Thursday, 23 January 2014

Polish food at Tesco: hit and miss

I have mentioned in the past some of the Polish products I have been buying at Tesco, like kefir and soft cheese (which I talked about in the recipe post on syrniki, Russian cheese scones). Bakoma kefir is sadly not available anymore, but there is another good kefir - Mlekovita Naturalny Polski kefir, which has a good level of acidity and is very creamy as well. I buy a bottle weekly, and it is a very enjoyable drink, which I can recommend if you're looking for a dairy drink different from yogurts. It has a lot of health benefits for bones and teeth as well as digestive system. It is 127 kcal per serving (a glass), and I much prefer it to any diet milkshakes in the morning.

While doing my grocery shopping online, I followed the link to the Polish food section and was amazed to discover that Tesco sells over 110 food products imported from Poland. Clearly this is the situation of demand and supply. I would love to know how many authentic Italian products they sell (if you search for the word Italian, most of the products are actually not the Italian produce but British foods imitating the Italian cuisine).
As I am very curious when it comes to new foods, I decided to try a selection of Polish food.
Some were old favourites which I remembered from my childhood in Russia, some are totally new to me. I am by no means claiming to have done a thorough research of the selection, but just thought you might like to know which products we tested. I wish I read some reviews before I made some of my decisions.

Lubella Kasza Gryczana or Roasted buckwheat groats is another great product. As a kid growing in Russia, I have eaten the buckwheat kasha very often. It is a healthy food, and you can serve it either with milk (typical meal for children) or as a side dish with fried meat or vegetables. Buckwheat from Lubella comes in a box which contains 4 portions (very generous, if you ask me). You cook them in sachets, like rice in bags for about 6-8 minutes. Convenient and easy. Excellent quality product which I would score as 5/5.

Dawtona Ogorki kwaszone or Cucumbers in brine
If you are used to the British style of pickled cucumbers/gherkins which are more often than not are reeking of vinegar, you might find these cucumbers different. They are preserved in salted water with spices. Though this is the Polish product, it is very similar to the type of canning/pickling which is widespread in Russia. The cucumbers are bigger in size than gherkins. They are lovely with meat or cheese, or in salads like Vinegret or Salad Olivier (Russian salad). They are not very crunchy, and I would have liked to see garlic cloves and dill inside for the extra flavour, but they are not bad at all. And the brine is considered to be a good cure for hangover. Score: 3+/5.

Miod Wielokwiatowy or Multiflower Honey is produced by a beekeeping farm Sadecki Bartnik, and is a blend of EU honeys. I would so love to see honey from small producers, which is not a blend of some unknown EU and non-EU entities. Pick a jar of honey in any supermarket, and in most cases they are a blend of EU and non-EU honeys, which in my eyes makes it more of a syrup than honey and also diminishes its health benefits. Nowadays I prefer to buy either a local honey at the farmers' market or one-country honey, like New Zealand or Greece, but it's getting more difficult to get unblended honeys. My favourite Italian honey that I used to buy in Waitrose isn't available anymore, and even those brands which are very British sell a mix of honeys from all over the world, God knows what is mixed there.
Anyway, going back to the Multiflower Honey, it is a clear runny honey, very pleasant and flavourful. Tastewise, I have no complaints. It is lovely with pancakes and in Greek yogurt.
If it were produced at the specific farm in Poland and not mixed there, I would give it a very good score. As it is mixed, it loses points, hence is my score of 3+/5.

Pamapol Bigos (home made hunters' stew) contains sauerkraut, white cabbage, sausage meat, pork etc and an alarming amount of E-numbers (E250, E452, E451, E450, E331, E407, E1422). If I picked it up in the store, I would have put it back.
Taste-wise it is quite forgettable. And I only tried it myself, I would definitely not offer my kids this chemical cocktail.
I have tried a proper Polish bigos many years ago, when we lived in the States. My older son was a newborn, and our friend Margo brought several jars of homemade bigos for me. It was very tasty.
Pamapol bigos doesn't have the right cabbage/sauerkraut ratio, there's more cabbage than sauerkraut here. The meat tastes very processed, not chunky enough.
1/5, it's a definite No-No for the future.

I was very excited to see Ptasie Melczko waniliowe (lit. bird's milk) or vanilla marshmallows in chocolate on the list of Polish products. Bird's Milk used to be my favourite Russian chocolates, when I was a kid. I haven't tried them for almost twenty years, and was delighted to discover that they taste exactly as I remember them.

Very light fluffy inside and chocolatey on the outside. I'm not sure if marshmallows would be the exact translation, as the texture is different, they are less chewy than marshmallowy, but that's what they are sold as in Tesco. They are delightful, and I absolutely loved them. It is also possible that I am swayed by my childhood memories, as I also offered them to a couple of friends to try. One wasn't enthusiastic at all, the other liked them and asked me to get her a box next time I do grocery shopping online. I will be buying them again as a treat for myself.
For the pure sentimental reason I will give them a top score (though beware there are a couple of hidden E-numbers. How did we survive before without them? (meant ironically)). 5/5

Ptasie Mleczko or Bird's milk

I have bought more Polish foods from Tesco, which I haven't tried yet, once I have, I will be adding to this post.

My suggestions to Tesco: to give more detailed information on each foreign product, after all, not all of us can speak/read Polish. For example, there is a Lubella Maka Puszysta Tortowa Flour 1kg. And no more information, on what kind of flour it is, self-raising, plain, wholemeal? On seeing the image of the cake on the packet, you might think it is a cake mix of some sort. Surely if you list and sell the product, you could add more information like a proper list of ingredients (I noticed some products have it already).

Are there any products from the Polish food range that you have tried and would recommend?

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  1. How interesting to read....
    I actually noticed the Polish & other foods like American, Greek and such while I was doing my online shop today....I've ordered one of the Tymbark Apple & Mint Drinks to see what it's like....

    1. Thanks Kim, never heard of that drink. Let me know if you liked it. Sounds very refreshing

  2. I have never tried polish food, but it is interesting to know it is in Tesco. I will have to have a try

    1. When I grew up, we had quite a lot of Polish import in the shops, like frozen veg, I think the first time I tried green beans and Brussels sprouts was a Polish soup mix (frozen). :)

  3. I should pay more attention really, one thing I do pick up is Ajvar which I was introduced to in Yugoslavia by husband's relatives.

    We have a Ukrainian convenience store nearby and I once bought a loaf of black bread in there, it was amazing, like German pumpernickel only more interesting!

    1. I haven't heard of avjar, just googled it, it looks like the Russian ikra from aubergines. Love ikra. Have you tried Borodisnky bread from Waitrose? a lovely black bread

  4. Thanks for the insight, I often wonder what the products actually are on the shelf in Tesco and Sainsburys here.

    1. Sometimes with me it is the case of curiosity killed the cat, as not all discoveries are wonderful. :)

  5. I had no idea you could buy kefir. It would be interesting to try some. We make our own, or I should say CT makes it - I just drink it ;-)

  6. What a great idea, I'll have a look for some foods to experiment with next time I'm in Tesco.

  7. I'm scared to try Mlekovita, heard some horrible stories about their milk. Love kefir (and buttermilk, and 'sour milk') made by Krasnystaw, it has a very strong taste, perhaps not for the kefir virgins. I don't think there are any self-raising flours in Poland. I don't bake, but my mum (the BEST cake maker ever :) uses Tortowa, as far as I remember (it's plain). Agree that they should translate the ingredients at least. By the way, Lubella's got a Russian version of their site:
    Bigos takes a few days to cook and quite a bit of effort, never heard of a good one from a jar. One thing I can help with: don't be seduced by the ease of cooking buckwheat kasza like you would a bag of rice! The old way may seem more time consuming, but it's soooo worth it. Plus, when you ditch the water, you loose a lot of the healthy staff (vitamins etc.). I always buy Lubella (local patriotism I guess) but didn't like the end result, watery and lacking in flavour. So reverted to the simplest traditional recipe: empty the bag/s into a small amount of boiling slightly salted water (let's say, 2:1 ratio, water:kasza), cook till the water is completely absorbed, then cover the pot, wrap it and leave somewhere warm for a few hours (best). No comparision, taste-wise! Stays hot if wrapped well, no need to reheat it. Great even with just a bit of melted butter and kefir, mmm ...

    1. I haven't heard any stories about Mlekovita, will look into it. I do still buy this kefir, and the chocolates too. Thank you for the link to Lubella. And your suggestion of cooking buckwheat sounds wonderful, must try that. I have another similar post in mind, as in the last year I tried loads more of Polish groceries.

    2. Looking forward to reading it, really enjoyed this one. I might try M.'s kefir following your recommendation and I feel tempted to break my no-baking pledge to attempt your curd cookies, they look so delicious. (Btw, I didn't realise my first comment was so long, sorry!).