This was my first trip to Poland, and I was lucky enough to visit with work. Poland isn’t really known for its cuisine, but I still wanted to try something traditional and especially peirogi, which are Polish dumplings. John Torode off of Masterchef, always talks about his grandmother’s peirogies, so of course I had to try them!
My first experience of Polish food was in a slightly more upmarket restaurant, and I jumped at the chance to have the meat peirogies which were really lovely. Not hugely filling and just about the right number of them. Miod Malina restaurant was in the ‘Old Town’ area, off the main street and seemed to refine Polish cuisine. Whereas other places I had seen, were keen to load your plate full of meat and carbohydrates and no green vegetables (but we’ll get to that a bit later!).
A working takeaway lunch is not really the done thing in Poland, and when visiting a huge Tesco supermarket, there was nothing for a quick lunch, but hundreds of cheeses and sausages! I did manage to find a quick sandwich somewhere else though! Another day, another dinner, but this time a quick one in the Jewish Quarter – more like a drunken snack after a night out, but a lot more appealing than a kebab! Introducing a Zapiekanki, dating back to the 1970s, is an open faced sandwich with toppings. The more traditional version is with mushrooms and cheese served with ketchup. However, I couldn’t resist one named ‘Yummy’ with mozzarella, mushrooms, spinach, tomato and herbs with a basil sauce.
This was then followed by a salted caramel ice cream, which is my favourite flavour and really hit the spot, before enjoying a couple of pints with colleagues in an atmospheric outdoor bar in the Jewish Quarter.
I then had a weekend to myself, and after a long day visiting Auschwitz and the salt mines, I just wanted a dinner close to the hotel. It seemed like a family friendly and fairly local place and I thought I’d try another variety of peirogi filled with cheese and potato, and then I chose one of their new dishes ‘Tender pork knuckle, boiled in bouillon and served with warm Bavarian sauerkraut, potatoes and fresh horseradish’.
As the peirogi was a starter, I assumed I’d get that first, however I was served a plate of sauerkraut (maybe because I said I was hungry?), and then I was served the pork knuckle. Not the best looking dish, and I stupidly thought the grated horseradish was grated cheese! A very beige meal, with two different types of ‘blow your head off’ mustards.
After digging around to find the edible bits of meat and half finishing the meal, the peirogies turned up. I was already quite stuffed! Suffice to say… I didn’t finish my meal! I think the waiter took pity on me too as I was eating alone and gave me a cherry shot with the bill. At this point I was craving a vegetable…any vegetable! The greener, the better!
After a walking tour of the Old Town, on my final day, I was still craving fresh salads and vegetables and broke with tradition and had a very un-Polish meal of a Greek salad. But it was very tasty! As part of the tour, I found out that there was an Italian Queen at one point and she tried her best to introduce Italian vegetables to the diet, including tomatoes and aubergine etc… but the local people weren’t too happy about her trying to make them eat healthier.