10 Traditional Dishes of Polish Easter
small, 10 Traditional Dishes of Polish Easter, Easter table, photo: Krzysztof Kuczyk / Forum, wielkanoc_jajka_forum.jpg
White sausage, rye soup, cakes with poppy seed or cottage cheese... The numerous traditional Easter delicacies in Poland are surprising, sophisticated and inspired by spring.
Easter is a feast of smoked meats and ham, where biała kiełbasa ('BYA-wah KEEW-basa') takes centre stage. This white sausage is made of unsmoked minced pork, with the addition of beef and veal, covered in a thin layer of pork casings and seasoned with salt, pepper, garlic and marjoram. Whether it's in the żurek (coming up next in this article!) or amongst the food samples carried in the Easter basket, white sausage is mostly served boiled – sometimes with horseradish, mustard, or ćwikła (horseradish-beetroot relish).
Polish Food 101 ‒ Kiełbasa
Żurek ('ZHOO-rek') or żur is a soup made of homemade or store-bought sourdough from rye flour. It's garnished with boiled white sausage and boiled egg halves. Long ago, żurek and herring were the main pre-Easter Lent fasting food staples. By the time of Holy Saturday, sick and tired of these dishes, people would give them a festive burial. A pot with the soup would be either buried in the ground or spilled. When it's not attending a funeral, żurek is consumed all year round.
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Eggs (pisanki), photo: Marian Zubrzycki / Fotorzepa / Forum
As long as you like your eggs, you'll be fine at Polish Easter. The egg symbolises new life and Christ's resurrection. Polish egg-related traditions include colouring them (in which case they are known as pisanki ['pih-SAN-ki']), blessing them as part of the Easter basket in church, sharing the blessed eggs while wishing each other all the best for the year ahead – and eating them, of course, with various seasonings. Whether served boiled, stuffed, fried or with mayo, there's no getting away from them. The decorative devilled egg is a hard-boiled egg, halved and filled with a mixture of the yolks, mayonnaise, mustard, onion and horseradish cream.
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Śledź ('shledzh'), or herring, is as popular in Poland as it is in the Netherlands or Denmark. You'll find it present on holiday and party tables at both Easter and Christmas. The fish is served gutted and filleted, in pieces that have been marinated in vinegar and oil, with or without vegetable. It's typically smothered with chopped, raw onion. While Easter calls for a batch of homemade herring, supermarkets stock jars of marinated herring all year round.
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Grating horseradish roots, or chrzan ('hzhan') produces pungent vapours and makes the eyes water, but white or red horseradish relish pairs well with the variety of cold cuts. The fiery relish draws out more of the meat flavour. The red type is called ćwikła and its colour is due to the addition of beetroot.
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First in the parade of freshly baked Polish Easter cakes is the mazurek ('ma-ZOO-rek'). The recipe is considered to have arrived to Poland from Turkey and begun circulating in the 17th century. How the mazurek looks depends on the baker. The flat shortbread can be made of different kinds of dough and toppings – for example, marmalade, chocolate glazing, dried fruit or nuts. With this sweet treat, the possibilities are endless.
Polish Food 101 ‒ Iconic Sweets
The sernik ('SAIR-neek') is a rich creamy baked cheesecake that differs from its American counterpart in cheese. You could try to replace the exclusively Polish cheese called twaróg with country, cottage, quark, curd or ricotta cheese, but it won't do the trick. Twaróg is more dense, sweeter, and less wet than those cheeses and less smooth than ricotta. Sources say that sernik dates back to ancient Greece and Rome. The Eastern Orthodox Church has a twaróg-based equivalent – the truncated, pyramid-shaped paskha.
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The tall, airy Easter babka is a no-knead yeast cake baked in a Bundt pan. It can be laced with rum syrup and drizzled with icing, but custom dictates that it has no filling. The name derives from the word 'grandmother', which might refer to its shape: like a grandmother's wide, pleated skirt.
A Sweet Treat Fit for a King: Baba, or Poland’s Gift to the World of Pastry
Another Polish treat you'll find at Easter time is makowiec ('mah-KO-viets'), a poppy seed roll spun like a strudel. With poppy seeds as the main ingredient, it uses the same type of dough as the babka, above. The texture is crunchy and nutty, and sometimes, it's covered with sugar icing.
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Made entirely of sugar and shaped like a lamb, this is the traditional centrepiece of the Polish Easter table and Easter basket. It often has a miniature red flag with a cross.
polish easter traditions
Written by Mai Jones, 2 Apr 2014