Wednesday 29 February 2012

Homemade vegetable stock and pearl barley with kale for dinner

Overbearing sadness, that's what I keep coming back to. I'm glad that I've finally pinned down this emotion and defined it. I have moments of weird giddiness, of both rational and irrational anger, but underneath it all I know that it's this feeling I am trying to get away from. The main cause is my grandma's suffering, the waiting for her departure, knowing that there's a huge amount of pain still to come... but there are other things too. Right now, I see everything with sharpened vision and the world feels harsh
There's nothing much I can do about what is happening around me, only to learn to accept it so I can get through to the other side. However, I can do something about how I feel physically, so I've decided that it's the right moment for a detox. It's the right time of year and it will force me to spend some time on my own, feeling what I am supposed to feel rather than distracting myself. So to kick it all off I made my own vegetable stock today. I had no idea about all the crap they put in vegetable stock cubes. But since I am seeing everything clearly now, I have also taken to reading the ingredients of every single item that I buy. And the conclusion I reached today was: what's the point of buying vegetable stock? It's easy to make, and that's healthier, cheaper and tastier. I boiled half a peeled onion, a few celery sticks and a carrot in plenty of water for about 2 hours. I used some of it for my pearl barley and kale dish up there, and have lots left over. For the pearl barley and kale, I fried some garlic in olive oil, then added the grains, kale and stock, and cooked until soft. Half way through, I added cinnamon. I finished it off with plenty of soya sauce, tabasco and lemon juice. I feel healthier already. By the way, have you heard about this place? I hope that this is the future of food shopping...

Friday 24 February 2012

Savoury porridge

This wondrous spotted creature is my savoury porridge 
It's loosely based on these breakfast soups that I eat in Thailand, which are made out of rice -  a British version, I guess. I cooked the oats with water and a little salt, then added some beef stock. I topped it off with bits of crispy pre-fried onion and garlic, soya sauce and tabasco. I absolutely loved it, but if you don't think your stomach could handle this first thing, then it would also make a lovely, warming supper. I take my leave of you now for a little while, as I go to Poland on an emergency visit. My beautiful Babcia Ziuta (that's my grandma), one of the people I love most on the entire planet, is in critical condition in hospital. I have no idea what's going to happen next. It's one of those times when the immensity of life hits you straight in the face

Tuesday 21 February 2012

Slightly avant-garde pancakes - chocolate and banana, dairy-free

You may be wondering what exactly is so avant-garde about chocolate and banana pancakes. Well, it depends on how you use the banana. I didn't mean to make that sound perverted in any way, so I hope that's not how you're reading it. Today, I messed with the very make-up of the pancake, and this, I would argue, is the avant-garde bit. If you want to imagine me wearing the banana skin as a hat while cooking, then that's OK too
When we think of pancakes flour, eggs and milk are the first things that come to mind. But what would happen if you replaced the eggs with something else that's sticky? Like a banana... Well, nothing bad actually. The pancake is a little heavier, a different consistency, but coupled with this pure coco grated on top, it's a glorious combination
The coco is 100% pure, therefore I sweetened the pancake mixture with a bit of honey. I essentially made a soya milk banana milkshake, then whisked it into the flour. I fried the batter with olive oil rather than butter, simply because I ran out of butter, but I guess this makes these pancakes super-healthy as well as delicious

Cup of plain flour - 200g aprox
Cup of soya milk
1 banana
1 Tblsp honey
Pinch of salt
Pure coco for grating
Light olive oil for frying (or butter)

Monday 20 February 2012

Boned chicken with liver stuffing

As I was describing to my friend on Friday how my mum was stuffing a chicken with liver in preparation for our weekend at home, I saw a horrified expression slowly spread across her lovely face and I realized that this recipe isn't going to be for everyone. It didn't help that she's a vegetarian, of course (a fact I forgot in my eagerness to share the excitement) but even so, not many meat-eaters like liver either. Now, I pride myself on the fact that at least three of my ex boyfriends hated liver until I cooked it for them when they were dutifully converted, but even so... I can't convince everyone in this way. I have nothing to barter with for start, so if you really really hate every liver product, then there is no point reading anymore, though I do hope you come back soon. Yet there are many liver haters who love pate for instance. And if you are one of these people then this recipe is for you, as well as all the liver lovers out there. The stuffing is extremely pate-esque, especially when eaten on a fresh baguette with mustard for lunch, as I did today
I have never boned a chicken, or any other bird. Even though my mum assures me that it's really very simple and all you do is stick you hand up the chicken's bottom cutting round all the bones, I cannot say, or write, this with any conviction, until I have actually done it myself. In the meantime, here's someone who knows what they're talking about
For the stuffing you simply blend all the ingredients below in a blender- first the liver, then any bits of chicken you may have lying around from the de-boning operation, then everything else. Stuff the chicken. Once you have done this, you will need to take a needle and some thick thread or light string and sow up any holes you've made (you take this out later). Fry the chicken a little in some butter, perhaps 5min each side - we as want the skin to brown slightly before roasting. Now put it in a baking tray with a tiny bit of water in the bottom, and roast, covered in baking foil, for about an hour and a half at 160 degrees C. You'll have lots of gooey stuff at the bottom of the pan, pour this over the chicken. This is great cold, eaten as a starter like in the photo up there, or with a big salad for lunch, or stuffed in sandwich

Ingredients - for 1 medium chicken

500g lambs liver
Soft white bread roll soaked in milk, then squeezed out
2 eggs
Large handful of fresh parsley
Raisins soaked in water for 30min
2 tsp soya sauce
Salt and pepper

Sunday 12 February 2012

Crispy Quinoa Cakes

Quinoa cakes - what an amazing idea! I got it from this guy, who got it from this lady, who I imagine got it from... the Peruvians? Or perhaps the chain was even longer that that, no matter. These are different, as I adapted them to whatever I had on hand. I used no parmesan, yet added plenty of seeds, which I guess makes mine a bit healthier. But who cares about that anyway. I'd say just take the basic premise, then use whatever you've got. Just so you know, I didn't bother about poached eggs or pesto and ate them as they came - well, sprinkled with sea salt that's all  - for a light lunch, and they were delicious, although I imagine they would work well with other stuff too, like chutneys and pickles for instance. An incredibly versatile little recipe we've got here... just the way I like 'em

2 cups cooked quinoa
Handful shallots, chopped into small cubes
Handful of seeds (pumpkin and sunflower I used)
2 eggs, beaten lightly
Salt and pepper
2 tsp paprika
1/4 cup flour
Olive oil for frying

You may find it strange that I use the American measuring system of "cups", but the truth is I don't actually measure anything at all, and cups are easier to estimate by eye. I blame my gran who taught me this way: "a little bit of this, a bit more of that", and now I don't own a set of scales. But lets say that 1 cup is approximately 150g. So you allow the quinoa to cool a bit while prepping the rest of the ingredients. Heat the oil, while mixing everything together by hand, then when it's hot form little patties and place them straight on to the frying pan. Quickly, so that you don't burn yourself. If you're feeling nervous and/or hesitant, then don't do this. Use a spoon instead, then pat it down. Fry for about 3 minutes each side on a medium heat, or until golden, and place on a newspaper or kitchen towel when done. I prefer newspaper because it makes me feel connected to the world and to history. It makes me think of the days when fish and chips were rolled up in newspaper, and that makes it taste better 

Saturday 11 February 2012

Brussels sprout and curry omelette

Since you are still reading this you must be a pretty open-minded individual. You may pat yourself on the back if so inclined
As I scoffed this just a moment ago, I realized that it pays to be open-minded. It's another strange and unusual way to eat the seasonal brussels sprouts. You just need a handful, chopped finely. Brown them in butter for about 10min, then add the eggs which have been previously beaten with salt, pepper, a pinch of chilli powder, some turmeric and a splash of single cream (or milk). Allow this to cook on a low heat for a while, then fold in half, and cook for a little longer. I ate this with a good quality mango chutney (Greeta's is the one I like). And you can find some more ideas with what to do with brussels sprouts here. And here

Friday 10 February 2012

Seedy flapjacks and the art of patience

I was starting to worry that I'd lost my knack with flapjacks...
But it turns out that I really haven't. You just shouldn't eat them as soon as they're out of the oven, because they need time to set. I ate three in this warm, crumbly state, fretting continuously about how I'd accidently made granola, about what went wrong, that perhaps I hadn't used enough butter... Actually, the only thing that was missing was a little bit of patience
I feel like life's been asking that of me a lot recently. It's a lesson I appear to be quite resistant to. I have moments where I completely get it - why rush towards the future, towards the end of your life... stay in the present moment, relax. Everything comes at the right time. And then I feel like I've been patient for long enough, and where's my reward for being so patient... and completely miss the whole point again. But as a friend said to me recently, "good things are worth the wait". He was right, about these flapjacks at least


200g butter
3-4 cups oats
1 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup linseeds
1/2 sunflower seeds
1/2 pumpkin seeds
Handful chopped dates
Tiny bit of butter

You melt the butter in a pan and add all the seeds. Fry these for a few minutes before adding the maple syrup, dates and oats. Keep mixing in the oats until you are happy with the ratio. Spread on a buttered baking tray and stick in a pre-heated oven at about 180 degrees C for about 20minutes. Score, then allow to cool before munching

Tuesday 7 February 2012

Little hoofs aka Polish gnocchi

I've had a lot of trouble with my hoofs. I'm talking about those little potato dumplings down there. Sometimes the simplest things can be the hardest, because, as we all know from Julie and Julia, simple does not mean easy. And yet I firmly believe that simple is best, in cooking as in life. When you're young and naive life appears to be complicated, but as you get older and wiser you realize that complicated situations are actually incredibly tedious. You just need to be stronger, braver, more honest with yourself that's all. Simple, but not easy
To be fair, the first time I made these I didn't have any plain flour. I had only chickpea flour and self raising, and after the last time I made dumplings with self raising flour, I knew not to use that. They ended up looking like bloated little haggis and tasted like... carpet (don't ask me how I know what carpet tastes like). So I used the chickpea flour. And that was really weird too, although it did make them a pretty colour at least. The moral of this story is to use plain flour
And don't stray too much from the measurements I give you, although I myself use them only as a guide and don't own a set of scales. And don't cook them for too long either, like I did with my first batch. You need to stand over them and watch out for precisely the moment they swim to the top, otherwise you'll have a sticky mess on your hands. Other than that, you'll be fine
Cook the potatoes until they fall apart when you poke them and mash with a bit of salt until they are perfectly smooth. Allow to cool on a surface covered in (plain) flour. At this point, start frying the shallots in the olive oil, season. Add an egg and a cup of flour to the potatoes (see below for more precise measurements). Quickly kneed it all together and roll into three snake-like shapes, just like that up there. Cut these diagonally into little hoofs and throw into a large pan of boiling, salted water. As soon as they swim to the top, remove them from the water and drain. You'll need to cook these in three batches most probably, too many in one go and there'll be yet another kind of sticky mess. Throw the drained hoofs in with the shallots and fry for a brief moment before serving

Ingredients (serves 2)

3 large potatoes
1 egg
200g of plain flour
Sea salt
Handful shallots, peeled and sliced
3-4 tblsp olive oil, or more - don't be shy

Friday 3 February 2012

Cauliflower and brussels sprouts the Polish way

I've been thinking a lot about vegetables recently. I miss the summer ones so much, but i don't want to eat them if they're flown in from Peru. Nothing tastes that great after such a long journey. And for some reason winter vegetables have stopped floating my boat in recent times. We're having a bit of a crisis, I guess. Perhaps it's because in my mind they've remained in their old role as a healthy but rather limp and uninteresting addition to the Sunday roast... Yet I know that it doesn't have to be this way, so I took some seasonal vegetables and dressed them up a bit. I did the Polish thing that I love with lots of butter, salt and breadcrumbs (the equivalent of buying some sexy underwear)
If you fancy doing something like this with your vegetables, then take a couple of tablespoons of butter, a lot of olive oil and heat them up on a frying pan. Fry the breadcrumbs until they turn golden, then add some salt. Meanwhile, cook the vegetables for about 8-10min in salty water with a bit of lemon squeezed in, draining them before they loose their crunchiness. Pour the breadcrumb sauce over the vegetables. This method is normally reserved for cauliflower in Poland, but the bitterness of the brussels sprouts complimented the sweetness of the cauliflower beautifully, so it was a successful combo. And we should all eat more brussels sprouts. Fact