Fish

Fish

By
Zuza Zak
Contains
8 recipes
Published by
Quadrille Publishing
ISBN
9781849497268
Photographer
Laura Edwards

“Jedna z najważniejszych cech kuchni staropolskiej była duża ilosc i wielkie zróżnicowanie dań rybnych. Polską kuchnie ceniono w Europie własnie za bardzo rozwiniętą sztukę przyrządzania potraw rybnych.”

“One of the most important attributes of old Polish cuisine was the large quantity and variety of its fish dishes. Polish cuisine was valued in Europe precisely because it was so well developed in the art of cooking fish.”

{Jaroslaw Dumanowski, Andrzej Pawlas, Jerzy Poznański}

Poland’s oldest existing cookbook was written in 1682 by Stanislaw Czerniecki and contains over 100 recipes for fish. In the 17th and 18th Centuries Polish chefs were famous all over Europe for their freshwater fish recipes. To this day, fish is a big part of the Polish diet, prepared and eaten in many different ways – cold, warm, preserved, smoked, jellied, fried, baked and poached. We are not just limited to the fish available in supermarkets – if it’s swimming in the sea, lake or river, then we’ll eat it. In the summer, this often means simply rolling it in a mixture of flour and breadcrumbs, then frying it in butter to be eaten right there and then, with a surówka (slaw) and bread, overlooking the water it inhabited and washing it down with a cold beer.

The Catholic religious calendar, which is an ingrained part of Polish culture and life, whatever our religious beliefs now are, alternates times of fasting with times of feasting. Times of fasting call for fish opposed to meat and this is the main way in which we still fast. In the past the fasting was stricter (almost half the year was spent fasting) and during these times, men would often use the line ‘Idę na małą rybkę’, which translates as ‘I’m going out to eat a little fish’. Which has now become a running joke, because the real intention was to wash the fish down with plenty of vodka.

In the colder months, preserved and smoked fish take centre stage. Smoked eel is a personal favourite, though quite rare to come by these days. Carp is always somewhere in the vicinity as I discovered when searching for fresh fish for this book. Our love of carp has been well publicised in the UK, with naughty Poles fishing for this most beloved fish in well-stocked British parks and offering anglers cash for their winning carp (always politely refused in the UK as the carp is always dropped back into the river).

In this chapter, I’ve tried to demonstrate a variety of fish recipes, inspired by quite distinct regions of Poland as well as including different types of fish. After all, if there is a demand for more freshwater fish then it will be stocked in shops and a great, positive change could come about as a result. (We should never underestimate our power as consumers.) I recommend using a good fishmonger and buying fish that’s as local as possible to where you live. There are many rare, exotic treasures to be found, so the most sensible option does not necessarily mean sticking to what you are familiar with. Cooking more unusual varieties means that you are less likely to be eating something that is over-fished; it is also less likely to be farmed in dirty, overcrowded waters.

Recipes in this Chapter

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