Ewa Weremij shares her recipe for a traditional pork stew from Poland, recreated by Victoria Brown
This recipe was given to me by Ewa Weremij as part of a series of interviews with Borough Market traders on the foods that are important to them. You can read the article here.
Bigos is usually translated as ‘hunter’s stew’—a reference to some of the stories behind its origins. It is said that bigos was brought to Poland by Władysław II Jagiełło, a Lithuanian duke who later became king of Poland, who served the dish to his hunting guests.
Another suggestion is that it was created by hunters, who added a different type of meat to the dish each day, reflecting the day’s catch. According to Ewa, “the real one” should be made in this way, adding a new ingredient each day over the course of a week. Like most Polish people I have spoken to, she emphasises that bigos tastes better the longer it is cooked and the more it is reheated.
90g dried bolete or porcini mushrooms
50g pork fat
500g pork shoulder, diced
500g fresh sauerkraut or 500g (net weight) tinned sauerkraut, drained and rinsed in cold water
300g smoked kielbasa sausage, cut into rounds
1 large onion, diced
500g green cabbage, sliced into thin strips
2 tsp juniper berries, crushed
1 tsp caraway seeds
150g prunes, pitted and cut in half
3 large tomatoes, peeled and diced
2 green apples, peeled and grated
1 tbsp tomato paste
2 bay leaves
500ml chicken stock or water, approx
Put the dried mushrooms in a bowl, pour over 500ml hot water and leave to soak.
Dice the pork fat into small cubes and put in a large heavy-based saucepan over a low heat. Render for 10 mins. Turn up the heat to medium, add the diced pork and stir, browning on all sides. Remove the pork from the pan and put to one side. Add the sausage rounds and fry for 2 mins, stirring constantly. Remove from the pan and put to one side.
Return the saucepan to the heat, reduce the heat to low and add the diced onion. Cover and sweat for 5 mins or until soft, stirring occasionally. Add the cabbage, juniper berries and caraway seeds and stir to combine. Cover and cook for 10 mins or until soft, stirring occasionally.
Drain the mushrooms, reserving the soaking liquid. Add the mushrooms to the saucepan along with the soaking liquid. Add the pork, sauerkraut, sausage, prunes, diced tomatoes, grated apples, tomato paste and bay leaves to the saucepan as well and stir to combine.
Turn the heat up high and add the Madeira. Allow it to bubble and reduce for 1-2 mins, stirring occasionally. Reduce the heat to low and add the water or stock. Cover and cook for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
Remove the lid and continue cooking for as long as you have time. You will need to add more water to keep it from burning, but note that when served it should be moist but without any excess liquid.
Recipe: Ewa Weremij
Images: Victoria Brown