Award-winning head chef of Warsaw restaurant Platter gave a cooking demonstration at La Biscuiterie by Goeres on Tuesday evening
Award-winning chef Karol Okrasa was in Luxembourg Tuesday to give a cooking demonstration to promote Polish culture through cuisine.
Okrasa, head chef at the Platter restaurant in Warsaw, is no stranger to cooking demonstrations: he has hosted a variety of televised culinary programmes over his career. For Tuesday’s event, hosted by Polish ambassador Piotr Wojtczak and his wife, Iwona, Okrasa had brought along his own products, sourced from a variety of spots in Poland, like eel from the Masuria and cottage cheese from Wielkopolska.
Okrasa used smoke for each of the three dishes he prepared. “Everything in Poland can be smoked,” he told Delano. “That’s something that makes Polish cuisine unique all over the world.”
For one dish, Okrasa explained how “simple” products can be elegantly presented. A slice of smoked eel was placed on top of a potato pancake and a dollop of gzik, the regional cottage cheese, and finally dotted with sturgeon caviar. Next to that, he served a slice of salmon which had been marinaded in a sweet-sour mixture and then smoked “à la minute” using simple hay Okrasa had brought with him--a process which the chef recalls doing back in his childhood with his grandmother, and one which gives the fish an earthy, savoury finish.
Okrasa's smoked eel and salmon dish Photo: Delano
He also prepared a smoked tartare with tarragon mayonnaise, served with crunchy potato, a pickle made from pink mountain mushrooms and a dried mushroom powder.
The final dish was venison loin, from a hunter Okrasa knows personally, marinated with a currant liquor and bison grass, an herb which has a fragance reminiscent of vanilla and tarragon. “This bison grass is top quality and is found only in one region in Poland,” he said. “You cannot plant it, it’s a wild herb.”
After maturing 24 hours, the venison gets smoked and then an “à la minute” finish on a hot pan. It was served with flatbread, mustard pears and a sauce made with a sort of plum confiture, but not just any kind. The “Powidła”, as Okrasa explained, is made from special Polish plums which are smaller and have a higher sugar content than an average plum, and they are smoked for 8-10 hours before being made into the preserve.
Throughout the cooking demonstration, held at La Biscuiterie by Goeres, Okrasa explained how Polish oils made from nuts or a special sort of hemp aren’t used for cooking but rather as a finishing touch to a dish. He’d also brought elderberry and juniper berry with pine vinegars and uses those and liquors regularly in his cooking. “These kinds of vinegars and liquors are like a time capsule. We try to keep the smell and characteristic of the fruit or product.”
Athough Okrasa says he has yet to taste Luxembourg cuisine, he can’t pick a favourite dish, although he admits game meat, including deer loin, is his favourite. “My favourite dish is the one served up for me, I love to be touched with other flavours [prepared] by someone [else].”