I’ve made my makówki, I’ve done the fish….. I’ve also worked a bit too much, hence this long gap since my last update. But before I put my feet up and start enjoying Christmas, I just wanted to thank all my readers for being here, for leaving comments and spreading the word!
More from thePOLSKIblog as soon as I’ve regained my energy (marinading the turkey is exhausting, you understand).
For now, let me wish you Wesołych Świąt!
Here I was, trying to find time (and inspiration) to write a post on Polish Christmas food, but it looks like yesterday’s thelondonpaper did a relatively good job.
Tom Moggach wrote a piece on how different countries celebrate Christmas from a culinary perspective and included this, rather well-researched, concise, yet informative bit:
Eat: Borscht soup [how many spellings does this word have?!], carp, mushroom dumplings, herring, potato salad, poppy seed cake and fruit compote.
Tradition: Christmas Eve is a day of fasting, before a feast of 12 dishes [oh, yes] – and no booze or meat until midnight. One place at the table is left free for unexpected guests [or as some prefer to call it, a lost traveller or a person in need], while custom dictates the sharing of ‘opłatek’, a thin wafer, with family and friends.
It’s actually surprising how much information there was in this short piece. Obviously, he didn’t even manage to scratch the surface, as there are as many variations of the Christmas Eve dinner as there are regions, cities and families in Poland.
My family for example never eats carp. We substitute it with another kind of fish, usually haddock. We don’t have mushroom dumplings, but we have a rich mushroom soup. The fruit compote tastes brilliant if it’s made from smoked dried fruit and cloves. YUM!
The area of Poland I come from also has several variations of the dessert – some of them are really rich and fruity, some sound weird (and include – among other things – beetroot), some are simply divine. Like makówki.
Now, this is a Silesian specialty with poppy seeds, almonds, nuts, milk, honey, vanilla, raisins, lemon peel, butter and milk. (Some people also use coconut and alcohol.)
I’m still hoping to make it for Christmas this year and if I do, I promise a photo recipe. That’s provided I can buy ground poppy seeds. The dish itself are supposed to have a drug-like effect on you, but I guess it’s just the combination of sugar and carbs that’s so sleep-inducing.
Anyway, have you ever experienced Polish Christmas food? What’s your favourite? I’m curious….
Image © rois Têtes (TT) via Flickr under CC licence
So, is it true that the Polish Santa Claus visits twice? Yes. Lucky Poles, eh? Let me explain.
6th December is St. Nicolaus day (Mikołajki), and traditionally it’s been a day when people give their children small gifts. But only those who’d behaved themselves, obviously. Santa Claus for most people in Poland will more likely be associated with that day then, rather than Christmas, although – bit confusingly – for many others he is a secular symbol of Christmas and therefore comes back on Christmas Eve too with even more gifts. He must be loaded. Let’s see how he copes with the credit crunch then.
Image © Dalej1 via Flickr, used under CC licence
I was too busy over the weekend (pre-Xmas gathering of friends in Hampshire, great food, lovely companion) to realise The Observer had a nice piece on Kraków and its annual exhibition of the best Christmas cribs in the main square.
In fact, the cribs were just an excuse for a page-long piece on how to enjoy yourself over a couple of days in Kraków. Light on the culture and history, heavy on entertainment and food.
Strangely, the piece is not available on their site, so let me quote directly from the paper:
Kraków hosts a vibrant Christmas market for most of December, but what makes it different is ‘Szopki’, a unique competition of nativity cribs. These are delicate handmade recreations of the city’s baroque churches and gothic cathedrals – some reaching 2m in height – that everyone, from schoolkids to pensioners, spends months labouring over. They are displayed in the Market Square on the first Thursday of December and the winners are then shown in the Historical Museum.
Szopki can be really elaborate, mind-blowing creations, they can be small and tacky, but they are such an unique part of the landscape in Kraków, you simply have to see them.
The Observer piece uses this short intro to give people bite-sized tips about Kraków – what to see, where to stay (‘Hotel Copernicus – this is where everyone stays’), where to have a coffee, go shopping, dining and clubbing.
I’m glad they also mentioned my favourite place in Kraków – well, one of many. It’s a small cafe in a really magical corner of the city, just off the main square, right opposite atiny church in the narrow St. Thomas Street. It’s called Cafe Camelot (images above and below) and as The Observes says,
You’ll find today’s arty crowd hanging out in Cafe Camelot. Apart from the fab cheesecake and mulled wine, there is alternative cabaret and live jazz or gypsy music in the cellar most evenings.
One thing the paper fails to mention is the window. As you enter the cafe, there’s a window in a recess to your left. They’ve managed to squeeze a small round table with lace tablecloth in there and two chairs. For me it’s the most romantic place in Kraków, I could sit in that window all night and forget about the world.
Next time you and your loved one are there, grab the table, get some red wine and listen to the music from the cellar. It’s pure magic…