Sunday, 28 March 2010

Hands of pork and purple broccoli salad

I haven't had the best luck recently and today my oven went insane when I was attempting to cook my Sunday roast. When it rains it really pours in my life it seems. I have cooked hands of pork many times before, as they are well priced, with a great potential for crackling. The trick is scoring and cooking for a long time on a very low heat. I usually cook them for about 3 hours at 120 degrees C. Today, after half an hour I noticed the skin was going black and sizzling like crazy! So I had a great time turning the oven on and off for the next 3 hours, trying to get the roast to cook and yet not burn. It turned out quite good actually. But not perfect of course, hence the little bit of black skin you see in the picture down there

I marinated the pork for about an hour before roasting, in honey, chinese 5 spice, garlic salt, pepper and olive oil, sticking ginger bits in the cuts in the skin. Then it needs about an hour of cooking time before you add the apple bits, otherwise they'll turn to complete mush. Unless of course you like that - it's just like apple sauce really


Hands of pork
Chinese 5 spice
Garlic salt
Apples (1 for each person)
Potatoes (King Edward)
Splash of milk
Olive oil


Purple broccoli
Red onion
Olive oil
Sea salt and pepper
Garlic clove

I wasn't sure about using this photo as I realise it may freak some people out, but hey, that's what meat is, and I thought it was important to show you what hands of pork look like, as by hands you could think I mean trotters of something. In fact, it's quite a substantial piece of meat. That fed three people today and there would have been enough for four (instead I've just been snacking on it all evening - yum!). For under a fiver, I say that's a bargain!

Now for the salad - when someone at the butchers or at a fruit and veg stall gives me a recipe, I always listen closely, because I reckon they must know what they're talking about. I am never disappointed by these little gems, and today was no exception. The lady at the veg stall on Bethnal Green road told me how she likes to eat purple broccoli - something I have never tried before - with lamb. I didn't have lamb, but the salad worked well with pork too, as it added a tart refreshing aspect to my roast

I sliced the broccoli into slightly smaller pieces to start with, then blanched it for 4 minutes in salted water. Draining purple broccoli is quite an experience - the water that comes off it is almost turquoise, reminiscent of the soup Brigitte Jones served up at her dinner party!

Let the broccoli cool, then add the chopped red onion and tomatoes, grate the garlic on top and pour over the juice of one lemon, some olive oil and a little bit more sea salt. It turned out really great, though I think next time I may also add capers to the mix, as I think they'd work well, and I'll try it with lamb too, as originally suggested

Monday, 22 March 2010

Outsider Tart, Turnham Green

We were supposed to be house-sitting for a friend and looking after Bosley the Boston terrier for one night. But then me and Jamie fell out and I spent the whole weekend in a lovely house in Turnham Green. Thank God for this little cafe/deli...
It's a really friendly place which allows dogs and sells an assortment of delicious cakes, breads and other treats. It even sells three flavours of Marshmallow Fluff. If you don't know what this is then I won't tell you, lest you get hooked!

When I went they had coconut cake, ginger cake, cup cakes and pecan and toffee slices amongst other things. I tried the orange blossom cheese cake, which has a dark chocolate base to balance out the creamy cheesiness. That's the middle one you see up there, by the way

I basically lived off the gorgeous crusty bread all weekend (with plenty of red wine of course!), which reminded me of the bread you get in Poland, and made me feel a little nostalgic for my childhood

The red velvet sandwich cake was perfect - rich and smooth and not too sweet

When Jamie turned up for crisis talks, we bought a picnic and went to Richmond, with Bosley. You can't really see the massiveness of the sweet pork sandwich on that photo - it really was very large. The pork was reminiscent of the BBQ pork you can get in Chinatown. The veggie roll below looked like it could be quite boring, but was full of flavour, with lots of vegetables, pine nuts and some kind of cheese - superb

I think my fantastic 3.2 megapixel camera managed to focus on everything apart from the actual roll I was trying to take a picture of, but nevermind. Before I blog off I will just share with you a photo of the lovely Bosley, who was such a good friend to me this weekend
Here he is! What a cutie, though I was flabbergasted by the smell that can come out of such a little fella! However, as a result of this unexpected development, we ended up going to Richmond rather than eating in the small cafe, which was a blessing. I have never been to Richmond and it's so incredibly beautiful

Sunday, 14 March 2010

Polish scrambled eggs

Despite having dilemas about what to eat for breakfast during the week, I never have any problem choosing what to have for a weekend breakfast, when I have time to go to the shops for supplies and mess around in the kitchen. This is one of my weekend favourites. My ex boyfriend used to make fantastic scrambled eggs, so when we broke up, I had to find my own version that was just as good. My Polish scrambled eggs are very different to the ones he used to make, and are a return to my childhood in Poland

Of course really there are many types of scrambled eggs in Poland. Another type would include dry Polish sausage, which is also delicious, but I this is the best in my eyes. If you are not a fan of huge quantities of onion in a dish, then you may disagree with me on this ;o)

Ingredients (for 2 people)

6 eggs
Splash of milk
Salt and pepper

Fry the chopped onion in the butter until caramelised. This takes about half an hour. Then season it really well. In a bowl, beat together the eggs and splash of milk. Finally add the egg mixture to the onion, and stir constantly on a low heat. I like the scrambled eggs quite runny, so I cook it for approximately five minutes. We eat this with warm buttered baguette

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Middle-eastern chicken soup with egg and lemon

Sometimes it takes a long time to fully appreciate a gift. When my friend, Matt, gave me Claudia Roden's new book of Middle-Eastern food, I felt that it was a thoughtful gift, since I'm into cooking, but I didn't realise that this book was going to become my bible for about 3 years! I could talk in length about why this is probably the best cookbook in the world, but I'll spare you this monologue and simply tell you about a soup that I adapted from this book , which I make every time we have a chicken (or pheasant) roast on a Sunday...
I put the carcass, along with any vegetables I have lying around (this weekend it was some celery stalks and leaves, half an onion and a carrot) into a big pot, and cover with cold water. I then bring this to the boil and simmer for about 3 hours. If we had an early roast then I put this on immediately afterwards and we have the soup as a light supper. Sometimes, I cook it for half the time, and just leave it in a cold kitchen overnight, then cook it for another hour, and finish it off, the next day
Then, you need sieve all bits from the soup, leaving a clear broth. To this, I add washed, brown rice. Meanwhile, you beat a couple of eggs in a separate bowl with the juice of 1-2 lemons (I use 1 and a half but then I love all things sour). Finally, when the rice is cooked, you take a tablespoon of the broth from the soup and beat in with the eggs and lemon, then another, and repeat about five times - this is so that the egg mix doesn't curdle on entering the soup. Also, turn the heat off now. And eventually, pour the egg and lemon mix into the soup. I always beat this as it goes in. You need to season this soup really well with salt and plenty of pepper (I use both black and white peppers). Yum! I make this soup all the time, though I have a distinct feeling Jamie would like me to make a different chicken soup now and again, and maybe I should broaden my horizons a little bit. My mum's Polish/ Jewish clear chicken soup was eaten so much in my childhood (especially when ill), that I have grown allergic to it now unfortunately - I don't want the same fate to befall this lovely soup

Sunday, 7 March 2010

A great cheap bottle of wine

The lady at the wine fair called this her "10 o'clock wine", and she meant in the morning. Even though I have never drunk it at this time (and probably wouldn't admit it if I had), I know what she means. Although it is a full bodied tempranillo, it is also light and fruity red enough to drink with lunch. It's an every day wine, and we drink it almost every day. Of course, we try different wines now and again, but any red wine of the same price just doesn't do it. Jamie and I have completely different "wine tastes" - I love my light and fragrant pinot noirs and beaujolais while he's a fan of heavy smoky wines such as shiraz - yet this is one wine that we both love. Jamie, testing out his "wine speak", likes to say that "it leaps out of glass like a labrador puppy", and even though it sounds like rubbish, I think he's got a point - I defy anyone to not like this wine. It costs about £6.50, by the way, and we buy it from the City Beverage Company on Old St.

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Polish Cauliflower soup to warm the cockles

When I am in a far away land, such as Thailand, I mainly miss two things about Europe - wine and cheese. This is why I am writing today's blog while sipping a glass of white Rioja and scoffing Wensleydale cheese that Jamie brought back from Yorkshire (a surprisingly good combo!), despite being full from dinner.

Tonight, I made Polish cauliflower soup, just like my mum makes. Recently, it has dawned on me that cauliflower is not popular in the UK. Even a well known chef admitted to disliking it on TV! I believe that "insipid" was the adjective he used, which was quite shocking to me, as someone who has such fond feelings towards this humble vegetable. During my childhood in Poland we used to have it boiled with a butter-breadcrumb topping, or in a creamy, mild soup such as the one I made today.

There is no point making soup for only 1 meal, it's always better the next day anyway, so the amount I make is usually 4-5 portions... this is what you need:

Large Carrot
Large leek
2 celery stalks
Small Cauliflower
2 big potatoes
Handful of dill
200ml single cream
Bay leaf
Maggi sauce
Salt and white pepper
Pinch of sugar

I grated the carrot and parsnip and put them in the casserole dish I use for making soup, covered with water. The dish was 8/10 full. Then, it's time for chopped leeks and celery to go in, along with the bay leaf.... cover it and bring it to the boil.  Once boiling, bring the heat down and simmer for about 45mins. Perfect time to have a bath!

Next, I peeled and chopped the potatoes into cubes, and cauliflower into small florets, and chucked that in. Again, you leave it for half an hour or so, until nice and soft, before adding the dill, maggi sauce (mentionned before, in the sauerkraut stew blog from a couple of weeks ago) and salt and pepper to taste. 

There is something about dill that makes a dish automatically taste Polish to me. I went through a long stage of disliking it, but now I have happily gone back to my roots and use it quite liberally in this dish. Finally, the cream and a pinch of sugar. I simmered it all for a further 5 minutes before serving with crusty bread, though, in fact, because of the potatoes not much bread is needed. A perfect winter warmer - although I'd like to say it's spring already, the weather has been proving me wrong all day, so I won't ;o)