About Me
I'm a Melbourne boy, hailing from St Kilda with one ex, one current wife and four kids. Love the outdoors and making new discoveries. I cook a lot at home (cheers from wife) and do some preserving, mostly jams, pickles and fruit liqueurs. This is the diary of a cooking journey.

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Wednesday, June 13, 2007
Polish Vegetable Salad

Imagine if you will that you invent something and someone else gets all the credit and even gets to name it. Russian salad or salad russe is a case in point. According to my wife D, what now passes for Russian salad is actually Polish vegetable salad and from what I have been able to discover, she may have some grounds for complaint.

Russian salad is credited to one Lucien Olivier, the chef at Hermitage in Moscow in the 1860's, where it became a signature dish. It was known to contain grouse, veal tongue, caviar, lettuce, crayfish tails, capers, gherkins, cucumbers, hardboiled eggs and soy beans and is a million miles from what passes as Russian salad today, which is pretty much cooked, cold vegetables, diced and bound with mayonnaise.

Over the intervening years all the exotic garnishes have been dropped in favour of more accessible vegetables and this dish has become exactly as the Polish serve it. Polish vegetable salad always contains potatoes, carrots, peas, fermented cucumbers and eggs, but other things such as onion, beans and celeriac may also be present.

The picture above is a mesh dicer for cooked vegetables and is standard kit in pretty much every Polish kitchen as it saves hours of knifework. You simply push some cooked vegetable, like potato for instance, through the mesh and twist and what you get is perfectly uniform dice, for the essence of this salad is to have all the vegetables the same size. There are no great big lumps in this salad, everything is cut to about the size of a pea.

I bet you like my mesh dicer now!

Polish Vegetable Salad

1 kg waxy potatoes, cooked in skin, cooled & peeled
330 g peeled carrots, cooked until soft and cooled
330 g peas, cooked and cooled
3 or 4 fermented or pickled cucumbers
4 eggs, hardboiled and peeled
1 cup mayonnaise
salt and fresh ground pepper

Dice very small, about the size of a pea, the potatoes, carrots, fermented cucumbers and eggs. Place everything in a bowl and stir in the mayonnaise, season to taste. You can add onion, cooked celeriac, cooked beans, asparagus or whatever else takes your fancy and you will still be true to the idea of this salad, just keep the potato as the dominant partner. It is really great for a barbecue or cold buffet.

D also had something to say about vodka...


  posted at 7:41 am

At 1:19 pm, Blogger Bron said...

"Imagine if you will that you invent something and someone else gets all the credit"

...Mmmm, sounds familiar... pavlova anyone?!
;-) hehe!

At 2:30 pm, Blogger neil said...

Hi bron, most thinking Aussies accept that pavlova is probably a New Zealand concoction. At least at this blog, they do. Great dessert too.

At 3:08 pm, Anonymous Ellie said...

Love the little mesh dicer, but I'm still puzzling as to how it works - when pushing the food through, wouldn't it just smoosh? Do you need to make sure it's only cooked to a certain level of softness? I don't think I've ever had a Polish vegetable salad but next time I go to my mate's house for dinner I shall have to pester her ma about it :)

At 3:12 pm, Blogger MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

You need to retitle this post:
"How to raise my level of lust."
First the salad sounds lovely and yes now I'm on a quest to see the mesh dicer!

At 4:58 pm, Blogger Pille said...

Kartulisalat alias potato salad is a must at every Estonian birthday table, thought exact recipes vary. My version includes potatoes, eggs, onions, fresh or pickled cucumbers, ham - all neatly cubed (by hand!!!). I don't like peas or carrots in my salad, my granny loves them in hers.. The sauce is ALWAYS a mixture (ca 50:50) of sour cream and mayonnaise, and never just mayo. And I love lots of dill in my kartulisalat.
I bet there's a version in each and every country in the region, so it'd be very difficult to claim the exact origins :) I doubt the Estonians got their from the Poles, however - not much contact between these two nations in the past:)

At 9:17 pm, Blogger Lydia said...

I'm going to keep an eye out at yard sales for one of these mesh dicers. I can think of all sorts of uses for it -- including trying this great salad.

At 7:36 am, Blogger neil said...

Hi ellie, so long as the vegetables aren't falling apart they're fine, no smooshing, though things like cucumbers still need to be cut by hand. I'm sure if you try it, you will love it.

Hi tanna, isn't it funny how a simple thing like that can be such a boon. I'd love to see how you tweak the salad, I think Pille's way of using sour cream as well as mayo is a good one.

Hi pille, perhaps the provenance of this salad is a lot like baba ganoush, every middle eastern country claims that as there own! I was careful not to say the Russians definitely pinched the Polish version, but I was fascinated that a salad that started off with a lot of high end ingredients devolved into something much simpler, but kept its original name. It's also curious that even though the Poles have many versions of potato salad, as I'm sure Eastonians do, they don't call this a potato salad. Interesting, though not conclusive. Just having had some goat curd liberally laced with dill, I can see that your addition of this herb would work and I like the sour cream addition as well, though I'm not so sure D would let me mess with her recipe ;-)

Hi lydia, it is a very useful thing indeed. Hope you can snag one!

At 10:30 am, Blogger helena stolman said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

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