Poland is a large country in Central Europe, located by the Baltic Sea. It has several mountainous areas and even one of the five deserts in Europe. About 1/3 of the country is covered by forest. Poland is an important agricultural producer of potatoes, rye, triticale and sugar beets. It has a very healthy economy, said to be unaffected by the recent recession. It is one of the most religious countries in Europe, being Roman Catholic. Football is the most important sport and poetry/literature and painting traditionally perhaps the most important types of art.
The Polish cuisine is known as quite heavy and meat-based, with sausages being particularly popular. Potatoes, mushrooms, beets and cabbage (including sauerkraut) are among the most important ingredients. Pickled cucumbers and buckwheat are also eaten a lot. Bread, rye or wheat, has been a crucial part of Polish cuisine. Nowadays the most well-known Polish dish world-wide is probably pierogi, a filled savoury or sweet dumpling. There are many kinds of soups, including several different kinds of beet soup. Soup may also be made out of e.g. tripe, sorrel, pickles or soured milk. Salads tend to be heavy and often feature potatoes, eggs, mayonnaise and/or sour cream. Most desserts are rich baked goods.
Kutia wigilijna is a traditional Polish Christmas dessert. Similar dishes are known in many neighbour countries. It is based on wheat berries (unprocessed wheat), but can also be made from kamut berries, barley or rice. Like many desserts of the region, especially Christmas ones, it is seasoned with ground poppy seed. Their flavour is quite similar to tahini, but more bitter, so the amount of sugar (and originally honey) isn’t excessive. (I was only able to find white poppy seed, for some reason.) The wheat berries seemed a bit weird in texture, so it might be more enjoyable made with rice, though the cooking time must be adjusted when using different grains. This recipe came from About.com and I made it vegan.
1 cup/2.4 dl wheat berries or kamut berries
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup/2.4 dl poppy seeds
1/2 cup/1.2 dl confectioners’ sugar
4 tbsp agave syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract
(1/4 tsp orange flower water, to replicate honey taste with the agave)
zest of 1 lemon
2/3 cup plumped raisins
(1/2 cup ground walnuts)
(1/2 cup coarsely ground blanched almonds)
(5 plumped figs, chopped)
(5 plumped dates, chopped
1/2 cup vegan cream (like soy cream or cashew cream)
Rinse wheat berries well. Place them in a large pot and cover with plenty of water. Stir let soak overnight. Drain the wheat, rinse, drain again and place back in the pot. Add 6 cups/1.5 l cold water and salt. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until tender (90 minutes to 3 hours, mine took less than 2 hours). Drain and set aside to cool.
Place poppy seeds in a saucepan and cover with boiling water. Let stand for 15 minutes. Place the pan on the stove and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Poppy seeds are ready when they can be pulverized between the fingers. Drain and grind in a blender.
In a large bowl, combine cooled wheat, ground poppy seeds, sugar, agave, vanilla, zest, raisins and other dried fruit and nuts (if using). Mix well and add vegan cream, incorporating thoroughly. Serve cold. Makes 4-5 portions.