‘Feed a Crowd’ Hunter’s Stew Recipe

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Wild Honey and Rye Modern Polish RecipesIn Poland, bigos was traditionally made in manor houses with many types of leftover meat – pork, beef, lamb, game, Polish sausage – as well as cabbage; it was given to the men to take with them when they went hunting, hence it is often referred to as ‘hunter’s stew’. During the hunt it would be heated up in a huge pot over a fire and eaten with bread. It is now known as Poland’s national dish and there are many versions. The flavour improves when it is reheated – some Polish cooks spend three days cooking their bigos! I once fed 150 food bloggers with bigos, based on Mama’s recipe. I was delighted at how much it was enjoyed – there was not a single spoonful left. I also had some flavourful bigos recently at a winter food market in Warsaw. Served with rye bread, it was utterly delicious, and set me up for a visit to the Royal Castle in the Old Town.

  • Yield: 12 Servings


  • 1¾ oz (50 g) dried porcini mushrooms
  • 2 lb 6 cups (900 g) sauerkraut (I use 2 x 410 g jars of organic, raw, fresh sauerkraut)
  • 3 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp butter
  • 2 large onions, chopped
  • 1 lb 2 oz (500 g) pork belly or pork shoulder, chopped into small cubes
  • 4 kabanosy (thin, smoked Polish sausages), chopped into 1 cm/½in pieces
  • 7 oz (½ ring) (200 g)  kiełbasa, Polish sausage, chopped into cubes
  • 4 allspice berries
  • 2 prunes or 1 tbsp powidła, Polish plum butter
  • 2 bay leaves, preferably fresh
  • 2½ pints 1½ quarts (1.5 litres) chicken stock
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3½ oz (100 g) fresh white mushrooms, chopped
  • ½ head white cabbage, finely shredded
  • rye bread, to serve
How to Make It
  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas Mark 6. Put the dried porcini into a cup or small bowl, pour over some freshly boiled water and leave to soak.
  2. Drain the sauerkraut into a sieve. If you would prefer a slightly less sour flavour, rinse the sauerkraut with cold water and then drain it. If you like sour, then simply squeeze out the liquid using your hands. Set to one side.
  3. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil and the butter in a large ovenproof pan or Dutch oven and add the onions. Cook over a very low heat for 10–15 minutes, until the onions are very soft and lightly golden.
  4. Add the pork to the pan and cook over a gentle heat for about 10 minutes, allowing it to brown slowly while the fat is released.
  5. Add the sausages to the pan and stir. Tip in the sauerkraut. Drain the porcini mushrooms (reserving the liquid), roughly chop and add to the pan. Add the allspice berries, prunes or powidła and bay leaves, and pour in the reserved mushroom soaking liquid, being careful not to add any of the grit at the bottom of the cup. Pour in the stock and season well with salt and pepper. Cover with a lid or foil and cook in the oven for 1½ hours; after the first 15 minutes turn the oven down to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4. Alternatively, you can cook your bigos, covered, over a gentle heat on the stovetop.
  6. Towards the end of the cooking time, fry the fresh mushrooms in a separate pan with 1 teaspoon of oil. Add to the sauerkraut, along with the fresh cabbage, stir well and bake for a further 1 hour, covered.
  7. If there is a lot of liquid left in the bigos, put the pan over a medium heat and simmer, uncovered, for around 10 minutes or until some of the liquid evaporates. The bigos is best eaten the day after cooking after being thoroughly reheated. Serve with rye bread.

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