Katerina, my Greek cuisine teacher, whose fascinating blog Culinary Flavors is a constant source of inspiration, has recently asked me about Polish recipes. I looked through my old posts, then browsed through my food photographs and thought that this culinary connection between the two countries (at least in the name!) might interest her and some of my other dear visitors too. It’s one of the most popular Polish fish dishes and I have no idea if it bears any resemblance to any Greek recipe (Katerina, please, correct me if I’m wrong). It is light and usually served cold, but calls for typical autumn vegetables (carrot and celeriac), so it’s perfect to serve while autumn is still relatively warm and sunny (at least in Greece I suppose!).
If I describe this dish, it might sound boring and plain (fish fillets are fried and then covered with a mixture of carrot, onion, celeriac and tomato sauce), but in my opinion there is something magical in this recipe, transforming even the humblest fish fillets into a delightful, complex treat after a night spent under an aromatic, flavoursome red-orange duvet. It is usually served cold, as a starter or among other dishes at a buffet party (actually it might be considered as a fish salad), but some people like to have it warm too. Personally, I prefer it after a whole night in the fridge when the fish has absorbed all the flavours from the tomato sauce and vegetables. Of course, there are different versions of this dish (probably every cook does it his/her own way). Some people add also parsley root but I think it’s not necessary here. Chopped fresh dill is not obligatory but it makes this dish even more Polish and could be considered as another link with Greece, apart from the name (I have recently learnt from Katerina that dill is very popular in her country too). You can replace it with fresh or frozen parsley, but do not use dried herbs.
Among the ingredients you will see Maggi sauce. Thinking throughout my childhood it was a typical Polish seasoning, I learnt only recently I’m not the only one… In fact, I have met people from very distant parts of the world who were also convinced it was their national invention! According to Wikipedia this sauce was created in XIXth century by a certain Mr. Maggi, a Swiss entrepreneur and is nowadays produced by the Swiss company Nestlé. Needless to say, its worldwide distribution is very successful. Maggi sauce is used by many home Polish cooks (usually looked down at by big chefs though!), but I open it rarely: only when I want some dishes taste just like my mum’s. If you cannot find it, I advise soy sauce instead though the taste is of course different.
The fish can be fried in any way you wish (deep-fried, pan-fried or even grilled) and if you are on a diet you might also poach it or steam it. I think that oil adds a lot to the taste and would never skip it, so I always pan-fry it in small amount of oil.
You can use any fish variety, but in my opinion it’s a perfect way to ennoble any humble, ordinary cheap fish (whiting fillets are excellent here).
It is very important to cover the fish with a very hot carrot mixture (otherwise the flavours will not be well combined).
Do not use dried dill or parsley; only fresh or frozen.
Preparation: about 40 minutes + several hours in the fridge (or even a whole night if possible)
Ingredients (serves 3 as a starter):
200 g / about 7 oz carrots
3 tablespoons oil
1 big onion
250 g/ about 1/2 lb fish fillets (choose cheap fish for this recipe)
2-3 tablespoons flour
4 tablespoon tomato paste
250 – 300 ml/8 – 10 fl oz tomato juice/sauce (natural) + 1 heaped tablespoon concentrated tomato paste
1/2 small celeriac
3 tablespoons Maggi sauce or soy sauce
fresh or frozen dill (or parsley leaves)
Dry the fillets, season them with salt and pepper. Dust with flour and fry on both sides.
Cover with them the bottom of a serving dish.
Slice the onion.
Grate (on a vegetable grater) the remaining vegetables or julienne them.
Fry all the vegetables in 1 tablespoon oil for about 5 minutes.
Add the tomato juice, tomato paste, maggi, salt, pepper and let the vegetables simmer until they are soft (I prefer my vegetables rather crunchy, but feel free to simmer them to you liking).
Cover the fish with the hot vegetable mixture.
Let it cool down and then place in the fridge for several hours (it’s best after one night in the fridge).
Serve sprinkled with fresh dill or parsley.