and the fierce, rare taste of the sanguineous steak Tartar – originally made by the horsemen in Genghis Khan ‘s army who used to place slices of raw beef under their saddles to tenderize the meat.
Locally made dishes specific to different parts of Poland will also spoil you for choice. Fresh water fish is a favourite dish in the north of Poland where there is an abundance of lakes; from the sandy plains of Mazovia in central Poland comes zurek – a sour rye soup, and the Eastern belt is know for the world famous pierogi. Wielkopolska in Western Poland will treat you to aromatic duck dishes; Suwalszczyzna in the north-east tip of Poland offers the best potato dishes and Podhale at the foot of the Tatra Mountains is famous for kwasnica – sauerkraut soup and oscypek – a sheep’s milk smoked cheese. Wherever you go, you can enjoy delicacies that for centuries have been made of produce harvested in the forests, fields, meadows, lakes and rivers of Poland.
Any experienced Polish chef will tell you the real Polish cuisine is incomplete without cereals, fish, crayfish, venison and fruits of the forest. To understand why Polish delicacies taste so good you should also know that they are typically made of organic products grown naturally and cooked in the traditional home-made style without artificial additives. The best chefs pass down through the generations their recipes for pancakes made from turnip, cabbage, lobster butter, pickled wild hawthorn fruit for decorating venison and much, much more.
The traditional Polish cookery books are full of recipes using ingredients that foreigners might find rather exotic. Sour cabbage and cucumber, cereals, dried mushroom, curdled milk and sour rye are a few of the unusual ingredients to be savoured. But most importantly, cooking the Polish way means putting your heart into it.