Traditional Polish and Ukraine foods
“At the heart of Polish cuisine you’ll find meats such as pork, chicken and beef, rather than fish or pulses,” explains dietitian Dr Sarah Schenker. Winter vegetables, in particular cabbage and beetroot, are popular and spices such as paprika are widely used. “Rather than pasta or rice, dishes are usually accompanied by potatoes, noodles and dumplings – the most notable of which are kluski, which are added to soups and stews.” Polish food tends to be hearty, filling and rich, due to its plentiful use of eggs and cream, especially sour cream. The traditional cuisine in the Ukraine has some similarities to Polish food, but the main difference is the inclusion of more fish. “Common foods used in Ukrainian cooking include meat, vegetables, mushrooms, fruits, berries and herbs,” explains Dr Schenker. Bread is a staple food too and there are lots of different types, plus pickled vegetables are popular.
Is Eastern European food healthy?
Although there may be limited choice and availability of some ingredients, one valuable lesson to be learned from Eastern European cooking is that many people still cook from scratch. “This helps give you total control about what does and doesn’t go into your dish, can make it healthier and cut down on food wastage,” comments Dr Schenker. “Plus, it allows your meal pattern to become more regular, which in turns helps regulate your appetite and stops you reaching for sugary and fatty snacks between meals.” Polish women tend to avoid processed foods and ready meals, preferring to cook at home with fresh ingredients and add their own natural flavourings to foods.
Polish and Ukraine meal ideas
If you’re keen to cook up a taste of Eastern European cuisine, then here are some typical meal ideas from Dr Schenker.
Starters – Cook up a pan of rosół (clear chicken soup), barszcz (beetroot and tomato soup) or żurek (pork sausage sour ryemeal soup). Main courses – Main courses are usually meaty, so try a roast, kotlet schabowy, which is a breaded pork cutlet, or zrazy, which is stuffed slices of beef. Serve with surówka, a shredded root vegetable side dish containing carrot, celeriac and beetroot, with lemon and sugar, and boiled potatoes or traditional kasza dumplings. Desserts – For dessert, put your baking skills into action and make makowiec, a poppy seed pastry, or drożdżówka, a type of yeast cake.
Starters – Choose from fish soup, pickled cucumbers, or olive salad (with cooked potatoes, dill pickled, boiled eggs, ham, onions, peas and mayonnaise). Serve with bread. Main courses – Try carp baked in sour cream, fish kruheniki (carp stuffed with mushrooms and boiled buckwheat), cabbage rolls stuffed with minced beef and rice, or mlyntsi, which are crepes filled with meat or cottage cheese. Serve with fresh or pickled vegetables. Desserts – Indulge in a special torte cake, zhele jellied fruits or halushki, a doughnut-like sweet.
If you would like to see recipes from Sarah Schenker that are influenced by Polish and Ukrainian foods, visit our healthy eating section.
For a varied Eastern European menu, why not mix and match your meal choices and try something from both countries?
Have you tried Polish or Ukraine food? Do you have a favourite dish? Leave a comment below to share your culinary experience. Or why not ask one of our nutritionists a question about how to cook Polish or Ukrainian foods?
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