This traditional Polish stew goes back to the times when Poland was ruled by the kings. Bigos Królewski was eaten only by the nobility who could afford exotic spices. A poor men's version of this dish was called Bigos Hultajski and had more cabbage than anything else. Luckily we live in a time when spices and meat are available widely. So let's get cooking!
For Polish Hunter's Stew, I prefer to use a slow cooker but you can also simmer it in the pot on the stove.
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This recipe makes around 6 portions
Preparation time: 30-40 minutes
Cooking time: 5 hours
400g (14.1oz) of stewing beef cut (chuck, skirt, leg, or flank works very well) large dice
250g (8.8oz) of kiełbasa (I used podwawelska but any smoked sausage will do just fine)
150g (5.3oz) of lardons ( chopped bacon also can be used)
500g (17.6oz) of sauerkraut
500g (17.6oz) of white cabbage sliced
a handful of dried boletus mushrooms/ porcini
1 prune (optional)
1 large onion, diced
1 apple, peeled and diced
2 bay leaves
4 allspice berries (if using powder 1/4tsp)
1tsp of marjoram
1tsp of caraway (helps with the digestion process)
1tsp of honey (add enough to balance the sourness)
2tsp of salt (skip if using beef stock)
1tsp ground black pepper
pinch of nutmeg
1tbsp of tomato puree
1 glass of dry red wine
1L (1.05quarts) of water or beef stock (enough to cover everything in the slow cooker)
1. Begin by hydrating the dried mushrooms in 1L of boiling water for around 15 minutes. When ready remove the mushrooms and pour the water into a slow-cooker dish leaving behind the last 50ml of water (usually contains sand).
2. In the frying pan, sear the lardons and sausage, use high heat and do so until browned. Transfer meat to the slow cooker leaving fat in the pan.
3. In the same pan brown the diced onions then transfer them to the slow cooker.
4. Next, brown the diced beef, do it in two batches then transfer it to the crockpot.
5. Add all the remaining ingredients and cover with a lid, and set the slow cooker on high heat for 5 hours. After the first hour give it a good stir, you can repeat the string every now and then (I love the aroma so I check very often :)
6. When the bigos is ready, serve it with sourdough bread or boiled potatoes. You can store it in the fridge for up to three days. You can also freeze it or store it in jars if you make a bigger batch. Bigos taste better with time!
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Check out my other recipes for Polish dishes:
Bigos tastes better when reheated on the next day, this applies to many meat dishes as with time protein breaks down to tasty amino acids like glutamate bringing more umami flavours.
Meat searing needs to be done quickly and at a high temperature to prevent it from losing the juices from the inside of a cut, cooking meat in smaller batches can help to achieve that.