Poznan, the capital of the Wielkopolska region in Poland, is by some jokingly called “Pyrlandia” meaning the land of potatoes (pyry – potatoes in the Wielkopolska dialect). And not without any reason. This vegetable became inextricably intertwined with the city as well as the whole region to such a degree, that one could talk about a kind of strange potato cult that has taken root for good in those parts. Yes, the pun was intended.
The Poznanians’ love for this tuberous vegetable also manifests in the regional cuisine. Among all potato-related dishes from this part of Poland, perhaps pyry z gzikiem are the most popular.
What is it
Pyry z gzikiem are a very simple dish. It is nothing more than jacket potatoes (boiled or roasted) served with a dollop of gzik (or gzika) on top – quark mixed with chives, onion, and sour cream. In some parts of Wielkopolska, people sometimes add radishes to the cheese mass, although there are also ardent opponents of such practice. Of course, when you prepare it for yourself, you can add to it whatever you like.
Possible variations and modifications
If you want to make a less caloric gzik, you could replace sour cream with milk. However, do remember that then it is more liquid. To keep the firmer consistency, use natural yogurt instead!
However, I do think that the potato part is non-negotiable to some degree. Nowadays, some people are replacing jacket potatoes with peeled and boiled potatoes. Others even go so far as to replace the potato with, horror of horrors, bread! The former I can forgive, but the latter change is an unforgivable profanity. Then, to me, the dish transforms into a sandwich. For the best results, I recommend using jacket potatoes.
Simple, yet apPEELing
I used to think that this dish was simply… simple, trite even. Moreover, it seemed a bit strange to just drop a splash of quark on a boiled potato. However, after I ate it once, I became an avid fan. No wonder why pyry z gzikiem is an obligatory menu item in restaurants serving traditional food from Wielkopolska.
Polish people from outside Wielkopolska usually know this dish because they either visited Poznań or they heard about it somewhere from someone but never tasted it. Only a few decide to prepare it for themselves. I admit, the combination of hot potato and cold quark with add-ons may appear strange, at the very least. Nevertheless, it does taste divine.
Back to the roots
The beginnings of the dazzling career of potatoes in Greater Poland date back to the 19th century. It was then that they became bread and butter for most people.
Since they are quite versatile, they were prepared in numerous ways: cooked in the husk (jacket potatoes) or without, mashed, eaten with salt, or mixed with cabbage. Some people also prepared potato soups and even baked bread with them. You could even process them in such a way as to obtain sugar, flour, and even vodka!
As Wielkopolska was back then an agricultural region, there was also no shortage of dairy products, including quark or white cheese. And so potatoes with quark, or pyry z gzikiem, were born!
The dish has survived to this day. Nevertheless, it is no longer considered a Lenten dish or one eaten by poor farmers, but rather a symbol of the region and the city. Therefore, it should not surprise anyone that gzik made it to the Polish List of Traditional Products kept by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.
Have you tried pyry z gzikiem while visiting Greater Poland in the past and want to recreate the dish at home? Or maybe are looking for something fast and filling for your midweek dinner? Look no further.
Below, you will find a recipe for this seemingly trivial, yet unique dish. There’s no need to think too long – it’s best to get started straight away.
- 6 midsize potatoes
- 250g of quark
- 200g of sour cream (18%)
- a bundle of chives (diced)
- ½ of a big onion (diced)
- salt and pepper
- Wash and scrub your potatoes thoroughly so there is no dirt on them. Then, place them in a pot with salted water and boil until they become tender. Do not even look at your peeler – cook them in their skins.
- On a cutting board, dice half of a big onion and chives.
- Into a bowl add quark, sour cream, diced onions, and most of your diced chives.
- Season the cheese mass with salt and pepper to taste and mix it all.
- Cut the cooked potatoes in halves, put them on plates, and carefully add the quark mixture on top.
- Now you can garnish it all with the chives you left aside earlier.