Last week, from 15 to 19 September, FOUR – The World’s Best Food Magazine was lucky enough to attend the very first edition of ‘Three Natures of Gdansk & Pomorskie’, a culinary tour of north Poland organised by the likes of Gdansk Tourist Board and the founders of Gdansk's best-known gourmet restaurant, Metamorphoza, in celebration of Poland’s fantastic regional produce.
Curating and cooking at the event was chefs ŁUKASZ TOCZEK of restaurant Metamorfoza in Gdansk, ADAM WOŹNIAK, executive chef at restaurant Mercato, Gdansk, and BOGDAN GAŁĄZKA, a specialist in Polish medieval cuisine and chef at Gothic restaurant in Malbork castle.
On the first day, after a morning spent foraging and flaying deer in the forest in Robaczkowo, part of the Kashubia region in northern Poland, and an afternoon milking goats at Kashubian Goat Farm, Metamorphoza’s chef ŁUKASZ TOCZEK prepared a forest-inspired dinner. The menu included: thick forest mushroom soup with blackberry; edible stones with moss; deer tartare with pine; roe deer with juniper and blueberries; and resin-flavoured ice cream with chocolate – all made with the ingredients collected that day.
Day two had an over-arching theme of ‘water’. After searching for forgotten fish in lake Radunia, chef ŁUKASZ TOCZEK prepared a lunch with our findings. Young, fatty Matias herring (śledź), Eel (węgorz), Lamprey (minóg morski) and Crayfish (raki) were just a few types of fish on offer to sample, along with, of course, the Kuyavian-Pomeranian region’s most prized product - Moonshine (Księżycówka tincture) - an alcoholic beverage with the aroma of fresh bergamont. Some have an alcohol content as high as 80 per cent! Drawing the day to a memorable close, chef ADAM WOŹNIAK at Mercato restaurant in Gdansk prepared a menu which highlighted Poland's outstanding sea-food produce, with an Amuse Bouche to ‘entertain the palate’ before embarking on courses of smoked whitefish with black brioche, smoked butter and lemon; fish cappuccino with salmon shortbread, perch pike, crayfish, leek and crayfish foam; pre-dessert; and a chocolate ‘flower pot’ to finish.
The last - but in no way least - day was spent out in the meadow in Lasowice Wielkie, a small village in the Polish Pomeranian region. Highlights at lunch included Czernina (blood soup) made with goose blood and clear broth. Traditionally, the soup is cooked with goose offals, apple vinegar (to avoid coagulation) and added ingredients include anything from dried fruits (plums, sour apples, cherries) to dried mushrooms and is served with a side of potatoes. Cooking up a medieval storm in the evening in the eastern wing of the impressive Malbork castle, chef BOGDAN GAŁĄZKA treated guests to: smoked white Kałucka breed goose breast marinated in herbs; horseradish leaves and Żubrówka vegetable soup with spelt; green chicken breast breaded in parsley leaves, served with sweet carrot, roasted white sesame and hazelnuts and a hint of white wine vinegar; rice pudding on almond milk with caramelised rose petals.
Produced by Tomasz and his wife Honorata who moved from Warsaw to the Kashubia region in north Poland to start their goat farm after packing in their managerial jobs in the city, their drunken goats cheese has become something of a delicacy in Poland. This is a soft ripened goat cheese with the addition of noble moulds, which is left to ripen in berry fruits. A firm favourite among Poland’s gourmet chefs like ŁUKASZ TOCZEK at restaurant Metamorfoza and Wojciech Modest Amaro of restaurant Atelier Amaro who earned Poland its first Michelin star earlier this year.
You say tomato, I say tomato, but regardless, the ones from Barbara Michalak is different to all. Her tomatoes are grown with the use of natural pesticides based on goat milk and nettles.
Roe deer goulash (Gulasz z sarny) – Goulash is a book-size subject, and though traditionally a Hungarian dish, it has been widely adopted by the Polish tables. It is good for game, as long marinating and then cooking makes the meat twice as soft and tender, extracting its juices, flavours and aromas. The roe deer goulash is often marinated overnight in wine with onions, garlic, thyme and juniper berries and is then cooked for several hours until the sauce thickens.
Pickled yeast cake (kiszona drozdzowka) – more delicious than it sounds, this cake originates from the Kociewie area in Poland and differs from the traditional yeast Baba as its ingredients are chilled and mixed cold rather than warm in a clay pot after which they are pickled. The cake is sweet, crumbly and moist and often made with the addition of plums or berries.
Sorrel soup – also referred to as the ‘green borscht’ (zupa szczawiowa) – is a green, sour soup made from sorrel leaves. Its presence on the Polish table often marks the start of the summer season because of sorrel’s inability to be preserved. Depending on the tradition of the region in which it is made, sorrel soup can be served cold or hot. Most commonly it is served hot with fresh sorrel leaves which are added to the stock at the last minute and a hardboiled egg.
80% Moonshine – unless you’re accustomed to strong alcoholic beverages (and when we say strong, we mean STRONG) stick to Moonshine that has a 50% or less alcohol content when in Poland’s Kuyavian-Pomeranian region. Anything that exceeds 70% is best left to the experts – namely the fishermen who frequent lake Radunia in northern Poland who drink Moonshine to keep warm on crisp, early morning fishing trips.