Monday, 31 December 2012

An entirely biased vodka tasting with unprecedented results

We all get a bit stuck in our ways sometimes, it's human nature to want to hold on to things we know, yet it's important to keep moving forward. And this is why my brother, my dad and me decided to have a vodka tasting. My brother felt that my dad needed it because all he ever drinks are Polish and Russian vodkas, proclaiming them the best without having had many comparisons. Me, I've been stuck on Grey Goose for a while now, and was sure that no other vodka compares. We were all surprised with the results. We chose 5 vodkas for entirely personal reasons. Belvedere, an upper echelon of vodka, which my dad favours; Żytnia: a lower quality Polish rye vodka; Grey Goose: my pure, French favourite; Chase, as this is apparently the best of the British; and Snow Queen, which has a good reputation and hails from Kazakstan and Ukraine (places we have family). We tasted blind and marked for various qualities, such as aroma, flavour, texture and smoothness, yet it was our overall impressions that we pooled together to find the winner, which was...

1. Chase - UK


And what a shock that was to a Polish family! I was convinced that what I was drinking was my favourite Grey Goose and gave it top marks for both flavour and lack of burn going down. It was almost creamy, absolutely delicious 

2. Belvedere - Poland
This is the only vodka where I visually noticed a difference in appearance - it appeared more blue in hue to my eye. It was also incredibly smooth going down, though slightly more bitter in flavour, which is not to my liking

3. Grey Goose - France
In a blind tasting, this was actually my dad's favourite and not mine. It was flowery and delicate with a  hint of bitterness. Smooth going down.

4. Żytnia - Poland
Although very good in offsetting salty and pickled snacks, and with a firm place in the hearts of all us Poles, it is entirely justifiable that this cheap vodka came second to last in our blind tasting. It is a different calibre of vodka, and not in a good way

5. Snow Queen - Kazakstan/Ukraine
I actually wretched as I shot this vodka down. We were meant to not be saying or doing anything that could influence another person's decision process, yet it was an involuntary reaction. The last time I had one like it was when I did a bong followed by a shot of rectified spirit at Uni. That time it had followed through, this time it didn't, but it wasn't pleasant either. It was probably completely unfair, as this vodka often ranks high in expert tastings and my brother actually quite liked it. But it is what it is, as they say - I wouldn't drink it again myself

Friday, 28 December 2012

Scandinavian cinnamon rolls and creamy mulled beer

The Cinnamon rolls were meant to be easy. Just a bit of dough, rolled up with some butter and cinnamon inside, only a few ingredients. Well, let me tell you the life lesson I learnt today: don't expect things to be easy. Apparently, the Dalei Lama himself says this quite a lot, and it's become my mantra of late. If life was nice and easy the whole time, then none of us would ever evolve. And yet, and yet... sometimes I do wish things were just a bit easier - those cinnamon rolls took a lot out of me. I was making them for a Secret Santa party and by the time I got there I was worn out from pummeling that bloody dough. Also, I stupidly added an extra egg when I should have just added some water to soften to dough, so here I will give you the correct amounts, that make the perfect cinnamon roll. If, like me, you find the dough too dry just add some milk or water, not another egg, which makes the rolls slightly harder than they should be once cooked. As the ingredients are simple and the recipe straight-forward, I used really good quality stuff, which made my cinnamon rolls tasty regardless - this is my trick when making something for the first time, don't skimp on the quality and you will always come out on top, even if your hands may be cramped and your wrists aching
Ingredients

700g plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking ammonia
225g sugar
200g cold butter
2 eggs
50g softened butter
1 tablespoon cinnamon
Splash of water or milk

Sieve the flour, baker's ammonia and baking powder into a bowl, and mix together. Add 150g of the sugar. The rest of the sugar you mix with the cinnamon in a separate bowl. Cut the cold butter into small cubes and blend into the mixture with your fingertips, until it resembles fine breadcrumbs, then make a well in the middle. Break the eggs into the well, mix it together and make the dough, which should be stiff but not dry. If it is dry (like mine was), then add some milk or water until everything sticks together as it should. Knead the dough for a looong time. Perhaps if you have warmer hands than me, this will be easier for you. Finally, wrap it in cling film and refrigerate for about 20min. Roll it out into a rectangle on a dry surface with some flour and trim the edges, so that it's a neat one. Spread the soft butter over the top and sprinkle the cinnamon mix over the top of that. Now roll it up into a log and cut into pieces about 1cm thick. Place on a baking tray lined with baking paper and bake for about 25min on 180 degrees C
We spent Christmas with my cousin in his family in Zakopane in Poland. We spent the days skiing and snowboarding, stopping of for mulled wines and beers, and grilled "Oscypek" with cranberry sauce. The "Oscypek" is a decorative, smoked cheese, typical of this area

The warm, earthy and spicey beers were my favourite, yet I also missed my dad's own recipe, which I begged him to make as soon as we arrived back in Warsaw. I can't get enough of this now, so I will share it with you while you've still got that Christmas feeling, yet are probably getting to the stage of being ever-so-slightly bored of all the stuff you've been eating and drinking for the past week. Separate the egg yolks and whites. Beat the whites with a pinch of salt until they form peeks. Better yet, get someone else to do this, while you blend the yolks with the sugar. Once the yolk mixture is reasonably smooth, add the honey. Now, gently heat the beer with the cinnamon and cloves, stirring all the time. Blend the yolks with the whites and start to slowly pour the mixture into the warming beer. Again, four hands are better than two for this, as you need to stir constantly. Whatever you do, do not let the mixture boil, or you will end up with sweet scrambled eggs in your beer. No one needs that. Once all the eggs are in the beer, stir for a couple of minutes or so while heating. Add the vanilla essence and stir some more. Try it to check the temperature. Once it's very warm - but nowhere near boiling - cover the pan and leave for a few more minutes to infuse, before serving in front of the fire. You're welcome. The measurement below serve four

Ingredients

4 beers
3 eggs
Pinch salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon cloves
1 teaspoon vanilla essence


Monday, 10 December 2012

More than a Salad - Sweetcorn, Crayfish and Avocado


This salad is my own invention and it's become one of my favourites of late. I'm eating it in many different ways - as a filling for jacket potatoes; with grilled, smoked mackerel, sweet potato mash and hot sauce; or simply on top of freshly boiled jasmine rice. It's so flavoursome, that I would say it's more than a salad, in fact. It kind of reminds me of the cold dish that I always order at Gourmet San - preserved egg with tofu and spring onion - something to do with the consistency (both crunchy and squidgy) and the strong taste, I believe
Fresh sweetcorn is important here, you need to boil it on the cob, then slice it off with a sharp knife. Combine this with chopped avocado, smoked and dried crayfish, as well as the Thai-style spicy dressing
The dried crayfish I found in the World Food aisle at Tesco’s. Every time I eat it I feel like I'm on the boats in Southern Thailand, somewhere near Koh Tao Island. I found this feeling at odds with the brand, which is supposed to be taking me to Africa. Yet on closer inspection I found that it is actually made in Thailand. Good to know that my tastebuds are not deceiving me  after all

Ingredients

Ripe avocado
Dried and smoked crayfish
Corn on the cob, cooked and sliced off the cob

Dressing

Fish sauce
Red chilli, chopped
Lime
Cumin, dried
Coriander, dried

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Macha green tea and coconut milk smoothie

Before I fall asleep at night, or sometimes in the morning as I wake up, I think about what my favourite part of the last day was. It puts things into perspective for me and shows me what I love. And what I'm loving most right now are cold, sunny days; reading books that open my mind to a different perspective on life; that feeling of connecting to people that you don't get in groups; and looking after myself: eating well, but not feeling guilty if I overindulge, trusting myself rather than just doing what other people expect, doing what I feel like in that moment even if it means cancelling all my plans and spending the whole evening reading in bed; and making delicious smoothies, like this one here
I blitzed a frozen banana (tip: peel and cut it into chunks before freezing) with some matcha green tea (I diluted a couple of teaspoons in a small amount of hot water first), honey, coconut milk and a couple of ice cubes. It took me less than a minute to down the whole thing, so I guess that my body needed it

Monday, 3 December 2012

Bake yourself a man - A German sweet bread recipe

Last weekend my friend, Astrid, held her annual Christmas baking session. We made many varieties of cookie while drinking Prosecco and mulled wine, including all these ones, but today I want to tell you about beautiful Miriam's little men. This is yet another German Christmas tradition, and this particular recipe has been passed down through friendships and generations. As both myself and Miriam are fresh out of relationships the dough making was kind of like therapy. At one point I even found myself shaking my dough and telling it to grow up. And within 45min, it did!
First, you break up the fresh yeast in the lukewarm milk. Apparently, finding fresh yeast is not easy in the UK, our one came from Planet Organic. You combine the flour with the sugar and salt, and break the softened butter into this, working it into the mixture with your fingers. Once that's completely combined, start adding the milk (with the yeast thoroughly stirred in), and creating the dough. You need to really work it at this stage. Even when the dough is ready, the work continues for at least another ten minutes: "Beat it up" I was told, while it's creator went out for a cigarette. Finally, you cover the dough with a wet towel and place somewhere warm, to grow. After about 45min-1hour, separate it into equal chunks and make whatever takes your fancy. Traditionally it's men, but we also made women, snowmen, stars and children, the rest we plaited. If you are sticking to the traditional concept, make the head first and the body needs to be made out of just one chunk. Then stick the head on and bake for about 45min on a medium heat. The result is something like fresh, melt-in-your-mouth brioche, delicious with the lychee tea we drank at Astrid's house, and coffee the next morning, at my house. Next time, I may try adding the almonds too, though I think I'll leave the raisins out as they are prone to burning and shrivelling. No one needs that

Ingredients

1kg flour
40gr fresh yeast
125g sugar
1 tblsp salt
500ml lukewarm milk
100gr butter
(150g almonds or raisins, optional)

Monday, 26 November 2012

Warm, Spicy, Autumn Vegetable Salad with Russian-Korean spices


It's a sad fact about love that the more you give, the more you stand to loose. It's no wonder so many people are afraid of taking that risk. It's a choice we're faced with many times in life. Every time we start a new relationship, reignite an old one or come to a crossroads with a partner, we need to make that decision - to jump or not to jump. You can always jump half-heartedly, of course, but this is the most stupid and dangerous of all the jumps, because the likelihood of success is minimal. Perhaps because I'm Slavic, or perhaps because the alternatives are not particularly appealing, my tendency has always been to throw caution to the wind and jump. Yet I can see now that as you get older, it becomes harder. You remember how much it hurt last time and hesitate, and that doubt and hesitation can be lethal. Luckily, in life we get more than one chance to get it right. The important thing is give yourself time and space, in order to learn and grow from each experience. And like Mr. Gandi said, to become the change you want to see in the world. You want to world to be braver, stronger and led by love instead of fear? Then that's what you have to aim for in your own life. I would also like the world to eat more food like this warm salad I made today with an onion squash (the thing that looks like a pumpkin down there), carrots and kale I bought in Broadway Market. This is the kind of food that is good for your body, supports local businesses and doesn't harm people, animals or the environment in any way. This is good karma food
The strange mix of spices you see up there are Russian "Korean" spices, normally used in this kind of carrot salad. I can make out crushed coriander seeds in there, and I can definitely smell cumin, so I would suggest you use those spices as an alternative. I roasted my carrots and squash at 200 degrees C for about half an hour with the spices, garlic salt and olive oil. I then added the kale and almonds, and roasted it all for a further 15min. Just before serving I squeezed a bit of lime on top and put some hot chilli sauce on the side, for dipping. The next day I had it cold with nutty bread and it was just as delicious

Ingredients

Kale
Carrots
Onion squash
Flaked almonds 
Russian-Korean spices or crushed coriander seeds, ground coriander and ground cumin
Olive oil
Garlic salt
Black pepper
Lime


Sunday, 18 November 2012

Uncle Kazik's Polish Pâté with Prunes

Usually, I go to Poland twice a year - for Christmas and during the Summer. Yet this year, my original homeland has been calling me back again and again. First, to see my grandma Ziuta before her death, then her funeral in March... Then it was the usual Summer trip, and now, my grandma Halinka is unwell and I needed to return. In 6 weeks, we are going to spend Christmas in Zakopane with my cousin and his family, then back to Warsaw. Perhaps I am more attached to this harsh, unstable land than I admit, even to myself. My aunt who has been staying with us laughs at how our life here on the plains of Eastern Europe is so typical of the area. It is funny, since our family is not a traditional one. Or perhaps this is precisely why we cling to the old ways... In our manic four days spent in Poland we have cooked bigos and made pâté. While I was grinding meat for the pâté yesterday it occured to me that despite everything going on in my life right now, in that particular moment, I felt happy. It is comforting to know know that whatever happens in life, happiness can still be found in performing a simple task that has been performed for hundreds, if not thousands of years. I hope that if you make this pâté, you too will find that soothing connection to something bigger
Ingredients

500g fatty bacon
500g chicken breast
500g pork
700g beef
500g pork liver (but can be any liver)
3 onions
large handful wild, dry mushrooms
5 bay leaves
2 tblsp majoram
1 tsp dried juniper berries
1 tsp whole black peppercorns
6 eggs
2 white, dry bread buns
2 handfuls pitted prunes
3 tsp nutmeg
2 tblsp fine (sea) salt or to taste
vegetable oil for frying
butter for greasing the baking trays
1 tblsp breadcrumbs
First, we cook the meat, which is best done a day ahead of the pate making. The meat needs 2 hours cooking time, then it needs time to cool. Fry the meat on both sides to seal it.  Put it in large pan and pour the frying oil over the top. We cook the meat (apart from the liver) in a pan half-full of water with the onions, bayleaves, juniper berries, peppercorns, majoram and dried mushrooms (these need to be soaked for 10min in boiling hot water first). Here, this kind of cooking is called suffocating the meat, because we do it covered and for a long period of time. Once the meat is falling off the bone (after about 1hr 45min) add the liver and cook for a further 10-15min. Finally, add the bread and allow to cool overnight. The next day, mince it all a couple of times, or until you get the consistency of pâté. Put it back in the pan with the remaining liquid - this will give the pâté moisture. Now, break in the eggs, roll up your sleeves and get dirty squishing the mixture between your hands until it's all completely smooth. Add the salt and nutmeg. Taste the mixture to see if you feel it needs anything more right now... then fill the pre-buttered and breadcrumbed baking trays, like so
 Bake these on 180 degrees Celsius for about 1 and a half hours, or until they look like this
You can eat this pâté with crusty bread, cranberry sauce and gherkins like I did, take it to parties or give it to people as a little gift. It may sound a bit weird, but I think giving someone something you made to eat is always a welcome present. Unless they're vegetarian perhaps. Although simple, pâté making is one hell of an effort, so it's nice to share the spoils and show it off

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Black potato and golden beetroot salad with rainbow chard

...and a side-serving of heartbreak. I'm just kidding - on the side we had 2 delicious, unpasteurized, vegetarian cheeses from The Deli Downstairs: Ardrahan and Triclemore. That's not to say that I'm not heartbroken right now, but I'm not serving that up for lunch. For once in my life, I'm actually dealing with it incredibly well. Everything is much easier when you stop trying to get away from the suffering that is a natural part of life. You know that happiness is just around the corner and it will taste so much sweeter, once you've had a bite of bitter disappointment. It's a bit like this salad come to think of it - sweet beetroot offsetting the bitter chard
In preparation for this salad, you need to cook and cool both the potatoes and the beetroot. The beets we peel, the Shetland blacks we leave in their stylish little coats. For the dressing, we grate the horseradish root and mix in a jar with the lemon juice, mayo, olive oil, garlic salt and pepper. I used just an inch of horseradish, which made it pretty mild. Mix the potatoes, beets and leek with the dressing, and place on top of the chard. Eat with slices of cheese on the side, a glass of white wine and pleasant company

Ingredients

Golden beetroot, cooked, peeled and chopped
Shetland black potatoes, cooked and chopped (depending on size)
Leek, chopped
Rainbow chard
Mayonnaise
Lemon juice
Horseradish root
Garlic salt
Olive oil
Black pepper

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Norwegian Brown Cheese

This caramelly, brown, sweet-tangy goat's cheese won't be to everyone's taste, but I rather liked it on brown bread with butter
I imagine it's good toasted too, perhaps with some honey... and my friend Lana who brought it back from Norway said that they often eat it on waffles over there. It's weird, I won't pretend it isn't, but then I like weird things

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Fish preparation and knife skills at The Open Kitchen

Fish preparation and knife skills at the Open Kitchen  is not for the faint-hearted. The mackerel was a bloodbath for a start
But I also learned various techniques of chopping vegetables and how to delicately fillet a plaice. The most important thing I took away from this 2 hour workshop is how to look after my knives. You need to sharpen your knives every time you use them! Now, I cook every day and I haven't ever owned a knife sharpener (I do now obv). We also got to try what the teacher prepared, then took our bits home to replicate the dish of roast mackerel with vegetables. You just combine the vegetables up these with some olive oil, lemon and salt and pepper and stuff it into the fish, which you then seal with toothpics and roast. It's ready in 20min! So simple and so good. The Open Kitchen's location on Hoxton Street in Shoreditch could make you imagine one of those overly trendy places, but this is actually a down-to-earth, professional kitchen. A part of their profits go to help kids gain the skills and equipment they need to work in a restaurant, and they work with Jamie Oliver's Fifteen. A workshop is usually £59, which is affordable anyway, but you can find discounts on the net too

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Ginger, lemon and honey for warmth

It's weird to think now that there were times in my life when I was unhappy with my body. I have been within a couple of kilograms of my perfect weight for many years now, and I eat and drink pretty much whatever I want. Looking back, there is one tiny thing I did that solved all my food and weight issues: I stopped worrying about it. It was a difficult thing to do, as from a young age I felt that being even slightly overweight made me a complete failure. This sort of reasoning is invariably going to cause imbalance and unhappiness. Then I made the conscious decision to stop beating myself up about it and I gradually lost weight and grew to be happy with my body.  The decision came at uni, when I first came to London. I met so many great people and started having such a fun time that food didn't matter as much anymore and the self-hated just didn't make sense. Like everything in life, this was a process - it was a complete battle at times, yet instinctively I knew that I was fighting the good fight. There were many things that helped me along the way - good friends, family, meditation... above all, my own honesty and openness probably. You can't get anywhere in life if you are hiding and lying to yourself and others. Eventually, I grew to love food all over again, but this time it was a mature and pure kind of love, rather than the confused, childish, all-or-nothing kind. Once this sort of change happens in your mind, you want to be good to yourself and eat in a way that nourishes and heals your body
 This is my favourite drink for when the weather turns cold and, randomly, a magician taught me how to make it. It builds up your immune system and digestion, as well as curbing sugar cravings. You peel and simmer a couple of inches of fresh ginger in plenty of water until it colours slightly. Stir in a tablespoon of honey and squeeze in half a lemon. Drink this within 20min for the full benefit of vitamin C from the lemon. I like to drink this from my wooden sake box, I don't know why but this feels like the natural thing to do

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Icelandic Mashed Fish

Having been working in a Scandi department for 6 months now, I am finding myself under the influence. My style is getting a little bit more cool and paired down, I find myself visiting the Nordic Bakery every time I am near Regents Street, I've even found myself reading an Icelandic cookbook. And this is how mashed fish came into my life
It's like an Icelandic, mashed up, unbaked version of a fish pie really. You boil the potatoes in salted water until soft but still firm (not falling apart), then leave to cool while you cook the white fish, also in salted water - the fish takes about 15min. Take the fish out and flake once it stops burning your fingers. Now, peel the potatoes and chop roughly. Melt the butter in a frying pan and add the onion, fry until soft but do not brown. Gently heat the milk in a separate pan. Add the flour to the onions and fry for a minute, before slowly adding the milk and stirring continuously. Finally, add the onions and fish and heat through, season and serve with chives on top and a boiled egg on the side. I added a few tiny particles of a scotch bonnet pepper. I actually wanted to add a cauliflower to the party, but my colleague, Helga, affirmed that this would indeed be a travesty. It's an Icelandic national dish after all -  good job I asked

Ingredients (serves 4)

500g white fish
500g potatoes
1 onion, chopped finely
350ml milk (I used goat's milk)
50g butter
3Tblsp flour
Salt and pepper
Chopped chives and hard-boiled egg to serve

Friday, 12 October 2012

Thai-style fishy congee (nicer than it sounds)

Tiny, dried fish in my congee remind me of Thailand
This congee I top with fish sauce, chillies and spring onion. I cooked the rice with a couple of chicken carcasses and a bit of sea salt, nothing else. LT, who doesn't usually feel like breakfast much, loved it. Needless to say, I love this too - it's one of the few things that fills me up until lunch. And it makes me think of the time when I would eat this kind of breakfast sitting on a cushion, looking out over the beach in Koh Tao, breathing in the familiar smells and basking in the warm humidity, as the sun rose over the sea

Monday, 8 October 2012

Mooli and carrot salad with a citrus dressing

If you're ever looked at a vegetable and thought of those weird little creatures in Harry Potter, then you have probably seen a Mooli. It's a Japanese radish I was told in the shop, but I think I've tried it in Chinese cuisine, and I believe that this is what they use to make one of my favourite dishes of all time - the dim-sum turnip cake
Yet I decided to make it into a Polish-style "surowka" - that's specific kind of salad characterized by the shredded vegetables and the fact that it needs time to "bite-together" and soak in the dressing. So, I grated the mooli and carrots, added finely chopped spring onion and made an citrus dressing by combing orange and lemon juice with olive oil, salt and pepper. To finish I added some feta cubes, as we were eating this with baked sweet potatoes and I wanted some cheese that would melt inside them. This is a perfect alternative to coleslaw and cheddar, by the way. When we'd eaten the potatoes, me and LT polished off the rest of the salad too, it was so more-ish

Ingredients

1 mooli (daikon)
3-4 carrots
Juice of half an orange
Juice of half a lemon
4 spring onions
200-250g feta cheese
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Roasted Autumn squash with pasta

The clouds are lifting! And all it took in this case was a little bit of self-nurture. I think it's too easy to forget to really, fully look after yourself when living in a busy city. Also, as women we are often conditioned to believe that we should put others first, when in fact that is completely wrong in my opinion. Your life and health are the single most important thing you have. By health I don't mean just the physical aspects of your body, I mean your whole being - your physical, mental and spiritual health. I have made a promise to myself that at least until I have a baby I will prioritize my own well being at all times. Then come the people I love (including my cat of course, who even though many may not see this, is also a person), my career, my flat and everything else. Even though it may seem selfish, living this way allows you to give more of yourself, simply because when you are whole, you have more of yourself to give.  It's a positive kind of selfishness, and it's a beautiful place to be, as long as you manage to not ever feel guilty, as that negates it completely 
So if you are feeling out of sorts right now, for whatever reason, this is what you're going to do: stop. Make yourself do nothing. Every time you feel guilty for doing nothing, the penalty is to do something nice for yourself. Meditate or lie in bed. Have a bath. Dream about what you want in life without pressurizing yourself to go out and get it. Cook and eat your favourite food. Have at least a day with no alcohol and go to bed before 10, even if you don't feel like it. The next morning wake up and ask yourself what you'd love to do the most. Now go and do that, whatever it takes. By the third day, I promise you that you will feel better. Unless what you really wanted to do was to go out and get wasted, of course. In which case though your spirit may feel better, your body probably won't. You don't have to heed my advice of course, but the only other option is to pretend it's not there, that's everything is fine and wait until it all catches up with you. And that is never much fun
Today, I wanted to eat squash. It tastes like this time of year to me, like the orange sunshine of early Autumn or a sunset. I roasted it with dried oregano, olive oil and garlic salt for about an hour in a medium-hot oven. I then peeled the skin off (which I actually gobbled up with some salt) chopped it into chunks and added it to the simple pasta sauce I'd just prepared with creme fraiche, toasted pine nuts, oregano, a little lemon juice, chilli and black pepper. Then some fresh pasta from The Deli Downstairs tossed in and we're ready to go - Autumn on a plate

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

British game roasted with Polish buckwheat honey and Greek oregano

The grouse season is short this year. I'm not using code, I mean that sentence completely literally. I'm trying to explain (to myself as much as anyone) how on earth I paid £12.50 for one of those birds down there (the dark one). It's pretty bloody expensive. The partridge is only marginally smaller at £5.50, and arguably tastier
Lots of niggling, small things that I normally don't care about have been bothering me lately, so I'll just stick the grouse on that tedious list. Sometimes life is just like that. Or perhaps sometimes  we just perceive it that way as we experience some kind of inner turmoil or conflict we can't quite put our finger on. I'm just riding it out and waiting for clouds to clear, and from time to time, catching a little ray breaking through - like a delicious meal, or LT bringing me lego (did I mention that I have the sunniest boyfriend on the whole planet?). So here we are - a gamey Sunday feast of grouse and partridge. The birds were tenderized with a marinade of Polish buckwheat honey, lemon juice, garlic salt and pepper 
And flavoured with Greek oregano which my friend Karina brought straight from the source (that's the countryside near Athens). Miod Gryczany is this really dark, strong-tasting honey. You could easily substitute it for Eucalyptus honey or even Manuka honey as they're  quite similar in flavour, and would also stand up to game
I left them like this for about 45min before roasting for an hour at 150 degrees C, along with some carrots and sweet potatoes, basting the birds regularly to make sure that they didn't dry out. The vegetables were flavoured with fresh chilli, olive oil, garlic salt and pepper. I was going to make gravy, but I forgot, and actually, it wasn't needed - everything was moist and tender. Once we finished, I cooked the bones to make a delicious game stock, for a Middle-Eastern style soup, with bulgur wheat, chickpeas, lemon juice and eggs. At that price, I had to squeeze another meal of the grouse somehow

Friday, 28 September 2012

Butternut squash congee with crunchy radish and spring onion

I'm getting into this whole congee thing. Just as there are infinite varieties of porridge, it's the same with congee. This is a vegetarian one I made, by cooking white jasmine rice and butternut squash for about 3 hours in loads of water. I also added some chilli, sea salt, garlic and paprika. When it was ready I added crunchy bits of spring onion and radish,  then soya sauce for flavour
You can keep it in the fridge for up to 3 days, warming up little bit, with some extra water, in the mornings. Which makes it a really practical breakfast too. So yeah, I think I might be becoming a bit of a congee bore. Sorry, I will cook something delicious and un-congee-like this weekend and tell you all about it. I just had to mention this one, because I was so surprised at how well it turned out without any meat, and look how pretty it was too

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Anchor & Hope in Waterloo

The table at Anchor & Hope looked as if it was set for a Medieval feast - figs with parma ham, slices of what I believe was wild boar with grapes, cod roe and my favourite - chicken liver and fois gras parfais. This was followed by that fish down there, sticky rabbit ribs and runner beans with almonds (another favourite)
And yet this is the only photo I have. And it wasn't even taken by me, as mine was too dark (I really need a new camera). I've read crazily mixed reviews of this place. The funniest one I read was the guy who talked about waiting for an hour for a table and approached "a senior-looking member of staff who was idling his time away talking to a cluster of peasants about some table they were waiting for... Amazingly, I was IGNORED until he had finished his conversation", he signed his hilarious review "a regular" and gave the place the full 5 stars. The thing is, even if you know someone who works here, you always have to wait for a table. So just have a pint or two and enjoy your (presumably lovely) company until they are ready to sit you. If this is going to stress you out, then don't come here. But you will be missing out because the food is fantastic and very reasonably priced, and the place is just a bit special. Not in a pretentious way, like some random person who you bump into on the street and starts a monologue on a Chekov play they happen to be working on, but in that real, confident way where the quality speaks for itself and needs no gimmicks

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Spicy sweetcorn congee

I've decided to get my not-so-healthy butt on a massive, Chinese health kick. I've been on many Western health kicks and detoxes but I'm ready to try something different. To say I am unhealthy does not feel completely accurate, I am much healthier than I was a year ago, two years ago, but I have one persistent health problem and I would like to know I tried everything before I need to undergo a rather intrusive and wholly inconvenient procedure. So I am giving myself and Chinese medicine 6 months to sort it out. You know how I like my experiments, especially when they involve plenty of food
It's difficult to understand the intricacies of Chinese food rules from simply reading articles on the internet. The rules are different for each individual and it's a whole new way of thinking to get your head around. But congee is something every expert agrees benefits everyone. Congee reminds me of something that we ate in Poland when I still very young and sick in bed - rice soup with cooked apples. It was called "kleik" - little glue. Sometimes it was all I'd be given to eat for days on end, which eventually ruined it for me, unsurprisingly. But now, after rediscovering congee in Thailand, I am ready to eat this rice soup once more. However, I prefer the spicier, Asiatic versions to the Polish one. You basically cook the corn on the cob and the chicken, ginger, chilli and lemongrass with the rice and water for about 3 hours. Add a little sea salt to get the minerals out of the chicken bone. About half way through, take out the corn and chicken, allow to cool and take the meat off the bone (discard the skin) and the corn off the cob and add back into the rice soup. After another half an hour, take out the lemongrass. After 3 hours I found that my congee was the perfect consistency. Eat it straight away and allow the remainder to cool before putting in the fridge. I am now keeping it in there and just warming up a little each day, with some extra water for breakfast. I believe it can keep for about 5 days, but I will try and eat it in 3, just to be on the safe side. What I really love about congee is that the variations are infinite. I will keep you posted on my ones, of course

Ingredients

Cup full of rice and 7 times as much water
Lemongrass - 2 stems
2 inches of fresh ginger - peeled and chopped
Organic chicken thigh on the bone
Fresh chilli
2 corn on the cob

Soya sauce and chopped spring onion to serve


Monday, 10 September 2012

Tomato salad with mint salsa

I don't know how familiar you are with the saga of my garden. I started off optimistic, then I realized a few things about myself, which was promptly followed by an overly pessimistic phase. Now, I am trying a different way, which does not involve growing vegetables. Basically, the only that seems to grow in abundance here is mint. I have masses of it
After talking to my friend Petey on Saturday, who told me all he's been eating lately are San Lorenzo tomatoes, I was inspired to make this salad for my BBQ. These aren't San Lorenzo tomatoes, but they were the best I can get, and this is really important in a dish so simple. The salsa is a large shallot, half a red chilli and plenty of mint, all finely chopped and covered in some virgin olive oil and sea salt. I allowed it to stand for an hour before covering the tomatoes in it a moment before serving. You could leave it for much longer if you have the time
This is not all we ate of course, there were BBQ spare ribs and sausages from Ginger Pig, as well as home made hummus and raw vegetables, but this salad, along with the spare ribs, was the highlight for me

Friday, 7 September 2012

Curried aduki beans

Look, some meals, like people, just aren't that photogenic
And we all know this doesn't make them any less worthwhile. Sometimes, in fact, it's the opposite. Just as you wouldn't want all your friends to be models, it would also be unhealthy to be too concerned with how photogenic your food is. I have nothing against models, of course, a close friend of mine used to be one and she's an incredibly interesting person. However, she is not your average model, or person, in fact, and I still believe that if all your friends were models, your life may be a little dull. More often than not, the camera doesn't capture the more important qualities in life and is all too easy to trick with superficialities. It's like parties where everyone looks amazing on the photos aren't usually the best parties. Or the way a beautiful landscape can look a bit flat once you've tried to immortalize it... I think I've proved my point now. So I do hope that you try my new recipe, because even though it may not look like the most beautiful meal out there, it was one of the most delicious I've made in recent weeks and probably the most healthy too...

Ingredients

Aduki beans (soaked overnight and cooked according to packet instructions - aprox 300g
Half an onion
Garlic clove
1 green chilli
2 inches of ginger root
Handful coriander
Juice of 1 lime
Coconut oil
2 handfuls cherry tomatoes or more
1 tsp turmeric
1 tblsp garam masala
Tin of coconut milk
Sea salt

(Handful cooked brown rice to serve if you wish)

Blend the ginger, garlic, onion, turmeric, chilli and a bit of lime juice, either in a blender or by hand with a pestle and mortar like I do (or get LT to do), then fry with the coconut oil. After 5min add the cooked aduki beans and a splash of water, then very soon after, the cherry tomatoes. Cover and allow to fry for about 5min, stirring occasionally. Add the coconut milk and chopped coriander, then cover again and continue frying for 10min. Add the garam masala and salt and keep stiring. Finally, add the lime juice. Either serve this on top of the rice or stir the rice in at the end. Make sure you save any leftovers for lunch the next day, this tastes great at room temperature also

Friday, 31 August 2012

My mum's gherkins

On first meeting you, people often ask what you do and where you come from. I dislike both those questions for different reasons. The "what do you do" question I feel limited by, because what I do in my day job isn't all that I do. And the "where are you from" question is difficult for me to answer. It feels inappropriate to go into the intricacies of where I really feel I come from on meeting someone for the first time. To keep it short and polite I tend to say "Poland" when I am in the UK, however when I come here it's immediately clear to me that although this place fills me with nostalgia, it's not home any more... That's not to say that I don't feel "at home" here, because I do. I love the place and I have never stopped missing it and, of course (as any ex-patriot will immediately understand), certain foods. Like home-made gherkins. We made these the first day that I arrived
You will need a leaf from an oak tree, and some horseradish leaves. We took the first from a tree in our garden and the other from the neighbour's garden, my mum making some elaborate excuse as to why this was OK (something to do with the original land ownership apparently) the whole time we were lifting the wooden fence in a way she's clearly well practised at. The gherkins need to be packed tightly together so you need to have lots of them and a container where they fit snugly together, you will also need a round, heavy stone that you can fit on top of this container (in a plastic bag) to squish them down. It sounds a bit faffy, but trust me -once you get all the gear together it couldn't be simpler
Ingredients

Lots of small cucumbers -  20-30
Dill that has flowered - lots
1-2 leaves from an oak tree
2-3 horseradish leaves
Garlic - 1 bulb, peeled
2 Tablespoons salt per 1 litre of water
Bring the water to the boil and add the salt. We used 2 litres for about 20 cucumbers. Place all the other ingredients in your container. Allow the water to cool slightly (about 15min) before pouring it into your jar. Make sure everything is covered with the water and put the stone on top. Normally, you will leave these for about 48 hours, but you can try them after 24 and see how pickled you like yours. Once ready, transfer the cucumbers and the garlic into a jar, pouring the brine over the top. You can eat these now for another couple of weeks, or keep the jar closed for a couple of months if you prefer to eat them at a later time. When you feel like a taste of another country and way of life, get them out and eat with buttered rye bread, grilled Polish sausage ("Mysliwska" for example), "Sarepska" mustard, and washed down with the obligatory Polish beer