Polish cooking is hearty and filling, such as the dish known as Bigos or Hunter's Stew. It is a rich and flavorful mixture of sauerkraut, pork and sausage with vegetables and bay leaves. Golabki or stuffed cabbage, uses a whole cabbage, ground meat and is flavored with parsley, bay leaves and nutmeg. Piernik - or honey cake - is made with honey, nutmeg and cloves.
Herbs and spices are used frequently in Polish cooking, but some are used more frequently than others. Stocking your herb cabinet for Polish dishes means concentrating on those herbs and spices that turn up most frequently in recipes. These are the herbs and spices you will most frequently encounter:
Dill: This popular salad herb is used in many dishes in Poland, both the fresh leaves and the seeds. It has an aromatic, slightly sour flavor that complements many Polish dishes, and can be used to garnish the popular beetroot soup called borscht. It is an essential ingredient in dill pickles. Dill seeds can be used as a substitute for caraway seeds.The Polish word for dill is koperek, sometimes koperku.
Paprika: An essential ingredient in Hungarian goulash, paprika is also popular in Polish recipes, giving a red color and aromatic flavor to many meat dishes. Made from dried, ground peppers, paprika is used in the polish version of goulash, known as porkolt. This is meat simmered in a red tinged gravy containing paprika. It can be added to any meat based stew, and is especially good with tomato based stews.
Caraway: These aromatic little black seeds may be most often encountered in rye bread, where they give the characteristic flavor that goes so well with corned beef. But caraway is also used in many other dishes, from sauerkraut to sausage. They are an essential ingredient in caraway soup and kminkowka, or caraway vodka. Added to a simple cake mix they give a delightful and unusual flavor. Caraway is called kmink in Polish.
Poppy seeds: These seeds are most often found sprinkled on bread rolls in delis, but they also are an essential ingredient in the well known Polish dessert dish called makoeic, or poppy seed cake. This is made by rolling a paste made from poppy seeds into a sweet dough. Similar to a strudel, this dish is popular at festive occasions. Poppy seeds are called mak in Polish.
Bay leaves: Frequently used in soups, stews and meat dishes, bay leaves are an essential herb for Polish cuisine. The dried leaves of the bay tree, they can be crumbled, pulverized or added whole to a dish. Bay leaves are called bobknowe in Polish
While just adding popular herbs used in Poland to a dish won't make it a Polish dish, having the right herbs on hand means you can successfully recreate some delicious food from that country. So give it a try - and enjoy!