Saturday, 28 May 2011

Courgette & feta bake

I found this recipe one of Polish culinary forums and it was named as a Bulgarian recipe. It is extremely tasty and for lat years I have been baking this every courgette season. Easy to make, the only thing you have to remember about is using fresh herbs. The choice is yours, I made it with dill, mint, basil, parsley and chives, and combinations of any of the above.It suppose taste great when made from grated marrow too.

Tastes great cold or hot, suitable for microwave reheating. For lunch, for snack, even for picnic. Enjoy!

Serves 2-4

4-5 courgettes (zucchini), not too big, cucumber size, coarsely grated, skin on
200g feta cheese, crumbled
2-3 eggs
handful of chopped fresh herbs - this time I used mint and chives
garlic clove, peeled and finely chopped
freshly ground black pepper
about 5 tbsp of semolina
little olive oil

Add some salt to the grated courgettes and leave on a sieve for about 30 minutes, to remove the excess of water. Squeeze every 10 minutes to make sure the veg is quite dry.

Place in a big bowl, mix with all of the ingredients except the oil; use it to oil an ovenproof dish.

Place the courgettes in the oiled ovenproof dish, big enough to keep the bake 3cm height. Bake in the oven preheated to 180 C (fan) for about 40 minutes. Cool down before serving for 5-10 minutes, it will be  much easier to slice.

I like it with Greek tzatziki, but this time I made dill yoghurt dip

175g natural Greek yoghurt (I used Total)
handful of fresh chopped dill
1 large garlic clove, peeled and mashed with some salt
little olive oil (optionally)
freshly ground black pepper

Mix all of the above and chill in a fridge for about 30 minutes before serving.

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Asparagus & pea shoots mousse

I had this post ready when I have received an invitation to celebrate National Vegetarian Week , so I decided not to change my post, but write more about one of my favourite greens that seems to be not very popular – pea shoots.

They are British, seasonal (May-September) and extremely tasty. Leaves are very delicate, stems refreshing and crunchy, quite sweet. I use to go to my Granny’s allotment and eat peas straight from a pod. When I ate all peas I use to chew the pods – I love their taste. After years I found this distinctive pea flavour in pea shoots. 

Also they are versatile: eat them hot or cold, in a salad or as a tasty ingredient in other dishes, add them to stir fry and soups, or just use as an alternative to more traditional salad leaves. They look quite fancy so are very good for garnishing the dishes.

And just to convience you even more - they are very good for you - packed with vitamins A, C and folic acid and low in calories. 

If you have a chance to try – go ahead, they are very tasty!

I have found a recipe for asparagus mousse in “Goof Food”, May issue, however I thought is was lacking seasoning. So I added salt, pepper and lemon juice and instead of spinach I used pea shoots. Without seasoning it was very bland. 

I served it in two versions: one vegetarian, other with dried ham. Both delicious.

Serves 4


250g green asparagus, wooden bottoms removed, rest sliced finely  
tbsp butter
tbsp lemon juice  
280ml double cream  
200ml milk
garlic clove, peeled and finely chopped
handful of pea shoots  
3 gelatine leaves(or agar-agar for vegetarian version)
freshly ground black pepper
one egg white

To garnish

handful of pea shoots
3 tsp olive oil
2 tsp lemon juice
freshly ground black pepper
slice or two of dried ham, such as Italian prosciutto, Parma Ham, shredded

Melt the butter in a pan and add the asparagus, then cook for 4-5 minutes until soft but not coloured. Remove from the pan and set aside in a bowl. 

Pour the cream, milk and garlic into the pan. Bring to the boil, simmer until reduced to 350-400ml then add the asparagus and boil for a minute. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool down slightly.

Soak the gelatine leaves in cold water, then drain and remove excess of water. 

Add pea shoots to the cream and asparagus and using hand blender liquidise it to a smooth pure. Season with salt, pepper and some more lemon juice and add gelatine leaves. Stir well.

Beat the egg white to soft peaks, and then carefully fold into the asparagus mix. Adjust seasoning if needed. Divide the mousse between 4 glasses or ramekins and leave them to set in the fridge.

Remove from a fridge about 20 minutes before serving. Garnish with some pea shoots and drizzle with dressing made from olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. For other version garnish with ham together with pea shoots. It actually goes very well with this mousse.

Sunday, 22 May 2011

And the winner is...

... Choclette!

"I have different favourites depending on how I'm feeling at the time, but Cornish Blue has consistently been in my top 5 since I first had it about 10 years ago. Montgomery Cheddar is pretty fab too, but very expensive."

Please could you e-mail me your name and address to so I can post "Wallace & Gromit's Cheesy Cook Book" to you.


Friday, 20 May 2011

Asparagus, potato & filo pastry tart

It was Sunday and I was getting myself ready for a gym session. I had my TV on and there was an old series of Jamie Oliver (Jamie at home). He was wandering around his perfect garden (just reminding me that our garden would probably win the competition for the ugliest garden in the Dales), full of herbs and veg. Asparagus! So I sat in my chair and wondered what interesting Jamie will make.

He made such incredible and easy to make tart that before I got to the gym I had to go to the shop and buy missing ingredient - filo pastry (that was not my favourite since I tried it once and it did not turned out to be a fabulous meal). When I came back I made this tart immediately probably putting twice as much calories into my body that I managed to burnt, but never mind. Tomorrow is a new day and I can always go to the gym again.

This is recipe after a slight alteration.

Serves 2-4
I used rectangular loose bottom tart tin 35x13x2.5cm

5 sheets of filo pastry (bigger than your baking tin, so it overhangs the edges)
about 30g of butter, melted
about 15 green asparagus spears, wooden bottoms removed
4 medium potatoes
handful of mature cheddar, coarsely grated
about 180ml double cream
1 egg
freshly ground black pepper
freshly ground nutmeg

Peel the potatoes and boil in the salted water until tender. Drain, add cream, salt, pepper and nutmeg and mash. Next add cheddar and egg and mix well. The filling is quite loose.

Meanwhile blanch your asparagus in a separate pan of salted boiling water for 3 minutes, then drain and place in a bowl of cold water. When they cooled down completely, drain again and pat dry.

Heat the oven to 190C (fan). Layer the sheets of filo pastry in the dish, brushing them with melted butter as you go and letting some pastry hang over the edge of the dish. You want to get the pastry five layers thick.

Spread the mashed potato over the filo pastry, level with a spatula, then bring up the sides of the filo and scrunch them together to form a rim for a rustic look. Take the asparagus and line it up across the filling. Brush all over with the remaining melted butter and pop into the oven for around 20 minutes. I use the grill for about 3 minutes.

Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 10 minutes before cutting and serving.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Asparagus, peas & broad beans soup

Last Friday I saw some fresh broad beans and peas on the market when I was buying few bundles of asparagus. Peas and broad beans in May? I do not trust them so early – I thought and I gave up the idea of buying them. Also because I realised that I have my all the times must – have in my freezer – frozen peas.

When I came back home I realised I also had some leftovers of frozen broad beans. So I made this lovely, light green soup joining spring with summer.

Serves 4-6

6-8 green asparagus spears, wooden bits removed, cut into 3 pieces
cup of frozen peas
1 shallot
tbsp olive oil
about 1.2l chicken stock (or vegetable stock, I had to cook chicken so I though at the same time I made light chicken stock using typical stock veg as well as wooden asparagus bottoms)
few small mint and basil leaves (optional)
few drops of lemon juice (optional)
freshly ground black pepper
about 200g short pasta (I used mini farfalle), cooked al dente 

Boil the broad beans al dente, drain and remove the skins. If you like the skins you can skip this part.

In a pan fry the shallot in the olive oil until softened, but not browned.

Add the stock to the pan, bring to boil and add the peas. Boil for about 3 minutes, next add asparagus and boil for further 3 minutes. Next add the broad beans and boil for minute or so.

Season with salt and pepper, add lemon juice and serve with pasta. Garnish with some fresh mint and basil leaves.

This soup looks and tastes better when served immediately. When reheated it is not so tasty and veg are overcooked and do not keep their colour.

Monday, 16 May 2011

Asparagus, olives & sundried tomatoes loaf

To celebrate last year's asparagus season and our fist picnic after long winter I made these asparagus & cheddar muffins and later using the same basic recipe but swapping cheddar for feta and asparagus for sun dried tomatoes I made these muffins for our picnic. This year I finally decided to make asparagus loaf that I found in "Good Food" two years ago.

It is a shame that I waited so long! I am ready now to pack our picnic basket and go somewhere nice, even this was only rehearsal before our first picnic this year. Again, I am going to experiment with different seasonal ingredients, when asparagus is gone. It seems like an ideal snack if you are planning long journey - it is quite handy to eat it in a car instead of boring sandwiches.

I did not follow the recipe, so this is mine after some alterations.

Makes one small tin, 22x10x5cm

bunch of green asparagus, about 250g, cut into 3 pieces, wooden parts removed
250g self raising flour
few basil leaves, roughly torn
100ml milk
4 small eggs
100ml olive oil
tsp English mustard
handful of black olives, whole, pitted
8 halves of sun dried tomatoes, roughly chopped
freshly ground black pepper
about 60g of mature cheddar, coarsely grated

Heat the oven to 170 C (fan) and line the tin with lightly greased baking paper.

Cook the asparagus in boiling, salted water for 3 minutes, drain, then cool quickly under cold running water to stop them from further cooking and to keep nice colour . Then pat dry.

Mix the eggs with milk, olive oil and mustard.

Mix the flour, basil with salt and pepper in a large bowl. Make a well in the centre, then add the eggs, milk and oil, mixing gently all the time. Beat to make a smooth batter without any dry flour remaining.

Next add most of the asparagus and olives (reserving some to finish off the top), sun dried tomatoes and half of the grated cheese. Mix gently.

Pour the mixture into the tin, then put the reserved asparagus and olives on top. Sprinkle with the remaining cheese.

Bake for 40 minutes until it feels firm to the touch and is golden and crusty on top. Cool in the tin for 5 minutes, then turn out and cool on a wire rack.

This loaf is moist, delicious hot or cold. It is perfect snack to complement clear soups such as beetroot soup or nice broth. Next time I will try to use spelt flour instead, as it has nice nutty flavour.

Friday, 13 May 2011

Cheesy Cook Book giveaway!

Do you remember my post about Wensleydale Cheese? It still seems to be one of my favourite British cheeses. The producers introduced some new types, in particular one that I have not tried yet although I am very interested in - Wensleydale with chocolate.

Today I have cute "Wallace & Gromit's Cheesy Cook Book" to give away. Wallace and Gromit have become celebrity chefs and launched this cook book featuring their favourite cheese dishes.

To win this book you have to leave a comment to this post stating which British cheese is your favourite one and why. Please note: mentioning the Wensleydale Cheese does not give you extra points, however if it really is your favourite one, please do not hesitate to write about it. I simply want to explore some more tasty British cheeses, so I am very excited to read about your favourite ones.

This give away will be closed on Friday, 20th May at midnight. Please note: UK readers only.

Good luck!

Thursday, 12 May 2011

Pancakes with roasted rhubarb & vanilla crème fraîche

I had the idea of serving roasted rhubarb with crème fraîche and pancakes from some ancient “Good Food” issue. The idea was brilliant however I found this particular recipe inconsistent. Also there was no recipe for pancakes – or shall I say – perhaps I did not cut it out of the magazine. I did not worry too much because I know exactly how to make different types of pancakes.

Yesterday I had this overwhelming feeling that I have to eat a pancake. Luckily for my figure my common sense said “no” to making pancakes at 10 pm, so I went to bed. Next day I prepared one of the best pancakes I have ever had.

I decided to make bit thicker and sort of spongier pancakes, because they are great to wipe off the cream and juices. If you are not sure about this combination of sweet & sour rhubarb with sour-ish cream, please do not hesitate to try. It is unbelievable. What a great trio! I will definitely make it every year when rhubarb is in season.

Serves 4-6


3 eggs (I used duck eggs)
3 level tsp caster sugar
about 250ml milk
about 100ml sparking water
about 300ml plain flour
little butter for frying (I used ghee)
some icing sugar to finish off

Separate egg whites from yolks. Add sugar to the yolks and mix using hand mixer until well mixed and little fluffy. Add water, milk and flour and mix well again until combined.

Using hand mixer beat the egg whites until stiff. Then add whites to the milk and egg mixture and fold it gently. You want to preserve as much air as possible.

Place bowl in a bigger bowl filled with cold water – this suppose prevent the batter from collapsing.

Fry thin pancakes on both sides in a frying pan using butter.

Roasted rhubarb

6 rhubarb stalks, cut diagonally into 5-6cm pieces
2-3 pieces of stem ginger, sliced
2 tbsp honey
3 tbsp sugar
zest and juice of one lemon

Place all of the above in a pan and roast or boil over a low heat. I had oven preheated to roast something else, so I used oven ( 10-12 minutes, 180C).

Vanilla crème fraîche

200ml crème fraîche
seeds from one vanilla pod
2 tsp icing sugar

Mix well all the ingredients.

Serve warm pancakes drizzled with juices from roasted rhubarb, rhubarb on the side and a good dollop of crème fraîche. Optionally you can sprinkle them with some icing sugar.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

I fight my demons, vol. 3

Do you remember?
I fight my demons, vol. 1 - real beef stock
I fight my demons, vol.2 - homemade pasta

Now the time has come for the choux pastry. I have to admit that I was probably looking for an excuse and complaining that I do not have the piping bag and be unable to shape a proper eclair. I was dreaming about making my own chocolate eclairs with fresh cream and one day our postman came and had a parcel for me. My friend from Dublin, who happens to be a great pastry maker could not listen my excuses anymore so he had send me a piping bag with a nozzle. I did not have much choice - I had to make my own choux pastry, however last weekend I needed something savoury rather than sweet so I have made savoury, seasonal filling with asparagus.

I am not longer afraid of choux pastry! It will not be long until you will see me making the croquembouche!

Roasted asparagus cream cheese filled profiteroles

Makes about 30 small profiteroles


20 decent green asparagus spears, tough ends removed
drizzle of olive oil
400g natural cream cheese such as Philadelphia
few basil leaves
whole lemon zest
freshly ground black pepper

Place the asparagus on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and pepper and roast in 180 C for about 12 minutes. Remove from the oven, leave it to cool down and place in the food processor together with juices from roasting. Add lemon zest, cheese and whiz - I like when I still can taste pieces of asparagus, so I do not make it very smooth. Season with salt and pepper and leave it in a fridge to cool down and set little bit.

Choux pastry:

150g plain flour
100g unsalted butter
125ml milk
125ml water
half tsp salt
4 medium eggs

Combine the milk, sugar, salt and diced butter in a large heavy based saucepan. Heat gently and stir until the butter has melted and it starts to boil. Sprinkle the flour all over the milk and quickly using wooden spoon or rolling pin mix the flour into the liquid ingredients, still keeping the pan over the heat. When combined beat the ingredients together vigorously for few minutes. The paste is ready when it clumps together in a smooth ball and comes away cleanly from the sides of the pan. Then leave it to cool down.

Beat one by one egg into a dough, making sure the egg is beaten into a dough completely before you add the next one. Dough should be quite shiny.

Fit a piping bag with a nozzle and spoon the choux pastry mixture into the bag. Pipe small balls onto a baking tray lined with baking paper making sure you have plenty space between them - they will puff quite a lot.

Bake in batches, in 200 C for about 20 minutes, until golden brown and crisp. Remove from the oven and leave them to cool down on a wire rack.

Fit a piping bag with a nozzle and spoon the filling into the bag. Pipe filling into each profiterole. I did not have too much experience so did not know how much filling to pipe into the profiteroles, so some of the filling actually came out. I have arranged them on the plate and decorated with small mint leaves before serving. (basil leaves were too big).

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Where to eat? "Kuchnia i Wino", Pszczyna

I realise that for some of you Poland may sound as rather exotic holiday destination, but I am sure some of you will visit this country one day. And perhaps some of my recommendations you will find handy.

During my last visit in Poland I hade the opportunity to visit one restaurant recommended by my Mum. It is called "Kuchnia i Wino" ("Cuisine and Wine") and I would recommended to anybody who likes to try Polish cuisine.

I was told this restaurant took part in a TV show similar to "Kitchen Nightmares" by Gordon Ramsay and it use to be French style restaurant - too expensive and lacking of customers. It was converted to a place serving mainly Polish cuisine, however you will still see remains of the old menu - there are few French classic bits.

Unfortunately the menu is in Polish, however I believe that if they get some foreign customers they should be able to explain what is on the menu, or hopefully in a future they will have menu in English too. The things is that Pszczyna where the restaurant is located is not very popular for tourism. It is small, historic town intertwined with the history of the famous Polish dynasty (Piast) and their local residence, the 12th century palace, now a site of the Castle Museum (Muzeum Zamkowe) on the main town square. It is also know for its Bison Centre. So there are few things to do!

This restaurant welcomes its guest by nice, warm interior, many candles and fresh flowers. Owner and one of the chefs walks around the restaurant so you can always have a chat with him. Also steak tartare (Polish or French way) is prepared in the front of you by the owner.

For the starters we have ordered traditional Silesian pork gelly (galert śląski), I believe made from slow cooked bacon joint and pig trotters. Very delicate, lean meat, extremely tasty, a good old fashion one. Also we had a duo of Polish herrings. Again very tasty, tender, but little bit too salty for me. Starters were served with very good, real sourdough bread and butter (soft! too cold, hard to spread butter is quite common mistake in restaurants). Both starters were very, very tasty.

For the main dishes we had chef’s speciality: roasted goose (gęś) served with buckwheat and warm beetroot relish. Goose was very tender, meat was melting in my mouth, however to my taste the skin should be crispier. Buckwheat was mixed with some fat and lardons - very aromatic! Beets - to die for. The same dish you can order for one or four people - in this case they serve whole stuffed goose. Also one of us had a boneless pork chop (kotlet z prosięcia), pan fried in bread crumbs and served with Silesian salad (szałot) made with potatoes, onion, bacon lardons and cucumbers in brine.

Unfortunately we did not manage to have a dessert, portions were rather large and I could not manage to eat all of my main. And believe me - I can eat a lot! I have to admit I forgot to check out their wine list, as we decided to have non alcoholic drinks to sympathise with one of us that was driving back home.

I will definitely go back there for more delicious Polish food such as traditional Silesian dumplings served with beef olives and red cabbage (rolada śląska z kluskami i zasmażaną modrą kapustą, btw: soooo my Granny’s like), or something that I did not have before: cold herring soup (chłodnik ze śledzia).

Also, what is worth mentioning, the bill did not leave me speechless. For three starters, three mains and three mineral waters we have paid 145 PLN (exclusive of the tip), which is around £32. Not bad at all! Especially considering that goose is one of the most expensive dishes on the menu. Simply you get good value for money.

I definitely recommend this place!

Kuchnia i Wino
43-200 Pszczyna
ul. Zdrojowa 4

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Sesame roasted asparagus rafts

Hello everyone after a short break! Today I am going straight to the point, rather than write about my trip to Poland, as I am planning two more posts in the near future Poland related.

Asparagus season started over a week ago and there is a huge delay on my blog! Every year I cannot wait fresh local asparagus and I always have asparagus with sea salt and parmesan first. This year I decided to try something else; mainly because I loved the idea of rafts.

I found it in “Good Food”, May 2011 issue, however I misplaced this magazine and I was not sure if I followed the original recipe. After I have made this dinner I realised there could be a recipe on-line. *

It is very tasty on its own, but I also had it with my quickie sort of satay chicken and it went down together very nicely.

Serves 2

10 asparagus stalks, wooden bits removed **
2 tbsp sesame oil (I used roasted one)
2 tsp sesame seeds
some coarse sea salt (or flaky)
freshly ground black pepper

4 bamboo skewers

Heat the oven to 200C.

Place 10 asparagus stalks next to one another. Skewer them crosswise in two places - just below the tips and 3cm from the bottom - with slender bamboo skewers. You will end up with something that looks like a raft.

Place onto a baking tray lined with baking paper. Drizzle with little sesame oil, season with salt and pepper and roast for about 15 minutes turning half way. Sprinkle with sesame seeds 3 minutes before you finish roasting the rafts.

* And there it was. As you can see I did not use any garlic and soy sauce, but I will do it next time. And I roasted rather than grilled this lovely veg.

** With one hand, hold an asparagus stalk at its base. Bend the stalk over with your other hand - the asparagus will break where the woody part ends and the tender part begins. Freeze the woody bits – you can use it for making a stock – beautiful base for asparagus soup or risotto.