It’s October 14th and it’s snowing. And not like a few little flakes here and there. No - full on snow storm grade snowing, since before I woke up this morning. This is depressing. Almost as depressing as the fact that my winter clothes are somewhere on the Atlantic between North America and Europe. So, I’m stuck in the house until the snow decides to magically go away, just as magically as it decided to appear. Good time to catch up on blogging.
I apologize; I have not been blogging in the past two weeks. I was away visiting my husband’s family in the Kujawy-Pomerania Province for the first week (news on how the second week went to follow), which is in the central northern part of Poland, home of the richest farm land in Poland. Recently, in the news, there was a story that someone in this region was paid something like 8 times the average price of the most expensive land in Europe (Luxemburg). I only know this because my husband kept telling me this story over and over while we were taking the train and then the bus to Inowrocław. (It turned out later, that my husband’s uncle knows the guy who owned the land, and that a bidding war led to the huge price tag)
Inowrocław is known mostly for its sanatoriums. People come there from all over for
rehabilitation or to just breathe in some clean air and relax. The gardens around the sanatorium, which is located in the middle of town, are breath takingly gorgeous and conjure up thoughts of perfect wedding photo locations. There are actually tons of places like that in Poland. For example, there’s a park like that down the street from our place. It’s ridiculous. And on the other side of the street if you keep walking you get to private garden lots, where people plant vegetables and fruit trees, in the middle of the city. One minute you're in the centre of Krakow, a 10 minute walk from Wawel castle, the next minute you’re in old country farmland with little children running around and Babcias tending their gardens: amazing.
After a day with the family that lives in town, we went to visit the family in Łowiczek, where my
father-in- law grew up. It was like the cold weather had known we were coming when we got there. I spent the whole time freezing, in several sweaters at a time. Łowiczek is small and quaint, just a bunch a farms, 2 tiny convenience stores side-by-side and a gorgeous 17th century wooden church (the parish was established in the 1300s). Facts like this make me acutely aware of how young Canada is as a country. It’s crazy to think that the church in this town is older than an entire country!
Among the highlights of my visit was that one of my husband’s cousins is baker and has his own bakery Not only did we get to see the bakery, and the production of what I would say was wellover a thousand bagels (obwarzanki), we ate out faces off with the cookies, pączki (polish donuts), drożdżowki (pastries), and bread. I have to say that the best cookie I’ve ever had in my life was from this bakery, two simple classic Polish crumb sugar cookies with jam in the centre. They were so fluffy and moist, I can’t even describe it. They were so good that I was horrified when we got sent home with an entire box, so I made sure that my husband ate the majority of it. Better his pants stop fitting than mine, mine are way more expensive to replace. (not to mention that the perfect fat pants clearly do not exist)
Part of the beauty of being in the country is, I think, appreciating the simplicity of food. Really good food doesn’t need to be complicated to taste incredible. In the city, for example, I am weary of every tomato that I buy. I really don’t like raw tomatoes. But in the country, when the tomatoes are naturally grown in real soil, they are amazing. I could almost eat them like apples, if the concept of that didn’t make me nauseous. But they are so good, that I would consider it. Simple country food is the best. It just is. Partially because the ingredients are so fresh, and partially due to the necessity of making quick uncomplicated things, because of the multitude of responsibilities to take care of.
This characteristic gets thrown on to other things as well. Any new person is not just there to visit; they’re there to help make this whole process easier. So, on day 1, I got thrown into the brunt of things, as is surely only right in these kinds of situations. It was declared that I make lunch. There’s no beating around the bush either, just plain and simple “Citygirl, you will make lunch.” Lunch wasn’t my choice either, so really it went more like this: “Citygirl will make ‘kluski z serem’ for lunch.” I’m not going to lie, I started to panic slightly.
Kluski z serem is what I would roughly call polish mac ’n cheese. The thing is that in the moment of the declaration, I didn’t actually know what it exactly entailed. You see, growing up in Newfoundland I often heard about this mystery dish from my mother. The only thing I knew about it really was that the recipe called for pressed cottage cheese, which was impossible to get in Newfoundland, back then. So, suffice it to say I had never eaten kluski z serem, let alone seen it. To add to my confusion, there is also another dish called kluski z mlekem (the names are deceivingly similar), which translates roughly to noodles with milk. For some reason, we also only ever talked about this dish in my house, and I’ve never eaten it. As a result, over the years, I’ve gotten the two mixed together in my head. And so whenever I think about either of them, it conjures up the image of some sort of disgusting soup like substance, with cottage cheese floating around with noodles and milk (eww.).
So here I am the supposed Polish wife, come from Canada, on her first visit to the new family, and I have to make a dish I had never made in my life. A dish so basic that every Polish woman knows how to make it, and even some Polish men. A dish so straightforward, most Polish 10 year-olds have mastered it. A dish that might make me gag on the simple sight of it, and I will have to cook it, eat it and pretend to like it. OMG, I’m freaking out a little bit. And by a little, I mean a LOT. At this point my husband’s uncle seemed to have noticed the visible fear in my eyes, and said “You do know HOW to make kluski z serem, don’t you?” Of course, not wanting to look like a complete idiot, I started babbling (which really helped with the not looking like an idiot part, let me tell you.) “well… I mean I know what it is… but I’ve never made it, because in Newfoundland there was no pressed cottage cheese…(trailing off in explanations)” Luckily, my husband’s family is sweet and non judgmental.
So basically, I learned this: Kluski z serem is simple food at its best. I made it with no cook book, just a list of the four ingredients involved and a little guidance from my husband and my husband’s uncle. All in all, it definitely turned out ok, and in fact was delish. I’ve been craving it every day since. (I can’t say as much for the kluski z mlekem thing - that still freaks me out). So I’m going to share the recipe with you, because this is a very simple amazing dish that is guaranteed to pick you up on a cold day like today. If I had the ingredients in my fridge, I’d be making it right now.
Kluski z Serem
Ingredients: (these are all eyeballed amounts, if you think it needs more or less, add more or less)
- 1kg package thin short egg noodles ( you can really use any pasta you want, but this type of egg noodle is fantastic b/c it cooks really quickly.)
- 6 slices of bacon, chopped into bits .5cm by .5cm
- 2 large rings of kiełbasa (polish sausage) sliced into 1cm slices and then quartered (I prefer dark polish sausage)
- 1 package pressed cottage cheese crumbled
- Salt to taste
In a frying pan fry bacon until half way to crispy, then add sausage and fry until well done.* At the same time boil water for noodles, cook noodles Strain, noodles, add in cheese , bacon and sausage, mix until well combined. (Make sure that you add the noodles when they are hot.)
Return the mixture to the pot or frying pan for a minute or so, stirring constantly to melt the cheese a little. Alternatively you can add the cheese into the bacon and sausage and fry it up a little before adding the noodles. (This isn’t necessary, but my husband maintains that it tastes the best this way) Serve immediately. Keep it rustic, just put the frying pan, or pot directly on the table and have everyone serve themselves
* I also think adding caramelized onions would be delish
Good Luck! <3