Bigos (Hunter's Stew)

M is always raving about Bigos and he has it every Christmas morning. Since we will be up in the sky on Christmas eve, making our way to Mumbai for a friend's wedding, we will have to have plane food for Christmas. So I volunteered to make Bigos for my darling dearest as an early Polish style Christmas celebration. The sound of cooking Bigos for the first time is daunting. This is one of the most popular food in Poland, also M’s favourite food of all time. What is more intimidating is that he absolutely loves the one his grandmother makes. He thinks it is the best in the world, like many of us think that our nan is the best cook in the entire universe. So how can a Malaysian girl who only had Bigos twice in her lifetime make 'The Best Bigos' ? Well, I took up this challenge and used my instincts to make an amazing Bigos M will also love after his nan and mum’s version. I don’t mind coming third when it comes to Bigos as long as I am his favourite woman under the age of fifty.

Bigos | TheTrishaw



For those of you who does not know what Bigos is, it is known as Hunter’s Stew. I am not sure why it is called the Hunter’s Stew. I can't seem to be able to find information of how Bigos came about, other than it was introduced to Poland by a Lithuanian Duke who became the King of Poland in 1385. It was said that he served it to his hunting-party guests.

My rationalisation is that during the stone age, men were hunters and women stayed home to cook. So Polish men came home to their wives and children with lots of animals from their successful hunt. The families were blessed with overwhelming meat supply, the Polish women created this stew that uses up these meat from the hunt and spices they had nearby. There is a mixture of all types of meat and is cooked in a big pot for many hours until the meat fall off its bones. Since it was a big pot of Bigos, there tend to be leftovers and the pot will be left outside in the natural freezer to be reheated the next day. The stew tastes better the more they are cooked so the fifth day of chilling and reheating the stew makes it burst with big hearty meaty flavour. Again, this is just my reasoning and I shall share with you the exact facts about Bigos once I find out from a trust-able source. For now, I hope my made up story will keep you entertained.

Bigos | TheTrishaw

This stew is perfect for the cold winter; warm and hearty, piping hot and lots of meat to provide energy to keep warm in the winter. With Polish winter time being arctic cold, no wonder this is one of their favourites.

BIGOS (HUNTER'S STEW) RECIPE


adapted from Simply Recipe
makes 8 servings

Ingredients:


  • 250g bacon
  • 400g beef
  • 1.2 kg pork shoulder
  • 1 ham hock
  • 400g kielbasa or other smoked sausage or kabanos
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 head white cabbage (regular, not savoy or red), shredded
  • 700g  sauerkraut (drained)
  • 40g dried porcini or other wild mushrooms
  • 300g mixed fresh mushrooms
  • 250g pitted prunes, sliced in half (optional)
  • 1 large carrot, julienne (optional)

  • 1 tbsp juniper berries
  • 1 tbsp black peppercorns
  • 2 tbsp dried marjoram
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 bottle of pilsner or lager beer (500ml)
  • 1 chicken stock cube
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste (optional)
  • 10g dark chocolate (I used 90%)
  • salt to taste

Method:


1. Submerge the dried porcini mushrooms in hot water until soft.
2. Cut the pork shoulder into 2 inch chunks and sausages diagonally.
3. Clean the mushrooms and make sure all dirt has been removed and cut into large pieces.
4. Sauté onion until translucent, add the cabbage, carrot and garlic to the pot, stirring until cabbage is soft and wilted. Set aside.
5. Heat a separate pot and fry the bacon to render the fat. Brown the pork shoulders, ham hock, beef and sausage over medium to high heat. Do not crowd the pot and work in batches if needed. Set the browned meat aside.
6. Using the same pot, deglaze pot with a splash of beer and cook the mushrooms without additional oil until the mushroom juice is released. Season with a little salt. When the liquid is almost completely evaporated, add the browned meat, cabbage and onion into the pot.
7. Add the beer and tomato paste into the pot of ingredients, with the bay leaf, roughly crushed juniper berries and black peppercorn. Stir well to combine. Pour some of the water used to hydrate the dried porcini into the pot.
8. As Bigos is a dry stew, don’t worry if the liquid does not cover all the ingredients. The ingredients will give off some liquid when they are cooked. Bring everything to simmer and let it cook for about 3 hours (or at least 6 hours in the slow cooker), with lid on or until the meat falls of the bone. Cut the ham hock into chunks and place back into the pot. Discard bone and fat.
9. Now add in the prunes and dark chocolate and let cook until tender for at least 30 minutes. Season with salt and taste.
10. Serve with rye bread or potatoes.

Tips:


  • Bigos tastes better the longer you cook them. Also, it improves with age so the leftovers are often tastes better than it was on the first day.
  • Bigos is also made differently in every household.

Bigos | TheTrishaw
   


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