I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and you've all started off on what (fingers crossed) will be be a fantastic year! :)
I've had a lovely Christmas at home and have truly loved being around my friends and family. Starting from about the 23rd December right through till the 2nd January is a uniquely relaxing time of year. The world seems quieter (with the exception of bustling high streets everywhere for the last remaining days leading up to Christmas) and I'm able to let technology take a much needed break from my life, leaving it ready and waiting for the beginning of the New Year.
We had a fairly unconventional Christmas tree this year too. I went to pick up a tree with the rest of my family (love this tradition!) and bucked the norm by returning with a waist-height tree in it's own little pot. The traditional lights went up but no Christmas angel this year... no, that would be far too traditional.
So what did our family have to put in pride of place on the very top branch of our dumpling of a tree?
A Christmas Mouse.
Yes you heard right. We abandoned the little sense we had left and placed a little toy mouse on the uppermost branch. The real corker about this tree topper? When you press it, it sings, "Let it snow," and not in the standard human voice, oh no, in a hilariously cute, squeaky voice. So cute and strangely addictive! There wasn't an hour that passed on Christmas day that we wouldn't hear it's ear-piercing rendition starting again. Best angel replacement ever.
Being part polish, I also celebrate Wigilia. My family look forward to this night year round. Wigilia is all about family and food. The night starts off with a big bowl of Barszcz; a clear red beetroot soup with chopped beetroot and a nicely sharp tang. Huge bowls of Uszka* dominate the table. These are little pastry parcels filled with either potato or sauerkraut. The next course is a mixture of new potatoes, various vegetables, fish dishes and kotlety. This is a point we definitely deviate from tradition once again. Technically meat isn't meant to be eaten on Wigilia, only fish. However Kotlety; really gorgeous meat burgers (I have a recipe for a take on these in my cookbook Back to Natural Eating) made their way to the Wigilia table. mmm... the meal is followed up by a special Tort* recipe my Babcia makes (a multitiered cake with 3 different icings; lemon, coffee and chocolate. Then the entire cake is drenched in chocolate), along with hot drinks whilst the present opening begins and wrapping paper is being thrown across the room.
*Foods such as Uszka and Tort, which contain wheat and wheat and sugar respectively, I allow myself to eat a small amount of as I know that this is definitely a one off at this time of year and it is a tradition which I hold close to my heart.
I acquired an extra special present this year at Wigilia. My Babcia (grandmother) gave me a book filled with some of her recipes which she had typed out and added to the pages. I am in love with this gift from her; heartfelt presents are always the best :)
Naturally my next move over the next few days post-Christmas was to start making recipes. The family were all rooting for the same recipe; Bigos.
Bigos is also sometimes known as Hunters Stew. The base is usually sauerkraut with chopped meats added to it, especially sausages such as wiejska and kabanos or even bacon. The idea is to use this as a way to use up any leftover meats you have left and is a hearty staple dish with relatively few ingredients.
Paleo, grain-free, gluten-free, sugar-free
This recipe is adapted from my Babcias recipe.
1kg sauerkraut; you can buy this in jars
2 bay leaves
4 whole black peppercorns
6 mini kabanoses; I used kabanos, but you can use any type of meats and I personally think wiejska is one of the tastiest meats to use. Also feel free to use bacon and other types of sausage instead. Use roughly 150g meat
150g button mushrooms
Handful of dried mushrooms
Enough chicken stock to cover
Coarse sea salt to taste
1 teaspoon coconut oil for frying
- Finely chop the onion and sautee in a large pan with the coconut oil
- Drain the sauerkraut, leaving the liquid to one side
- Add the sauerkraut to the saucepan along with the bay leaves and peppercorns
- Cover the ingredients in chicken stock
- Bring to the boil for 2 minutes and then reduce to a simmer and cover to cook for 30 minutes
- Add the dried mushrooms to a seperate bowl and allow to soak
- Peel and chop the button mushrooms and finely chop the onion
- Sautee the mushroom pieces and onion in cocout oil in a frying pan until soft
- Chop the soaked mushroom and kabanoses into pieces and add to the sauerkraut with the sauteed mushroom and onion pieces
- Stir, cover and leave to cook again for another 30 minutes
- Taste the sauerkraut and when cooked through, remove from the heat
- I like to leave in the pot and allow everyone to help themselves
Enjoy! :) x