She has been present at the gastronomical scene for over 25 years, and during this time she has created a mini-empire. With her brother Marcin, she runs eight restaurants: Chianti and Opasły Tom in Foksal, El Popo, Santorini, Meltemi, Forteca, a restaurant at the Kubicki Arcades and Klub Bankowca. She is also an author of the bestseller culinary books.
We value her good food market which she runs at Forteca. Such markets should be in every district.
Our dream Christmas table would be set with products from the local manufacturers of eco-food who sell at Forteca.
– Mine as well! Let’s start from carp. It is my absolute hit at the market – Dorota and Włodek Orzechowski from Jastrzębie Kąty – producers who offer ready-made meals, are not only manufacturers, but they create the dishes from the basis. Because if you cultivate or breed and you would like it to become your source of income, you must go one step further. You have to process your product yourself or in cooperation with others.
The Orzechowski marriage lived and worked in Lublin, but they renovated their farm which they had got from their great-grandparents, and they have now a few ponds with carps. They grow wheat, which they feed fish, make cutlets and smoked fish, pate, paprikash, soups, and sausages.
– Yes, carp sausage is an excellent product which we used at Opasły Tom. Our guests were intrigued because it looked like kabanos, but there was fish inside. It has a well known yet surprising taste. And smoked carp is an absolute hit. The Orzechowski marriage smokes and processes many products for example paprikash. But it is high level. Absolutely delicious.
If you eat meat, carp is an excellent product. Not only for a Christmas dinner but throughout the whole year.
I recommend experimenting during holidays. Because traditional dishes with fish, sauerkraut, poppy seed, nuts, mushrooms can be prepared in a modern way. We tend to think that these dishes are the same at every house. However, every grandmother and mother have their own recipe.
And how it is with you? Do you follow your grandmother’s traditional recipes or do you experiment in the kitchen?
– It depends but it is all a mixture of different recipes. Throughout the years we used to serve a beetroot and a mushroom soup, and finally, a beetroot soup from my family ousted a mushroom soup from the family of my husband.
For many years we have been celebrating Christmas according to the same scheme – everyone comes with his own specialty. My mother in law makes carp in jelly, and it is the best in the whole world. My mother prepares the best beetroot soup. Kids are good with sweets.
And your specialty?
– Actually, I only dress a Christmas tree. If I am a host, I prepare dried fruit compote because it is difficult to transport when it is cold, and I fry carp because you have to do it at the last moment.
How do you prepare carp?
– I fry it using clarified butter. This is my big secret. Clarified butter brings out the taste of this fish which is delicate, a bit nuttyl and aromatic. And if well prepared, it has no bones at all.
And nothing more apart from this butter?
– Nothing more is needed. We have a lot of such dishes which are simple and noble. There is a dish from the Lubelskie region where we come from: beans with honey and lemon. Honey is heated with lemon juice which is intensively sweet and sour. You use this mixture to pour on beans. Nothing special. Just a folk cuisine.
My husband makes braised sauerkraut something like a vegetarian bigos. He cooks it for a very long time, put much ingredients and energy. It always turns out delicious.
Vegan cuisine is a huge trend nowadays. At Forteca you have a star – Pan Ziółko.
– Yes indeed we have excellent vegetable farmers, and it all started with them. Piotrek and Maryla Rutkowski known as Pan Ziółko with his spouse, run their agricultural business near Maciejowice. They have plots with very fertile alluvial soils.
Piotr, when he inherited this farm from his parents, tried different things. He started from rocket, which didn’t sell in the places he used to trade: Otwock and Falenica. It happened so that I used to shop in Falenica and this is how we met. Rocket united us.
Later on, he started importing various peculiar seeds which weren’t present on the market. I wanted him to supply my restaurants with his products. It was quite a logistic challenge for him. I offered him a solution to bring it at Forteca, and we will distribute it to our locations. He also started leaving orders for different clients at this place. And this is how the idea of the market originated. Then the stand, queues and it all began to flourish. He continually keeps developing and has the best offer of seasonal vegetables in the city. But above all, he is a wonderful man.
Who appeared at Forteca after Pan Ziółko?
– Pan Sandacz. He has a company in Olsztyn which buys fresh-water fish from the surrounding lakes. He brings all the fish from Mazury: burbots, smelts, which tastes we hardly know. I am personally very fond of perch filet, small, without bones, crispy and delicate. My children eat them very eagerly.
Our next legend at Forteca is Mleczna Droga, the marriage from Warsaw, who went to England on a biodynamic farm where cheddar cheese was produced. Their production in Wąwolnica near Kazimierz started with cheese. However, not cheddar cheese became their specialty in Poland, but flavour yogurts: lemon-honey, ginger-orange, raspberry, seasonal elder. They keep their prices, despite the increasing popularity. They try to stay in personal contact with the client. They send wonderful newsletters, which cow calved or what is going on at the farm.
There is also an excellent story of Tomek Grela and his ecological champignons from Dąbrówka near Lublin. He uses horse manure which makes a huge difference in the whole process. He started producing brown champignons, portobello. He lets them grow big thanks to which you can farce them, make steaks, grill. This is the option for those who don’t want to eat meat.
And good meat?
– It is a huge problem. We have a few manufacturers of fine cold cuts but meat with eco certificates is offered only by Wasąg from Roztocze.
What seems to be the problem?
– Bad legislation. The bill on mobile abattoirs which already function in Germany or the United States cannot pass. Such abattoirs would allow eco-farmers to provide professional and highly humanitarian standards of slaughter, keeping eco certificate. Ecology is not promoted by politicians; these are all fairy tales.
I have an allotment and I started cultivating vegetables there. Is it the same with you?
– Yes, we are renovating an old house and preparing a field near it to grow vegetables. We bring soil to life. There will also be a vineyard.
So Christmas Eve at the new place?
– No, it is still a building site. After years spent on the outskirts of the city, I am very fond of living in Warsaw. When kids are small, life in the village seems perfect. When they grow up, they want to go to school in the city, go to the cinema. Now Warsaw seems to be the best solution for us.
FORTECA, Zakroczymska St 12, every Wednesday, 8 AM – 4 PM.
Photo: Aga Bilska (portaits), Filip Klimaszewski (Forteca)