10 Polish Mushroom Dishes to Enjoy This Fall
default, Boletus mushroom, photo: Tomasz Waszczuk / PAP, center, grzyby_las_pap.jpg
It’s a well-known fact that Poles enjoy mushrooms – foraging for them in the autumn is one of our favourite pastimes. Many claim it’s all about the process of searching and time spent in the woods. But over the centuries, many Polish mushroom dishes have been invented, arguing it's the eating that's best. Here’s our selection.
When you think of mushroom dishes, soup is probably the first thing that comes to mind – but it would actually be more accurate to use the plural form, since the recipes are endless. There are five in the famous 365 Obiadów (365 Dinners) by Lucyna Ćwierciakiewiczowa and four in the socialist classic Kuchnia Polska (Polish Cuisine).
The versions best known across Poland are an intense, clear stock made with dried porcini (often eaten on New Year’s Eve instead of beetroot barszcz) and a creamy, thick soup made with fresh mushrooms. Still, there are more interesting variations, such as a traditional Christmas soup, made with dried mushrooms and fruits like prunes and pears, from the Kociewie region near Gdańsk. Zalewajka from central Poland is a potato soup similar to żurek, with mushrooms and bacon.
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2. Sauerkraut & mushrooms
Like peas and carrots, honey and lemon, or peanut butter and jelly: sauerkraut and mushrooms is the perfect combination, one absolutely essential to Polish cuisine. When you add different types of meat, prunes and spices, you get bigos (commonly known in English as hunter’s stew), while the simpler, vegetarian version is a Christmas Eve staple. It makes a glorious stuffing for paszteciki (little yeast buns), coulibiac (brioche or puff-pastry shell) and, obviously, pierogi, which we’ll discuss later on. When you add łazanki – small, square noodles – you get a delicious pasta dish, Polish style.
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3. Sauerkraut & mushroom pierogi
Sauerkraut and mushrooms make for one of the most popular pierogi fillings. (If you’re a vegan travelling to smaller towns in Poland, this dish might be your salvation!) A unique variation is the so-called Saint Jack’s pierogi from Nockowa village in the Subcarpathian Voivodeship in the southeast of Poland.
According to legend, Jacek Odrowąż – Poland’s patron from the 13th century – stopped in Nockowa on his way to his mission in Kievan Rus’. He asked for some water and food: first, he saw wheat growing on the field, then cottage cheese on the sieve. With these, batter was made; then, he saw cabbage, which was chopped and boiled, as well as wild button mushrooms which, as he convinced the villagers, were not poisonous. Half of the pierogi were boiled and half baked, and the latter became the village’s specialty.
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While eating them, a prayer was said: ‘Saint Jack with pierogi, pray for us to God, so that these pierogi are always on our table and deliver us from hunger’ (Św. Jacku z pierogami, módl się do Boga za nami, żeby te pierogi cały rok na stole były i nas od głodu broniły).
4. Uszka with wild mushrooms
Uszka (literally: little ears) are small dumplings which are usually served in clear beetroot barszcz for Christmas Eve (this version of barszcz is traditionally made with a stock of vegetables and dried mushrooms). They are similar to Italian tortellini, Russian/Ukrainian pelmeni and German Maultaschen. Yet, their closest cousins are the Jewish kreplach, which are also served in a soup – although it’s usually chicken broth – and also connected to festivities, as they are traditionally served on Rosh Hashanah. The filling is simple: dried boletuses are soaked in hot water and then mixed with fried onions and seasoned. The dough is made with just flour, hot water and salt (although some add a bit of butter or an egg).
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5. Pickled mushrooms
Pickling and fermenting: both of these ways of preserving food can be applied to mushrooms. In the 1916 book by Juliuszowa Albinowska entitled Grzyby w Gospodarstwie Domowem i Handlu (Mushrooms in the Household and Trade), we find a recipe for fermented saffron milk caps:
Freshly picked caps should be rubbed with a napkin, one by one, so that no sand, soil or needles are left behind. Throw away the stemse . Put the caps aloneet in clay pots and sprinkle with fine, sifted salt. Then, weigh them down with a disc and a stone and put them in a dry place. If they don’t release enough juice, pour 1-2 glasses of boiled and thawed water over them. Serve seasoned with vinegar, oil, onion and black pepper.
Other mushrooms, such as chanterelles and boletuses, can be pickled in vinegar as a perfect addition to a table of zakąski – the Polish answer to mezze, usually accompanied by vodka. You can serve them with herring, steak tartare or nóżki w galarecie – Polish-style meat jellies.
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Baked, round buns filled with both fresh and dried forest mushrooms are a traditional dish from the Kuyavian-Pomeranian region. According to homemakers from Tuchola village – located in the beautiful Tuchola Pinewoods, where mushrooms are abundant – the dough should be made with flour, eggs, sour cream, butter, sugar and salt. The filling consists of fresh mixed mushrooms and dried mushrooms soaked in milk, which are then combined with fried onions and spiced with marjoram.
7. Gołąbki with buckwheat, potatoes & mushroom sauce
Gołąbki – stuffed cabbage rolls – are among the most popular Polish dishes abroad. Although the best-known version is filled with rice and ground meat, served with a tomato-based sauce, there are other variations, and some of them include mushrooms as one of the main ingredients.
Possibly the tastiest of them all comes from the Subcarpathian region in southeastern Poland. The stuffing consists of typically Polish ingredients: buckwheat, grated potatoes and fried onions, simply spiced with salt and pepper. The neat rolls are put in a huge pot and baked with butter, and then served with a rich sauce made with either dried or fresh mushrooms.
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8. Scrambled eggs & mushrooms
It seems simple, yet scrambled eggs with mushrooms – most often chanterelles – are among the best breakfast dishes you could dream of. Wojciech Wielądko, the translator of Menon’s La Cuisinière Bourgeoise – first published in 1783 as Kucharz Doskonały (The Perfect Cook) – includes 32 egg recipes in his book. One of the tastiest is for scrambled eggs hidden under a blanket of fried onions, mushrooms and parsley.
9. Mushroom kaszotto
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Creamy groats with mushrooms and pork loin, photo: Kamil Piklikiewicz / DDTVN / East News
Admittedly, kaszotto is not an actual word, but rather a play on words for kasza – either buckwheat, barley or millet groats – cooked in the style of a risotto. Recently, kaszotto has become quite a popular dish, as it’s delicious, easy to make and healthier than a traditional risotto. You can load it with different veggies, but adding wild mushrooms such as boletus gives it an amazing umami flavour.
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10. Mushroom kotlety
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Zrazy in mushroom sauce, photo: Łukasz Zandecki / AG
Mushrooms and kasza go hand in hand – I’ve already mentioned potato and buckwheat gołąbki with mushrooms, while zrazy (beef rolls stuffed with pickled cucumbers and bacon) in mushroom sauce, served with buckwheat and warm beetroot or stewed red cabbage, is a true delight for meat-eaters – those who usually also love kotlety.
According to the dictionary, kotlet (from the French word côtelette) is an oval-shaped, flat side of either meat, fish or vegetables, which is then fried in fat. The best known Polish kotlety are schabowy (made with pork and crumbed like the Viennese schnitzel) and ground-pork mielony. Although most often associated with meat, there are long-standing vegetarian versions of kotlety – those made with mushrooms are among the best of all.
Polish Food 101 ‒ Kotlet Schabowy
The authors of Kuchnia Polska suggest cleaning a bunch of mixed mushrooms, sautéing them with onions, then adding a bread roll soaked in milk. The mixture is put in in a meat grinder, covered with breadcrumbs and fried.
As with all kotlety, these taste best served with potatoes and either fresh surówki or warm beets or cabbage. Marta Dymek, of the beloved vegan blog Jadłonomia, proposes a more refined, modern version: kotlety made with grated cauliflower and millet and filled with sautéed mushrooms and onions.
traditional polish dishes
traditional polish cooking
Written by Natalia Mętrak-Ruda, Aug 2019