Polish cuisine with a lighter, more modern touch

Polish cuisine with a lighter, more modern touch

Forget the old-fashioned, heavy food from a land of shortages. A quarter-century after communism, Poland is wealthy and its nouveau cuisine much lighter

Kasia Bosacka's reinvented duck, cranberry perogy with Polish mead, cream sauce

Kasia Bosacka’s reinvented duck, cranberry perogy with Polish mead, cream sauce

NOV 14 14 – 10:20 AM — Eastern Europe is not normally my favourite cuisine, as too often the menu gravitates toward heavy perogies and cabbage-enrobed filler more reminiscent, in my mind, of an economy of shortages rather than plenty. But thankfully the times are changing, especially in Poland following the end of communism in 1989, which I was only too delighted to discover recently at a small private lunch in the Gatineau hills created by the very charming Katarzyna Bosacka, wife of the Polish ambassador to Canada, Marcin Bosacki.

Mother of four, Bosacka is a passionate self-styled cook and host of a popular Polish network television show I Know What I Eat (Wiem Co Jem) that requires frequent back-and-forth travel between Ottawa and her homeland. Lunch was at the custom-built home of Polish photographer Ela Kinowska for a handful of friends organized by Halina Player of Player Expositions.

Top, Polish TV celebrity Kasia Bosacka, wife of Polish ambassador Marc in Bosacki to Canada, makes perogies with Grazyna Lebkowska. Bottom left, hostess Ela Kinowska with long-time friend Halina Player at the luncheon

Top, Polish TV celebrity Kasia Bosacka, wife of Polish ambassador Marcin Bosacki to Canada, makes perogies with Grazyna Lebkowska. Bottom left, hostess Ela Kinowska with long-time friend Halina Player at the luncheon

“You know,” Bosacka begins, “food is heritage, it is everything. It is love, it is passion.

“I’ve never been trained, I never went to culinary school, but with four children I found I was cooking all the time because they don’t want to eat from a cafeteria. So the food I create is all mine; I don’t like to mix too many ingredients because when a see a plate with too much going on then it’s confusing.”

Elegance in simplicity? You’ve got my attention.

Left, classicly trained Frnech chef Robert Bourassa tries his hand at crafting perogies. Top right, Kasia Bosacka says she's lightened up her cuisine using fewer but brighter ingredients

Left, classically trained French chef Robert Bourassa tries his hand at crafting perogies. Top right, Kasia Bosacka says she’s lightened up her cuisine using fewer but brighter ingredients

The fact is Polish cuisine is improving as quickly as the country after communism. As recently as a quarter-century ago its dinner tables were filled mostly with pot stickers, potatoes and cabbage, while store shelves were constantly empty leaving Poles to stand hours in excruciatingly long queues in the hope they might be able to actually purchase something.

And that is no exaggeration, according to the embassy in Ottawa.

Today the country has new-found wealth, its economy being the sixth-largest in the European Union and ranking 20th worldwide in gross domestic product. Shops are brimming with food both domestic and imported — everything from sourdough to exquisite cured meats, fresh fruit and vegetables.

“Today Poland is one of the largest food producers and exporters in Europe, ranking number one in chicken, eggs, geese, apples, portobello mushrooms, black currant, raspberries, blueberries and tomatoes,” says an info sheet from the embassy. It is also the second-largest European producer of turkey, pork and strawberries.

“Polish cuisine is not boring any more … We have great restaurants in Warsaw and Krakow recognized by Michelin. And here in Ottawa you can find Polish food at many stores including Continental Delicatessen in the ByWard Market, Warsaw Deli on Richmond Road, Adam’s Sausages on Michael Street, Baltic Delicatessen on Carling Avenue, and Polka Deli on Walkley Road.”

Sikorski Sausages of London, Ont., also has a line of Polish meats in Loblaws.

Herring on a bed of red onion confit with yogurt dill sauce presented in a frozen, hollow lemon shell. Bottom, roast beet spup pureed with chicken broth, potato, sherry and orgage for subtle sweetness, garnished with pumpkin seed and beet

Herring picked 24 hours on a bed of red onion confit with yogurt dill sauce presented in a frozen, hollow lemon shell. Bottom, roast beet soup pureed with chicken broth, potato, sherry and orange for subtle sweetness, garnished with pumpkin seed and beet

“Polish cuisine as well as the country are constantly developing,” Bosacka says.

“Times are gone when the sausage, vodka and pork chops were the most popular in Poland. Poland is now a modern and pretty rich economy.

“So my purpose with this luncheon is to show you a quite different, modern side to Polish cuisine, opening with dill herring in frozen lemon boats served on ice, then creamy beet soup with sherry and juice.”

She also invited guests to try their hand at crafting perogies (I declined, but French-trained chef Robert Bourassa of former Café Henry Burger did admirably) which mercifully dispensed with potato, stuffed instead with duck and goat cheese.

In all an exquisite luncheon — and not one cabbage roll in sight.

Perogies stuffed with goat cheese, fried onion, parsley

Perogies stuffed with goat cheese, fried onion, parsley

Russet apple tartlet with meringue

Russet apple tartlet with meringue

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