Wigilia – Christmas Eve Supper – is the most important evening over Christmas and one of the year's main events. This is the special time for family to come together to eat, drink, sing Christmas carols and exchange gifts. I will take my guests through the Polish Christmas traditions and traditional flavours of Wigilia. We will perform a short demonstration of making uszka – traditional small dumplings stuffed with wild forest mushrooms and then invite our guests to try traditional Polish Christmas Eve dishes. More info about the event here
Wigilia feast starts at the appearance of the first star in the sky, in the commemoration of the Star of Bethlehem that led the Wise Men to the birthplace of Jesus. Then all family break the Christmas Wafers (Oplatek) together and exchange wishes of prosperity and health. Bits of hay are spread beneath the tablecloth, reminding all guests that Jesus was born in a manger. There is also one empty place set at the table for an unexpected wanderer who may show up and ask for shelter. Some believe that on this one special night animals are able to speak.
According to the tradition, the Christmas Eve Supper offers 12 dishes explicitly prepared for this evening. The number 12 symbolizes 12 disciples of Jesus, 12 months of the year or wealth. The meals are meat-free, based on traditional and seasonal products: fish, mushrooms, cabbage, winter vegetables, honey, nuts, dried fruits etc. They may differ from various regions. All of the guests must eat or at least try each dish to bring prosperity to their homes.
Beetroot Soup – Borscht with Mushroom Dumplings
The supper starts with beetroot soup – traditional Polish borscht served with small dumplings, filled with wild mushrooms such as porcini and called uszka. The base of the soup is beetroot juice made from fermented beetroots and vegetable stock. The other soups served at Christmas Eve supper are Mushroom Soup, made from wild forest mushrooms or Fish Soup. Recipe for Traditional Polish Borsht is here.
Fish – Christmas Eve Carp and Herring in 26 ways
Although carp became a staple Christmas Eve dish after II WW, we have a long tradition of carp farming that has lasted over 700 years. Carp is served in aspic, fried, baked or in Jewish style. Tradition says that keeping a scale of carp in a wallet for a year brings luck and fortune.
Polish gastronomy has a range of recipes for herring. Herring fillets in oil and Pickled Herring Fillets, both with raw or marinated onions, are a traditional way of serving this fish during supper. Herring fillets often come with various sauces - gingerbread, mustard, cream or mayonnaise. But they are also accompanied by dried fruit like cranberries, prunes, raisins, root vegetables such as celeriac or beetroot, or served with fresh apples, green peas, fried onions and sour-sweet tomato sauce, pickled or sour cucumber in brine. Herring is often included in cold salads. Recipe for Herring Tartare you can find here and the recipe for Pickled Herring Fillets here
They come in many flavours – savoury and sweet – and vary from region of Poland. Christmas Eve Dumplings are usually filled with meet-free stuffings mainly dried wild mushrooms or braised sourkraut and mushrooms.
Vegetable Salad (Salatka Jarzynowa)
Vegetable Salad is a staple dish of Polish cuisine, served on many occasions and holidays. The salad is a queen of the table during Christmas Eve Supper, eaten with eg. baked and fried carp, carp in aspics. It's a delicious medley of root vegetables, complemented by sweet garden peas, crunchy apples, eggs, sour brine cucumbers, pungent leek, all blended with homemade mayonnaise. The recipe for vegetable Salad here...
Christmas Eve Sauerkraut with Wild Mushrooms (Kapusta z grzybami)
Fermented Cabbage, called Sauerkraut is mixed with wild mushrooms and dried prunes; sometimes, the mixture is cooked in red wine. Sauerkraut with split peas is also served during the supper in some regions of Poland.
Gingerbread has been baked in Poland for hundred years. This delicious cake is full of exotic spices – cinnamon, ginger, cloves, nutmeg, as well as honey and walnuts. Traditional Polish Matured Gingerbread needs at least four weeks to develop its unique flavours. Gingerbread is layered with prune jam and marzipan, covered with chocolate ganache.
Poppy Seed Cake
This is a typical polish pastry usually prepared for Christmas, sometimes called Poppy Seed Strudel. It consists of sweet yeast dough filled with aromatic poppy seed paste containing nuts, dried fruits, almonds and sultanas. According to some old polish beliefs, poppy seeds eaten at Christmas Eve dinner brought happiness, prevented evil and symbolized fertility. The recipe for Poppy Seed Cake here...
Dried Fruit Beverage (Kompot z suszu)
This naturally sweet drink of distinctive flavour is made from dried apples, pears, apricot, prunes and fragrant spices: cinnamon, cloves and star anise. Dried fruits give the kompot enough natural sweetness; however, it can be sweetened with honey. Kompot also contains thick slices of fresh orange, making this traditional drink even more Christmasy and citrusy. Dried Fruit Beverage is served cold with cooked fruits on the side. Its most appreciated purpose is to speed up digestion. The recipe is here...
Kensington Chelsea Woman's Club - International Women in London, is a non-profit organisation of British and International Women that provides social enrichment opportunities within local communities.KCWC provides an inclusive, dynamic and supportive environment through our many activities and Speaker General Meetings which host a variety of industry thought leaders throughout the year.KCWC was established in 1983 by a group of women living in the Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, hence our original name, the Kensington Chelsea Women's Club. Despite our name, our members live in all parts of Greater London and the surrounding counties. Members come from over 52 different countries as well as from the UK. More information about KCWC you will find here