Tuesday 30 August 2011

Waffles in Warsaw

 Gofry, or waffles, were a rare treat during the bleak communist era
They're still as delicious now as they were then, the only difference being the massive choice of toppings. Up there on the left, is a cinnamon apple one with cream, and on the right, it's the cream with dried fruit and nuts in some kind of syrup. You can buy them in lots of places around the Old Town and Nowy Swiat in Warsaw. If you come and visit in the summer, and you want to do as the locals do, then go get yourself one pronto!

Monday 29 August 2011

Cold sorrel soup

If you read this blog, then you may know already that in the summer, just like the Spanish eat gazpacho, we the Polaks, eat chlodnik. A couple of days ago, we tried something completely different and a little bit naughty - instead of the traditional beetroot, we used sorrel
In the UK, you may need to go to a Farmers' Market to get some. We picked it from the field oppsite our house. Being the graceful nymph that I am, I quickly picked a good sorrel spot and found a nice little area to park my behind. I soon learnt that my perfect seat was, in actual fact, an ants' nest. Needless to say that the valiant ants mobilized their forces and fought back the intruder. If you still feel like venturing out and seeing if you can find some, it looks like that down there. To be sure, just chew on a bit of a leaf - if it tastes sour, then you're in business

150g sorrel leaves (and stalks too)
2 Polish cucumbers (the size of a hand) or 1 English one
Large handful chives
1l vegetable stock
4 eggs
100ml natural yoghurt
100ml single cream
Salt and pepper
Chilli flakes
And those are my grans separating the sorrel from the weeds...so if you've picked your own this is the first job. Then, you need to make the stock, whatever kind you're using. Clean and chop the sorrel, cover with the stock, and allow to cool. In the meantime, hard boil the eggs as well as finely chopping the cucumber and chives. Once the soup has cooled to room temperature, mix everything together, apart from the eggs. Cool for at least an hour in the fridge. When serving, add the eggs and finish off with more chilli flakes. You could add a squeeze of lemon if you like, although you shouldn't need to. I always do, because if something is sour or spicy, I like to feel it. Anyway, here are a few cool things I saw on our adventure in the fields...
An ants' nest, not unlike the one I sat on
"Kozak" - A handsome, tasty mushroom we call a Cossack
 And a sleepy transformation

Sunday 28 August 2011

"Pascha" recipe - A Jewish/Russian creamy dessert

In my family "pascha" (the sweet, not the club) was considered to be a Jewish dish, but the recipe we  used is apparently Russian. Everything is quite mixed up in this part of the world. Especially the people, myself included. Although I'm Polish, my dad's mum was born in Lithuania, and his dad in Kazahstan. My mum's family have been living in this area (around Warsaw) for many years, although they do not look typically Polish. When trying to trace the family tree back, you get stuck on a guy a couple of generations back who was very dark and didn't speak the language. He ended up having six children with an ancestor of mine, and dying young, having never learnt to speak Polish, or even say whereabouts he actually came from. How you have six children with a man you can't communicate with is a mystery. Perhaps he was extremely good looking. And then there's no arguing or being disappointed because someone's views are so different to your own... on second thoughts, it could well be the secret of a successful relationship. Anyway, back to the probably Jewish, possibly Russian "pascha"

1.5 kg soft white cheese, like ricotta
150g flaked almonds, toasted
250g soft butter
250g sugar
5 egg yolks
2tsp vanilla essence
300ml single cream
150g dried fruit (raisins, candied orange peel, chopped dates etc) 
The only slightly complicated thing about "pascha" is the mould. You need a plastic one. If it has a lid, then you'll need to put some holes in it, so the juices can flow out while it's cooling. If it doesn't have a lid, then you'll need to put a plate underneath it while it is setting. Obviously, you don't want the thing to fall out when you turn it over, so it's best to press a plate onto it when it's still upside down, and only turn it over, once it's already getting solid - that could take about an hour. And then there's the gauze. That will need to line the "tin" (it's in inverted commas, as it needs to be plastic, though I do wonder if a metal one wouldn't be just fine, as long as you didn't touch it when it was hot), and there will need to be enough to cover the "bottom" too (and this is in inverted commas, because it will be the top, when you are making it). I hope I haven't confused you. Here's a photo, which may illustrate things better than all my words
Right, put the soft butter in a large bowl. Start adding the sugar bit by bit and blending it in with a wooden spoon, followed by the egg yolks and white cheese - first, a bit of one then a bit of the other. Keep blending all the time. You could use an electric or manual blender for this, we preferred the good, old wooden spoon. When the mixture is creamy and fluffy, add the cream and pour into a large pan. In the meantime, toast the almond flakes. Now, you need to bring the mixture to boil, slowly, stirring all the time. This took us forever. My mum and myself took it in turns to stir, because it was so tiring, and took so much longer than we expected. Finally, when the bubbles appear, add the almonds and the dried fruit (all chopped up finely if it isn't small already, like a raisin). Now you can pour it into the gauze-lined mould, and take the steps I've already described. Cool for 12 hours. A lovely desert for a hot day

Monday 22 August 2011

Polish summery salad or cottage cheese, radishes and chives

I've been thinking about this Polish summery salad for a while now. It's been "following me", as they say back in the homeland. And even though I'm off to Poland at the end of the week, I couldn't wait. Besides, I make it in my own special, English way, using cottage cheese, and that's the way I like it

Cottage cheese

Just make sure that the chives and radishes are finely chopped. That's all. I was at a friend's BBQ the other day and her Polish boyfriend made this salad in the authentic way, using a combination of proper Polish, white cheese and yoghurt. It tastes a bit different to my version and has the consistency of a dip. But since I can't always get to a Polish shop, I've been making it like this for years, and now I'm not sure which one I prefer 

By the by, don't you think my photos are improving? I could still do with a better camera, and loads more practice, a bit of talent would be nice, but if you look at some of my earlier posts, you can really tell the difference! 

Saturday 20 August 2011

Bling napkins

I love these napkins!
Apparently, you can get toilet paper like this too, from the pound shop in Dalston

Yucatecan Chicken Soup to make you feel better

All around the world, when ill, people eat chicken soup. One of the best is a really simple Polish/Jewish- style one called rosol. My mum and gran used to make it all the time when I was little. Once I was so ill that it was the only thing I was allowed to eat for three days. Since then, rosol has been a no-go for me. However, I have been feeling unwell for a day and a bit now, which has left me both starving and feeling a bit frightened of food, so chicken soup it is. I dug out a recipe that I found in the metro about two years ago - yes, I keep all the good ones - for a Yucatecan one (that's sort of Mexican, if you have no idea what I'm talking about). It's a bit like rosol, but tangy and spicy - my kind of thing. I went and bought myself a nice, free range chicken thigh from Ginger Pig (of course) , and then nearly burned the house down. I decided to make the stock while running a few errands, but I forgot to cover the chicken with water. As I said, I've been really out of it. Luckily, when I came back about an hour later, the chicken skin was brown on one side and the flat smelled really strongly of roast chicken but was all in one piece
As you can see, I was so hungry that I imagined myself capable of eating a whole salad-bowl of soup. In fact, my stomach has shrunk and I was full after just a few mouthfuls, but that's not a reflection on its deliciousness. I will now happily eat it for the next three days


1 chicken thigh
1 medium onion
2 carrots
1 celery stick
1 orange
3 limes
1 red chilli
1 garlic clove
Fresh coriander
All purpose seasoning/Allspice
Salt and pepper
Olive oil

So, what I was supposed to do was to boil the chicken thigh, along with a carrot, a celery stick, half an onion and a bit of the coriander for about half an hour. On the side, you make a sofrito - chop and fry the following: the other half of the onion, the other carrot, a garlic clove, the chilli and the tomatoes with a teaspoon of allspice or all purpose seasoning. Then, take all the stuff out of the stock and mix the two (you may want to a ladle-full of stock to the sofrito first, to catch all the flavours). Simmer for another 20 minutes, and while that's happening, take the skin off the chicken, and flake all the meat off, adding it back into the soup. Squeeze the orange and limes in, add the coriander, season and serve
Strangely, I've found that being ill can give you clarity. Having some time just lying on your bed with nothing to do but reflect on yourself and your life is clearly good thing

Sunday 14 August 2011

A couple of delicious wines from the Wente Estate in California

Discovered some great new wines in Friday's wine tasting at City Beverage. We were tasting various wines from California but my favourites were from the Wente Estate Vinyards, which double up as a yoga school apparently. Wine and yoga, what an amazing life!
Myself and my buddy both loved the Morning Fog Chard Chardonnay from the Livermore Valley, so we bought a bottle to accompany our Vietnamese dinner (many of the restaurants around this area allow you to bring your own). I also bought the 2004 Shorthorn Canyon Syrah up there. It's actually 83% Syrah and the rest is a mixture of other grapes. It's incredible - both smooth and interesting. Stuart compared it to the really expensive Chateauneuf du Pape, and this is about a tenner a pop! It has a tiny, tiny amount of an unusual grape called "Counoise" in it - a very intense little fella and, in Stuart's words, this kind of addition "separates the men from the boys". Et voila, I have found my new favourite red! I must admit that I never thought to look in California

Saturday 13 August 2011

Stuffed red peppers with rosemary-roasted sweet potatoes in a wild garden

If a garden reflects the person that it belongs to then I must be at least slightly wild
My peas and pumpkins appear to have vanished, and the courgettes and broad beans are doing whatever they please. Which is nice for them (I'm going to make a wonderful mother some day)
It used to be the same with my room, I was forever "sorting it out". My ex, Jamie, would say that it was as if I was trying to tame some wild animal, and I think he had a point. My life often feels like that. I used to wish that I could be one of those girls with proper little outfits, immaculate make-up and nicely highlighted hair. But my make-up smudges, the nail varnish chips after just one day, my hair gets messy really easily and I simply refuse to wear any shoes that I can't dance in all night long. I'm growing to love it though - as you get older, you realize that it's it's all these little things that make up the essence of you. And I've always preferred wild flowers to the pruned, high maintenance ones. However, my grass was getting so long that I was afraid that if I left it any longer, it would be impossible to get it under control ever again. So I invited my little brother round for dinner. He mowed, while I cooked Carluccio's stuffed red peppers with rosemary-roasted sweet potatoes. The last time I made this, I swapped the breacrumbs for toasted pinenuts, and it worked beautifully, so I've stuck with this development now

Long red peppers (Romano)
Pine nuts
Sausages (1 per pepper)
Salt and pepper

Sweet potato
Garlic salt
Olive oil

Finally, I managed to get to Ginger Pig this weekend and buy some meat. I used the most ordinary, original sausages I could find for the stuffing, mashed (sans skin, obviously) with an egg, toasted pine nuts, paprika and seasoning. I roasted the sweet potato with olive oil, garlic salt and rosemary, and put it in the oven first, then added the stuffed peppers after about 10min. Then it all need another half an hour in a medium hot oven

Monday 8 August 2011

My avoiding -the-riots spaghetti

As I am writing this, a helicopter is hovering right over my flat (at least it sounds like it) and gangs of youths are heading towards the main drag, while normal people are heading away. Being very close to Mare Street in Hackney is a bit disconcerting at a time like this, but I am eating such a delicious pasta dish, that I had to share it. I made up this sauce right now, so you could say that it's been inspired by the riots. Everyone needs a recipe like this for times of stress. And sadness too perhaps. I think it could help
I had some fish in the fridge from Eastbourne that I was meant to eat for dinner tonight, but who wants to eat fish during a riot? No, it had to be comforting spaghetti. And there's something so satisfying about the crunchiness of the seeds and green pepper in this sauce... Then the tabasco kick just to add an element of danger (but not really). I grilled the chopped green pepper and pumpkin seeds while the pasta was cooking, and warmed the tomato passata on the stove with the torn basil, garlic salt and pepper, then added the two together. Finally, I tossed the al dente spaghetti in it and finished off with some tabasco


Tomato passata
Fresh basil
Pumpkin seeds
Green pepper
Olive oil
Garlic salt
Black pepper

Sunday 7 August 2011

Baked plaice, squid and samphire

One of the things I love about Eastbourne is that there seem to be lots of worse drivers than me. I also love the way that the sea changes all the time
It's been great spending the weekend with my old man. I don't know think I've ever written about him here. He's one of those people that can drink anyone under the table, has something interesting to say about every topic from football to philosophy, and appears to be on a slightly different planet to the rest of the world. When you give my dad a problem, like "How do I convince the grant people that my travelling round the world and cooking would benefit the UK?" (bit of a tall order, clearly), he'll come up with loads of ideas and solutions, and inspire you to the point that you actually start thinking maybe your dreams can come true. Another brilliant thing about him is that he can laugh at himself, which I think is one the most important qualities you can have in life. Far too many people take themselves incredibly seriously. So my daddy's wonderful and can do almost anything. One thing he definitely can't do, however, is cook. He tries, bless him, as he needs to survive when my mum is in Poland, but I can see he appreciates my taking charge of the weekend menu as soon as I arrive. Dinners are usually fish from that shop on the seafront I always go on about
This time, I ended up getting load of small, local plaice, as they had a good offer on them (I got eight for under £3!), and baking them, well seasoned, with thyme and red palm and canola oil. I wasn't being creative or awkward, that was literally the only oil my dad had in the house. I also stuck some parboiled potatoes in the baking tray along with the fish, as well as onions and bruised garlic cloves. That all took half an hour on a medium heat. We had samphire and squid on the side. The samphire I'd left to stand in boiled water for five minutes, and served with butter. The squid I pan-fried (seasoned beforehand) in the red palm and canola oil again (which gave it a great colour), on a really high heat for 5min. Then squirted with lemon juice, of course
Apart from eating lovely fish, we drank many bottles of cava, had some long overdue hear-to-hearts and found lots of random Polish and Russian music clips on YouTube. I wish I was still there, a weekend always feels like too short a time to spend with the ones you love, doing what you enjoy

Tuesday 2 August 2011

Coffee shake

This shake wins the best summer beverage prize hands down for me
And that's coming from someone who doesn't particularly like coffee. You need a blender, some instant coffee, honey, ice cubes and good quality milk. The milk is key - I use full cream Tesco finest Channel Island Milk, which gives a rich flavour and a creamy consistency. You make a teeny, little coffee with a teaspoon of honey and then blend it with all the other ingredients until all the ice cubes have dissolved. It's the ideal way to start a summer's day. Or refresh you throughout. Or even to reward yourself on your return from work. Actually, the only downside is that once you've tried it, you'll want to drink it all day long