Krakow – City Break

Last weekend saw me, my sister and my mum take our first trip abroad together, just the three of us. It’s crazy that in almost 30 years, we have only ever been to London together on a mother/daughter break. We wanted to go somewhere different and a few of mine and my sisters colleagues mentioned how good Poland, in particular Krakow was. With the help of dad, we managed to get a good deal on flights on a hotel. The hotel, Queen Boutique was in a good location, 15 minutes walk from the Old Town and 5 minutes walk from the Jewish Quarter. The train station was 20-25 minutes walk away and was how we got to the centre from the Airport. 9 zloty each and a straightforward journey and walk (if I can work out how to buy tickets and which stop to get off at, anyone can).

Beer Hall

Bierhalle – Pork Crackling and Lard, Sour Rye Bread Soup, Pierogi, Beef Stew with Potato Pancake

Groats

Gruzinskie Chaczapuri Restraunt – Georgian Dumplings, Breaded Pork Cutlet with Roast Potatoes, Goulash with Sauerkraut and Groats

Milk Bar

U Babci Maliny – Mixed Pierogi. Peramin Chill Out – Cocktails and Gin

We stayed there for four days (Saturday to Tuesday) and planned two days of activities before we got there. The difficulty was deciding which to do. If you’ve ever been away with me, you’ll know that I love food and when I’m abroad (especially somewhere for the first time) I like to try as much of the local cuisine as I possibly can. I probably ate more in these four days than I do normally in a week! A unique way of doing this is booking onto a food tour. I was able to find one with the help of Trip Adviser. Eat Polska offered a small group tour around Krakow sampling local cuisine. In four hours you would visit four different establishments and sample 12 different foods (plus a shot of vodka). We did this tour on the Monday and was worried that we would be repeating foods that we had already tried as we were having our meals in restaurants that did local cuisine (think goulash, beetroot soup, pierogi and sauerkraut). But we needn’t have worried. Our tour guide took us to places that we wouldn’t have considered (or I turned down as not authentic enough), very informative on the history of Polish cuisine and a true foodie. We were learning from each other on food trends, behaviours around food and I picked up some recipes. I surprised her with my knowledge on Polish cuisine (all learnt from my Polish Meat Free Feast). I strongly recommend booking a place on this tour (or look for food tours on your next city break). It’s not only about trying local cuisine but also about learning about the history and culture of the country. We visited one of the numerous food markets and the amount of seasonal fresh produce available was good. Made me envious of how much we take for granted having produce available all year round. We struggled with the cheeses and meats but still managed to eat all our cake 🙂 Our eyes may have been bigger than our bellies as we then stopped of at E.Wedels for a trio hot chocolate taster. You’ll be pleased to know that we were then in food comas for the rest of the day.

Food Tour

Eat Polska Food Tour (plus a Trio Chocolate Sampler)

Our tastings were:

  • Zapiekanka – Polish Street Food, pizza
  • Zalewajka – sour rye soup
  • Barszcz z pierogiem – red borscht / beetroot soup with dumplings
  • Obwarzanek – Polish pretzel
  • Sliwka wędzona – smoked prunes (yes…that is correct)
  • Śledź maties z kwaśną śmietaną, gryczano grzybowym poppingiem i dymką – matjes herring with sour cream, buckwheat popping and spring onion (a modern twist on traditional cuisine)
  • Stek Hanger na ziemniaczanym racuchu z boczkiem z sosem z boczniaków i pieczonego czosnku – Hanger steak on potato pancake with bacon and oyster mushrooms and baked garlic sauce (a modern twist on traditional cuisine)
  • Biała kasza gryczana smażona z warzywami, słonecznikiem i boczniakiem – Fried white buckwheat with vegetables, sunflower and oyster mushrooms
  • Puree ziemniaczane – Potatoe puree
  • Warzywa z czosnkowo – ziołowym masłem – Vegetables with herbs & garlic butter
  • Wódka Baczewski – shot of Baczewski vodka
  • Polish cheeses: – twaróg – quark, oscypek – smoked sheep’s milk cheese, koryciński – cow’s milk cheese, klagany – mild cow’s milk cheese, homiłki – cheese balls with mint
  • Coldcuts platter: schab – pork loin, salceson – brawn, boczek – pork belly, kiełbasa – sausage, pasztetowa – spreadable pate
  • Vodka chasers : smalec – lard, chrzan – horseradish, ogórki kiszone – sour pickles, sour dough bread
  • Kremówka – cream cake

Our second booked activity was a visit to Auschwitz and Birkenau. Although my mum was a bit reluctant to go on this tour, we felt we needed to as it is part of our history. Although very emotional, the tour and attraction have been done in a respectful manner. It is something that you would need to do if visiting Poland. It does take a day to visit and I would suggest that you only do the one trip in the day. Some tours offer both this and a visit to the salt mines but personally, I think that it is too much for one day. However, I would like to go back and visit Krakow again to go to the Salt Mines and visit some of the other attractions that we were unable to do. We managed to walk around the Castle and visit the Underground Museum. 

Sights

Before getting to Krakow, I had a mental list of the different foods that I wanted to try and I managed to sample them all. On our first day we had lunch in a beer hall where I got to try sour rye bread soup with white sausage. In the evening I tried Georgian beef stew with groats and sauerkraut. I learnt from the food tour that groats is buckwheat and is a well used grain in Poland. The following evening we visited a milk bar which was different. The menu consists of cheap, traditional foods. The room is set up with long benches and stools and is more of a self service. Orders are placed at the till and you then wait for your number to be called. I tried to re-create my homemade Polish feast and tried the beetroot soup and the peirogi three ways. Another thing I learnt from the food tour was that the beetroot borscht I’d made is known as Hungarian borscht in Poland (explains why the beetroot soup was more of a broth in the milk bar). Our final meal in Poland was in the Jewish District where we enjoyed a set menu. I finally got round to trying the last item on my mental food list, bigos stew!

Momo

Momo Cafe – Pumpkin Soup, Bigos (Hunters Stew), Mama’s Tea.

Polish Meat Free

Happy New Year!!!! Has anybody made any New Year resolutions? Has anyone broke any New Year resolutions?

This year me and Mr W are continuing with our meat free Mondays. We managed it last year (not always a Monday but a meat free day each week) and quite enjoyed it. I’ll admit, we did have quite few meals that we kept falling back on (veggie chilli….pasta….gnocchi). This year I’m hoping that we can try and vary it a little.

Thankfully, my sister bought me a subscription for a meat free recipe spice box which is a good start. The first recipe and spices were for some Polish dishes. Not something I would have thought to have made when thinking of meal inspiration but I’m up for trying new recipes.

meal

So, the first meat free Monday of 2017 consisted of Mr W’s favourite veggie sandwich (veggie club) for lunch and for tea, borscht and mushroom pierogi with fried cabbage. For those new to Polish cuisine (which I was) borscht is a beetroot based stew and pierogi are dumplings. I was slightly worried that Mr W would hate this meal as it included mushrooms and lots of vinegar. Two things Mr W has on his dislike list. But he really enjoyed it (going back for extra mushroom pierogi!!!)

The spice kit came with different spice mixes to use for the different  components. On the back of the recipe is a list of the ingredients needed (there were quite a few). They also provide a list of spices that can be used in substitute of their spice mixes if you want to make them again.

The borscht consisted of onion, grated beetroot, grated carrot, grated cabbage, some vinegar and a spice mix. This was served with horseradish soured cream (soured cream mixed with a horseradish spice blend) and pickled cucumber (finely sliced cucumber pickled in a pickling mix, vinegar and sugar). The pierogi was made using flour, water and oil which is mixed together to form a dough. The filling was finely chopped mushrooms, onions and a spice mix. The dough is cut into circles and filled with the mushroom mix before folding into half moons and sealing. The dumplings are then cooked in boiling water for around three minutes. The fried cabbage consisted of onions and cabbage fried in in oil and another spice mix. The end result, a Polish feast.

The recipe served four so the leftovers came into work to share with my sister. Cue funny looks from colleagues as I pulled out the equivalent of a Polish smorgasbord. But it still tasted as good as the night I made it. Her favourite was the mushroom pierogi (which is something that I will be making again).

The best thing is, me, my mum and sister are going to Poland in a couple of months so I can compare it against an authentic version.

For those that don’t really like cooking, this wouldn’t be the meal/recipe choice for you. It took me two and a half hours to prepare the ingredients and cook the dishes. I thought it was worth it and don’t mind spending that amount of time in the kitchen (it happens at least once a week). A lesson learnt is to try and prepare the ingredients the night before. Unless I want to be eating at 9 pm, its not something I want to be doing after work. Thankfully, last Monday was a bank holiday.

If anyone is interested in the recipe spice box kits, they are from a company called The Spicery and they do different types of boxes. I will keep you updated with future recipe kits.