Poland, a central country in Europe resides between Germany, Lithuania, Belarus, Ukraine, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Russia, and the Baltic Sea. Poland is home the most ancient forest of Europe known as the Białowieża forest which is heavily protected and preserved. It also is home to wild Bison, one of the only places in the world where the population is thriving once again. Pictured above is one of the historic cities of Poland, Krakow which is known for Wawel Castle and architectural styles from over the centuries.
Of course when we think of Polish cuisine we think of pierogis! The delicious little potato and cheese dumplings are the ideal comfort food, but there is so much more to Polish cuisine. Poland loves their meat and is often found at the heart of their meals. Cereals, grains, and noodles along with a variety of vegetables and mushrooms accompany the meat. Dairy products especially butter is used during cooking preparation or in the meal itself. A traditional Polish dinner is made up of three courses- soup (tomato is common), sometimes an appetizer such as cured meat or herring, the main course, and a dessert. You won’t go hungry visiting Poland!
The meal we opted to try was something we had never heard of before- krokiety. Polish krokiety (also known as croquettes) is a staple of Poland often filled with meat, cabbage, and/or veggies. Once the pancake is filled it is folded then fried with bread crumbs. Crikey! You can find the recipe to the Krokiety here (there’s my dad joke for this post).
Ian prepared this one and it was time consuming! The outer part of the krokiety is pancake like and wasn’t too complicated but the assembling and folding of these bad boys took a few trials. Keeping the breading on them too was tricky but either way I applauded Ian on the end result and presentation! He definitely has an eye for plating!
This was another unique dish that was very different from the rest. It was crepe like and had a nice crunchiness to it. We thought it also was in need of a sauce and found red sauce worked well (can you tell we like tomato sauce?). The filling was very savory and left us feeling satisfied! This dish got 7.5/10.
To start our journey over 100 we head to Latvia, a lesser known European country with historic charm and breath-taking scenery. You can find Latvia situated between Estonia, Lithuania, Russia, Belarus, and the Baltic Sea. It has an expansive coastline that spans nearly 310 miles. Latvia also has an impressive amount of forests which covers over half of the country. Riga, the capital of Latvia, was founded in 1201 and is home to famous art nouveau architecture which makes up a third of the city. Additionally in 1510 the world’s first Christmas tree was decorated in Riga and additionally caught on nationally.
Latvian cuisine is heavily influenced by Russia and Germany, along with other bordering countries. Latvia is well-known for the popularity of foraging, especially for mushrooms, berries, and herbs. With distinguished four seasons, the cuisine is dependent on what is available at the time of the year. Seafood is another substantial part of Latvian cuisine due to the country’s sizable border along the Baltic Sea. Other agricultural resources are used as well in the Latvian kitchen including the dish we are making!
Not to be confused with the Polish pierogi, piragis are meat pastries filled with bacon, ham, onion, and spices. Also known belovingly as “bacon buns” these pastries traditionally were eaten for special occasions due to the hours of work required to make these little masterpieces. Each Latvian family may have a slightly different rendition of these bad boys and luckily that is exactly where I found this recipe! I reached out to a past coworker of mine knowing of her origin and was fortunate to gain a recipe that will be apart of my repertoire. You can find Sandy’s recipe at the end of this post!
I started by making the filling which chilled in the fridge while I made the pastry. It is a timely process, but an important one. I feel it would not truly be a piragi with store bought dough due to some unique ingredients. It was so satisfying seeing how much the dough had tripled in size! As I was making the fillings I discovered using the edge of a glass helped seal the edges of my piragis. Make sure you try this on a day off or a weekend, you will need hours to go through all the steps!
WOW Latvia knows what’s up! All the labor that went into making these was paid off by the unique blend of savory flavors that danced our tastebuds. The creamy sour cream was a nice pairing with the rich meat and pastry flavors. The pastry itself was pillowy soft with a nice crust. Ian being the red sauce man that he is tried a marinara sauce too and that was also a success. Once we tried the piragis with marinara it made us think of little mini calzones. Don’t hate us Latvia 😅
We had put up our aprons for a little while and found this to be just the dish to get us back into the swing of things again. We rated this dish 9.5/10 😍