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Saturday, February 14, 2009

The definition of romance

It's Valentine's Day today.

I've never really bought into the whole overpriced-roses-on-one-token-day-of-the-year concept, but that doesn't mean I don't believe in romance. Because as much as men think that women are swayed by expensive jewellery, five-star dining and miniature carry bags in Tiffany blue, the best way to worm your way into any girl's heart is time and effort. Trust me on this one, boys.

This is why chicks dig poetry. And picnics. And hesitant guitar strumming with awkward self-composed stammering heartfelt lyrics. "He wrote you a song? Oh my god, that is soooooooooo ro-MAN-tic!" The more effort involved, the more time they were thinking about you, and that is totally awwwwwwww.........

Of course romance isn't a one-way street either. Men love it too. Ideally it's remembered every day, not just on one trite day of the year. Sometimes it's there and you don't even know it.

When our travelling dinner party crew - hereby christened Stomach's Eleven - moved on to its next rotation, we were excited about a night of home-cooked Polish food. Mr Potato Head is Polish and we were in for a treat. We feasted on bigos, or hunters stew, one of Poland's national dishes as well as crumbed eggplant, crumbed mushrooms and homemade barszcz beetroot soup washed down with Polish vodka.

Here's the catch. It was all made by Miss Rice. Miss Rice is nice. She's also from Shanghai. And she cooks great Polish food because she's learnt from Mr Potato Head's mother. Dishes she's honed and perfected over the years.

Now that's what I call romance.

And this is what I call a great meal...

Wisniowa cherry Polish vodka

Cheerful gerberas on the dining room table

Homemade barszcz beetroot soup

Barszcz beetroot soup is traditionally served as a plain broth with the vegetables discarded, but the chunky wedges of simmered beetroot and carrot seemed too good to waste. Made by boiling beetroot and carrots with fresh chicken stock, it's sweet and slightly piquant from the addition of vinegar, and garnished with freshly chopped parsley.

Coffee table centrepiece of candles
and flourishes of Dutch carrot and beetroot
- very Iron Chef!

Kotlet Schabowy chicken schnitzel

Crumbed eggplants and mushrooms

The crumbed eggplant was one of my highlights, and not just because I lent a hand with these in the kitchen. The process of schnitzel is the same for all - simply dip in an egg wash and then coat generously with a mixture that is 3/4 breadcrumbs and 1/4 plain flour. Fry in a moderate amount of oil until golden. The eggplants should be salted on both sides for at least 15 minutes to reduce the bitterness [thanks for Miss Rice for the corrections!].

Beans with schnitzel crumbs

The beans were served with the crispy crumbed remnants left in the frying pan after cooking the schnitzel and crumbed vegetables. Apparently this is a traditional dish, undoubtedly created as a means of minimising wastage and maximising deliciousness. Genius, I say!

Bigos hunter's stew

Bigos is perhaps the national dish of Poland, a hearty stew of smoked pork, onions, tomato, mushrooms and plenty of sauerkraut.


The potatoes looked simple but were amazingly good. Boiled potatoes were heated through with a little bit of butter and cream and then topped with a generous sprinkle of chopped marjoram. The potatoes were sweet and waxy, smooth and creamy goodness in every mouthful.

My dinner plate from the help-yourself buffet

Crema catalana

The talented Pig Flyin' couldn't turn up with some hand in the cooking. His contribution was a crema catalana , the Spanish version of creme caramel. Rich and eggy, there was a conversational lull as everyone tended to their precious portion. The custard was as soft as satin, baptised in a thick sauce of molten caramel that had everyone licking their plate clean. Literally.

Toffee shards

It didn't take long for us to realise that the crema catalana dish still had a thin layer of toffee, held prisoner by solidification. It took seven minutes of determined prising and bashing before the toffee hostage was released. We relived our childhoods with glee in a sweet tooth-sticking moment of bliss.

Sour cherries with premium vanilla ice cream

We ended the night with a Polish finale of sour cherries (truly tart, in an uncontrollable twitching kind of way) on top of smooth and creamy premium vanilla ice cream.

True romance never looked so good.

Related Grab Your Fork posts:
Polish - Na Zdrowie, Glebe
Polish - Restaurant Nadwislanska at Ashfield Polish Club

Stomachs Eleven: Christmas 2010 (Pig Flyin)
Stomachs Eleven: Teochew feast (Pig Flyin)
Stomachs Eleven: Mole poblano and pulled pork tacos (Me)
Stomachs Eleven: Pizza and friends (Miss Rice)
Stomachs Eleven: Ten kilograms of mussels (Pig Flyin)
Stomachs Eleven: Shanghainese banquet (M&L)
Stomachs Eleven: Wagyu shabu shabu and dessert sushi (Silverlily)
Stomachs Eleven: Stuffed deboned pig's head + nose-to-tail eating (Pig Flyin)
Stomachs Eleven: French feast (Pig Flyin)
Stomachs Eleven: Whole suckling pig and Chinese banquet (Pig Flyin)
Stomachs Eleven: Hotpot night (M&L)
Stomachs Eleven: Crackling roast pork and black sesame cupcakes (me)
Stomachs Eleven: No ordinary steak dinner (Pig Flyin)
Stomachs Eleven: Polish feast (Miss Rice)
Stomachs Eleven: Christmas 2009 (Pig Flyin)
Stomachs Eleven: Char siu and Hainan chicken (me)
Stomachs Eleven: Amazing impromptu dinner party (Pig Flyin)
Stomachs Eleven: Dumplings and Shanghai soy duck (M&L)
18 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 2/14/2009 01:07:00 am


  • At 2/14/2009 1:49 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Does she know how to make Zur? And can she teach me? I fell in love with Zur when I was in Poland. It's a soup that comes with sausage and egg. It's perfect in cold weather.

  • At 2/14/2009 1:50 am, Blogger Karen | Citrus and Candy said…

    Wow, with this horrible weather, that Bigos hunters stew, potatoes and schnitzel looks to die for!

    Lol if any free seats arise in your dinner travelling party, you know who to call :)

  • At 2/14/2009 3:53 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    That hunter's stew looks incredible. And I'm still in winter here so it'll be perfect. I've already googled some recipes.

  • At 2/14/2009 9:18 am, Blogger Simon said…

    Does Ms Rice make pierogi as well? I was fortunate enough to have the mother of a Polish friend make these from scratch. Heaven!

    The bigos looks so good, especially with the recent bout of cold weather.

  • At 2/14/2009 10:38 am, Blogger spicyicecream said…

    I always love going to my Polish aunty's house for dinner :D It all looks so delicious, especially the eggplant, I'll have to try that. Maybe I should get her to teach me a recipe or two!

  • At 2/14/2009 10:40 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Ms rice and mr potato head? LOL... the soup looks very nourishing. Looks like a heaty meal.

  • At 2/14/2009 6:27 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Beans with schnitzel crumbs is genius! I'm so jealous I've never thought of it.

  • At 2/14/2009 9:10 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Miss Rice is definitely a nice hostess! Wow, look at that spread. Although I have to say that I am also very much swayed by expensive jewellery, five-star dining and miniature carry bags in Tiffany blue!

  • At 2/15/2009 12:40 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    LOLOLOLOL I rather like my nickname.

    Just one or two very small corrections :p

    The beetroot soup and potatoes were both garnished with chopped parsley. And the schnitzels and eggplants were first dipped in egg wash, then rolled in 3/4 bread crumbs mixed with 1/4 plain flour. This tip was from Mr Potato Head's mother, that's how you get them crunchy. Also salt both sides of eggplant slices for at least 15 minutes to get rid of bitterness.

    Simon - Sorry haven't learnt how to make pierogi yet, one day!

  • At 2/15/2009 2:32 am, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Jess - Ooh that soup does sound very hearty. Not sure about her repertoire - when are you next in Sydney :)

    Hi Karen - lol. I don't think anyone's handing in their membership card soon, but I'll keep it in mind!

    Hi Brittany - It's great a nourishing meal especially with the richness of the pork offset by the sauerkraut. Hope you enjoy cooking your own version!

    Hi Simon - Ooh yes I love pierogi too, although I've yet to have had the pleasure of homemade ones from scratch! The weather has been very winter-like of late - perfect bigos weather!

    Hi Lisa - Oh I would definitely get some recipes. Sometimes I wonder about the loss of family recipes passed on through generations but extinguished of late because too many of us don't have the time to cook. Writing them down is a great legacy to pass on and continue.

    Hi Billy - The food was great, and haha I thought the monikers were dietary-preference appropriate :)

    Hi Christie - It's the bestest idea isn't it? I feel like making schnitzel just so I can have the beans to go with it!

    Hi Lorraine - I had to laugh when I read your post and saw your photo! Ahh no girl would say no, but I've always been one for thought and effort scoring extra brownie points :)

    Hi Miss Rice - I had another version but thought you didn't like it :)

    Thanks for the corrections, too. My bad!

  • At 2/15/2009 2:35 am, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    oh and thank you again so much for dinner Miss Rice! Thanks also to Mr Potato Head for his excellent pickle slicing!

  • At 2/15/2009 10:51 am, Blogger Simon said…

    Ms Rice - If that day ever comes and you need a tasting buddy, seat filler, chef de dégustation, left-overs disposal technician...

    Well, I might know a guy :)

  • At 2/15/2009 11:42 pm, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Simon - I think that's Mr Potato Head's portfolio, but I'll let her know :)

  • At 2/16/2009 7:07 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Meat & potatoes, just a few of my favourite things.

    And wow, that crema catalana looks divine.

  • At 2/16/2009 9:08 am, Blogger shez said…

    ohmygoo'ness! i heart eggplant - especially when it's deep fried. though i suspect i'd love it all the more if it was served with all of these fantastic goodies. yum!

  • At 2/16/2009 10:14 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Ah Polish food! Had never experienced it until I went to New York, and my local diner was Veselka's..pierogi, kielbasa, oooh, it was good...

  • At 2/16/2009 4:30 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Great Polish feast! haha good run-down on romance hee hee but I think the stomach has a great link to the heart as well as this feast shows? ^^! mmmmmm

  • At 2/16/2009 8:30 pm, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Veruca Salt - lol. The potatoes were so yum and yes the crema catalana was one of the best I've had!

    Hi Shez - I'm a huge eggplant fan too. Deep-frying it only doubles the goodness!

    Hi tummyrumble.net - I remember I was obsessed with Jewish food when I was in NYC but I didn't get to sample much Polish fare. The menu at Veselka looks great. I wish we had diners here :)

    Hi FFichiban - Oh yes I'm a strong believer in winning over the stomach!


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