Thursday, 30 August 2012

Very mild, but very rich summer vegetable curry (vegan)

 When I recently found out that spicy dishes, onions and garlic are not very good for my stomach I was devastated because I like hot dishes and could not imagine making curry without chilli or garlic. Apparently rice is also not very good for me, so I should not eat it very often. "Say good buy to Indian food" - I thought to myself at first but then decided to go for milder version and have curry on it's on (or with naan only). So I made this rich, but not too spicy summer vegetable curry and it was so satisfying and surprisingly filling - I never thought I will not miss a bowl of rice with my curry. 

I used some of my own home grown vegetables (woo hoo! for the first time I managed to grow my own and I am so proud of myself!) and added some boiled chickpea just to include more starchy ingredient and forget about the missing rice. I used milder shallot instead of sharp onion and reduced drastically amount of garlic (normally I would go for at least 4 cloves!).

It was sooooooo good!

Serves 4

2 tbsp of sunflower oil
1 medium shallot, peeled and diced
1 garlic clove, grated
1 piece of fresh ginger (walnut size), grated
2 tsp garam masala
½ tsp turmeric
½ tsp whole yellow mustard seeds 
1 tsp black onion seeds (Nigella seeds, kalonji) and some extra for topping the dish 
400ml tomato passata or chopped de-seeded tomatoes 
400ml coconut milk
2 handfuls of fresh coriander, finely chopped with the stalks, some leaves reserved for topping the dish
2 big handfuls of French/green beans, trimmed (and optionally halved) 
1 medium courgette, halved and sliced  
1 cup boiled chickpea
¾ cup fresh peas

Heat the oil in large pan and add the shallots. Fry for few minutes, until slightly softened then add the garlic and ginger and stir fry for about one minute. Next add the garam masala, turmeric, mustard seeds and black onion seeds and fry until very fragrant and start to pop. Add tomatoes, coconut mil, season with some salt, stir and bring to the boil. Then add the chopped coriander, beans, cover and simmer for about 7 minutes. Next add the courgettes, chickpea, stir and simmer for about 5 minutes. Next add the peas and simmer for 3 minutes.

Adjust the seasoning before serving and sprinkle with some fresh coriander and some black onion seeds.

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Spiced apricot preserve with rose

It is my first homemade apricot preserve. I never made my own as I had favourite brand since for the very first time I tried it in late eighties. My parents came back from France and brought a jar with them. For me, kid that was familiar with very basic and poorly made preserves available in the shops during the communism, it was like a pure heaven, very exotic too.

I have been buying this brand for a long time but recently I didn't enjoy it so much. Is it producer's fault, or my taste has changed? I don't know. All I know is that I finally decided to make my own apricot preserve. I had a tip from one of Polish mates - he said apricots go well with rose water and spices. It sounded rather unusual to me, but when I got home and checked "The Flavour Thesaurus" by Niki Segnit (where apricots were recommended with rose, cinnamon and cloves) I was totally convinced I should try this.

After I made my first batch I came back to the shop to get some more ripe apricots - luckily they were at the reduced price so I made some more apricot preserve and I will never buy anymore ready made.

Makes 3 jars (each approx. 200ml) 

1 kg ripe apricots, stoned and halved
½ kg caster sugar
½ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp ground cloves
1 whole green cardamom, black seeds crushed in the mortar
1 tsp rose water (for culinary use)  

Place the apricot halves in a pan together with a sugar, cover and leave overnight.

Next day add the spices and place on the lowest possible heat. Simmer uncovered for about 2 hours. Turn the heat off and leave it to coll down then cover and leave it overnight.

Next day again simmer on the low heat for 2 hours, stirring occasionally. Then turn the heat of and leave overnight covered.

On the third day again simmer for about 2 hours but at this stage you have to be careful and watch it - it catches easily and you don't want to burn it.  Add rose water for last 30 minutes.

When still hot place in sterilized (preferably still hot) jars, seal, turn up side down and place on a baking tray lined with tea towel. Place in the oven at 120 C and turn it off after about 20 minutes. Leave it to cool down completely in closed oven. 

Store in cool, dark place. Not sure how long you can store it, my preserves usually disappear within 3-6 months. 

Friday, 24 August 2012

Oven baked sweet potato crisps (with herbs & smoked salt)

Probably in last ten or twelve years (or maybe longer?) I haven't been a big fan of potato crisps. I use to like them a lot, but then after one of my best friend's birthday party that I have spent mostly on my knees embracing a toilet and getting those chips back from my stomach... Never mind. The point is - I never touched them since. And just to make it clear - I had one beer and I think it must have been not exactly fresh one...

I tried them again when I moved to UK, because the idea of vinegar flavour was so intriguing, that I could not resist. Now I have to say I like them a lot, try not to eat them very often, probably small packet or two a year when I have cravings. What I like even more are vegetable crisps. There are few on the market that have a decent mixture of nice vegetables such as carrots, sweet potatoes, parsnips but none of those are baked. 

Therefore I made an attempt to my own oven baked crisps. Sweet potato is probably one of my favourite bites from whole selection of vegetable crisps, so I decided to start with this veg and hopefully will be more to come. Perhaps even my own homemade selection of baked vegetable crisps? It would be good not to depend on the shop bought, deep fried. We'll see!

Makes bowl enough to 2-4 for sharing 

2 large sweet potatoes, unpeeled, washed 
3-4 tbsp olive oil 
few small springs of fresh thyme and rosemary
smoked, flaked salt 

Using a mandoline slicer is essential. Potatoes should be cut into same thickness otherwise baking them will be problematic. I cut them into about 1.5mm slices.

Heat the oven to 150C (fan). Place the potatoes in one layer onto a baking tray. You don't have to, but you can very lightly oil the tray before putting the potatoes on, but I once tried to bake them without oiling the tray and probably one out of ten didn't want to come off (I used knife), but otherwise they were OK. It depends how much oil you want to use in this recipe. Oil on the tray helps to get them crispier - that is sure.

Chop the herbs and mix with the remaining oil, then brush the top of the potatoes, sprinkle with some salt and place in the oven. Now the tricky bit - because they are of different size some of them will be ready after about 25-30 minutes. They will be curled up on the edges, lightly browned and crispy. Remove them from the oven and place on the wire rack. When the cooled down, check larger crisps - they probably will need some more time in the oven - the centre will be still quite chewy. Turn the temperature down to about 100C and return them to the oven on the same baking tray (no oiling required). Bake until crispy. This, depending on the size and thickness of the slices, should take about 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool down. Place in a serving bowl and enjoy. 

They are very hygroscopic, which means they absorb moisture very easily and quickly, so better not to store them, but eat straight away. Or, if they are bit damp and chewy in orded to make them more crispier return them to the oven and be careful not to burn them.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

How to get rid of fruit flies in your kitchen

Today I have another tip for you, one that have changed my life (ha, ha!). Recently my kitchen has been full of fruit flies - this is natural in the summer, I have got plenty of fresh fruit in my baskets, also they love the smell of sour starter that I bring out of the fridge at least 2-3 times a week.

This is easy, homemade method, I have found it in users' comments below some article about getting rid of fruit flies on one of American websites. I tried it and it turned out to be a huge success.

You need:

- a glass
- cider or white wine vinegar
- about tsp of washing liquid  

Place some vinegar in a glass (1-2 cm should be enough), add washing liquid and leave near the place in your kitchen where you get the most of the annoying insects. After about 12-24 hours you will see plenty of dead flies on the bottom of the glass. Victory! I am not going to show you photograph of dead flies in the vinegar - it is not appetising, even this is very satisfying to get rid of these flies. May the Force be with you!

( text on the photograph says: Senses in the kitchen fight fruit flies!)

Monday, 20 August 2012

Five or less ingredients # 6 (two ingredient ice cream)

I haven't posted anything in this series for quite some time, and now it just realised that this recipe is just perfect. It will be a dessert for a change and something that suits my diet - I am unable to eat most of the dairy products and sweets. For more than a week I had some fruit for my desserts (I am only allowed to have some...) or some fruit & buttermilk shakes and then I decided to make ice cream. I know that sorbets were an option too, but I didn't fancy any.

I found this simple recipe on many American blogs, they seem to be very popular also there any many versions, but most of the ingredients doesn't suit my diet at the moment. SO I went for one of the easiest one - with peanut butter, but no sugar or honey added - bananas are sweet enough for me. I always use natural, organic, unsweetened peanut butter - no nonsense ingredients. It goes very well with the banana - but you probably know I am a huge fan of salty - sweet desserts.

I was a bit sceptical at first but when I tried them I was extremely happy and now I am hooked. I am definitely going to make some more flavours. I hope you will give it a go - if you don't like it you will waste little time and only two ingredients.

Banana & peanut butter ice cream

makes about 4-6 scoops

4 small very ripe bananas (preferably with blackened skins)
2 tbsp natural unsweetened peanut butter

Peel the bananas and cut into not too thick slices. Place on a tray in one layer and place in a freezer. I left mine overnight, but I think 3 hours is enough time to freeze them. Then remove the tray from the freezer and leave it in room temperature for about 10 minutes.

Then place them in a food processor and blend - scraping down the bowl when they stick. Blend until nearly smooth and then add the peanut butter and mix for a little while. You can add peanut butter straight away and mix with the bananas, but I wanted to have a veins of peanut butter in my ice cream, so I added it at the very end. You can enjoy your ice cream now, or place it in a container and freeze it for later. Remember to remove it from a freezer for about 20 minutes before serving.

 Previously in this series:

#1 Series rules and pork stir fry in caramel sauce

#2 Salmon baked with fennel and black olives

#3 Tagliatelle with courgettes & sun blushed tomatoes

#4 Avocado & blue cheese bites

#5 Spinach & egg tart 

Thursday, 16 August 2012

How to quick and easy scoop out the courgettes

It's a quick one today, no recipe, but kitchen trick instead. Perhaps you don't know this trick yet, and since I use this tool to scoop the flesh out of the courgettes (seasonal veg at it's best now!) I am more happy with the result. I used to use a small knife or a spoon, but I found it not very precise so now I use this metal thing - no idea how it is called? It is the tool of scooping out the melons, watermelons and other stuff. I also use it to scoop put the aubergines, biut for the large ones I prefer to use ice cream scoop. It scoops the courgette out more evenly and that makes the courgette to cook more evenly too - no undercooked or overcooked bits.  I hope this tip comes handy.

Have you got any secret amazing ways to scoop out the courgettes? ;)

Monday, 13 August 2012

Light mushroom sauce

It must be one of the most uncomfortable things to happen to a foodie - changing a diet due to the health problems and eliminating favourite foods. For somebody who thinks about hundred times a day what to eat, what to cook, who reads cook book every other day and has culinary magazines in every corn of the house and most importantly who loves to share a passion with others - this could even sound like a tragedy. Well at least at first...

I need to avoind my favourite products, for at least 4-6 weeks and then I shall see how I feel.When I first heard what is wrong with my stomach and what foods can make me feel worse I was extremely sad, but also angry in some way and I though I am not going to cook, photograph and write this blog anymore. But then I calmed down, spoke to few friends and they help me realised that I should take this as a challenge and cook tasty food using limited products. I am hoping this is only teporarly though. 

I cooked this light mushroom sauce, without butter and cream, even mushrooms love these ingredients and I had it with quinoa. Normally I would have it with tagliatelle and lashings of freshly gater hard cheese. For a time being I can't have it, still try to make it as tasty as possible. 

I hope you will enjoy it and perhaps it will come handy to somebody who cannot go full fat version. 

Serves 2-3

2 tbsp sunflower oil
1 shallot, peeled and sliced
250g mushrooms (I used brown mushrooms, as I like them for their earhy and fuller flavour)
about 900 ml vegetable stock
2 tbsp dark soy sauce
freshly ground black pepper
salt (I used smoked flakes)
2 level tbspof cornflour mixd with few tbsp water
2 tbsp natural plain yoghurt  (I used Greek)
some chopped parsley
quinoa (millet, rice, pasta, bulghur, couscous), enough to serve 2-3

Heat the oil in a pan and add the shallot then fry over a low heat until soft. Add the mushrooms and fry until lightly browned. Add the stock, soy sauce and season with salt and pepper. Cover and simmer for about 5 minutes. Then add the cornflour mixed with watr stir, bring to the boil and remove from the heat. Add yoghurt and stir. 

Sprinkle with some chopped parsley before serving. I had it with quinoa and some Polish gherkins (sour, from the brine, called ogórki kiszone or ogórki kwaszone), but regular gherkins will work as well.

Monday, 6 August 2012

My everyday bread. From starter to loaf.

I don't  consider myself a bread expert by no means but I finally decided to write about my everyday bread after I had some many requests from my guests. Most of them asked if recipe for the bread I served them can be found on my blog. So here it is. 

This is one of my easiest sourdough breads, requires little effort but little patience and time. I bake this bread at least three times a week and quite often I use different types of flour, just stick to the general quantities. Also I use a bread loaf that tin - a kind of spring form - the side bit comes off and bread can be easily lifted from a bottom when it is still hot.

How to make it? First you have to prepare the sour starter. This is a key to good sourdough bread and it’s worth taking some time to get it right. The older the starter is, the more regularly you feed it the stronger it gets. For some time I have been using rye starter only, but you can make it using wholemeal wheat flout too. I personally prefer the smell and taste of the bread made with rye starter. Also it is quite strong so it will lift those breads made with heavier types of flour such as wholemeal rye flour (dark, dense, sour breads).

Most of the bread books and experts recommend to measure the ingredients for sour starter. I don't think this is as much important, as long as you stick roughly to the proportions (similar amount of water to flour).  However if you are beginner I think it will be better if you measure the exact quantities. Looking after your starter on a regular basis will give you more experience and teach you that using a kitchen scale in not always necessary.

I would say that 5 days old starter is far too young to lift heave dough made with rye flour, so you may as well use little yeast or for a start make a white loaf. This is not always the case, as you have to remember that starter is very individual and living thing - some of then can be quite strong from a start and up for a challenge! 

Rye sour starter (as advised by Jeffrey Hamelman)

Day 1

100g wholemeal rye flour
100g water (natural, untreated, in room temperature)

Mix the water with flour in glass or plastic container. Cover with cloth and leave it in warm place (ideally 25C) for 24 hours.

Day 2

half of the mixture from day 1
50g wholemeal rye flour
50g water

Mix all of the above in glass or plastic container. Cover with cloth and leave it in warm place for 24 hours.

Day 3

100g of the mixture from day 2
100g wholemeal rye flour
100g water

Mix all of the above in glass or plastic container. Cover with cloth and leave it in warm place for 12 hours.

The same day, 12 hours later

100g of the mixture from earlier that day
100g wholemeal rye flour
100g water

Mix all of the above in glass or plastic container. Cover with cloth and leave it in warm place for 12 hours.

Day 4

100g of the mixture from earlier that day
100g wholemeal rye flour
100g water

Mix all of the above in glass or plastic container. Cover with cloth and leave it in warm place for 12 hours.

The same day, 12 hours later

100g of the mixture from earlier that day
100g wholemeal rye flour
100g water

Mix all of the above in glass or plastic container. Cover with cloth and leave it in warm place for 12 hours.

On day 5 starter should be ready to use. Store it refrigerated in airtight container and you have to feed it at least every two weeks. To do so remove from a fridge, bring to the room temperature and add the same amount of fresh water and flour - I don't use scale anymore, just add handful of flour and some water to bring it to the double cream like consistency. Leave it in room temperature for 4-8 hours, some young starters may require up to 12 hours to work. After this time it should start to work - bubble and lift little bit - it means it is active and ready to use. I feed my starter every 2-3 days, because I bake my bread quite often, but when I go on holiday I leave it in a fridge for 2-3 weeks and feed it immediately when I come back home. If you don't feed the starter it will die. (or shall I say go off)

I have been making this bread for a long time now and in last few months I learned how to make it without measuring the ingredients using a scale... because mine got broken and I never bought a new one since. You will learn with time how dough should look like, how much water require different types of flour and I am sure you will be liberated from using kitchen scales too.

I am big fan of using a stand mixer. Personally I think Kitchen Aid is great to do this job, especially when it comes to heavy rye dough, but any mixer with a hook will be good, also you can use your own hands - this will require a bit of strength and some more time. I use mixer because I never was a big fan of preparing the dough by hand, also I like to have spare time to do other things while the dough is getting ready. This is my personal choice, I know some people like to work with the dough themselves.

And one more thing I should probably mention. I make most of my breads in two (or three) distinct stages – first by incubating the starter and then adding this to the proper bread dough. The incubation is important because it allows the starter to grow and multiply in fresh flour and water and create what I call the sponge - this helps to rise the dough into a loaf.

Easy mixed sourdough bread

Phase one - the sponge

about 100g wholemeal wheat, or wholemeal spelt or wholemeal rye flour
5 tbsp active starter
about 100g water

Mix all of the above in a plastic bowl, cover with clean cloth  and leave it in room temperature for about 10-16 hours. It should lift little bit and become airy.

 Phase two - the loaf 

about 150g wholemeal wheat, or wholemeal spelt or wholemeal rye flour
about 350g white strong (bread) flour
about 300-350g water (you have to adjust this - different types of flour will require different amount of water)
7-10g salt
optionally - few tbsp of seeds such as linseed, sunflower or pumpkin seeds

Place the flour on a bowl, add the sponge, seeds and about half of the water, then start to mix. When mixing add the remaining water, not all at once - you may have to adjust the amount of water. The dough should be quite flexible, bit sticky, not too dry but not too wet - you should be able to lift it with wet hands and stretch it a bit. When using mixer it should take about 7 minut, by hands - 10 to 12 minutes.

Next turn the mixer off and leave the dough in the bowl, sprinkle with salt and leave to rest for about 10 minutes. Next knead the dough another 3 minutes using mixer, or 5 minutes if using hands. 

Oil the loaf tin with little sunflower (or other neutral oil) and sprinkle with some oat bran - this will help to develop crust and help to remove the loaf from a tin after baking. Remove the dough from a bowl with your wet hands and stretch, then fold like an envelope. Place seal side down in prepared tin. Optionally sprinkle with some more oat bran, cover with clean cloth and leave it for about 8-12 hours in room temperature. (my starter is mature and strong, and on hot day it only needs about 5 hours to rise the dough).

When bread is risen heat the oven to 250 C. Place the tin in oven and immediately spray with some water (I use flower spray). Bake for about 5 minutes and then reduce the temperature to 220 C and bake for further 30 minutes. If the crust is getting too dark cover the loaf with some kitchen foil.

Remove form the oven and leave it to cool down for few minutes, then remove from a tin and leave it to cool down completely - on a wire rack. Tip - you know the bread is ready when it sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom.

Enjoy your homemade sourdough loaf!

Thursday, 2 August 2012

I fight my demons, vol. 4

Knödel or semmel knödel (Germany and Austria), knedlík (Czech Republic) or knedel (Poland). This round, poached potato or bread dumpling (made without yeast) was giving me a right headache for a long time. I love this kind of food, not so keen on making it though. I was afraid something will go wrong, as I only had a general directions from one of my knedel guru I met on internet culinary forum. It probably took me more than two years to prepare mentally before I got round to make my own. Silly me. This wasn't difficult at all. The main thing is not to make the dough too wet, because it will be difficult to form the dumplings and adding more flour will make them too dense and unpleasant. These are even more delicious when reheated next day.

So my next culinary demon is officially defeated now and bread dumplings are going to be on my menu more often.  I am sorry about not posting an exact recipe for the bread knödel, you have to work your own quantities, as they may vary - depending on what bread you use. I only give you general directions for the dumplings but exact recipes for my pork goulash and beets that work so well with knedel

So you definitely need some stale bread, preferably rustic baguette or some good quality crusty bread. No cotton wool like sliced supermarket bread - forget about it! I used three ciabatta rolls and one large white homemade bread rolls - all 2-3 days old. Dice the bread and place in a bowl. Fry one diced onion in a little butter until soft. Add to the bread together with approximately one cup of milk mixed with two eggs, add lots of chopped fresh parsley, season with salt and pepper, optionally add some dried marjoram. Mix it with your hands, leave it to soak for about 30 minutes. Next add 2-3 tbsp of all purpose flour and  mix again with your hands. If you found the mixture too loose and too wet to form the dumplings add some breadcrumbs or some more diced bread - never add more flour. I ended up with 16 dumplings of a size roughly about a tennis ball.

Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil and using wet hands form dumplings about size of a tennis ball and add to the boiling water. Don't shake the pan, leave it, until they start to flow on the surface. From this moment boil them for about 10-12 minutes, then remove with slotted spoon. The bigger dumplings are the longer you have to cook them.

We had them with simple pork goulash and some beets cooked with orange juice. If you are not afraid of gherkins in salty brine called ogórki kiszone (as some people are, as they think they too sour or even gone off), popular in Central and Eastern Europe give them a go with dumplings and meat - they work perfectly well together. 

Pork shoulder goulash 

Serves 4

3 tbsp sunflower oil
about 800g diced pork shoulder
few tbsp all purpose flour
some salt
some freshly ground black pepper
1 onion, peeled and diced
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped 
3 tbsp sweet paprika
pinch of chilli powder
about  800ml vegetable or chicken stock, or lager or water
2 anchovies (optionally, I used them, because I had some leftovers)
small handful of dried marjoram

Place flour with some salt and pepper in a bowl. Add the meat and shake so it is covered with flour. Shake the excess of the flour and fry the meat in batches in a pan with sunflower oil. Do not overcrowd the pan, do it in 3-4 batches. Remove the meat from a pan and set aside.

Heat the remaining sunflower oil in a pan and add the onion. Fry for about 5 minutes, then add the garlic and fry for minute or so. Next add the paprika and the chilli and fry for a minute or so before adding the meat and any juices released when it was resting. Stir, add anchovies if used, stock or lager, marjoram, bring to the boil, low the heat to simmer, cover and cook fro about 1 hour.

Beetroots (roasted and finished with orange juice)

Serves 2

4-5 medium beets, washed and unpeeled
1 tbsp sunflower oil
freshly ground black pepper
juice of one fresh orange 
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar 
1 tbsp butter

Heat the oven to 180 C. Place beets onto a baking tray lined with some kitchen foil, drizzle with sunflower oil, sprinkle with salt and roast until soft. Remove from the oven, leave it to cool down slightly, then peel and grate on a coarse grater.

Heat the orange juice in a pan and boil until slightly reduced. Add the grated beets, butter, balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper and cook for about 3 minutes.

Serve dumplings with goulash and beets on the side sprinkled with some chopped fresh parsley. To reheat the dumplings next day simply add them to the gravy and simmer for 5 minutes, or slice and fry in a pan with some butter.

Wednesday, 1 August 2012