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POLAND’S WOW FACTOR

Do you associate Poland with dumplings and cabbage? You’ll still find Communist-era canteens and traditional home cooking in Krakow, but the city’s medieval heart is pumping out excellent cuisine, with thriving markets, street eats, buzzing restaurants – and a lot more besides. Roving food lover Kathryn Tomasetti seeks out the best
VIew of Krakow Old Town over the River Vistula

hungry traveller.

When I bragged to friends that I was embarking on a Polish eating extravaganza, all I earned were puzzled stares. I understand. Poland’s mainstays don’t have the international cachet of, say, sole meunière or spaghetti alle vongole. Dumplings? Pickled cabbage?

Initially, I did wonder about Poland’s wow factor – but I needn’t have feared. Krakow, which perches astride the rippling River Vistula, is postcard-perfect. The historic city centre is a Unesco World Heritage Site and its cobbled streets regularly stand in for period Paris in films. It’s international in other ways too. A migration of expat Poles arriving or returning from London and New York have imported exotic flavours such as sushi, falafel and tofu to Poland’s second city.

Regional dishes centre round the most sought-after seasonal ingredients, such as plump summer cherries and autumnal chanterelle mushrooms. A rich history of fluctuating frontiers means there have been plenty of foreign influences on Krakow’s cuisine too, ranging from French (pastries and paczki doughnuts crowd the city’s myriad bakeries) and Italian (they introduced Mediterranean fruit and veg, from figs to tomatoes) to Jewish (‘Jewish-style’ carp has been appropriated as the country’s favourite Christmas Eve dinner).

Thinking about all that ramped up my anticipation and, packing my big appetite, I couldn’t wait to dig in.

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Autumn is upon us, the nights are drawing in – all the better to cosy up with Nigella’s simple chicken supper, Olia Hercules’ allotment recipes and Hugh F-W veggie treats with Ottolenghi and GBBO’s Prue Leith bringing the puddings. As if all that wasn’t enough there’s Richard Bertinet’s harvest fougasse and 16 pages all about lovely melty cheese, plus pumpkin recipes, cheese scones and, cue fanfare, the winners of the delicious. Produce Awards 2017.
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