Thursday 22 July 2010

Three ways with Marrow

I work in Isleworth, so for the past year and a half that I have been here, the only distraction I have had is walking around Tesco's in my lunch hour. You can, therefore, imagine my joy to have recently discovered Osterley Park - a neo-classical mansion house with massive grounds, with cows and ponies, and lots of old, old trees. There is also a farm shop. And it's cheap! So this is how I came to be cradling a marrow on my way home from work the other day, my bag having snapped under the strain of the huge vegetable

I have never cooked a marrow before, so I decided look to the internet for inspiration, as you do. What I found was a world disturbingly obsessed with stuffing marrows. After having carried the marrow like a baby for about two hours, I was reluctant to then start stuffing it. It seemed a bit harsh. So I disregarded all the suggestions, and went with my gut instincts to treat the marrow with a measure of tenderness. I split it into three and each piece made two portions of food. So for one pound, you're getting great value for money with this one!

Marrow Curry

Chunks of peeled marrow
2 inches fresh ginger
2 garlic cloves
2 green chillies
1 tsp chilli powder
1 tsp turmeric
Tin of chopped tomatoes
Pinch of cinamon
Sesame oil
Pinch of cinamon

Fry the onion, garlic, ginger and chilli in the sesame oil for a couple of minutes, before adding the turmeric and chilli powder. Stir it in well and add a tablespoon of water, so that the spices don't burn. After another couple of minutes, add the chopped marrow. Make sure it's well mixed with the curry spices and oil, and cover the pan. You want to cook it like this for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Finally, add the tin of chopped tomatoes and cinamon, and cook for a further 20 minutes or so. Serve with chapatis, naan or rice

Fried Marrow (1 portion)

Thickly sliced mallow
3 tbsp plain flour
Garlic salt
Black pepper
1 tsp paprika or cayenne pepper
1 egg
Olive oil for frying
Dipping sauce of your choice

This was delicious and so simple to make. I combined the flour, salt, pepper and paprika, and beat the egg. The marrow was sliced into 2 cm thick pieces and peeled. I made sure the whole bottom of a frying pan was covered in the oil and heated it up to sizzling. The you dip the marrow slices in the egg, making sure all sides are covered, and immediately into the flour mixture. Lower it into the oil carefully, and fry until golden - it will take about 5-7 min each side. I used a Caribbean chilli sauce for dipping, a bit of sour cream wouldn't have gone amiss

Roast Marrow

Marrow chunks
Red pepper
Yellow pepper
3-6 garlic cloves
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

My friend told me that in Spain, marrow is often roasted with red peppers. I ate this as a light supper, then took the leftovers to work and stuffed them into a baguette with some goat's cheese for a delicious sandwich. I don't think I need to go into a great amount of detail about how I roasted the vegetables, so just a quick rundown - peel and chop the marrow into bite-size cubes; deseed and chop the peppers; and wash and chop the leek. The garlic cloves I bruised with the side of a knife and didn't even bother peeling. Cover everything in plenty of olive oil, and season with thyme (fresh or dried), as well as salt and pepper. Roast for about an hour at 200 degrees C, moving the vegetables around every 15 min or so, so that they brown evenly with lots of crispy bits. Long live marrow, the gentle giant!

Sunday 18 July 2010

Blueberry pasta - not at all weird

I know, I know, it sounds weird. But in Poland we often eat pasta in sweet dishes. And it is so delicious, and so easy to make that I had to write about it. At this time of year, blueberries are in abundance, so we use them. As you can see down there, they are not exactly like the blueberries that we get in the UK, they are smaller and harder, and taste a bit different too. But I expect that you can replace the blueberries with a different variety quite easily, because, well, why not? You can also use a different berry altogether if you so choose, I think blackberries would work well for instance


Sour cream

You simply cook the pasta as normal, in salted water. In a separate pan, you cook the blueberries, along with the sugar. Add the sugar according to your own taste. Then combine the two, and stick a dollop of cream on top. Didn't I say it was easy?

Sweet herring salad - summery Polish food

So as you know, I have a bee in my bonnet about Polish food being misrepresented in the UK, with, for example, bigos being served on food stands in the summer. Why anyone would want to eat heavy sauerkraut stew on a hot day is beyond me, and it would be unheard of for someone to serve you that in the middle of summer in Poland. For dinner, we may have a soup, like chlodnik or botwinka (a sour soup made from young beetroot leaves), followed by cold meats and salads (though a pot of homemade lard with tasty crispy bits, next to a jar of home pickled cucumbers is not uncommon, I must confess). This a herring salad, which is particularly tasty, and combines sweet, sour and salty in a way that pleases the Polish palate


3-4 salted herring fillets 
3 hard boiled eggs
Tin of pineapple
Cup of sour cream 
1 tsp sugar
Mayo to taste
A little bit of pepper

The herrings my mum bought were very salty, so we soaked them for 20 min in cold water, before chopping them into bite size chunks. The eggs and pineapple were chopped into the same sized bits and added to the bowl. We mixed the sour cream and sugar together and added a couple of tablespoons of mayo. Then poured the sauce onto the salad and mixed well, adding pepper to taste. Once the salad was transfered to a serving dish, we sprinkled it with finely chopped chives and chilled for 20 min before serving. Great with ice-cold vodka!

Auntie Krysia's potato cake

This is a very special recipe that Auntie Krysia has been perfecting for years and years (she's nearly 80). We planned a surprise party for gran, so Krysia (her sister) came down from Olsztyn for the day, bringing her revered potato cake. We warmed it up on the barbeque and ate it with Krysia's homemade cranberry sauce and black pudding. However, it would go well with most meats and sauces, and it was even great cold, eaten as a beer snack


2 kg potatoes
2 tbsp flour
2 eggs
1 tbsp cream
3-4 onions
2-3 garlic cloves
Lots of lardons
Dried marjoram
Salt and pepper

Now, Auntie Krysia is one of those instinctive cooks, who doesn't really measure things out - so all I got from her was that she uses one packet of marjoram and one of pepper. What kind of packet, I don't know, so I'd say add a tablespoon of each to start of with. With the lardons, I also didn't get a quantity, but what I did get is that she gets the butcher to mince them for her, so if you get a packet of lardons, you need to chop them up a bit more. You grate the potatoes as finely as you can, and beat the egg whites, adding the yolks once they are fluffy. If the potatoes are watery, then you need to pour the water out. Add the eggs to the potatoes, with the flour and the cream. Fry the lardons and finely chopped onion until they become crispy, then add them in, and mix everything together really well. Butter a baking tray, and pour the mixture in. Bake for 45-60 min. Then enjoy with family and friends, preferably sitting outside under some trees

Wednesday 14 July 2010

Chlodnik recipe - summery Polish food

"Chlodnik" is the Polish "gazpacho". Instead of tomatoes we use beetroot, however, as well as plenty of yoghurt. It's perfect for hot days, and once you make it, you can keep it in the fridge for days. We ate it with boiled eggs, but it is equally good with refried potatoes

That's my two lovely grandmas preparing the beetroot. You need to use young beetroot for this, therefore it's a very seasonal soup. We use both the beetroot themselves, peeled before boiling, as well as the leaves and stalks. If you can't get the stalks, however, then, my grandma assured me, you can leave them out of the recipe without causing too much damage. I'm afraid that I can't give you the exact quantities we used. The amount of beets we used, up there, and the other vegetables, below, made about fifty servings, at a guess. I'd say just use any quantities you want and experiment, until you get the texture and flavour you are happy with


Young beetroot (with stalks and leaves)
Lemon juice
Sour cream
Natural yoghurt
Salt, pepper, sugar
Boiled eggs or refried potatoes to serve

You make a vegetable stock out of the carrot, parsnip, leek, celeriac, and chopped beets. After about half an hour of cooking time you remove everything from the boiling water, and throw it all away except the beetroot (you can use the cooked veg in a russian salad if you don't want to waste them). Now, you add the finely chopped stalks and leaves and cook for a further 20 min. Once cooked, you let the soup cool - it could take up to two hours. Finally, you add all the other ingredients which have been finely chopped beforehand, as well as the sour cream and yoghurt, which have been blended together. Put this mixture in the fridge for another hour or so before serving. This soup is incredibly refreshing and even though this was the first time I had made it on my own, everyone who stopped by the house and had a bowlful, praised it wholeheartedly. I don't think this is because my chlodnik was better than anyone else's, it's just a soup that you can't fail to appreciate in the 40 degree heat

Tuesday 13 July 2010

Summery Polish food

Poland was unbelievably hot, just how I love it. If you are thinking of going, and you like your weather hot, go in June or July - for the past four years I have been going in August and always catching the storms. No more. I have brought back four great recipes from my stay, but I am not going to be able to write them up today, as I just flew in and I'm knackered. I thought I'd start off by uploading some photos of us (my mum) foraging for food (just buying it really). Most of it was from the local market, so it's all produced by local farmers, and cheaper than the supermarket, unlike in the UK

That's my mum up there with a massive, weird-looking strawberry that ended being a bit of a centre piece on the dinner table for the duration of my stay. The picture really doesn't do it justice, it was an incredibly avant garde piece of fruit

And that, below, is the butchers/meat shop where we get lots of delicious fresh meats, sausages and hams. As well as black pudding for the barbeque, of course. But more on that later. It's next door to the abattoir and I like the building because it reminds me of my childhood

Tuesday 6 July 2010

Bucatini with courgette/zucchini

I discovered this dish when reading an article about various local dishes in different parts of Europe - it is the only part of the article that stuck with me for some reason. Apparently, it is a very common dish for fisherman in a certain part of southern Italy (presumably on days when they don't have fresh fish). I don't know what pasta they use, but I do know that it works well with both bucatini (which I am slightly obsessed with at the moment) and ordinary spaghetti


Bucatini pasta (aprox 100g per person)
Courgette (1 per person) - thinly sliced
Garlic clove
Juice of half a lemon (per person)
Some garlic salt
Olive oil
Black pepper

Sometimes, you don't want to spend ages in the kitchen - you need to do some work, or the cleaning, or whatever, and need something simple, tasty and light. This is the dish for those kind of moments. You cook the pasta in plenty of water, and on a frying pan fry the courgette slices until they get slightly burnt. Then add the garlic, and squeeze the lemon in. Finally, add the pasta to the frying pan and mix together really well, adding garlic salt and black pepper. I am off to Poland tomorrow, therefore have lots of loose ends to tie up, and no time to cook. Whilst there I will cook as many summery Polish dishes I can - I get annoyed about how Polish restaurants always serve pierogi and bigos in the summer, because I don't know anyone in Poland who would eat that kind of food at this time of year - and report back next week

And here's another courgette recipe

Thursday 1 July 2010

Leftover soup

Most Sundays I have some friends over to mine for a roast. Last Sunday, it was lamb with roast potatoes and onions, peas, and mint sauce while we watched England loose painfully to Germany. Almost every week I used to make the same soup from the leftover vegetables and roast carcass - it was a tangy, creamy, Middle-eastern number with rice - truly delicious. Now, however, this soup reminds me of my life with the ex and the trauma of the break-up, so I needed to find another way to utilize the leftovers. One day, I will make the Middle-eastern soup once again, and blog about it here, and then I will know that I am really and truly over it all. I look forward to that day, but until then I must make a different leftover soup. And it is in these circumstances that I have stumbled across a little gem

I covered the carcass, leftover potatoes, rosemary, onions, peas and mint sauce with cold water and brought it to the boil. I let this simmer for a couple of hours and then left to cool. While it was simmering, I soaked some green lentils. When it was back to room temperature, I took the carcass out and pulled all the meaty bits off, putting them back in the pan, and discarding the bones. I added the lentils and cooked the soup once again, until they softened, seasoned it, and ate it for supper with some fresh crusty bread

I ate this for dinner the next day in exactly the same way, adding just a bit more water when cooking. The final day, however, I added a bowl of water to make it the right consistency for a soup, and also a handful of quinoa and some spicy pepper sauce, and created another soup altogether. I can't wait to try making this soup with other leftover roast meats and vegetables, as I have a feeling it will taste completely different every time - a great discovery!