Carp or Pacu with Spinach – Karp ze szpinakiem
Carp? Christmas Eve.
It is usually the first association you get in Poland although carp belongs to 50% freshwater catch and was present on the Polish tables already in XII/XIII century. Digging in the first Polish XVII century culinary book Compendium Ferculorum* by Stanisław Czerniecki you would find a pretty amount of 100 of fish recipes with 10% mentioning specifically carp and plenty other recipes calling for whatever fish you want to use, although most popular being pike.
Discovering forgotten tastes and flavours of Polish food I reached for the recipe for the carp with spinach from the Czerniecki book in the modern version of Dumanowski, Pawlas and Poznański* trio. You can wonder about the tagliatelle or fettuccine pasta in the recipe but it was the Polish kitchen of XVII century, a cuisine without prejudice, brave and reaching for whatever ingredient. However, one important fact to mention is that the book was written or rather published in 1682 year, long after the Italian Duchess of Bari and Princess of Rossano Bona Sforza became the Polish Queen in 1518 year. Having an Italian as the Polish Queen hadn’t left Poland without any influences. First, the Renaissance seemed to come earlier to Poland with the education, science and art bloom. Second, the Italian chefs came, too, what probably allowed Polish to popularize or take over some cooking methods from them. Should we look for the origins of Italian pasta at the Polish tables at those times? It is not known. Or maybe it is known only I am not aware of it? Nevertheless, Czerniecki to this recipe suggests the Italian pasta in knots.
Sometimes in Poland you can hear that only Polish and Chinese eat carp. It is, of course, not true but buying a carp is not always an easy task, especially in South America. That is why I have used “pacu” – the freshwater fish related to piranha that resembles the carp in taste, has however less fish-bones, bigger ones, making it easier to eat.
Eating the dish we had an impression of an old fashion taste. It is difficult to explain. The ingredients? The combination? You need to try it to travel in time.
*Stanisław Czerniecki, Compendium ferculorum albo zebranie potraw, editor: Jarosław Dumanowski and Magdalena Spychaj, foreword: S. Lubomirski, „Monumenta Poloniae Culinaria” series (editor-in-chief: J. Dumanowski), Vol I, Publisher: Muzeum-Pałac w Wilanowie, Warszawa 2012
*Jarosław Dumanowski, Andrzej Pawlas, Jerzy Poznański, Sekrety kuchmistrzowskie Stanisława Czernieckiego, Publisher: Muzeum Pałac w Wilanowie, 30 marca 2012
2 carps 1 kg each (or just fillets, rings or chunks)
300 g tagliatelle or fettuccine pasta
400 g spinach
100 ml olive oil or 100 ml clarified butter
100 ml white wine
1 Tablespoon honey
1 clove of garlic
A pinch of cinnamon
- Cook the pasta al dente in the salted water with a tablespoon of olive oil
- Cut the spinach and fry shortly to wilt it in the clarified butter or olive oil
- Add the garlic, white wine, honey, black pepper and cinnamon to the spinach and fry a little to evaporate the alcohol from the wine. Put aside.
- Salt the carp a little and fry on the butter
- In the casserole arrange respectively cooked pasta, wilted spinach and finally the fried carp chunks
- Cover and bake in the oven preheated to 200 C for 10 minutes.
- Served in the same pot it was baked
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