Thursday, 29 April 2010

Asparagus with sea salt & parmesan

Serves 2 - for a starter

a bundle of asparagus (allow 4-6 veg per person)
few parmesan shavings
flaked sea salt
4 tbsp melted butter
salt for cooking

Remove the bottom part of each asparagus by simply taking the end of the asparagus between your thumb and forefinger and bend until it breaks. The asparagus automatically breaks just where the woody part ends and the fresh, juicy asparagus begins. I prefer to do it this way, rather than cut it off by knife, because I don't need to worry about breaking off too much or too little. I always keep the woody bits and freeze them for later, to make a vegetable stock, that I can use when making asparagus risotto.

Boil for 3-5 minutes in salty boiling water, try to keep the heads over the water level, because they boil quicker than the rest of the veg. Drain, place on the plate, drizzle with melted butter and sprinkle with parmesan shavings and sea salt.

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Spicy aubergine (eggplant) & peanut soup

From "Veganomicon. The Ultimate Vegan Cookbook" by Isa Chandra Moskowitz i Terry Hope Romero - America's best selling vegan chefs.

Serves 6-8

450g aubergines (eggplants), cut into 1cm cubes
1 tsp of salt + extra for seasoning
5 shallots, peeled and finely sliced
6 tbsp groundnut oil
1 medium yellow onion, peeled and diced
1 hot chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
2.5cm piece of fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
1.5 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
approx. 100ml tomato pure
400ml tinned tomatoes in juice, chopped
approx. 1.2l vegetable stock
approx. 120ml natural peanut butter, smooth or chunky
approx. 200g green beans, fresh or frozen, cut into bite size pieces
2 tbsp lemon juice
chopped fresh coriander (cilantro) - optional
chopped roasted peanuts - optional

Toss the aubergine cubes with the tsp of salt in a large bowl or colander. Allow to sit 30 minutes to soften, then gently rinse the aubergine with cold running water and drain.

While the aubergine is being brined, preheat 2 tbsp of oil in a large pot and sauté the shallots for about 20 minutes until soft and lightly browned. Scoop the shallots out of the pot and set aside in a bowl.

Add 2 tbsp of oil to the pot and add the aubergine, stirring to coat with the oil. Cook the aubergine for 15 minutes until slightly tender. Transfer it to the same bowl as the shallots.

Add the remaining oil to the pot and allow it to heat, add the ginger, chilli, and fry for 30 seconds. Add cumin, coriander, turmeric, and fry for another 30 seconds, then add the onion. Stir and fry until onion is just slightly soft and translucent. Add the tomato pure and stir fry the mixture for another minute.

Add the diced tomatoes, stock, aubergine, shallots, beans to the pot, stir well and raise the heat to medium-high. Bring to a boil and boil for 5 minutes, then lower the heat and simmer.

In a separate bowl, stir the peanut butter with ladleful of hot soup. Stir it well with the soup until creamy and the peanut butter is completely emulsified. Scrape the peanut butter mixture into the rest of the simmering soup and stir to mix.

Simmer the soup over medium - low heat, covered for about 20 minutes, or until the aubergine is very tender. Remove from a heat, add lemon juice and stir. Allow to cool down slightly before seasoning with some more salt.

Serve with some chopped coriander and peanuts.

Sunday, 25 April 2010

Lamb shanks & butter bean mash

For lamb shanks

Serves 4

4 lamb shanks
2 garlic bulbs, unpeeled, cloves separated
4 celery sticks, roughly chopped
2 onions, peeled and quartered
few springs of rosemary, leaves picked
few springs of thyme (optional)
2 large glasses dry red wine (I used shiraz, I like its spicy flavours in meat marinade, cabernet sauvignon will be fine)
freshly ground black pepper

Tear off four pieces of tinfoil large enough to make parcels for lamb shanks.

Divide the garlic, onions and chopped celery between them, making a pile in the middle of each square. Place the lamb shanks on the top of each pile and season with salt and pepper, sprinkle with rosemary and thyme. Carefully pull up the sides of the foil around the shank and pour a half of glass of wine into each. Gather the foil around the bone, pinching it together tightly.

You can leave it to marinate for few hours, but it is not necessary. If marinating remove them from a frige at least 30 minutes before roasting.

Place them in an ovenproof dish. Preheat the oven to 150 C and roast lamb shanks for about 3 hours. Meat will be very tender.

Before serving remove meat from the parcels and using a sieve save juices and remove all the veg and herbs. You can place it in a saucepan, add some cream and flour and boil for 2-3 minutes until thicken. I leave it as it is and serve on the side in a gravy boat.

I served lamb shanks with boiled green beans with some melted butter and glazed baby carrots (boil them al dente, drain and place in the pan with some butter and 2-3 sprinkles of muscovado sugar, fry for 5 minutes). Also I have made a bean mash (as seen in one of Nigella Lawson's books), because I think beans go very well with the lamb.

Butter bean mash

Serves 4

3x400g tinned butter beans
spring of rosemary
garlic clove, unpeeled and lightly crushed
6 tbsp olive oil (sometimes beans "take" more)

Place olive oil, garlic glove and rosemary spring on a pan and fry for 3-5 minutes until olive oil is infused. Remove rosemary and garlic and discard.

Drain the beans and add to the pan, cover and after 5 minutes season with salt and mash them using potato masher until smooth. If is too dry add some extra olive oil or butter.

Friday, 23 April 2010

Olive & rosemary bread rolls

Makes 10-12


175g white bread (strong) flour
150g water
level tsp of dried active yeast

Mix all the above in a bowl, cover with kitchen foil or cling film and leave it in a room temperature for about 12 hours (up to 16 hours).

Final dough

whole pre-ferment
300g white bread flour
100g wholemeal bread flour (you can use white bread flour only - 400g)
200-250g water
level tsp of dried active yeast
3 tbsp olive oil
1-2 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary
tbsp salt

In a bowl mix pre-ferment, flour, yeast, 2 tbsp olive oil, rosemary and add water but not all at once - some flours take more water than others. Mix well until the dough is formed - it should be flexible and not too sticky. Leave it for about 30 minutes, then sprinkle with salt and knead the dough for minute or two. Place in a bowl oiled with 1 tbsp olive oil, cover with clean tea towel and leave it to rise until doubled in size. (45-90 minutes, depends on temperature)

Remove from a bowl, place on a lightly fluored surface and by punching release the air out of the dough. Divide into 10-12 equal pieces and form rolls. To see how to shape bread rolls click here.

Place them on a baking tray, lined with baking paper, cover with clean tea towel and leave them to rise for about 1 hour.

Heat the oven to 250 C and on the bottom of the oven place an ovenproof dish filled with water - it will create some steam inside and it is crucial to making a crust. Place the rolls in the oven and bake for about 10 minutes. Leave it to cool down on the rack.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Grilled ciabatta with peas & poached egg

Serves 1

6-8 tbsp garden peas (fresh or frozen)
1 tbsp chopped fresh thyme
1 tbsp chopped fresh mint, plus extra leaves to garnish
juice of half lemon
2 tbsp olive oil
freshly ground black pepper
half of small, stale ciabatta bread or large slice of other, good quality bread
fresh egg
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
garlic clove (optional)
pecorino cheese (optional)

Defrost peas if using frozen one. Heat one tbsp of olive oil in a pan, add peas, thyme and mint and cook until just warmed through. Season with salt, pepper and lemon juice. Mash it roughly with potato masher.

Rub the remaining olive oil over the bread, place under a hot grill or on hot cast iron grill pan for a couple of minutes, until just lightly crisp.

Crack the egg into a small bowl. Boil some water in a pan, add white wine vinegar and then gently add cracked egg into a pan of simmering water and cook until the egg white has mostly solidified, but the yolk remains soft. It takes about 2 minutes. Drain the egg with a slotted spoon and place on a paper kitchen towel, to remove any excess of water.

You can rub some garlic over the grilled bread. Next place warm peas onto grilled bread, and top with poached egg. Finish with some freshly ground black pepper, salt, fresh mint and you can also sprinkle with some finely grated pecorino cheese.

Monday, 19 April 2010

Mushroom soup with meatballs

Serves 4

500g minced meat (I use turkey)
freshly ground black pepper
chilli powder, as much as you like
2 tbsp soy sauce
500g mushrooms, sliced (I use brown ones)
2 leeks, white parts only, quartered lengthways and chopped
2 onions, peeled and chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
approx. 2l of vegetable stock
200g natural spread cheese or 150ml crème fraiche
some chopped fresh parsley to garnish

Mix minced meat with salt, pepper and chilli powder and soy sauce and using your hands form 16 meatballs about walnut size. Place on a chopping board and set aside.

In a big pan fry leeks and onions in olive oil for about 5 minutes. Next add warm stock, saving about 500ml of it for later. Bring the soup to boil, gently add the meatballs, cover and simmer for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile mix the spread cheese or crème fraiche with the remaining stock until smooth and add to the pan together with sliced mushrooms. Boil for another 5 minutes, season with salt and black pepper.

Serve garnished with some chopped parsley.

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Turkey & mango stir fry

Serves 2

300g turkey fillets (you can use chicken fillets instead)
2 tbsp of groundnut oil
2 garlic cloves
2.5cm piece of ginger
1 red chilli
small broccoli
6 baby sweet corns
whole fresh mango
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp cornstarch (corn four)
cup of water or vegetable/chicken stock
handful of fresh coriander
Chinese egg noodles

Prepare the ingredients so they are ready to stir fry. Slice the meat finely, peel and chop garlic and ginger, deseed and chop chilli (leave the seeds if you as hard as Dirty Harry). Cut the broccoli into florets, and you can use the stalk too - simply peel it and slice - it is tasty and has nice texture. Slice the baby sweet corns in half lengthways. Peel and slice mango, discard the stone.

Heat one tbsp of oil in a wok and stir fry the meat until cooked, remove from the wok and set aside.

Add the remaining oil into the wok and stir fry chopped garlic, ginger and chilli and after a minute add broccoli florets and stalk and stir fry another minute. Next add the sweet corns and stir fry for 5 minutes.

Next add sliced mango, fry another minute then add turkey and cup of water or stock mixed with cornstarch. Squeeze lime juice, add soy sauce and boil for about 30 seconds - the sauce thickens quickly.

Serve with Chinese egg noodles cooked accordingly to manufacturer's instruction and sprinkle with some fresh coriander.

Saturday, 10 April 2010


Today Poland has suffered its worst political disaster since the second world war after its president, Lech Kaczynski, his wife Maria, dozens of top government officials and families of Polish officers executed in one of the most notorious incidents of the second world war, were killed when their plane crashed in thick fog in western Russia this morning. Read more...

Friday, 9 April 2010

Pork chops with apricot & parsley crust

Serves 2

2 pork loin chops, preferably with side fat and bone
2 tbsp sunflower oil or some lard for frying
handful of fresh parsley
6 dried apricots
2 tbsp pine nuts
1 garlic clove, peeled
zest of 1 lemon
2 white bread slices or big white bread roll, preferably 2-3 days old, crust removed
1 shallot, peeled and finely chopped
1 tbsp butter
freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 200 C.

Fry the shallot in the buttel until soft, but not browned.

Place the parsley, garlic, pine nuts and apricots in a food processor and process until crumbed, then add bread crumbs and pulse again. Add egg, lemon zest, shallot, season with salt and pepper and mix well.

Season pork chops with some salt and pepper and fry in the pan both sides, until slightly browned. Using the kitchen tongs fry the fat on the side of each pork chops until crisped. Remove from the pan and place in an ovenproof dish.

Pat the breadcrumb mixture on tops of chops, and bake for about 15-20 minutes, until golden.

We had it with some watercress dressed with balsamic vinaigrette and wholegrain mustard mashed potatoes.

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Linguine with spinach and walnut pesto

Serves 2

150-200g linguine (or your favourite pasta)
handful of walnuts
2 handfuls fresh baby spinach
1 garlic clove, peeled
2 tbsp olive oil
4 tbsp grated parmesan cheese
freshly ground pepper
pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

Boil enough water in a pan big enough to cook pasta. Meanwhile prepare the pesto.

Place walnuts, spinach, olive oil, garlic, 2 tbsp parmesan, pinch of salt, pepper and nutmeg in a food processor and mix until smooth paste. Add 4 tbsp water from the pasta pan and mix for few seconds.

Cook the pasta al dente, drain, return to the pan and add pesto. Mix well until all pasta is covered in pesto.

Divide between two plates and sprinkle with the remaining parmesan. Serve immediately.

Monday, 5 April 2010

Meat comes from Tesco...

I do not wish to write a pro or anti vegetarianism post. As a teenager I was a vegetarian for two years because as a child I did not like meat at all. It was very difficult for my Mummy, because early years of my childhood had fallen into a time of communism in Poland, when lack of everything in the shops was very common. People were queuing for hours outside the shops from very early morning hours and they were lucky if they managed to buy some pork meat. I was quite fussy child when it came to eating a meat, even it took a hell lot of effort to get it.

Therefore it was very easy to make a decision about becoming a vegetarian. Although I have come back to eating meat and for the last ten years I have been a meat eater, I have to admit that my three favourite dishes are certainly vegetarian. I am very glad that I was a vegetarian because it helped me to learn some new kitchen skills, I was introduced to a lot food products that I never thought about when eating a meat.

On the other hand when I moved to Yorkshire I found local beef and lamb extremely tasty and I really enjoy eating them. Although I eat meat rarely, I could not even think about coming back to the vegetarianism. Even after last weekend when local farmer Tom Fall of Danby Grange kindly allowed me to spend some time with new born lambs.

When I think about my childhood I clearly remember that my parents did not allow me to waste any food. Perhaps due to the lack of many food products in the shops during the communism, and the way they nearly had to “hunt” for food, maybe because this was the way they were brought up by their parents. They always taught me to respect food.

It is very sad that Brits waste 60% of edible products (excluding peels, teabags and bones), therefore in average wasting 15 pence of every pound spent on food shopping. Some of these products that ended up in British bins not exceeded use by, or best before date. This could be an effect of the food being widely available in the shops and therefore the attitudes had changed since the war years when it was a crime to waste food.

Also British children are unaware of where the meat comes from. A recent study in the UK shows that 11% of children age 8-15 do not know where the pork chops come from. The study also showed that children that were brought up in cities are twice as likely as countryside children to be not able to identify that beef burgers come from cow. In my opinion children should get to know where the food on their plates come from, as this could teach them respect to food, and to meat especially. It is so worrying that if kids are asked where meat comes from, they say Tesco...

Some time ago Gordon Ramsay showed scenes of lambs being slaughtered to millions of viewers on his TV show. He also involved his children in helping him to look after lambs and had been throughout the whole time they were at their home. PETA said that a number of people, put off by the slaughter had called the charity since TV broadcast to request vegetarian starter packs. Vegetarians should certainly be grateful to Ramsay.

It is not my aim to judge whether he did it to increase the number of his show viewers, for publicity and to get a bit of controversy, but in my opinion he did a good thing - he showed where meat comes from. If you are not comfortable about what happens before meat ends up on your plate become vegetarian. It is entirely your choice as long as you are informed. If it does not worry you then carry on eating meat.

Perhaps the knowledge about where the meat comes from, will make some people more respectful to it. I do not wish to discuss if eating the meat is or is not moral, but in my opinion having this kind of knowledge and at the same time wasting meat is certainly unethical.

Thursday, 1 April 2010

Chicken, orange and caramelised shallots páté & roasted beetroot and horseradish relish

For páté
(makes a large loaf tin or two small loaf tins)

1kg chicken legs
2 small carrots, peeled
few celery stick
3-4 dried porcini mushrooms
5-6 whole black peppercorns
1 bay leaf
2-3 whole allspice
300g pork or chicken liver, cut into 2 inch pieces
approx. 30g butter
300g boneless streaky pork, cut into 1.5 inch pieces
2 shallots, peeled and finely chopped
pinch of sugar
zest of one orange (make sure you zest the orange part only, the white one is bitter)
stale white bread roll
50ml brandy
pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
freshly ground black pepper
3 eggs
10-12 thinly cut slices of streaky bacon or pork back fat

Place chicken legs in the pan together with the carrot, porcini mushrooms, celery, allspice, peppercorns and bay leaf. Cover with water and simmer over a low heat for about 1.5 hour.

Fry the liver in the half of butter in the pan until browned, remove from a pan and place in a bowl.

Using the same pan fry streaky pork pieces without any extra fat until slightly browned. Remove from the pan and place in the bowl together with liver.

Still using the same pan fry the shallots in the remaining butter over very low heat, until caramelised but not browned. Add pinch of sugar for last 5 minutes of frying.

Drain the chicken legs together with vegetables. Save the carrots, peppercorns, porcini mushrooms, and let chicken to cool down slightly. Remove the skin and bone the chicken. Place meat together with orange zest, carrots, mushrooms, peppercorns in the bowl together with liver and pork.

Soak bread roll in some stock that was produced when cooking chicken, remove any excess of liquid and place in the bowl.

Mince all the ingredients three times using meat mincer, season with salt, pepper and nutmeg, add brandy, egg yolks and mix thoroughly with your hands.

Whisk the egg whites with pinch of salt until they stiff and fold gently into the meat mixture.

Line big loaf tin with bacon or slices of pork back fat, so they slightly overhanging the tin, fill it with a meat mixture, level with a spatula and cover with the overhanging bacon.

Cover the tin with a kitchen tin foil, place in bigger dish filled with hot water (about ¾ of the size of the loaf tin). This is called bain-marie, which is a type of preparation used for protecting dishes requiring gentle heat from the fierce heat of the oven.

Bake for 1.5 hour in preheated oven (180C), uncover and bake for further 10 minutes until the top is golden. Remove from the oven, let it cool down and leave in the fridge overnight before serving.

It goes very well with some homemade beetroot and horseradish relish.

For relish
(makes 2 x 200ml jars)

8 small beets, roughly the same size
1 tbsp olive oil
freshly ground black pepper
few drops of lemon juice
about 8cm piece of fresh horseradish

Place washed unpeeled beetroots in ovenproof dish, drizzle with olive oil and bake for about 40-60 minutes, or until soft in 180C, and then leave it to cool down.

Peel the horseradish and finely grate in a food processor. You can use grater but it will upset your eyes and nose.

Peel beets, grate finely and mix with horseradish, lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper and leave it in the fridge overnight. After night in a fridge it will not be as sharp and hot, so you can add some more horseradish and leave it to rest for another 12 hours.