Monday, 29 November 2010

Christmas cake

I missed last Sunday - the stir-up Sunday, because I was still in Poland. I honestly doubt if I would have made traditional Christmas pudding, however I was really keen to make my own Christmas cake this year. There are hundreds of recipes in internet, cookery books and websites but I decided to use a recipe from "How to be a Domestic Goddess" by Nigella Lawson. I used the basic idea but I have changed the quantities of dried fruits. Click here , for the original recipe. I have made two cakes - one in round 20 cm tin and other in bread tin, based on the third column of quantities.

Today I am going to show baked cake that you have to store in airtight container and feed with brandy every 2-3 days. Traditionally it would be covered with some apricot jam, marzipan and icing just before Christmas, but I am not a big fan of icing so I think I will leave it on its own. Perhaps I will make some icing and decoration for one of them if I decide to give it away. Click here for the decoration ideas.

This cake goes amazingly well with some Real Wensleydale cheese.

500g raisins
600g sultanas
250g mixed peel
200g glace cherries
250g dried cranberries
5-6 pieces of stem ginger, chopped
200ml brandy (or sherry)
300g butter
250g brown sugar
zest of one orange
zest of one lemon
6 big eggs
3 tbsp orange marmalade (I used one with ginger by Tiptree)
500g plain flour
1 1/2 tsp mixed spice
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp almond extract
1/4 tsp salt
more brandy to feed the cake over next few weeks

Place all of the fruit in a large bowl and add the brandy. Leave to soak overnight.

Next day preheat the oven to 150C and line baking tin with brown paper.

Cream the butter and sugar, then beat in the orange and lemon zest. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each one and then add the marmalade and almond extract.

Sift the dry ingredients together.

Then mix the fruit alternately with the dry ingredients into the creamed mixture.

Put the cake mix into the prepared tin and bake for about 2 hours.

When the cake is cooked, brush with a couple of tablespoons of extra brandy. Cover immediately in a tin foil – this will trap the heat and form steam, which in turn will keep the cake soft on top. Remove the cake from the tin when it is completety cold. Wrap in a paper, secure with some elastic and if needed and store in airtight container, for at least 3 weeks. Remember to feed it with some more brandy every 2-3 days.

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Winter in Dales

Winter has come on last Wednesday. Today we just managed to come back from a walk before it started to snow again. Welcome to Semerwater lake and Aysgarth waterfalls.

(click the photos to enlarge)

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Pancotto - Italian bread soup

Probably every nation have their own way to use a stale bread. In Poland the region I come from have it's own - a soup made with bread cubes, garlic, some lard and hot water. It is very poor and not my favourite unless it is made in more expensive version - with stock and croutons fried in butter.

However my mate who spends quite a lot time in her house in Italy (in Sabina) gave me this recipe for bread soup that I fell in love immediately. It is fantastic as you can use different cheese each time and end up with completely different taste. Also it is up to you if you want to add more bread crumbs to make it thicker.

It is great for autumn and winter, served hot, this amount of garlic, chilli and fresh parsley will keep any colds away from you, but it tastes great when tepid when the temperature outside is little bit higher.

Makes 2-3

piece of stale, good quality bread (I used sourdough baguette, it is important to have good quality bread otherwise it will become mash like when cooked), about 6-8 1cm slices
generous splash of good quality olive oil (bread should be easily covered with it)
4 large garlic cloves, peeled
big handful of fresh parsley
1 finger length red chilli
2-3 tbsp grated parmesan, grana padano or pecorino cheese
about 1l vegetable stock

Heat the oil in a pan.

Process the bread until you have coarse bread crumbs.

Finely chop the garlic, chilli and most of the parsley.

In the pan fry the bread crumbs for few minutes, stirring then add garlic, chilli and parsley and fry for another 2 minutes. Bread crumbs should be golden and crispy.

Add hot stock and simmer over a low heat for about 5 minutes.

Serve in the bowls sprinkled with some cheese and the remaining chopped parsley.

P.S. Thank you for your patience - I have come back from my short break in Poland and hope to publish on more regular basis now.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Upcoming review!

Another exciting opportunity with CSN Stores where you can find everything from unique lighting, to modern bedroom furniture, or great cookware (i.e. great Le Creuset range!). Stay tuned as I will be testing some more kitchen equipment soon.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Squash & turnip crumble

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall has an excellent kitchen with AGA oven, huge fireplace and obviously lovely wooden dining table. I have a big wooden dinning table myself but I am little bit jealous of his kitchen. And his lifestyle. I wish I could have this nice upper class country lifestyle, have lots of time to maintain my own veg garden, fruit trees and go fishing. Unfortunately I have to work 8 hours a day, I don’t have my own cottage or even a greenhouse. So one thing that I can do similar to Hugh is cooking lovely stuff inspired by his recipes. At least the jealousy can mobilise to make good things sometimes…

When I first time saw root veg crumble on his TV show I could not stop thinking about it. I thought that I make my own inspired by his recipe. Squash was quite natural choice because it is in season now. So I made the most beautiful crumble I ever had, and because roasted veg are quite sweet I cannot tell that it was 100% savoury. Very interesting! You have to try it.

Serves 2

half medium butternut squash, peeled, deseeded and cut into bite size chunks
medium turnip, peeled and cut into bite size chunks
large carrot, peeled and cut in four lengthwise and then into about inch pieces
medium onion, peeled, halved and sliced
garlic clove, peeled and roughly chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
half tsp honey
half tsp wholegrain mustard
few springs of fresh thyme, leaves picked
salt (I used
sea salt with lemon peel and thyme
freshly ground black pepper

For the topping

piece of stale bread (I used piece of ciabatta about one bread roll size), roughly diced
50g walnuts
handful of oats (I used Scottish porridge oats)
tbsp freshly grated parmesan

Heat the oven to 180 C.

Mix the olive, garlic, honey, thyme and mustard together.

In an ovenproof dish arrange all vegetables and pour the olive mixture over them. Season with salt and pepper, mix well with a spoon, cover with piece of tin foil and place in the oven, for about 20 minutes.

Process the bread and walnuts in a food processor until coarsely chopped. Mix with the oats and parmesan.

Uncover the vegetables and increase the temperature to 200 C. Roast for about 8-10 minutes, then cover with topping and roast until golden and crispy.

Perfect on its own, but also I am going to serve it with roast lamb in the future.

Monday, 8 November 2010

Harissa baked salmon & oven chips with capers

I hate when people are looking for the excuses for not cooking meals at home. The most frequent one is lack of time. They try to convince me that buying take-aways is much quicker. Well if you fancy unhealthy meal I can’t see any problem – at the end of the day it is your body not mine, but do not try to tell me that cooking a proper dinner takes more than 30-40 minutes (this is how long it takes me to drive to take-away and back home). You simply cannot admit that you either can’t cook or don’t like to cook, because cooking a meal is a matter of little over half hour.

The key is an attitude I suppose, and multitasking. Think in advance, reheat the oven and pan in the same time, chop the vegetables and boil the kettle so you will have hot water in the pan ready for cooking. This is how meals in restaurants are being prepared.

Today I had chosen a fish, because it only needs about 15-17 minutes in the oven. And there is one more thing that I would like to say – I only prepared one meal in about 35 minutes. Jamie Oliver in his new series makes 3 course dinners in less than 30 minutes.

Serves 2

2 salmon steaks, skinless, boneless
2 level tsp harissa
3 large potatoes (I used Maris Piper)
3 tbsp olive oil
handful salted capers
2 handfuls of fresh baby spinach
garlic clove
2 lemon slices
some small tomatoes on the vine

Right. Shall we start a timer? Here we go!

I came back from work about 5.45pm on Friday night, dropped coat and shoes and immediately put the oven on, at about 220 C. Also I put the kettle on, and I added about 1 cm of cold water into a pan and put it on a hob so it boiled in a good time.

From my shopping bag I took the salmon, potatoes, tomatoes and spinach out. From the fridge – jar of harissa and one with salted capers.

I peeled the potatoes quickly and chopped each into about 6-8 fat, chunky chips. The water in the kettle has boiled, to I topped the pan on the hob with some hot water and added a sprinkle of salt and boiled the chips for about 8 minutes. (Set the timer – it helps)

I placed handful of capers in a sieve and left it in a sink under running cold water, at the same time I lined two baking trays with some baking paper. I turned the water off and left capers to drain a bit. I put the pan on the hob and reheat it.

On one of the baking trays I have placed the salmon fillets and covered each one with some harissa. The oven was hot already, so I placed the salmon on the lower shelf and I have checked the pan with chips.

I have drained the chips and placed them on the second baking tray, drizzled with 2 tbsp of olive oil and added capers and two slices of lemon. I used very little salt, as capers are quite salty. I have placed the tray over the salmon and set the timer for about 15 minutes.

After 10 minutes I added tomatoes on the vine to the tray with the chips and turned on the grill.

Pan on the hob was really hot already so I added rest of the oil together with unpeeled crushed garlic clove. I fried it for about 1 minute until the garlic infused the oil and then removed from the pan and put it in the bin. Next I added the spinach to the pan with pinch of salt and lept it over a low heat until was lightly wilted and then removed from a hob and covered.

I placed two plates into a microwave and heat them for about 1 minute. Timer went off so I have removed the fish from the oven. Chips were nice and golden too, so I removed them from the oven and turned it off.

I have arranged some spinach on each plate and placed piece of fish onto each. Next I added some chips with capers and slice of lemon and roasted tomatoes. My partner set out the table, lighted the candles, and prepared the wine. I took few photos of our dinner and we sat at the table. It was around 6.20pm. What more would you like (except from dessert)?

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Wholemeal penne with squash & salted capers (+bacon version)

I love recipes that I can easily convert into vegetarian or to meaty cooking both versions at the same time. I am not a big meat lover and I could eat it 3 times a week, but my partner is a big man, he is working physically and however he appreciates vegetarian food he is able to have two veggie dinners a week, otherwise he needs to eat meat or fish.

Therefore I figured out how to convert many of favourite recipes so I can cook two dinners at the same time and keep ourselves happy and well fed.

This is one of those. I have found this recipe on one of Polish forums and have changed it slightly (also by adding bacon) had it in favourites for two years until I was able to buy salted capers from a local delicatessen. It was worth waiting.

Serves 2

200g wholemeal penne
small butternut squash, deseeded, peeled and cut into 2 cm dice
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp salted capers
1 tbsp butter
1 garlic clove, peeled and finely chopped
handful of fresh parsley, chopped
some grated Grana Padano
3 rashers unsmoked bacon, sliced in strips
freshly ground black pepper

Heat the oven to 200 C. Boil a big pan of salted water for pasta.

Rinse the capers carefully and leave to dry.

In an ovenproof pan heat the oil and fry the squash. After few minutes place the pan in the oven. Roast the squash for about 10 minutes, adding the butter, capers and garlic for last 2 minutes.

Boil the pasta al dente and in the dry pan fry the bacon strips.

Drain the pasta and mix with the roasted squash and add bacon to one half. Serve on the bowls sprinkled with some Grana Padano and chopped parsley.

Monday, 1 November 2010

Dark chocolate chips & cranberries shortbread

I have made those shortbreads because I was short of chocolate chips and shop is too far away to go for one missing ingredient. I had all of the ingredients for a dough measured in a bowl when I realised that I have not enough chocolate chips in my cupboard. Although I have found some dried cranberries and decided to add them along the chips. The outcome was fantastic and these will replace my lavender shortbread for a long time, Autumn and Winter for sure.

375g plain flour, sieved
250g unsalted butter, diced
125g caster sugar
handful dark chocolate chips
handful dried cranberries

In a bowl mix the flour with sugar and add diced butter. Work with your fingers (or use food processor) to bring the dough together. At the end add chocolate chips and cranberries.

Form the dough into a rolling pin shape (or huge sausage), wrap in cling film and place in a fridge.

Heat the oven to 140C and line a baking tray with some baking paper. Cut the dough into about 7mm thick cookies and place them on the tray, not too tightly. (I bake them in two batches). Bake for about 15 minutes.

Remove from the oven and gently transfer onto a cooling rack. These are quite soft when warm so you have to be careful as you can easily break them. Cool down on a wire rack and store up to one week in airtight container.