Saturday 31 December 2011

Japanese carrots with black sesame and spinach with white sesame

Since the excesses of Christmas, it's been all about Japanese food for me. So it was fitting that my friend Mariana invited me over to hers to make sushi on Friday night. It was loads of fun, and apparently I'm an extremely gifted roller. It must be a skill I acquired in my wilder days. Yet despite my natural talents in the sushi making department, I want to do it a couple more times before I tell you about it. Besides, we didn't have any fresh fish so it was mainly vegetarian sushi. That's some of it down there, that we had left over from last night. As I'm not one of those girls who is satisfied with a few bits of sushi for lunch, I also made carrots in black sesame, spinach in white sesame (both from Simply Japanese), and grilled some smoked mackerel which I served on a bed of brown rice. Well, its New Year's Eve, I have to get my strength up!


Carrots, peeled and chopped into little strips
White sesame seeds
Black sesame seeds
Maple syrup
Soya sauce

Blanche the vegetable for a few minutes, then cool. The carrots go with the black sesame - the seeds I bought were already in powder form, if yours are whole then blitz them in the food processor with equal amounts of maple syrup and soya sauce - for 2 carrots use 2 Tblsp of each. Squeeze the water out of the spinach and chop it up. Combine with the white sesame seeds which have been blended with soya sauce and maple syrup - for a whole bag of spinach I used 2 Tblsp of each. My white sesame seeds were whole so I ground them with a pestle and mortar. I think it looks prettier when there are still some whole ones about, like minature petals decorating the food. And since Japanese is supposed to be a feast for the eyes as well as the taste buds, I would go with them in the future. Miso soup would have completed this meal, but I forgot to buy it :(

Thursday 29 December 2011

Taro root with maple dipping sauce

Although reading cookbooks is one of my favourite things in this world, I normally struggle to find even a handful of recipes that I really want to try out. Yet there is one book that I have renewed three times already and never, ever want to return to the library - 'Simply Japanese" by Yoko Arimoto. I love the way it's all so simple, just like it says on the tin, yet each recipe is fascinating to me
Today, I found some taro root in the Japanese Centre. I've never cooked taro root before. Yoko suggests microwaving or steaming for 20min, but I just boiled them for about 15min instead. She said that if you score them, then then you can squeeze them out of their skins easily when cooked. This was not the case. I was scraping the skin off with my nails and shoveling them into my mouth, after dipping them messily (read dropping) in the sauce. Slippery little blighters, those taro. If you imagine a woodland creature gnawing on some tricky piece of bark, trying desperately to get inside and eat the contents (perhaps some bugs, I'm not sure what woodland creatures eat exactly) then you won't be far off. I was ever so hungry, you see, after my hardcore Kundalini class. Finally, on the last one I got it - their slipperiness can work to your advantage - if you rub and squeeze them hard enough, their skin really does slip off! Hallelujah! My dipping sauce was a mixture of soya sauce and maple syrup, a variation on Yoko's yellow miso and maple syrup one, and they tasted like a welcome cross between a chestnut and a potato

Sunday 25 December 2011

A few fishy things aka A Polish Christmas

We are not a religious family. And yet around Christmas my mum likes to pretend we are, and we all like to go along with it, even though it makes no sense at all. So on Friday, were fasted. Traditionally, you fast on Christmas Eve, and the main meal, which consists of 12 dishes, includes no meat. But my mum got all mixed up and thought that it was Good Friday, so we fasted for 2 days. By fasted, I mean we ate no meat but huge amounts of everything else. By the time I realized that this year Christmas made even less sense than before, because mum had it mixed up with Easter, it was too late to stop. And I prefer fish to meat on the whole anyway, so it didn't matter. We made this delicious fish soup, and also fish is aspic (jelly), as it's one of the traditional dishes for Christmas Eve. The fishy jelly thing was something I always avoided until I had a delicious version a few years back at the "Palac Ujazdowski" in Warsaw, next to the Centre of Modern Art. The difference was that it had three types of fish in it, instead of one, and the jelly had a lot of flavour, which sometimes it doesn't. Then it just tastes gross, as you'd imagine with a mildly fishy jelly. The one we made had 2 types of fish in it, and turned out really well. Though it's definitely not for the unadventurous out there...
Fish Soup 

A whole white fish
Juice of half a lemon
Bay leaf
Juniper berries
Salt and pepper
Single cream
Bit of flour for thickening

You make a fish and vegetable stock from the carrot, parsnip, leek, celery, bay leaf, juniper berries and the head and tail of the fish - it takes about half an hour to an hour. We used the stock to cook the fish for the recipe below, then separated the stock into two bits - one for the jelly, one for the soup. Into the soup one, we added the white fish and cooked it for about 10min. Then, you need to remove the fish and the vegetables. With the fish - take out the bones, chop it into small bits and put back into the bowl. With the carrot - chop it up and stick it back in the soup, but make sure you keep some for decorating the jellied fish if you are making both recipes! Chop up the leek too and stick it back in. You can chuck the other veg.  Add the single cream. Mix about a tablespoon of flour with some water and add that while the soup is coolish, then bring back to the boil while stirring constantly. Season to taste. Add the lemon juice and dill, and serve with crusty bread
Jellied fish

Vegetable and fish stock (described above)
Bit of trout
Bit of carp
Cooked carrot
Bit of lemon
Salt and pepper
Mayo or lemon wedge to serve

 We cooked the fish in the stock  - the carp first for 8 minutes, then the trout for about 7 minutes, then removed them and tried to take out as many bones we could. If you can get fillets, then spare yourself the hassle of doing this, it's no fun. Then cut the fish into little bits and place on a serving bowl in a way that looks attractive - I did little diagonal patterns as you can see up there. Add the bits of cooked carrot, parsley and lemon. Take the stock and add a squeeze of lemon. Now, stir in the gelatine. Season to taste and make sure it tastes good to you at this point. Cover everything on the serving plate in the stock/jelly-to-be, and allow to cool at room temperature before chilling in the fridge. Serve with a lemon wedge or mayo

Friday 23 December 2011

My birthday cake

I've had a lot of crap birthdays. It may be something to do with my birthday being so close to Christmas (21st December)... But this year I decided to have a fabulous one instead. I started celebrating on Friday 16th and felt like it was my birthday until Thursday 22nd. I celebrated across three countries and with about 50 different people in total. This is the cake I had for breakfast in a small castle near Poznan
It was light and fluffy with dark chocolate topping and a blueberry filling - beautiful. And this is the delicious venison I ate while celebrating in a restaurant in Holland - "De Woord" near Wintersveik (I recommend highly at this time of year, when they have the "Wild" menu i.e. game season)
And that's me, my mum and my favourite auntie up there, in her converted farmhouse in The Netherlands. She's just beaten breast cancer and is looking fabulous!

I've had a lot of time to think in the last few days, travelling across Europe. While reading my present from Ruby - "Icons of Fashion: 20th Century" - one thing in particular has stood out and inspired me, which I promised myself that I'd keep in mind while writing my cookbook, although I think you can apply it to anything creative:

"It is very important to preserve traditions and culture. The idea is not... to make sweeping changes, but to be careful not to do things in the same way"

.("Comme de Garcons" founder Rei Kawakubo)

Saturday 17 December 2011

Astrid's German and Finnish Christmas Cookies

My no-sugar resolution has gone to the dogs. Or perhaps the reindeers, since it's all the fault of Christmas. It's difficult to work out exactly where this slippery slope began, but if I absolutely had to point my finger somewhere, I would point it in the direction of Astrid and her Christmas cookies
So at least I can say I went down with style and good taste, rather than with a king sized tin of Quality Street
My favourite ones were the cinnamon stars, and so in the spirit of festive sharing, I now offer them to you, my friends...


3 egg-whites
250 gr icing sugar
300 gr ground almonds
50-100 gr ground hazelnuts
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp rum
freshly grated lemon zest 

Look no flour! So in fact they are just pure goodness. Ahem. Beat the egg whites until stiff, then slowly start adding the icing sugar. Put 4 heaped tbsp of the stiff mix into a separate bowl for the icing. Mix the almonds, spices and egg-mix. Slowly add hazelnuts until the dough isn’t too moist to roll. Roll dough to about 5mm thickness between layers of cling-film. Using a star shaped cookie cutter make individual cookies and put on baking paper on a baking tray. Mix the egg-whites you’ve put aside with the rum and cover the top of the cookies with a thin layer. Put the baking tray into the middle layer of the oven and bake for 10-20 min at about 150°C. Best made with friends and washed down with a light German red such as the Trollinger up there

Wednesday 14 December 2011

Gwyneth Paltrow's Kale Crisps

Without actively disliking her, I've never been a massive fan of Gwyneth Paltrow. Probably completely unfairly, I found her vaguely annoying. I think she reminded me of someone at school or something, one of those competitive, over-achieving types of girls... But all is forgiven now Gwynnie, because your kale crisps are a revelation! We were munching on these last night at our girlie Christmas get-together and we must have eaten a couple of bags of kale between us at least. They are so easy to make, and almost impossible to stop eating. And in my humble opinion, they're much tastier than crisps anyway

Take some kale, don't wash it, but do add sea salt
And olive oil according to Gwinnie, or hemp oil according to us
Place on a baking tray and stick in the oven for 12-15min at 200 degrees
Or until crispy
Pour into a bowl and munch happily while chatting and drinking mango bellinis/mulled wine/baileys on ice (or a combination of all three) with your girlfriends

Sunday 11 December 2011

Buen Ayre on Broadway Market

I can be such a bad friend sometimes. When I have a guest visiting me, I use it as an excuse to do stuff that I really want to do. Instead of trying to find out where my friend wants to go for dinner, what they really feel like eating on their rare trip to London, I give the impression that I'm asking, whilst making sure that the place I want to go seems by far the best option. And after a few months living with the resolution to limit my meat intake, I was dying to go to Buen Ayre on Broadway Market. I've never been here, you see, because you can rarely get a table if you pop in - it's very popular. And now I know why. The meat. And the wine
I completely forgot about this beauty from the Gougenheim Winery. A couple of years ago this was my favourite wine - all the memories came flooding back as if I'd just sat down to a meal with someone who had once meant everything to me but I hadn't thought of for a long time. Which actually happened later on this weekend, but that's another story. However, while revisiting old relationships isn't usually the cleverest idea (I should know, I've done it enough times), going back to old wines is precisely the opposite
We shared the marinated ox tongue to start, with a side salad, and we both followed it by the smaller of the sirloin steaks. There's not much to say about that, because it was perfect. And we all know exactly what that tastes like. If you don't, then you'd better get yourself to Buen Ayre pronto! The staff are really friendly too, flirty without being obnoxious or sleazy. It was weirdly smoky when we went in, due to the indoor grill but they managed to sort that out pretty quickly. Pricewise, I'd say it's kind of average, £35 per head including wine

Wednesday 7 December 2011

Pomegranate porridge

This is possibly the messiest breakfast I have ever made
It's also one of the most delicious. I cook the oats with either goat's milk or soya milk, a pinch of salt, a large teaspoon of honey and pomegranate seeds. If you get the seeds from a fresh pomegranate, you may want to make sure your pjs are covered up, because it's a bloodbath
And this is porridge with banana, honey and almonds. Also tasty (though I prefer the pomegranate), but nowhere near as messy. Not messy at all in fact, unless you drop and spill things because you're still half asleep

Thursday 1 December 2011

Mum's "kotlet" on rye bread with pickled mushrooms for lunch

I loved having my mum come to stay last week, even though my flat is so tidy now, that I can't find a thing. Not that it's usually massively messy, I'm just quite laissez-faire while my mum's standards are very, very high. It caused a lot of stress between us when we lived together, with my mum always striving for perfection and young me striving for freedom, but I like to think that now we've learnt to love certain differences between us, and accept the other ones
A "kotlet" is something between a burger and a meatball, and my mum's ones are fantastic. It's great with mash, gravy and gherkins for dinner, but I've always prefererd them cold, cut into slices and served in an open sandwich with mustard, just like that up there. Here's the recipe for about 12 of these babies:


500g minced pork
500g minced beef
2 eggs
2 toast - soaked in milk for 10min then squeezed
Onion - chopped finely and fried gently until soft
1 tsp paprika (or any other spice that you like)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

You mix all the ingredients with your hands, squeezing and mashing for about 5min. Then rinse your hands in cold water, so you can form the cutlets. You want them to have a flat shape, then you cover them with breadcrumbs and fry for 3min each side. Finally, put them all in a baking dish, cover in the oil they've been fried in and give them another 15min in the oven. Apparently, some people feel this dries them out and use the method of pouring stock over the whole lot and finishing them off on the stove, but I prefer them a bit drier myself. Probably because that's the way my mum makes them, and that always tastes the best, right?

Sunday 27 November 2011

Jose in London Bridge

I have walked past here a few times now and always wanted to go in and sample the tasty-looking tapas - it looks just like a typical little restaurant you'd find in Barcelona. In fact, it is one. Except that it's in London Bridge. It's new and a real find, I haven't had jamon this good outside of Spain. My favourite dish was a shocker, as I would never, ever order baby potatoes with chicken. But it was the first time I'd tried romesco sauce, and it was a true revelation (it's the photo with my hand in it).
Other stuff was good too. Though Petey pointed out that the hake up there with the morcilla would have tasted better with the vegetable ratatouille-type stuff just above it, whereas the duck egg would have been better suited to the black pudding. He was right, of course. The joys of going to dinner with a chef... Actually, it was fantastic for me, because before our other friend, Tish, joined us, we managed to talk food for about two hours, and there's little I love more than talking food. Yet I always feel a bit guilty when I realise other people are not as interested as me in some cheese or cookbook I've been going on about for twenty minutes. But Petey is
And there's Tishy leaving the join in a typically dramatic fashion. The whole meal, for three, with plenty of wine was about £80. And there's a great cocktail bar just down the road, if you don't want your night to end here, but unfortunately I can't recall the name

Saturday 26 November 2011

A Silver Bullet at Anchor and Hope

It takes a mean drink to drag me away from my dirty (read filthy) vodka martinis. Meet Silver Bullet
It's 1.5 measures vodka to 1 measure Kummel
A Silver Bullet is ideal as an aperitif, because of the slight bitter note that sharpens the appetite. Kummel is flavoured with caraway seeds. Unfortunately, we didn't eat at the Anchor and Hope last night, as my friend, Petey, is a chef there and, understandably, wanted to try something new. Fortunately, we ate at another place I've always wanted to try, which is Jose in London Bridge. It was a fabulous meal, which I'll tell you about tomorrow. I am still too tired and hungover to write about it properly now

Thursday 17 November 2011

Japanese-Polish-Russian sandwiches

So Japanese-Polish-Russian fusion - don't ever say that I don't show you anything new. I'm being fasetious, of course, normally I would never attempt something like this. It brings to mind the time we were in a chalet in the French Alps and the guy running it made us moussaka and a stir fry. My dad said "right let's see what we've got here - Greece and China. I think there's a reason why those countries are so far apart". The English families thought he was terribly rude of course, but I thought he'd made a good point. We went out for fondue and raclette after that. However, despite my bad fusion connotations, I wanted to make a Japanese style sandwich, because I saw one in my favourite-for-now cookbook, Simply Japanese, as well as this blog. And I had filling left over from my Polish Russian-style dumplings...
So, I used the technique of rolling each slice of bread until it's very, very thin (crusts off), from this recipe for Nori and Mimolette sandwiches
I think her knife's better than mine, though, because my sandwiches are nowhere near as neat! And then the filling left over from my dumpling days was a rough mixture of ricotta, boiled potato and fried onion (in butter). In terms of aesthetics, I think my sandwich needs another layer - ham perhaps; in terms of taste - it was perfect for lunch, served with a cup of instant borsht. My colleague, Matt, who had a sample, agreed that the weird experiment had, in fact, paid off

Tuesday 15 November 2011

Koya on Frith Street

I was going to say that if you're a patient person, then Koya is the best place to eat a cheap meal in Soho. But I'm one of the most impatient people I know and I still loved it, so that doesn't really work. I guess some things are just worth the wait
So as long as you have the time to queue for a table, then wait to get served, then wait for your food, then this is the best place for a cheap meal in Soho. Two of us ate cold udon with warm duck, one of us a butter bean and clam stew. Everything was delicious, to the point where the conversation completely ceased as we ate. We were also very hungry by that point (I may have said I'll eat my own arm if we don't get our food soon). Yet, as soon as we left, there was regret - we should have stayed for longer and sampled more...
Instead, we went to see Melancholia at the Prince Charles cinema. It was packed so we sat in the front row. Massive mistake - the film is shot on a hand held camera. Within half an hour I was wondering whether the food had any hidden milk products in it. Half an hour after that, the woman sitting next to me took her smelly trainers off, which was the last straw for me. I lent over to Harriett and said that I'm going to have to leave as I feel so sick. She felt exactly the same, as did Hannah -we had all been suffering in silence. For one brief moment we wondered whether it was the food, but that's practically impossible - it tasted fresher and healthier than anything I'd eaten in a long time. We'll be going back to double check shortly. Probably for a weekend lunch though, in the hope that the wait will be at least a bit shorter

Saturday 12 November 2011

Garlic girolles on toast (with an incredibly filthy vodka martini)

I have a confession to make. I though girolles were chanterelles for years. Until this very day actually, when I went to Borough Market with my dad and all became clear. Well, kind of. I'm still confused as to what chanterelles are to be perfectly honest- the ones I saw were very dark brown, and I though they were supposed to be rust-coloured. I clearly know my mushrooms better in Polish than I do in English, or French even. And even that doesn't mean I'd take anyone I care about mushroom picking, because I could all too easily poison them. If you have any people you don't like, however, who just love mushrooms - send them right this way, because I do so love mushroom picking
So here are my girolles sauteed in plenty of butter, with a couple of cloves of garlic chucked in, and some salt. Then served on a piece of lovely, seedy toast...
And that's an incredibly filthy vodka martini to wash it all down with. No one would dare to serve it this filthy in a bar, but that's just how I like it. It took me all evening to take a picture where this drink looks even vaguely decent. I must be drunk. I've also been musing on how a drink this beautiful and sophisticated can look so much like pond water... what does it all mean?

Monday 7 November 2011

Pork hock and kale mash in Eastbourne

I went to Eastbourne at the weekend. I used to hate it there as a teenager ("where are the cool shops/bars/clubs?") but with time I've grown to appreciate this sleepy seaside town. I love walking on the South Downs, trawling the charity shops and watching the sea. Although I'm sure that I've changed a lot since I was a teenager, this is one of the only things that I actually feel has changed inside me.  Whenever I come here, I read some of my old diaries. I have hundreds of them, as I've been writing since I was 12, and read Anne Frank. Sometimes they make me cringe, other times they make me laugh, but this time what I read just made me really sad. Between the lines, there seemed to be this longing for something pure and good that was forever out of reach, and I had no idea how to find. What cheered me up, however, and what I initially wanted to share with you, was this dinner my mum made. With a little help from me, in the form of drinking wine, chatting and grating cheese
It's a pork hock, otherwise known as knuckle. The one up there was already prepared (mum brought it  from Holland, where it's more popular than here) but if you buy this at the butcher, you need to cook it for a looong time in some kind of sauce. Beer and a bay leaf work well. If you have a slow cooker, you could leave it on all day, otherwise I reckon about 3 hours, but you'll know when it's ready as the meat will be practically falling off the bone. The mash was extra creamy, as mum used double cream instead of milk. We mashed it with salt and then added chopped and sauteed kale. Then, just to be really healthy we put loads of cheddar on top and baked it in the oven until the cheese melted. Amazing.

Friday 4 November 2011

A couple of beetroot salads

One of the few good things about working in the arse-end of nowhere, is that you are close to the countryside. In our case, that means Osterley Park and a great farm shop selling fruit and vegetables grown on the grounds. I always get tempted into buying something. I mean, look - massive local beetroot at 20p each. And they look so autumnal sitting there, nestling among the chestnut leaves
Since I'm all about being healthy and pure right now (last two weekends excluded), I decided to make a couple of salads - one more Mediterranean, one Eastern European in flavour. The beetroots need to be cooked for about 40min, cooled, then peeled first
Mediterranean Beetroot Salad

Sunflower seeds, toasted
Hallumi cheese, fried in olive oil until crispy
Squeeze of lemon juice
Olive oil
Black pepper
East European Beetroot Salad

Tiny potatoes, cooked, cooled and halved
Creme fraiche/yoghurt

Saturday 29 October 2011

Herrings in a sour sauce with apple and juniper berries

Juniper berries aren't so common in British cuisine. Which is strange since they are so typical of this country that in Poland they are literally called "the English herb". They are used a lot over there
Check my little bento box out! The herring was fine, but it won't be going in the book - only the best herrings go in the book. So, if you woke up this morning with a craving for a sour, fishy snack (hmmmm... does that ever happen?) then here's the recipe


4 herring filets (Matijas, in oil)
2 lemons
1 apple, peeled and chopped
Handful of juniper berries
Salt and pepper

You need to boil the lemons for about half an hour, then remove from the water and take the pulp out.  Slice the herring and place a layer in the serving dish, followed by a layer of lemon pulp, a layer of apple some crushed juniper berries and seasoning. Keep going like this until the dish is full, then pour some oil over the top. Preferably sunflower or vegetable oil as olive oil is too strong for this

Sunday 23 October 2011

Breakfast in bed - bagels with spicy, chive scrambled eggs

Because I'm worth it. And so are you...
There's no better way to recover from a successful Saturday night, than by lounging in bed with tea, warm food and plenty of reading material (cookbooks in my case). The bagels are from the bagel shop on Brick Lane, as usual. Incidentally, fresh, warm bagels are one of the best things I have ever tasted (this thought occurred to me as I was shoveling one into my mouth just 24 hours prior to this breakfast taking place). The eggs are scrambled with the addition of chives, salt and pepper, then finished off with more ground pepper and tabasco. An ex boyfriend of mine, Layo, taught me the secret of beautifully scrambled eggs, that I will now share with you - it's the slow pace. You keep stirring, on the lowest possible heat, and don't be tempted to rush the process. Patience in a virtue.

Friday 21 October 2011

Warming wild rabbit stew/soup

Vegetarians look away now - it's shooting season in the UK and the butcher shops are full of pheasant, partridge, grouse and wild rabbit. I am typing this while eating a delicious rabbit and spinach stew/soup (depending on how you look at it), the recipe for which I would like to share with you, even though it was a by-product of another dish I was making - a "huntsman bake", for which I needed strips of rabbit. So, I was left with the bones with plenty of meat still attached, that I didn't have the will to scrape off with my not-so-great knife. I covered these in cold water, added a couple of bay leaves, a cinnamon stick and some garlic cloves and allowed to boil for 2-3 hours, adding water as it evaporated. I then allowed it to cool, and the next day, I took the carcass out, pulling any meat off it. I brought the stock back to the boil, this time adding lots of pearl barley. When the grains were soft, I added spinach leaves, salt, pepper, a squeeze of lemon and finished it off with tabasco


Rabbit carcass (preferably in bits and with some meat still on it)
Pearl barley
Cinnamon stick
2 bay leaves
3 garlic cloves
Squeeze of lemon
Salt and pepper

In doing research for my cookbook, I've been learning about hunting in Eastern Europe. A fact that made me particularly proud of my countrymen was that, throughout Polish history, women were just as keen hunters as men. One piece of poetry that I read, from the 16th Century, suggested that many men found women more attractive in this sort of pursuit than dolled up in tight dresses! This makes me happy because it feels like the ultimate liberation from stereotypes. It's men loving women for what they are, and women being free to be what they are - natural, strong and fierce - rather than feeling forced to create a permanent ladylike illusion. There's hope yet...

Monday 17 October 2011

Apricotina with almond stuffing

I don't know if you've heard, but I am trying not to eat (processed) sugar. It's become a bit of an ongoing joke at work, because I blatantly do still eat it. The point is, I am trying. I definitely don't eat it every day now. You may be thinking "why?". Well, it's because I feel that I am addicted to it - I swear that trying to give it up has been harder than giving up smoking. I also want to be free of the ups and downs in mood that sugar creates. I have enough of those without it, thank you very much. Having said all this (and now you'll know why this has become a bit of a joke), I have a friend coming round for dinner today, and I'd hate to deprive her of a dessert. I can't blog about any more sugar-free flapjacks, as the whole point of this blog is to introduce you (and me) to new things, to be creative and inspiring, so I will give up on the giving up for one night only. And probably a few other days and nights when I am tempted by something which is worth breaking the rules for. After all, life would be pretty joyless if you never broke your own rules
Apricotina are Middle-Eastern apricot drops, which take about 5min to make. You grab some dried apricots and mince them - I used about 150g and a blender, you could also chop them really finely. You then mix them with about half a tablespoon of icing sugar, kneeding them to paste, before rolling them in more icing sugar until they're pretty little balls. I stuffed an almond in the middle, Claudia Rodin (A New Book of Middle Eastern Cooking) suggests a mixture of ground almonds and sugar as stuffing. I think they're delicious with mint tea, my friend Mariana says they're like something from outer space

Saturday 15 October 2011

Herrings in prune sauce and the secret of happiness

I've been incredibly busy recently. I have so many projects going on outside of my full time job, that everyone keeps saying to me "you must be really tired". The truth is that I'm really not. I feel like I've stumbled upon a secret - the secret being, that doing what you truly love gives you energy rather than taking it away. I spent most of my twenties feeling tired, slightly bored and looking for distractions. Always the next party, the next holiday, the next boyfriend, and it all seemed great from the outside, but I was never happy, I never even knew the meaning of the word. Now, finally I am starting to understand... from what I gather, happiness is something that comes from deep within you, and it's a calm feeling, nothing to do with being hyper. Also, it needs time and space to develop, because to be truly happy you need to know that you are on the right path in life, and that comes from some serious soul searching. In the past year or so, everything has changed for me. As one of my best friends, Anna, said - I've been through a renaissance. Sometimes, a really horrible experience in your life (like my break-up a year and a half ago), can lead to an amazing rebirth. The thing is, so far, only people that really know me can see this shift, because on the outside nothing much has changed (apart from my buying a flat) - I guess that will happen as my plans come into fruition. I won't drag you through all my deepest dreams and desires right now, but one of them is to write a Polish/Russian cookbook. I am at the stage where I am trying, developing and revising all the recipes to go in it. I will blog about half the recipes I try out - it's a compromise between documenting the process and keeping new material for the book itself

1 packet Matijas herrings (in oil) - 250g
1-2 onions, finely sliced
Handful of prunes
3 tablespoons tomato puree
Teaspoon honey
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
So, what we've got here are bagels from the shop on Brick Lane, stuffed with a sweet herring filling. There are so many different types of herring dishes in Poland, that it will be difficult to choose which ones to include in my book. This is a version of "Sledz pomorski" - that's from the Kaszuby region in the north of Poland, by the Baltic sea. They usually use raisins, but I prefer prunes. Fry the onions in the oil, covered, for about 20min. Add the prunes (sliced in half), honey, salt and pepper. Fry for a further 5min, then add splash of water, or wine if you have some on hand. Meanwhile, chop the herring fillets and place in a bowl. When the sauce has cooled, cover the herrings with it, and chill in the fridge overnight. The brand of herrings us Poles always use are "Matijas" ones - the plainest possible, just in oil. Before they came along, and still in some places in Poland, you can get herrings straight from the barrel

Monday 10 October 2011

Honey, date and walnut flapjacks, sugarfree

You may be wondering what's going on with all the flapjack recipes recently. The truth is, since I liberated myself from the maple and sesame flapjack, there's been a bit of an oaty orgy going on at my house. So here were are - another brilliant combination. I'm starting to think you can't really go wrong with them, though of course I should know that you can go wrong with anything. So if you want a formula then I guess it's this: 3 cups oats to 1 cup something crunchy and nutty and 1 cup something sweet and chewy (plus butter and some kind of sweetner). This time I've sweetened them with delicious honey from some distant family's beehives in Poland


3 cups oats
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup chopped dates
200g butter
1 cup honey

Friday 7 October 2011

Germain in Paris

I had another one of my impromptu Paris trips this week, to see an old friend, and would like to recommend a restaurant (which was recommended to us) even though it is a little on the pricey side. The whole of Paris appears to be a bit on that side lately...
Having dinner here felt like having a dinner inside a David Lynch film. Although, someone has subsequently told me that there is an actual David Lynch restaurant in Paris. So I must check that one out next time and compare. Not that I'm a massive fan of Lynch, I just love "Wild at Heart" really, which probably reveals how terribly un-avant-garde I am
I had a delicious steak tartare and the best fries ever. I'm not normally a fan of fries but the French appear have a way with them. The bread and butter weren't to be sniffed at either. And the salmon "bio" that Cat ordered and shared with me, was melt-in-your-mouth gorgeousness. Two main courses and two drinks each set us back just over 90 Euros. But you could easily spend that in Paris somewhere where the service is slow and snooty, and the food not as good. The waiter here was lovely on the other hand
You may have guessed that it's in Saint Germain, which was really fun and buzzy this time of year - everyone sitting outside drinking and smoking, just like this hipstamatic view from the restaurant
Paris, je t'aime

Saturday 1 October 2011

3-in-1 review: Corner Room, Bonnington Cafe and Ephesus

A heat-wave's hit London, so I've been eating out a lot recently. When it's boiling hot here, everyone goes out. The thing is, if London was sunny and warm the whole time, it just wouldn't be London. But when it is... it's the best place in the world. My favourite place, and the one I have literally just discovered (tonight) is Corner Room in Bethnal Green. I won't lie to you - aesthetics are incredibly important to me in a restaurant. Not more important than the food, no way, but on a par with, definitely. And Corner Room, aesthetically speaking, is so cool
We decided that the look was 'inter-war period industrial-surreal"
You can't book a table - you just turn up
The portions are laughingly small and you have to ask the staff to please stop topping your water up becasue it's so frequent that it's annoying...
Yet it's an original (I would say beautiful, but beauty is in the eye of the beholder) place with incredible food
I would order the pigeon again, but not the Japanese radish (?) sorbet you can see up here with what looks like snail slime around it. The main point here is that with some places, it's worth taking a risk. Another one of these places is the Bonnigton Cafe in Vauxhall. It used to be a squat and now it's a lucrative community project. Every night is a different cook, but you can always get two courses for a tenner, and bring your own wine. You also have to book a table way in advance by emailing the chef on duty that night
And you always leave this place feeling both full and extremely healthy
It's not haute-cuisine, as you can see, but if you like trying new things, then it's worth a pop. Then there was Ephesus on Broadway Market. It's a new place with lots of lamps hanging from the ceiling -actually, this is something it has in common with Corner Room
The food is also delicious, except the portions are massive
I don't know why I am trying to compare the two, because you can't really. Ephesus is homely, healthy Greek/Turkish food, while Corner Room is edgy, avant-garde Spanish. I'd say both are worth a visit. But if you have to choose just one, then I'd always go weird