Friday, 30 July 2010

Apple & blackberry kuchen

Or cake for butchers. Where do I start where do I begin... It is important to have decent butchers locally. Never mind the usual stuff, but when you are in good relationship with you butchers, they can also supply you with some stuff that they do not normally sell such as pork fat or marrow bones for beef stock. My local butchers are decent lads and they do not charge me anything for some random orders and this is what I have made for them to thank them for their recent help.

This sort of yeast cake with not too sweet base is very popular in Poland (and in Germany as far as I am concerned - Kuchen = cake) all year round using different seasonal fruits. I was bit concerned using Nigella’s recipe, rather than my Granny’s but the outcome was very satisfying.

From "Nigella Bites", makes 20 x 30 Swiss roll tin

For the cake base:

350–400g strong white flour
half tsp salt
50g caster sugar
half packet easy-blend yeast (about 3g)
2 eggs
half tsp vanilla extract
zest of half a lemon
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
125ml lukewarm milk
50g butter, softened

I have placed all of the above in a bread machine and used "dough" programme. At first I used 350g of flour and was adding some more when I noticed that the dough is too sticky. You can use a stand mixer or you hands, adding mixed wet ingredients to dry ones and mixing until you have medium soft dough, then kneading with your hands. Next place the dough into a bowl, cover and leave in warm draft-free place until doubled in size. Or you can leave in a fridge overnight.

Then punch down to release the air and press to line a Swiss roll tin (I lined mine with baking paper) –it needs some stretching. Next leave it for about 15-20 minutes to rest and prove little bit.

Meanwhile prepare the fruits.

Fruits for topping:

1 small Bramley apple
300g blackberries
zest of half lemon

Peel, deseed and chop the apple and toss in a bowl with lemon zest and blackberries. Set aside and prepare the crumble toping.

Crumble topping:

50g self-raising flour
25g ground almonds
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
50g cold unsalted butter, diced
2 tbsp caster sugar
2 tbsp demerara sugar
25g flaked almonds

Put the flour, cinnamon and ground almonds in a bowl, stir to combine and add the cold, diced butter. Using your finger tips rub the butter into the dry ingredients, work quickly – you do not want the butter become too soft. Stop when mixture resembles clumpy porridge oats. Fork in the sugars and flaked almonds.

Now prepare mixture that will keep the juices from the fruits soaking into the dough when baking.

1 egg, beaten
1 tbsp of cream
pinch of ground cinnamon

Mix all of the above together and brush over the dough.

Next tumble the fruits over the egg washed dough and then sprinkle with crumble topping. Put in the preheated (200C) oven and bake for 15 minutes, then turn the heat down to 180C and cook for further 20 minutes or so, until the dough is swelling and golden and the crumble is set.

Remove from the oven and wait about 5 minutes before cutting into portions. Serve warm or cold.

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Roast aubergine salad with goats cheese & toasted pita bread

You probably know that feeling when you look forward seeing somebody who is very important to you and you are so excited that you cannot sleep, counting down the hours too your journey and the meeting.

Although sometimes something unforeseen can happen that puts this moment away in time. You get more anxious and grab a mobile phone and ring to say you will be late. That important person on the other side of the phone switches the hob off. And waits patiently.

When you finally get there and give this person a biggest hug that you possibly can, talk as much as possible on our way home and next thing to do is to have a meal together. There is nothing better in this world than tasty meal after a tiring journey prepared by someone that you love or prepared by yourself for someone who was travelling to see you. It does not matter – both ways are simply great and satisfying! It is very comforting to sit on the sofa with that person, have a cup of homemade tomato soup, lovely salad and you favourite Chilean cabernet sauvignon.

This is how I felt on Friday and this is why I wanted this salad again and again when I came back home. Simply because I wanted to keep the feeling as long as possible even if that person is far away from me today. Thank you very much for this weekend, my dear Sister.

I have modified a recipe from "Good Food”, August 2010 issue
Serves 2 for dinner or 4 for appetizer

2 medium aubergines
3 tbsp olive oil
handful fresh mint, chopped
shallot, finely chopped
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
half tsp of agava syrup or honey
small red chilli, chopped
100g mixed leaves – I used spinach, watercress and rocket
3 tomatoes, each divided into eight pieces
125g goats cheese (I used Welsh goats cheese, quite soft and crumbly)
2 wholegrain pita breads, cut into bite size pieces
freshly ground black pepper

Heat the oven to 180C.

Cut the aubergine in half lengthwise and slice each part. Place on a tray lined with baking paper, drizzle with 1 tbsp olive oil, season with salt and pepper and roast for about 15-20 minutes turning halfway through. Remove from the oven and turn the temperature down to 150C.

Place tomatoes on the baking tray lined with some paper and roast until the skin becomes bit wrinkly. Turn them halfway through.

Grill pita bread under a hot grill until crisp.

For the dressing, in a bowl, mix the vinegar, mint, agava syrup, shallots, chilli, remaining oil and some salt and pepper.

Mix the salad leaves with roasted aubergine and arrange on the plates. Place tomatoes and pita bread on the top, crumble some cheese on top and pour over the dressing.

It is very nice when still warm, but cold taste good too.

Friday, 23 July 2010

Yorkshire Lavender - does it sound weird?

When you think “lavender” the next thing you would possibly think is “Tuscany” or “Provence”. Would you think “Yorkshire”? I doubt it.

I was rather surprised when I found a leaflet of “Yorkshire Lavender” spot and I knew I was going to visit it as soon as possible. I am little bit obsessed with a lavender - I have got lots of lavender bags all over the cottage, lavender oil in burner and obviously some candles. One of our rooms is painted lavender, I use lavender and camomile bedroom spray to relax before sleeping, I love lavender soaps and shower gels. Not mentioning lavender plants in the pots on our patio. There was no other option than visiting this place at our earliest convenience.

Yorkshire Lavender is situated in beautiful surroundings, outside Terrington, which is 3 miles west of Castle Howard, 14 miles north east of York and 8 miles west of Malton in North Yorkshire. It is not far away from charming Rievaulx Abbey - a former Cistercian abbey which is definitely worth visiting too.

Yorkshire Lavender is a family project and it has only started from few rows of lavender but now you can enjoy many different varieties of lavender, amazing array of different colours in the summer. If you fancy having some at home, you can buy plants in a specialist plant nursery, where you can also find all the usual culinary herbs of different varieties. Very tasty Moroccan mint and golden marjoram plants which I bough are now growing nicely on my patio and I am using them with many different dishes. Huge bushes of different herbs in the garden amazed me with their smell when I was passing by.

Also there is a award-winning tea room, restaurant and gift shop where you can buy lavender related items – oils, soaps, candles, lavender bags, scented sticks, lavender honey, biscuits, dried culinary lavender and many others. Obviously I bought some culinary lavender and I made my own shortbread inspired by latest Olive magazine recipe. It is scrumptious!

Another attraction is a sculpture park named “The Spirit of Yorkshire” where you can find eleven metal fielding cricketers taking a cricket match and you should also be able to see some deer that were only few steps away from the gardens.

It is definitely must see if you are a lavender lover. And do not forget when visiting the Yorkshire Lavender that you are very welcome to weed as it says a sign on the shop door into the garden.

Not bored with lavender yet? Try this recipe for the lavender shortbread. It is truly delicious.

Lavender shortbread

200g unsalted butter
300g plain flour
100g caster sugar and extra for dusting
1 cheaped tsp of dried lavender buds for culinary use
1 tbsp ice cold water

Mix the butter and the sieved flour in a bowl. Using peste and mortar or food processor, blend the lavender and sugar. When they are quite fine sieve and add to the bowl and mix. Discard any lavender left in the sieve. If the dough does not wanto to come together add tbsp of very cold water. Turn out the dough onto some baking paper, wrap and chill for about 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 140 C (fan). Roll out the dough and cut into rectangular biscuits or slice rolled dough into round ones. Sprinkle with little sugar and bake for about 12 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.

Makes about 20 biscuits that keep for a week. I keep them in a biscuit tin, but they never last more than 3 days anyway because they are so delicious.

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Sticky pork ribs

There are some recipes that I fall in love from the first sight. It is a picture that grabs my attention first, then just a quick look on the ingredients and I already know this is an ideal recipe really close to the culinary nirvana.

It was similar last Saturday when after a lazy breakfast I was flicking through the latest “Good Food” magazine, that I found in my post box. I could not stop thinking about these sticky ribs. Actually I am not a big ribs lover but my partner says I cook excellent pork ribs in sauerkraut (Polish dish). However I do not cook them very often and only if he wishes to eat some. But this time it was different. I knew I have to cook them as soon as possible.

I was right. It was culinary heaven and I have eaten all the meat leaving dry bones only not even thinking about my manicure that I have done an hour earlier. My fingers were red and sticky. It was a great eating experience. A real feast.

I think this is great recipe also because you can prepare it ahead and just roast it about 40 minutes before dinner, so it is ideal when you have friends coming for a dinner, or you want to prepare you dinner a day ahead.

I have changed the quantities of some sauce ingredients.

Sticky pork ribs

800g pork spare ribs
tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, peeled and finely diced
1 garlic clove, peeled and finely chopped
2 tbsp smoked paprika
½ tsp hot chilli powder
250ml tomato passata
2 tbsp tomato puree
100ml cider vinegar or white wine vinegar (I used cider vinegar)
100g dark muscovado sugar

Preheat the oven to 130 C (fan). Place the ribs in an ovenproof dish, cover with water, cover with kitchen foil and bake for 1.5 hour. Remove from the oven, cool slightly and drain well. You can cover them and place in the fridge until you need them.

Fry the onion in the olive oil until soft, but not browned. Next add garlic, chilli powder and smoked paprika. Fry for another minute. Next add vinegar, tomato puree, passata, muscovado sugar, mix well and simmer over a low heat for about 10 minutes. You can use it straight away or keep it for later.

Preheat the oven to 200 C. Brush all the sauce all over the ribs and place on the baking tray. Roast for about 40 minutes, turning half way.

We had them with rosemary and olive roast new potatoes and spring cabbage cooked with tomato passata and fresh dill.

Saturday, 17 July 2010

Tagliatelle with sun dried tomatoes pesto

I am back on-line! A week break from blogging actually made me realise how I like it. But lets get to the point, perhaps some of you are curious what is going on in my kitchen...

We both love quick pasta dishes, especially with various pestos. On Friday night, after work we do not need to spend lots of time in the kitchen cooking, we only need something quick, easy to make, tasty and comforting. Something that will accompaniment our usual Friday night bottle of wine. This is why we often choose pasta with various pestos.

This one is one of my favourite one and I like it as much as spinach and walnut pesto .

Serves 2

250g tagliatelle (or your favourite pasta)
145g sun dried tomatoes (drained 280g jar)
tbs of oil/olive oil from tomatoes
2-3 tbsp pine nuts
2-3 freshly grated parmesan
2 small garlic cloves
2 tbs dry red wine (I used cabernet sauvignon)
tbsp fresh oregano (sometimes I use different herbs such as fresh basil, marjoram or parsley)
freshly ground black pepper

Put a big pan with some water on the hob and bring to boil, meantime prepare the pesto.

In a pan dry roast pine nuts, place 2 tbsp of them in a food processor and save the remaining for later. Add tomatoes, oil, garlic, oregano, wine, pepper and 2 tbsp of parmesan into the food processor and mix until smooth.

Boil the pasta al dente and drain saving about 2 espresso cups of water from the pasta. Add the water to the pesto and mix until smooth. Mix the drained pasta with the pesto, arrange in the pasta bowl, sprinkle with some pine nuts, parmesan and garnish with some fresh herbs. Serve immediately.

Thursday, 15 July 2010


I have a surprise for you today. CNS Stores are kindly giving one of my lucky UK readers a £50 gift voucher to use in one of their online stores.

CSN Stores has great online stores where you can find everything from cookware to ceiling lights to furniture. I bought few cookery items from them and they have an excellent service. Why you should not try them?

How you can win a £50 voucher? All you have to do is to leave a comment in this post about what is your favourite holiday destination for culinary reason. I am staying in UK this summer so I would love to read some of your stories and imagine that I am somewhere else, eating tasty food. Write about it! Make my mouth watering. How simple is that?

The deadline is Tuesday, 20th July at midnight. I will announce a winner on Wednesday so please stay tuned; check my website so I can contact the winner to give you the full details of this giveaway.

21.07.2010 And the winner is...

Good morning!

Due to the interest and few comments that I really like I left it to a lucky dip and the winner is Scott. Please can I have you e-mail address so I can pass it over to CNS group?

Thank you all for your participation. Have a good day! :)

Saturday, 10 July 2010

Polish steamed buns in two acts

I love the fact that my partner and I come from completely different parts of Poland (I am from Silesia, he comes from Pomerania), which means that we talk different accents and call the same food different names. It makes me laugh quite often.

So, when he point out to me one day that he miss his grandma’s beef goulash served with savoury steamed buns I was bit puzzled, because first of all I do not eat them with meat but with butter, sugar and cinnamon, or seasonal fruit sauce or with fruit yogurt. Secondly because he used completely different name to call those buns that I would have used, this is why we struggled for a bit to understand what actually we want for a dinner.

Eventually, I have made two dinners – one for him with beef and wild mushrooms goulash and one for me with strawberry and vanilla sauce. Both were beautiful, even it was the first time I attended to make my own buns, but I still think mine was better.

Steamed buns

Makes 12

500g plain flour
250ml milk
3 tbsp unsalted butter
2 eggs
7g dried yeast (I used fast action, do not need to be activated)
half tsp of salt
half tsp of sugar

I have placed all of the above in a bread machine and used “dough” programme. You can also make the dough using your hand or planetary mixer and leave it covered to rise in warm place until doubled in size.

Next place the dough onto a floured surface and divide into 12 equal pieces. Form each piece into a ball, place on floured surface and cover with tea towel for about 20 minutes.

Boil the water in a big pan covered with a sieve like cover that prevents the fat splitting from a frying pan. I mean I bought it to cover a frying pan when frying but it is rubbish, although it is perfect for steaming stuff. If you do not have one of them, just cover the pan with clean tea towel and tie it with a string around the pan. This is how my Granny and Mum use to do it before electric steamers era. Or you can use electric steamer if you have one. The important bit is that the buns should not touch boiling water.

Steam buns for 10 minutes covered with another pan placed upside down, 3 at once because they will expand. Serve immediately, or leave it for later – reheat by steaming for 2-3 minutes. These suppose to freeze well, but I never tried to do this.

You can either serve it as a sweet dish, or dessert with:

Strawberry & vanilla sauce

100g of fresh strawberries (of any summer berries, or mix of them)
few drops of real vanilla essence
tsp of caster sugar

Liquidise all of the above, until smooth.

If you prefer savoury dish, serve buns with:

Beef & wild mushroom goulash

2 tbsp sunflower oil
200g stewing beef
2 small onions, diced
2 garlic cloves, chopped
200ml real beef stock
100ml ale or bitter (optional)
handful of dried porcini mushrooms
2 tbsp of sweet powdered paprika
pinch of powdered chilli
bay leaf
2 allspice
freshly ground black pepper

In an oven proof dish fry seasoned beef until browned. Remove with slotted spoon and fry the onions and garlic until soften. Next add the meat, mushrooms, paprika, chilli, beef stock, bay leaf, allspice cover and place in the oven preheated to 175C for about 1.5 hour. You can also leave it on the hob, but I prefer beef stews or goulash cooked in the oven.

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Pancakes with summer berries & maple syrup

It is nearly time to say goodbye to summer British strawberries that taste their best in May, June and July. These days, however, the British strawberry season extends from mid-April until mid-December, thanks to the use of plastic polytunnels, which provide the berries with a much longer growing season. However I prefer strawberries in the summer, because they taste much better in the summer months than later in the year. I have to indulge myself and somebody I love with tasty, fruity, summery and lazy weekend breakfast while I can.

Makes about 20

1.5 cup of milk
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 cups of plain flour, sieved
3 level tsp of baking powder
3 tbsp of caster sugar
tsp of vanilla extract
pinch of salt
butter for frying

Mix the milk with eggs and vanilla extract and add al the dry ingredients, mix with hand mixer until smooth and set aside for about 15 minutes.

Fry the pancakes on the butter on both sides until golden.

Serve with summer berries such as strawberries and blueberries and maple syrup or honey.

Monday, 5 July 2010

I fight my demons, vol. 1

I have my kitchen demons that I fight for years such as making typical Polish complicated birthday torts with many layers. Also, I made myself think that making my own choux pastry is too difficult and to make homemade puff pastry I should take al least three days off work and possibly I will ruin it anyway. All of those exist in my head and I can get over fear of making them.

Few months ago I was given a great recipe for homemade stock made from veal bones but I could not make it due to the lack of the main ingredient. Also, I thought it is too fussy, too complicated and time consuming. Possibly I was looking for an excuse.

Again, I saw similar recipe few weeks ago - with beef bones this time. Finally I decided to go to the local butchers and ask about bones. This is how I end up with huge bag of marrow bones in my car boot on Friday night (thank you very much Kevin & Gary!). There was no going back, as my freezer is full - I had to make the stock.

I show you to how to make a real beef stock, which is a beautiful ingredient for French onion soup, and can be reduced by 2/3 to demi-glace - a base for many sauces, that converts into a jelly when chilled down. I could not wait to taste it so I added some of this stock to our beef goulash on Saturday and my partner immediately tasted the difference. You may thinks that you do not have a time to make your own - please slow down the everyday race, perhaps from busy work to supermarket where you buy ready made stock, relax and for a few moments look at bones in huge stock pot - it is worth it.

Real beef stock

Makes approx. 2 litres

4 meaty beef bones with lots of marrow, preferably the knuckle bones, cut to expose the marrow
2 onions, unpeeled, halved
whole bulb of garlic, unpeeled, divided into cloves
3 carrots, unpeeled, cut into inch chunks
leek, cut into 4-5 pieces
3-4 celery sticks, cut into pieces
250ml dry white wine
about 250ml tinned tomatoes, skinless, chopped
handful of fresh herbs - I used thyme, parsley and 2 lovage leaves
3 bay leaves
tsp whole black peppercorns

Heat the oven to 250C. Place the bones into a roasting pan and roast in the oven for about 45 minutes. Next add onions, garlic, carrots, leek and celery and roast for further 20 minutes. The bones should be browned but not burned so turn the heat down if they begin to char.

Remove from the oven and place the meat and vegetables in big stock pot together with herbs, bay leaves, peppercorns and tomatoes.

Remove the fat from the roasting pan and add the wine to the pan and use the spatula to scrap up all of the browned bits stuck to the bottom of the pan. Next add to the stock pot. Add enough water to cover the meat. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat to the lowest level and simmer uncovered for about 4 hours. Do not stir.

Remove from the heat and sieve using a couple of layers of cheesecloth, to make sure all the solids are strained . Place the pan with the stock in iced cold water to cool down - the fat will risen on the top and solidified. Remove all the fat from the top using few tablespoons chilled in a freezer. Discard the fat; if you want you can use it to make savoury pies pastry.

Cool down completely, divide into a portions and place in a freezer.

Friday, 2 July 2010

Peas & rocket risotto

Summer and fresh peas finally arrived! Would you believe I have something in common with one of the Hairy Bikers? I would be able to eat all of the fresh peas when podding, like David Myers. When he was a young boy his mum used to ask him to help her with podding peas. She told him to whistle when doing this and every time the whistling stopped, she was shouting: you eat the peas again! I really wanted to eat this risotto and because I would not be able to buy some more fresh peas on Friday night I used some common sense and podded the whole cup of fresh peas without eating it.

Not long time ago when awaiting fresh peas I was really keen to cook a classic Italian risi e bisi, which has more soup like consistency, but I completely forgot about it but I hope I will be able to cook it this summer and show it on my blog. Today I show the outcome of my Friday’s night improvisation.

Serves 2

about 30g butter
1 onion or shallot, peeled and finely chopped
approx. 1 litre vegetable stock (I also boiled peas pods in it)
150g risotto rice (such as arborio or carnaroli)
150ml dry white wine
handful of rocket + few leaves for topping
cup of fresh podded peas
zest of one lemon (make sure you zest yellow part only, white one is bitter)
freshly ground black pepper
3 tbsp freshly grated parmesan cheese

Keep the stock hot all the time. In a separate pan heat half of the butter, add the shallot and fry very slowly for about 15 minutes without colouring until softened. Then add rice and turn up the heat.

Fry the rice, stirring all the time. After a minute it will look slightly translucent. Add the wine and keep stirring for minute, until alcohol will evaporate.

Once the wine has cooked into the rice, add a ladle of hot stock and turn down the heat to a simmer so the rice does not cook too quickly on the outside. Keep adding ladlefuls of stock, stirring – you will notice a creamy starch from the rice. This is why you have to allow each ladleful to be absorbed before adding the next. This will take around 15-20 minutes, until the rice is cooked. For the last 5 minutes add lemon zest and peas. Season with salt and pepper.

Remove from the heat and add the remaining butter, 2 tbsp parmesan and rocket (save some for later). Stir well and allow to rest for 2 minutes – this will make risotto really creamy and oozy. Serve immediately (as risotto cannot be reheated!) sprinkled with the remaining parmesan cheese and some rocket on the top.