| NEW YORK
NEW YORK Feb 5 When Marianna Dworak, the author
of "Authentic Polish Cooking" was growing up in Poland, planning
a holiday feast meant having to get ingredients well ahead of
The emphasis on freshness was so strong that one year
Dworak's family kept a carp, a fish traditionally served on
Christmas Eve, alive in the bathtub for a week until it was time
to cook it.
Dworak learned her culinary skills from her late mother,
whose hand-written recipes were passed down in a binder that
served as the inspiration for her book.
It includes recipes for some unusual dishes, such as pickle
soup, as well as more familiar ones like mushroom-stuffed
cabbage leaves and potato pierogies, or dumplings.
Dworak said she was responding to a scarcity of Polish
cookbooks in English, although that appears to be ending. Her
book was published within weeks of a competing tome, Anne
Applebaum's "From a Polish Country House Kitchen."
Dworak spoke with Reuters about her family legacy, her
approach to cooking, and that one trapped fish.
Q: How did you learn to cook?
A: "I'm not a trained chef. In Poland, you pick up things
without even meaning to. My mom always taught us to take our
time so at the end you have the best results. This book is kind
of a tribute to her. We have binders of all her handwritten
Q: Polish food has a reputation for being a little heavy.
Can you win over health-conscious eaters?
A: "I wouldn't say it's heavy, but you're always full after
a meal. It's rich food. You'd think there's a lot of butter and
carbs, but it's not unhealthy. It uses fresh ingredients. Fresh
mushrooms are in a lot of recipes."
Q: Poland's been called 'the heart of Europe.' Do you see a
lot of international influence on its food?
A: "We definitely borrow from all around us. Rice is very
common even though it's not traditionally Polish. You just
(combine) cuisines. I feel like rice with fruit is very Polish.
Not a lot of nationalities eat that. I think cooking shouldn't
be too strict."
Q: Your book dedicates a whole section to holiday foods.
What are your memories of Christmas in Poland?
A: "I have an anecdote. It's traditional for Polish
Christmas to have carp. but you have to get it a week in advance
because everyone buys it. When I was little, because we wanted
the freshest possible fish, my mom bought a live fish but we had
to keep it alive. So we filled a bathtub with water and this
huge carp just lived there for a week. We couldn't shower or
Q: Is the bigos (hunter's stew) only a holiday dish?
A: "No. I've had it at picnics. It definitely is filling and
hearty and represents Polish cuisine. You think it's a tough
recipe but it's really not. You just mix everything in a big pot
and cook it for two hours. I've always added things that I think
will taste good, so if you add both prunes and mushrooms, that's
Hunter's Stew (Bigos)
2 oz (56g) dried or fresh mushrooms
1 cabbage head
1/2 lb (225g) beef
1/2 lb (225g) pork
1/2 lb (225g) kielbasa (Polish sausage)
1/4 lb (115g) bacon
24 oz (680g) sauerkraut, rinsed
Dried herbs: oregano, bay leaf, thyme
Salt and pepper
Optional: 2 apples, prunes, 1 cup broth, 1 cup wine
1. If using dried mushrooms or prunes, soak them overnight.
2. Dice the cabbage head, cut the beef and pork into small
cubes, and boil in water until soft. If using fresh mushrooms,
chop them and add at the end of cooking time. Drain the water.
3. Dice the onions and bacon and fry on a skillet until
4. In a large pot, mix the boiled cabbage, beef, pork,
sliced kielbasa, rinsed sauerkraut, fried bacon and onions,
chopped mushrooms and prunes, herbs, salt and pepper and cook on
medium heat for about an hour, stirring occasionally. You can
optionally add diced or roughly grated apples, or some broth or
wine for taste.
This dish can be made in a number of ways. You can make it
without the cabbage, only using the sauerkraut, and you can use
any combination of meats. You can also fry the meat and
mushrooms instead of cooking in water.
(Editing by Patricia Reaney and Mohammad Zargham)