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Polish Cuisine and Recipes

Polish Recipes, Food and Cooking

Cooking by Country - May 2005


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Poland is situated in  Europe and shares borders with Russia, Lithuania, Belarus, Ukraine, the Slovak Republic, the Czech Republic and Germany. It has a  491 km coastline along the Baltic Sea and is made up of mostly flat plain, about 28% of forest, with some mountainous regions. It has a temperate climate with cold winters and mild summers. It boasts a number of rivers and many small lakes.



Ancient Times, History and Influences on Polish cooking


Although the area which now forms Poland has been occupied for thousands of years, Polish history only dates from the ninth century when the Polians (dwellers in the field) became the dominant Slavic tribe in the region .

The two main ingredients used in everyday cooking were meat in particular game such as wild boar or venison, beef and staple cereals such as rye, wheat and barley especially in the form of bread. The heavily forested area yielded a good supply of mushrooms, forest fruits, nuts and honey as did freshwater fish such as pike, perch, sturgeon and carp and dairy produce. On the whole the cuisine was quite heavy reflecting the need for warming foods in the cold winters.

With no natural geographical defences, over the years Poland has been the subject of  invasions and land struggles including wars with Russia, Austria, Sweden and Germany and for a brief time a Polish state was even supported by Napoleon. The cuisine has been influenced not only by these countries' culinary traditions, but also from other national groups such as Jews, Ukrainians, Belarussians and Lithuanians who settled there. 


One particularly important influence started around 1518 when  Queen  Bona Sforza  brought in many chefs from Italy and France. During this period,  native polish vegetables were supplemented with newly introduced produce such as lettuce, leek, celery and cabbage, the latter to become a main ingredient in Polish cooking. Another major influence came from  the close trading relations with the Middle East. These trading links meant that the price of spices such as juniper, pepper and nutmeg were relatively low and the use of spices in everyday cuisine became popular  one has to say not just as flavourings but  also  to mask the smell of badly preserved meats.


The various partitions in the 1700's saw the subsequent decline of Poland which prior to this time had been one of the largest countries in Europe.  Grain production during this period of turmoil resulted in potatoes becoming more of a staple often replacing the traditional cereal staples.

Current Day Polish Cuisine


Today Polish food continues to be very hearty with meat still being eaten often although pork has become the favourite especially in the form of sausages.  Other typical ingredients used in Polish cuisine today are sauerkraut, beetroot, cucumbers, gherkins,  sour cream, eggs, mushrooms, dill, marjoram and spices such as juniper and paprika. Staples still include potatoes, rye and bread and various dumplings are often eaten. Dairy produce such as sour cream or yoghurt frequently form an intrinsic part of dishes.


A typical Polish meal usually starts with a soup although other appetisers are also eaten,  continues with a meat dish accompanied by vegetables and dumplings or potatoes followed by a dessert usually in the form of ice cream,  cake, doughnuts or fruit.


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