Thursday, 28 October 2010

Smoked mackerel páté

I was not so keen to try any fish páté since I had trauma from my childhood when somebody fed me with fish pate on a summer camp. It was made from... I do not know and I prefer not to. Sometimes ignorance is bliss. However some time ago I saw smoked mackerel and I had to buy it. I did not know what I am going to make, but it was one of those moments that I could not resist the feeling of buying something.

I found a lovely recipe from Jamie Oliver on Daily Mail website, but I am unable to find it at the moment, I think it was removed. It was a Christmas party crowd pleaser and he made a huge amount of it, so I decided to make half of it. Few days later I rushed to the local market to get some more smoked fish. It was the best mackerel páté I have ever tried.

I have to admit I hesitated for a moment with a horseradish, so I added half of it but after I tasted it I decided to go for the whole amount because it was the horseradish that gives it a special kick.

I used the following quantities, but if you planning a party, do not hesitate to double it.

400g smoked mackerel
190ml soured cream
3 tsp horseradish
zest and juice of one lemon
big handful of fresh parsley, chopped
freshly ground black pepper

Remove skin from the mackerel and mash the flesh with a fork. Add cream, horseradish, pepper, most of the lemon zest, whole lemon juice and most of the chopped parsley. Mix it all together.

Serve on slices of grilled read, topped with some parsley and lemon zest.

Monday, 25 October 2010

Moroccan style chicken & sweet potato mash

Following my recent recipe for harissa I am going to show you a whole dish that you can cook for dinner using this hot chilli sauce. My choice was quite obvious and natural - a dish inspired by North African cuisine.

When we went to Morocco last year we were delighted with everything we tried. The food is fantastic, mouth watering, aromatic and spicy - I don't mean hot, but it has a lovely aroma and flavour coming from different herbs and spices. Sometimes we did not have to do anything but close our eyes and breathe this lovely aromas in. It was enough to get close to the culinary ecstasy.

I would recommend Moroccan cuisine to any food lover, but it is better to try dishes from small restaurants or meals made on streets or markets as it taste better than safe menu prepared for an average European tourist in hotels. This is how you get a true local taste.

I haven't got a traditional tagin dish but I have prepared something inspired by North Africa cuisine with some Moroccan influences. I like when aroma of the spices fills up our cottage, especially when it is cold outside. It brings the warmth to our hearts and stomachs.

I have found a recipe in "Good Food", October 2010 issue, but I have changed it, so this is how I made it:

serves 2

2 chicken breasts, skinless, boneless(you can use any chicken pieces with bones, but it will take longer to cook it)
1 level tsp harissa
2 tbsp neutral olive oil
1 onion, peeled, halved and sliced
1 garlic clove, peeled and finely chopped
1 large tomato, peeled, deseeded and roughly chopped
about 200ml vegetable or chicken stock
8 whole dried apricots
handful whole, black olives
tsp honey
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
freshly ground black pepper

some chopped parsley or coriander to garnish

Spread the harissa over the chicken and leave it in a fridge to marinate for whole day or at least for two hours before cooking.

In a pan heat 1 tbsp olive oil and fry the chicken on both sides until seared. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Heat the remaining oil in the pan and fry the onions for about 3 minutes, until slightly softened and add garlic. Fry for another minute or so, next add tomato, stock, honey, cinnamon and return the meat into the pan. Add apricots, season with some salt and pepper, cover and simmer for about 15 minutes. Next add the olives and simmer for another 5 minutes.

Serve sliced with some sauce and

Sweet potato mash

serves 2

2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and diced roughly
pinch of freshly ground nutmeg
1 tbsp neutral olive oil

Boil the potatoes in a pan of salted water until soft. Drain well, return to the pan with oil and nutmeg and mash until smooth.

I served it sprinkled with some chopped parsley but I think some fresh chopped coriander would be even better.

If you are looking for something else inspired by Moroccan cuisine click here.

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Upcomming review!

CSN Stores has over 200 online stores where you can find everything from wardrobes to fantastic fitness equipment to cookware. Stay tuned to find out what was my recent choice and how I am going to use it. It will be good looking, tasty, comforting and seasonal. Wicked - believe me!

Thursday, 21 October 2010


Few years back when I use to read about standards required in Michelin stars restaurants I was bit shocked. But then after few years I totally understand why all of those standards are so high. I use to think that chopping vegetables into equal pieces or spending time on making your own pastry is a bit of a waste of time and called it quite obsessive.

Professional Michelin inspectors anonymously visit restaurants evaluate them on a range of criteria. If they are impressed by a restaurant, they visit the establishment again. And again. Quite an obsessive research, isn’t it? This actually makes the Michelin stars restaurants such a reliable place to eat. No matter what the occasion, time of the year you will always find the best food in those places. Also, I believe that you will remember this meal for long…

It is not only the prestige of the place that comes with Michelin stars but also a big money – the restaurants can be fully booked months in advance.

Now after few years of cooking at home, learning new skills, tasting menus from different chefs I know exactly that those small things make a huge difference. These things are taking dishes to the new exciting level.

I know that sometimes it is difficult to find time to make your own puff pastry, pesto or real stock and we use some bought, ready – made. It is OK, but it certainly brings the taste down. No matter how expensive the stuff from the shops is, the homemade one is always better.

Call me snob, or obsessed but I prefer to make my own pesto, pastry or stock. This is what makes my guests think “WOW” when they try my dishes. Perhaps this is something that you cannot name, you are not sure what it is, but you can tell that it makes big difference to the taste. It is important for me, because I eat not only to satisfy a hunger…

Taking all the above into a consideration I stopped buying ready made harissa and made my own, that was much better than any from a jar that I tried before. This hot chilli sauce is commonly eaten in North Africa and Middle East. It is great with any meat dish, if you like hot dishes, excellent with veg too – especially with lentils or beans dishes.

From “Good Food”, September 2010 issue

Makes about 5 tablespoons

10 fresh red finger length chillies
1 ½tsp coriander seeds
½ tsp cumin seeds
½ tsp caraway seeds
3 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
½ sea salt, preferably flaked
2 tsp tomato puree
2½ tsp lemon juice
1 tbsp olive oil (mild, not extra virgin, as it will overpower the taste of other ingredients)
7 drops rose water (optional, but highly recommended!)

Place frying pan over a medium heat and char the chillies turning them now and then until fairly blackened and covered in “blisters”. Remove from a pan, place in a plastic bad, seal it and leave it to cool down slightly, for about 10 minutes.

In the same frying pan over a low heat gently toast the cumin, caraway and coriander seeds, for about 2 minutes, tossing them, until fragrant. Place in a mortar and smash with pestle.

Peel away the skins from chillies and deseed them. I recommend you use a latex gloves or wash your hands with oil and then with water and soap to avoid any nasty consequences (especially man – do not be tempted to do this job and go to the toilet without washing your hands carefully). Capsaicin from chillies is hydrophobic, so you cannot wash it away using water, but you can do so using alcohol or oils. This is why you should rub some oil into your hands before washing them with water and soap.

With a pestle and mortar pound the chillies, spices, garlic and salt together until as fine as possible. Stir in tomato puree, lemon juice and rose water and allow flavours to combine for at least one hour before using.

Unfortunately the magazine did not tell us how long we can keep this refrigerated. I am keeping mine for 2 weeks now and everything looks and tastes OK. I would think it will last long if covered with layer of oil. I would try to freeze it in ice container, to make small cubes – each for single use.

If harissa is to hot for you make it milder by adding more olive.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Butternut squash ravioli with sage butter

If you are already bored with the squash this is not the best post for you, as today I am going to show another recipe using this lovely vegetable. For last few years this queen of October veg was tempting me to make lovely filling and use it to make the homemade ravioli. Squash filling? No problem. Homemade ravioli? Not exactly that exiting. (I thought)

I was not really keen to make my own ravioli until I have made my own first pasta and fought my culinary demon not long time ago. I have pasta maker. I have the butternut squash. I certainly haven’t got homemade pasta demon anymore. What shall I do? Squash ravioli perhaps?

The outcome was delicious. Even if my kitchen looked like after the Armageddon and my big toe hurts because when rolling the dough somehow (I still do not know how though…) I managed to pull out the handle and drop it straight onto my toe. Anyway, ravioli were worth it…

Serves 4


220g pasta flour, '00' type
2 whole eggs in room temperature
1 egg yolk
pinch of salt

Sieve the flour into a bowl, then turn into a mound onto a clean surface and make a well in the middle. Sprinkle the salt into a well and then crack in the eggs and egg yolk.

You can have a bowl of water on the side, so you can wet your hands to help bring the dough together if it getting too difficult towards the end of kneading.

To begin brake the egg yolks with your fingertips and then begin to move your fingers in a circular motion, gradually incorporating the flour until you have worked in enough to start bringing in together in a ball. The you start to work the ball of dough by pushing it with the heel of your hand, then folding the top back to itself, repeating again and again.

To make the dough you have to spend a good 10 minutes on kneading, the dough should come together and feel quite stiff. However it is no good to overdo the dough. You need to leave it in damp cloth for about 1 hour to rest and it will become softer.


half medium butternut squash, deseeded and left in skin
tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp freshly grated parmesan
2 tbsp bread crumbs
about 30g walnuts
1 egg yolk
pinch of freshly gated nutmeg
half tsp of fennel seeds, crushed in a mortar
salt freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 180C. Place the butternut squash on a roasting tray, drizzle with olive oil and roast until the flesh is soft. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool down. When cooled down remove the flesh from the skin with spoon.

Place the walnuts, all spices and pumpkin in a food processor and mix until smooth. Next ad bread crumbs, parmesan, egg yolk and adjust the seasoning. Place in a fridge and roll the dough.

Divide the dough into 4 pieces, and roll one at time using a rolling pin first so it is not too thick when rolling in the machine, about 1 cm thick is enough. Put the machine of the thickest setting and start rolling. You have to support the rolled dough with you hand so it will not fold or stick. Change to next setting and roll again. Repeat another 2-3 times taking the setting down every time.

Next fold the pasta onto itself, put the machine into first setting and put the pasta through. Repeat 2-3 times, changing the setting to thinner. If you feel the dough is too sticky dust with very little flour.

When you have two sheets of pasta ready place one of them on a floured surface and place a tablespoon of the filling in equal intervals, about 2.5cm from the edges. I used an ordinary freezing bag – I placed some filling in the bag, fold it and cut one of the corners so it looked like an icing bag – it is easier to squeeze the filling onto the pasta rather than placing by spoon. Then brush the pasta with little water around the filling.

Fold over the top half of the dough and, working from the centre of the line outwards, press firmly around each pile of filling with your fingers to push out any trapped air and seal in the filling.

Trim off the edges with sharp knife or pastry cutter or fluted pasta wheel. Repeat with the remaining pieces of dough.

Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil. Place ravioli in the pan, about 8 at once and let it boil for about 4-5 minutes. Drain with slotted spoon and place on the plates.

Melt some butter in a large frying pan until foaming, add the sage and fry for a few seconds. Remove from the heat and add few drops of lemon juice. Pour the butter over a ravioli, season with salt and pepper and sprinkle with some parmesan. Serve immediately.

Friday, 15 October 2010

Squash, rosemary & goats' cheese pizza

When the asparagus was in season I showed you the only right May pizza. I like to top my pizza with seasonal ingredients so this month I have to show you something which is typically October thing – butternut squash. In the summer I like to have a decent tomato sauce, herbs and mozzarella nothing else, but when it is getting colder and darker I need bit of sunshine on my plate and something more filling.

Therefore this is recipe which I love in autumn. I have found similar in Good Food magazine years ago, but this is different. I made it my own by putting some extra ingredients and effort by making my own rosemary pizza base. You cannot beat it when is dark and miserable outside. This is what I call the comfort food.

Makes 2 medium pizzas

For the base

400g white strong bread flour
7g dried yeast
1 level tsp salt
half tsp sugar
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp finely chopped fresh rosemary
200-250ml lukewarm water

Place all of the above in bread maker and use the program “dough” or “pizza”. If you do not have one, place flour in a bowl and mix with other ingredients then make the dough using your hands until you have a ball. Leave it covered in the bowl until doubles in size. This dough is great to keep in a fridge, it will rise slowly and be even better, so you can prepare it day ahead or in the morning and only remove it from the fridge to bring to the room temperature – about 1 hour before baking.

For the sauce

200ml tinned tomatoes, liquidised with hand blender until smooth
tbsp olive oil
clove of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
small onion, peeled and finely chopped
a splash of dry red wine
pinch of sugar
freshly ground black pepper

In a pan fry the onions with some salt and sugar in the olive oil over a low heat until soft. Add garlic and fry for one minute, next add the wine and leave it to evaporate slightly. Add tomatoes, season with salt and pepper and reduce over a low heat until thick. Set aside and prepare


half medium butternut squash, peeled, deseeded and diced into 1-1.5cm pieces
tbsp olive oil
pinch cayenne
2 tbsp finely chopped fresh rosemary
100g hard goats’ cheese, coarsely grated
3-4 tbsp pine nuts

Preheat the oven to 180C and you can place a pizza stone in it already – of you are using one.

Place the butternut squash onto a baking tray lined with baking paper, drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt, pepper and cayenne. Roast until al dente. Remove from the oven and turn the temperature up to 250C.

Divide the dough into 2, place on lightly floured surface and shape each round. Leave it to rest for about 10 minutes.

Spread the sauce onto each pizza base, top with roasted squash, sprinkle with cheese, rosemary and pine nuts and place onto hot pizza stone. Bake until risen, golden and cheese is nicely melted.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Sausage & veg casserole

Recently I did not have a time to cook complicated dinners everyday. Therefore I was flicking through my old magazines cut-outs and cookery books in search of recipes for one pot easy to make and suitable to reheat dishes. I was really exited to try this one (from some ancient Good Food magazine), but I have changed it slightly. I reduced the amount of stock, and added the butternut squash that is in season now and one of my favourite veg - it was very good idea indeed.

Serves 2

4 pork sausages (I used Italian style garlic & herb sausages)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 yellow pepper , deseeded and sliced into wide strips
1 red onion , cut into 8 wedges
half butternut squash, peeled, deseeded and cut into bite size bits
400g can chopped tomatoes
100ml vegetable stock
handful fresh basil
freshly ground black pepper

Heat oven to 200C.

Put the sausages, pepper, butternut squash and onion into a roasting tin, drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Then roast for 20 minutes.

Then tip tomatoes and stock over the sausages. Add most of the basil (save some for garnishing) and stir well. Roast for another 20 mins.

I served it with some sourdough bread drizzled with little olive oil and sprinkled with coarse sea salt and then grilled in the oven for few minutes whilst the casserole was getting ready.

Saturday, 9 October 2010

I don't like cheese... Not even Wensleydale?!

Today I am going to take you for another journey in Yorkshire Dales. It was a gorgeous, warm, sunny autumn morning so I decided to set off to the local cheese factory in Hawes, called Wensleydale Creamery situated in the heart of the National Park.

The Wensleydale is the valley (dale) of the River Ure on the east side of the Pennines in North Yorkshire. It is the only dale not named after a river, such as Nidderdale (river Nid), Coverdale (river Cover) or Swaledale (river Swale), but from a village called Wensley. However the older name, "Yoredale", can still be seen on some maps. The river Ure goes over our village and beautiful Aysgarth Falls (nice enough to feature in “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves”) and obviously passes through the city of York.

If you are interested in history there are few spots you have to visit in Wensleydale. One of them is Castle Bolton, with its most famous event to have taken place in the castle's history - the imprisonment of Mary, Queen of Scots after her defeat in Scotland at the Battle of Langside in 1568. Also if you are looking for Richard III connections you have to visit Middleham - the smallest township in England (where we use to live for two years) with its remaining of castle, where king was brought up. Also it is interesting place if you are race horse lover - every year 14 local racing stables are open to public. Everyday you can see many horses on the streets going to get a daily training on the gallops just outside the town.

I have to mention a lovely meadows, hills and specific climate that brings tourist to this place. Also milk from local farms where the cows graze the sweet limestone meadows that are rich in wild flowers, herbs and grasses has a unique flavour. It is this herbage that gives the milk, and hence the cheese, its special dales flavour.

There is over a 700 different types of cheese in UK and they can tell a lot about history of this country or specific region they were made in. My local cheese has a unique and long history, as old as some of the mentioned castles.

The art of cheese making was introduced to Wensleydale in XII century by French Cistercian monks, who then moved from earlier monastery established at nearby Fors, where the land was poor to Jervaulx. You can visit their abbey that remains in the area to the present day. Then the recipe was passed down to local farmers’ wives who continued to produce the cheese in their own farmhouses. In 1897 a local merchant of Hawes began to purchase milk from surrounding farms to use it for the manufacture of Wensleydale cheese on a large scale.

Back in the 1930’s the economical depression made trading conditions difficult, leaving the creamery in significant debt to farmers and the dairy faced closure. In 1935 local businessman manage to get a support from local farmers, raising enough money to rescue the dairy. In 1966 he sold his well established business to the government agency established that controlled milk production and distribution in the United Kingdom (Milk Marketing Board). Unfortunately the factory faced some problems in 1992 and it was closed down with the loss of 59 jobs.

Half a year later, following many offers to help the creamery, four former managers together with a local businessman managed to buy the dairy and with help of some ex-workers they produced some more cheese just before Christmas.

Over the following years the Wensleydale Creamery has been developing, winning many awards, and is now employing over 200 people and has many contracts for supplying major supermarkets with their cheese.

This is a brief history, how about the cheese? The Wensleydale Creamery ensures that they produce cheeses using traditional recipes that have been handed down through the generations. There is a wide selection of cheeses to choose from, made either with cows’ or ewes’ milk. Creamy white Real Yorkshire Wensleydale cheese has a mild, fresh, clean flavour with a honeyed aftertaste and a crumbly, flaky texture. It is the most neural of those produced in creamery.

Creamy white Oak Smoked Yorkshire Wensleydale cheese is smoked naturally using oak chips to produce smoked flavour. The body of the cheese maintains the typical characteristics of Real Yorkshire Wensleydale; fresh, bright, slightly crumbly and flaky. The rind of the Oak Smoked Yorkshire Wensleydale cheese adopts an attractive golden beech colour and is slightly firmer due to the natural smoking process.

Also there is one of my favorite cheeses called Jervaulx Blue (formerly known as Blue yorkshire Wensleydale but often causing confusion - many customers expected a typically white crumbly cheese instead of smooth, creamy blue cheese).

If you do not fancy blue cheese do not worry – there is still more to choose from. For example there is a wide selection of blended cheese. You can choose from cranberry, apricot, pineapple and one of my favorites – ginger one.

Although if you are not a big fan of cheese with fruits you can still find something nice for you: cheese with balsamic onions, caramelised onions, chives or cracked black pepper.

The Wensleydale Creamery offers a trip that starts in their small museum, where you can watch a film about its history and see old cheese making equipment such as 300 years old cheese stone press, or kitchen from 1920’s. Next you can go further to the creamery itself and continue the viewing in the sort of gallery overlooking the creamery itself.

From there you are able to visualise cheese making in dairy today. It is actually very busy! After delivering from the milk from the local farms and before the milk may be used making the cheese it is pasteurized. The milk is then cooled and pumped into vats for cheese making.

Next stage is adding the ‘starter’ which is a special blend of bacteria which occur naturally in milk and makes the milk become “soured”. Next the rennet is stirred into the milk which is then allowed to ‘set’ until it coagulates to form a semi-solid junket.

The semi solid coagulum is cut into small pieces by rotating knives and stirrers to release ‘curds’ and ‘whey’. The cutting process continues until the curds have reached the correct size. When a certain level of acidity has been reached, stirring ceases, allowing the curd to settle in the bottom of the vat. The mass of curd is cut into large blocks and moved to the sides of the vat making sure the whey to run out freely.

Next the salt is added by hand from big buckets. The salted curd is allowed to ‘mellow’ for 5-10 minutes before being put through the cheese ‘mill’ and shredded into small pieces.

The freshly milled curds have a very springy texture but soon start to knit together in the cooler. They are packed by hand into stainless steel moulds which are weighed and loaded onto boards ready for lifting into the press. Wensleydale cheese is only pressed lightly. Pressure shapes the cheese and expels any remaining whey. It is quite important to press the cheese into moulds by hand as the machine could be too ‘aggressive’. If you look at the Wensleydale cheese packaging it proudly says “handcrafted”.

Traditional Real Yorkshire Wensleydale cheeses are bandaged in muslin as soon as they are removed from their moulds. They are then taken to the drying room where they are turned over daily for 4-5 days to ensure even drying and the best flavour. When the surface of the cheese is dry a natural rind forms. Then it may be bagged, labeled and taken to the store room for dispatch, or it may be sent to the maturing room.

The traditional cheeses are stored in a cool, dark store for 4-6 months and checked regularly by the cheese grader. I wish I could have his job…

When you already visited museum and creamery itself it is time to do some shopping in their specialist cheese shop. It is very nice and gives the opportunity to sample all of cheeses before you buy, so there is no room for mistakes – you know exactly what you are buying.

If you are looking to buy a nice gift for somebody you will be delighted by a range of cheese truckles finished in colourful wax. It is eye catching and underneath this nice finish you will still find a lovely cheese. What a great gift idea!

Also you can select from a range of fruit cakes (they go nicely with Real Wensleydale!), chutneys or local ales. Why not wash you mouth with some tasty ale after a cheese feast?

Next I would recommend stopping at their tea room. The Visitors Centre is now being modernised so some of the spots are still not open, although the tea room and toilets I have found very modern and functional. I would not be me if I had not try something from their menu. Stopping by in a nice, spacious tea room I had the opportunity to watch lovely views and try the most delicious cheesecake. It was rich, creamy and sweet with very interesting ginger flavour. Also I was pleasantly surprised by tea – they serve my favourite tea produced in Harrogate (North Yorkshire, about 30 miles away from where I live). I have to admit I was quite sad when on my plate there were only some crumbs left but in few minutes my stomach sent me a message that it is already full – of course, I was sampling the cheeses in the shop earlier on!

Just to finish I have to mention one scene from Wallace and Gromit film when Gwendolyn admits that she would not have a cheese because it gives her a rash and she cannot stand the stuff. Wallace gulping hardy says "not even Wensleydale?" (by the way I have read an interview with the director of Wallace and Gromit and he said that he chosen Wensleydale because it is a funny cheese to say!). I could see a pain on Wallace’s face and I understand him more than anybody else. I mean: how can you not like the Wensleydale cheese?

(Please note: all the historical and the technical information about producing the cheese comes from the Wensleydale Creamery official website)

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Beetroot, spinach & goats' cheese puff pastry parcels

I was invited by one of Polish vegetarian bloggers to participate in her blog while she is on holiday. Although I am not a vegetarian anymore I was really pleased with this opportunity, because my favourite dishes are vegetarian.

Today I am going to show you one of my favourite recipes that I have found in “Delicious” magazine (December 2007 issue). I keep coming back to it, as it is easy to prepare, suitable to eat cold or hot and to reheat in microwave. It is a nice surprise for guest whether they are vegetarians or not. Everyone loves it.

It is a recipe for beetroot, goats’ cheese and spinach parcels by Simon Rimmer. I have changed it slightly so these are the quantities for 8 small parcels. Also sometimes I make round parcels, like in Simon’s recipe; sometimes I take a shortcut and make an envelope like shape. It is up to you how you shape yours.

375g ready rolled puff pasty, cut into 8 squares
3 medium beetroots
100g baby spinach
125g goats’ cheese, crumbled
1 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
1/2 red onion sliced finely
50g dried cranberries
1 egg, beaten
some poppy seeds, to decorate
freshly ground black pepper
little olive oil

Preheat the oven to 190°C. Put the beetroot in a roasting tin, drizzle with the oil, season with salt and pepper and toss together. Roast until tender. Set aside to cool slightly, then remove the skins and cut each into 8 pieces.

In a large bowl mix beets with the spinach, cheese, onion, chilli and cranberries, and some seasoning.

Divide the filling between the centre of each pastry square. Fold the corners over the filling, pressing with your fingers to seal and form a parcel. Place seal-side up on a baking sheet lined with a baking paper. Brush with the egg and sprinkle with the poppy seeds. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until puffed up and golden.

Saturday, 2 October 2010

Polish dumplings (pierogi) with lamb

I hate to waste any food, especially meat. I have written about it few months ago. It is no good for the environment but also from an economical point of view it is something unforgivable. It is like taking a note out of my wallet and putting into a shredder.

Therefore I try to cook some of our meals using products that are not at their best, but can be used in soup or stews – like wrinkly vegetables, or cheese that seems to be bit dry on the edges. Also I am not panicking about products that have passed the best before date – they are still OK to eat!

When we have a roast lamb, shoulder or leg that weights about 2 kg it is always too much for two of us, and after two days of eating the roast, we always have some leftovers. So I put them in a plastic bags and place in the freezer. This is how I ended up with 500g of meat that I used to make a filling for Polish speciality – pierogi.

It is quite common to stuff them with meat, seasonal fruit or mix of mashed potatoes and curd cheese. This is my recipe and I would not call this filling a traditional Polish stuff, as lamb is not the most popular meat in Poland, although pierogi are typically Polish and were incorporated to Polish cuisine from the Far East through the Kievian Rus. This is something that is very popular in most of the Polish homes and places serving food and there are numbers of different fillings used. In Poland you can get them in most shops, usually frozen.

There are different ways to make the dough. One, very traditional mix flour with egg and some water and the other which I prefer to use mix flour with buttermilk. The dough made from buttermilk is easy to roll, very flexible and pleasant to work with. However I will post both recipes, so you can use whichever you prefer.

Makes about 40 dumplings

For the dough:

300g plain flour (you have to have some more flour handy to work the dough and roll it out as it can be quite sticky)
half tsp salt
1 egg
about 100ml warm water
1 tbsp oil (optional)

Like making pasta dough sieve the flour onto a worktop and make well in the centre. Place the egg, salt and oil in the well and mix all the ingredients. Next add little bit water at a time and mix the dough with your hands until you have got a ball. You can use a planetary mixer instead. The dough should not be too sticky, so when making it you may have to add some extra flour.

Alternatively mix the following:

500g plain flour
about 300ml buttermilk

Again, you have to have some more flour and buttermilk handy, so you can adjust the recipe if needed. Again, the dough should be flexible and not too sticky. I prefer this one, as it is easier to assemble and the dough is very good to work with.

Either way you prepare the dough, divide it into 2-3 pieces and cover with cloth before rolling out.

For the filling:

about 500g roast or boiled meat leftovers (I used parts of lamb leg and shoulder and also small piece of beef boiled to make a broth on previous day)
140g cubed pancetta
large white onion, peeled and diced
3-4 tbsp butter
handful dried porcini mushrooms
2 springs of rosemary
cup of vegetarian or beef stock (optional)
freshly ground black pepper

Soak the mushrooms in a cup of water for 10 minutes, drain and squeeze the excess of water, save the water for later.

In a dry pan fry the pancetta until brown, place in the bowl and set aside.

In the same pan melt the butter and fry the onions and rosemary springs. Remove the rosemary and discard when the onions are soft.

Mince the meat, pancetta, mushrooms and onions using a meat mincer. Add the water from soaking the mushrooms and mix well. The filling should be firm and quite sticky, so add more stock if needed. You should be able to form a firm ball without any problems. Season with salt and pepper.

Start to roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface. If you use first type of dough you can use a pasta maker to roll it out, unfortunately the buttermilk dough is not suitable for rolling out in the machine. Although it is really easy and pleasant to roll out with ordinary rolling pin.

When dough is rolled out, cut disks using a pastry cutter or glass or tea cup. Any scraps of leftover dough put together and knead to form a ball that you will roll out later. If you use the first type of dough it could become too dry to seal the edges, so you will have to brush them lightly with little water.

Place a generous spoon of the filling into a middle of each disk. The edges must stay clean as it will not seal properly with any filling between edges. Fold disk in half and pinch the edges together with you fingers, pressing lightly. Place it on floured surface and repeat with other disks.

At this stage you can freeze uncooked dumplings and boil them from the frozen next time. I prefer to cook them all and reheat next day – either fry in butter or steam them.

In the large pan (I use 5l) boil the water with some salt. Add few dumplings at a time, about 6-8 and bring them to the boil. They should rise to the surface and boil for about 3-4 minutes. Drain one with slotted spoon and check if the dough is cooked. If so, drain all of the dumplings with slotted spoon and serve.

We had it with some onions, which I have fried in butter and then cooked in some homemade beef stock and then sprinkled with fresh chopped parsley. You can also serve it with melted butter only, or fried pancetta cubes, or fried onions.