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