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Christmas is the most festive holiday of the year in Poland. There are many traditional dishes that are served on this occasion, and rarely at any other time of the year. At least a month ahead of time, there is great activity in the kitchen. Because traditionally there are twelve dishes served on Christmas Eve, and many guests are expected, there is a lot of work to be done. Fortunately, many dishes can be prepared weeks in advance and, when properly stored, will still be fresh when the Holiday arrives.
As might be expected, there are minor variations from region to region, and even from family to family. The dishes listed below are favorites that have been in Lili's family for generations.
They have been modified
to use ingredients that are easy to obtain in North America and Western Europe.
A rich dessert cake with a chocolate glaze that everybody loves. Stored in a cool place, it will stay fresh for a long time. So you can make this cake well ahead of the Holiday rush.
The most common form of Babka is a yeast based cake which has a fairly dense consistency and is typically served at Easter.
You'd better make a lot of these! They are so light and tasty, that they disappear like snow on a warm day. They may be decorated with different color sugars, but the most popular are green and red.
Those that like a lot of fruit and nuts in their cake will really enjoy this one. Like the other cakes in this selection, it may be made well ahead of the Christmas rush and stored in a cool place. But it's also easy to make, so can be added at the last minute.
Pronounced BARSHCH - this tasty dish is a must at every Polish Christmas Eve dinner. It is served either in a soup bowl or a large cup.
Pronounced USH-KAH, it is customary to serve these little tortelinni-like dumplings with the Christmas Eve barszcz, either floating in the soup, or as a side dish.
A hearty dish loved by everyone, including the harassed housewife (who can prepare it days ahead and relax during the holiday).
East and Central Europe
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Last update Feb 29 2012