Sunday 28 December 2014

Super easy Polish poppy seed cake

John Lennon was right when he wrote that "life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans". At this point I ask myself if any plan is worth making. Perhaps life has nothing to do with plans after all, perhaps the only reason we plan is to create an illusion of control? What control do we truly have? How to be, how to think... Even this I have to question. I may choose to be strong, and think positive thoughts in the face of adversity, yet if other feelings creep in, what can I do? Either fight them, pretend I feel differently or, according to teachers like David Hawkins and Eckhart Tolle I can accept them in the knowledge that they too will pass. Whilst doing that, however, I may not be being particularly strong or positive, thereby breaking my resolution, and letting go of any control I have over the situation. However disagreeable and unpleasant that sounds, deep down I know that the path of acceptance is the one for me and that my trust in life is what keeps me sane. Sometimes. From my musings you may have figured out that the Christmas period has been taxing over here... Yet within this unavoidable brutality of life, there are still moments of comfort and softeness and it's with the wish of more of these, in all of our lives, that I give you this Polish poppy seed cake. Poppy seeds are generally known to have a calming, soothing effect on the mind and body...
A "proper" Polish poppy seed cake is an endevour, but this is a super easy version. If you go to a shop and buy the pre-prepared poppy seed mixture in a tin - called " masa makowa" - then all you need to do is add three egg yolks and 3 beaten-until-stiff egg whites, empty the lot into a greased baking tray and bake in a pre-heated oven at about 180 degrees C for 40 minutes. If you can't find this mixture, or would rather undertake the longer journey for the pure joy of it (it is quite joyous in a Slavic-Christmas kind of way), then you need to get all those ingredients down there. Soak the poppy seeds overnight in boiling water. Blend them on a very high setting until they produce a white-ish juice, then start adding all the other ingredients apart from the egg whites, keep blending. Finally, stir the egg whites into the mixture and bake as before. To finish, once the cake has cooled down, we make icing out of icing sugar and fresh lemon juice and pour it over the cake


1/2kg poppy seeds
1 tablespoon honey
200g caster sugar
1 tablespoon butter
100g raisins
100g dessicated coconut
100g chopped walnuts
50g candied orange peel
2 eggs, separated, whites beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
1 teaspoon almond essence
Icing sugar
Fresh lemon juice

Saturday 13 December 2014

Spiced white chocolate mousse with crushed pistachios

Finally, something Christmassy
This is the kind of rich indulgence that should only be allowed at this time of year, because such a heavenly taste can only be created with equally sinful ingredients - butter, cream, sugar... Don't worry about it. It's easy to make and will make you shine like a star. If any food has the power of seduction, then this is it. If the people you serve it to like white chocolate that is. Many find it too sweet, yet here I would argue the sweetness is balanced out by the saltiness and spices. 
Melt the white chocolate, with the butter, in a bowl sitting over a pan of simmering hot water. Stir in most of the crushed pistachios (saving a bit for decoration) and spices. Whip the cream with the icing sugar until it reaches the consistency of the squirty cream you can buy in a tin (if needs be, you can replace it with that too). Whip the egg whites with a large pinch of salt, until peaky. Blend the yolks with the cane sugar, until it has completely disintegrated, then add a the vanilla essence. Take the white chocolate off the heat and allow to cool for 4-5min. Stir the egg yolks in. Gently, fold in the egg whites and keep stirring. Finally, add the whipped cream and divide into individual cups, topping with more crushed pistachios. Chill overnight if possible and hallelujah! 

Ingredients (serves 4)

200g white chocolate
1 tablespoon salted butter
200ml whipping cream
1 tablespoon icing sugar
2 good quality eggs (separated)
Large pinch of fine sea salt
1 tablespoon soft brown cane sugar
1 teaspoon good quality vanilla essence
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
Handful crushed pistachios (you can crush them easily once peeled, with the side of a knife)

Friday 12 December 2014

A crunchy, citrusy salad with bean sprouts, pears and walnuts

I know - at this time of year you probably all want to eat warm, comfort food and here I am giving you salad. It's strange, yet this is what I'm craving at the moment - all kinds of salads. My friend David has written this brilliant book on salads incidentally, if you love them like yours truly or are in search of last minute Xmas presents for your loved ones...
Perhaps it's my childhood in Poland that has rendered my vision of Christmas as full of fish, vegetables, pierogi, Russian salad... so while I appreciate the English festivities and watch with pleasure as our favourite TV chefs show us what they'll be eating this Christmas (for Jamie Oliver it will be Massaman curry on Boxing Day in case you were wondering), there is, sadly perhaps, no nostalgia in Christmas jumpers, turkeys and crackers, pour moi. I'm just not in that club, even if sometimes I like to pretend I am.
This salad was in no small way inspired by the classic Waldorf salad, though with the use of bean sprouts we have massively upped the nutrition here. I have also gone very easy on mayo, making the dressing lighter, more citrus-zingy and adding an Asian feel to it with the sesame flavours. The blue cheese has been replaced with fresh, tangy sheeps' milk cheese and the apple with a sweet, crunchy pear.


Mixed bean sprouts
Celery sticks, chopped finely
Fresh sheeps' milk cheese (or goat's milk cheese)
Crushed walnuts
Pear, chopped into small cubes
Sesame seeds


2 tablespoons olive oil
Dash of toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon fresh orange juice
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon mayo
1 teaspoon English mustard
1/2 teaspoon honey
Salt and pepper to taste

Wednesday 3 December 2014

Crunchy sweet potato patties aka leftover cuisine

Patties are probably my favourite thing to make from leftover mash. Especially sweet potato mash, as that adds an exotic element to my patty, making me feel like I'm snacking in a tropical country. If I close my eyes I can almost smell coconuts in the warm breeze... To be perfectly honest, I can always smell coconuts in the breeze because I religiously slather myself in coconut oil, as well as cooking with it and even putting it in my green tea. So these patties...
I used sweet potato mash from the day before (just sweet potato, cooked with skins on, then mashed with butter and sea salt), added an egg, a tin of (drained) lentils, pumpkin seeds, chilli flakes, garlic granules, paprika and black pepper. I went for spice and crunch. I mixed it all together with my hands, as you would with meatballs and then coated each patty in breadcrumbs before frying on a combination of vegetable and coconut oils. It takes about 4min each side. Serve with pickled green chillies and lime

Wednesday 26 November 2014

Honey and almond yoghurt cake with orange icing (no sugar)

I told you about the cake I baked for my boyfriend's and his mum's birthday, which ended up having a big hole in the middle... so the problem was that I had so little time on that day that I tried to do everything too quickly, including taking the cake out of it's mould. The heavier, still wet bit in the middle therefore stayed put. Sad times. Alas, today I made the cake again. Actually, I made it yesterday, and learning from the my previous mistake, I left it to cool overnight, then today I finished it off with the icing and the eating, while musing happily over the deeper life lesson learnt here. Which is "don't rush", if you're interested. Simple
You can probably detect the Middle-Eastern influence in this recipe - I replaced sugar with local honey, as they sometimes do in baklava, and the yoghurt is a little trick that my Greek friend Karina taught me, to keep the cake moist. The addition of ground almonds and orange blossom water completes the picture. A flying (or at least hovering) carpet to eat it on would be the ideal cherry-on-top, but clearly we're not quite there yet in terms of technology (seriously?)


250g unsalted butter
100g ground almonds
200g plain flour
150g good quality honey
2 eggs
1 tablespoon orange blossom water
150g greek yoghurt

250g cream cheese
100g icing sugar
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
1 tablespoon orange blossom water

I used my special method of cake-making whereby I melted the butter in a pan first, then added the honey and then the ground almonds. Once everything was gloopy, I turned the heat off and started to sift the flour in. Then an egg, then more flour, another egg, more flour... mixing all the time. Finally, I added the orange blossom water and honey and poured the whole lot into a greased baking tray and popped it into a pre-heated over for about 30min, 180 degrees C.

Note: This cake tastes great refridgerated

Friday 14 November 2014

An Autumn stew with beans and pumpkin

I was in Athens the other day visiting my heavily pregnant friend and wanted to make a huge pot of something that we could eat for dinner, then freeze for the busy days ahead. It's getting a bit chillier, even in Greece, so I was thinking warming and substantial dishes, and of course, the French cassoulet came to mind. The last time I made it was in the French Alps, and we ate it with great joy and relief almost (as well as fresh baguette), after a day on the slopes. But this was Greece - a different climate, different ingredients, so I reworked the recipe to include some lovely pumpkin that we found at the market, two types of dried Greek beans (black eye beans and another type I didn't recognise), Greek sausage with leek (rather than the traditional French garlic sausage). I made the recipe skinnier not for health reasons but because of the temperate climate here, so gone is the duck confit and goose fat and in come more meditterean vegetables. The French bouquet garni was also replaced, with local, wild oregano. This isn't fusion cuisine; this is using local, seasonal produce and creating a new version of a dish, based on a classic
Soak the beans overnight, then cook them slightly before you start the stew - about 15 minutes of simmering in salted water, then drain. Fry the chopped sausages first, in some of the olive oil, then remove from the pan, Add the lardons and the chopped onion next, fry for a couple of minutes, then add the grated carrots, chopped celery (which, incidently, looks completely different in Greece) and keep frying on a low heat, stirring now and again. After about 5min add the tomatoes, beans, white wine, garlic, herbs and spices. Bring to the boil then turn the heat down again and allow to simmer for about 10min or until the tomatoes start to disintergrate. Add some water and put the sausage back in the dish. Allow to simmer for about 45min, before adding the pumpkin and more wine/water if needed. After another 45min season the stew with plenty of salt pepper and taste. Perhaps it needs more paprika or oregano? I'd give it another half an hour on top of that before serving with crusty bread - so 2 hours of cooking time in total. The ingredients down there are approximate, as usual, so just experiment with the flavours and go with the flow

Ingredients - makes about 10 portions

1/4 large pupkin, roasted for 20min, peeled and chopped
6-8 leek sausages, chopped into bitesize pieces
200g lardons
1.5kg dried beans (2 types)
Bunch of celery (Greek celery is much thinner, so probably about 6 stalk of British celery)
3 red onions, chopped finely
4-6 cloves of garlic, chopped or crushed
10 large tomatoes, peeled and chopped
6-8 carrots, grated
1 tablespoon dried, wild oregano (if available)
1 teaspoon paprika
4 bay leaves
Half a bottle of white wine
Salt and pepper
Mild olive oil
Chilli flakes and crusty bread to serve

Tuesday 4 November 2014

Parsnip fries with turmeric mayo

The frothy sunsets and mild evenings of early Autumn disappeared overnight. The nip is taking over and we'll need to start wearing gloves soon. My hands are already permanently cold and turning a tinge of violent. But the multi-coloured leaves and some sunny skies make up for the slight discomfort of these days, and I still like it that I live in Europe, where we have such drastic changes in season. Come February and I'm sure that I'll have moments where I very strongly wish that I lived somewhere else,  somewhere more temperate. That's why the dream of two homes I guess, one in London, of course, and one somewhere not too far away, somewhere sunny where people smile more during Winter months. Just a daydream for now. For now I'm still enjoying the changes and wondering why I haven't cooked a pumpkin-something yet this Autumn, while eating these parsnip chips with turmeric mayo and planning next week's visits to my dear friends, Karina in Athens and Maja in Rome
Don't peel the parsnips, there's really no point, just chop them up into the size of fries, bearing in mind the thinner you get them, the crispier they shall be. Heat a mixture of sunflower and roasted sesame oil on a large pan (about half a centimeter to a centimeter of oil in total) and meanwhile, on another pan, toast your sesame seeds if using them. While the oil is heating you have the chance to make your turmeric mayo. You could make your own mayo like this (in which case you may want to start earlier than this), then add the turmeric paste or just use shop bought mayo like I did on this occasion. I am using the same turmeric paste that you use to make Golden Milk - good quality turmeric, water and black pepper (which increases the health benefits of turmeric). Use 1 tablespoon of mayo to 1/4 teaspoon of the paste. Heat the oil before frying the parsnips, and once cooked (should take 6-8min depending on the amount), place them on some newspaper for a couple of minutes to remove excess oil. Season with plenty of sea salt and add a sprinkling of sesame seeds

Friday 31 October 2014

Fancy sweet potato mash for Halloween

As you may have guessed from the name of this blog, I am a fan of mashed potato. I love it for it's unfussy, simple honesty and rustic charm. I don't write about it because it's a sure thing. Everyone knows Mashed Potato. But today, for Halloween, I decided to dress it up like this
That's sweet potato and sweetcorn mash up there with crispy crayfish, toasted sesame seeds (Oh my God - delicious), green chillies, spring onions and some paprika-infused Argan oil my love brought me from Morocco. I cooked the corn on the cob and unpeeled sweet potatoes together in salted water, until soft. I kept the skin on the potatoes as this is where most of the vitamins are (read: because I'm a bit lazy), and mashed them with more sea salt, black pepper and goat's butter. I then added all the fancy stuff, which you can substitute for other fancy stuff if you like

Thursday 30 October 2014

Spicy chorizo and tomato scrambled eggs

There are so many things that don't quite work out in life, and this is okay. There are lessons to be learnt, compromises to be made, battles to be lost as well won, things given up on completely and things deemed worthy of being worked on gradually. Yet yet... when there is a success, no matter how minor, I am of the opinion that it should be celebrated. I am my father's daughter in this way - any excuse to open a bottle of champagne. While for my dad this is literally the case, for me, the champagne is more of a metaphor. It's a part of the reason why I write this blog, in celebration of the little things. Today I am celebrating this spicy chorizo and tomato scrambled eggs that was made in celebration of my brother's birthday
You need to pour boiling water over the tomatoes first, then peel and chop them. Melt some butter on a frying pan and add small cubes of chorizo sausage and some red chilli slices. Once the butter has turned red in colour, add the tomatoes and continue to fry until the tomatoes have almost disintegrated. Meanwhile beat the eggs and season with salt, pepper and a dash of paprika. Add them to the pan and continue to stir gently as they cook. We ate these with toasted crusty bread and sauteed spinach, slices of avocado and Bloody Marys (with the obligatory celery stick) on the side

Monday 27 October 2014

Green bean salad with a sesame-yoghurt dressing

It's been birthday season in my world. My attempt to make a cake for my boyfriend and his mum last week went disastrously wrong. The cake tasted fine (maybe more than fine), but I was in too much of a hurry making it, not present enough in that particular moment (been so busy recently) and the middle of it just fell out to leave a massive, gaping hole. I cut cupcakes out of it in order to save the day, then used the rest as a base for trifle. This dish ended up looking like something from the inside of a human body. Red jelly, rasberries and custard all melting together is never a good look. Though admittedly it also tasted very good. Birthday brunch for my brother, on the other hand, was a dream, which I will tell you about it next time. This green bean salad with a yoghurt, sesame dressing I made as part of my boy's birthday celebrations also turned out very well. Thank God. I was starting to worry that I'd lost my touch.
Blanche the green beans, runner beans and broccoli in salted water for about 5mins, then drain and cool under cold, running water. Slice the courgette very finely and toast the sesame seeds on a large frying pan. For the vinaigrette, I  used a small cup of greek bio yoghurt, some sesame oil, the juice of one lemon, with plenty of sea salt and black pepper. With it we ate roast sweet potatoes with garlic, rosemary and cherry tomatoes and some (organic) salmon fried in goats' butter with the skin fried first on a high heat to make it all crispy, and more lemon squeezed on top. Faith in self restored.

Thursday 16 October 2014

Roasted buckwheat with wild mushrooms and feta for busy days

As you may or may not have noticed my routine has gone out of the window recently. Flown away to another time and place, one where I didn't have a full time (if freelance) job and wasn't working nights and weekends on another creative project (which I am very excited about). I am still cooking and eating of course, and when the light is right, I still may take a picture or two, it's just that I haven't found the time to calmly sit down and write about it. It's not easy maintaining good habits when life suddenly switches gear from one to five. And it's even harder to find the motivation to start again, when you know that your failure to do so has already lost you half your readership. It's a catch 22. As are so many things in life I find... Yet here I am again. And here's the kind of food that helps me keep my energy levels up and constant at times like these...
It's tempting to stuff your face with the biscuits and cakes that are always readily available is offices. Especially when you're rushed, tired and the weather changes... All I can say is: don't. I've been there and it's another one of those pointless loops. We all need treats, but I suggest we should think carefully about what we believe is a genuine treat and what's going to end up harming us in some way. Buckwheat is delicious and wholesome in its simplicity. The roasted stuff you will find in a polish shop or the East European food section of your supermarket. We cook it like rice, only steam it for longer at the end of the cooking time. I used dried wild mushroom, rehydrating them before and using the water to cook the buckwheat too. You can use fresh mushrooms. Fry them with some onion and thyme, using a mild olive oil, while cooking buckwheat separately. Combine the two on the frying pan, and add feta chunks. Eat hot or cold as a salad for lunch, like you see up there, with a million radishes to stave off any colds and other infectious diseases that may be going round. 

Sunday 28 September 2014

Sweet potato quinoa salad

One of things I love about cooking is that paradox of nostalgia and newness. For example, I write this blog whilst munching on a warm, slightly crispy tortilla with Marmite. The reason I eat Marmite on tortillas rather than on toast like normal people, is because when I was in the Himalays aged 17, we ate ate marmite and chapattis every morning of our trek over Pin Parvati Pass. By the end of the 14 days I couldn't stand the sight of them, but now... It's the nostagia, clearly. At the other end of the scale we have this salad I made last week, which I've never made before but, from experience, knew was going to work
It's a blend of 3 different types of quinoa - red, black and pearl. You can get a ready mix in (some) Waitrose, with home grown cherry tomatoes and chillies (luckily I have a man who grows these, because I still haven't quite got my head round that part), toasted almond flakes, coriander and cinnamon sweet potato (roast the chunks of unpeeled sweet potato in the oven with olive oil, honey and cinnamon). The dressing consists of lime juice, mild olive oil and fish sauce. We ate it with southern fried chicken a bit like this one, but with more spices in the marinade. Yas says the trick is to add a little a bit of cornflour to the flour and breadcrumbs and the oil you fry them in should be hot but "not too hot". Having made this chicken about 5 times in a row now, he's the expert

Tuesday 9 September 2014

La Bodega Negra, Soho, London

Life changes suddenly. Just a month ago I was waking up some time before midday, working at a lazy pace for a couple of hours on whatever I felt like working on and mostly had no idea which day of the week it was. Now I wake up at 7, commute to Paddington and have no time to do my laundry. I'm tired and a little stressed, yet I'm enjoying the change of pace. Many people are frightened of change, but for some reason I enjoy it. Even when it's crazy, scary, destabilising change, there is still a part of me that thrives on it. So now that I'm working flat out I'm predictably going out much more, consuming more.  I can even go to places like La Bodega Negra on a Monday night if I feel like it...
With a cancellation policy of £25 per head if we fail to cancel by 5pm, this is not somewhere I'd go when strapped for cash. I thought this was a bit harsh and off-putting until my friend pointed out that since it looks like a sex shop from the outside, people aren't just going to drop in. Nevertheless, for somewhere so well hidden and so early in the week, it was heaving. This also explained the slightly unattentive service and lack of the tap water I asked for. The sexy waitress explained later that they weren't expecting so many people and were short-staffed, so I'll give them a break.
The food was absolutely delicious. We had a few different tacos, corn salad, beans, guacamole and quesadilla. I have two favourites: soft shell crab tacos and and the massive, crunchy corn salad. I can't fault my spiced pear margarita either. The atmosphere was great - buzzing yet romantic, full of life, glamorous. Kind of what I like to imagine Mexico itself feels like. We all paid under £40 per head with drinks, which is less than I was expecting after the scary cancellation policy.

Wednesday 20 August 2014

Grandma's sorrel and yoghurt soup

Whenever I eat sorrel now it reminds me of this lovely day, a couple of years ago, when my grans were still alive. It was just ordinary summer's day then, mooching about, cooking, sunbathing... yet it will always live on in my memory as something extraordinary and special, a reminder that all things pass and to cherish the moments we have with our loved ones. This sorrel soup is different to the cold one I made that day
Once you've got hold of the sorrel, either by foraging or by buying some in an online shop like this one, the soup is very simple to make. It tastes just like the one my Babcia Ziuta used to make, yet the recipe comes not from her but from this lady's grandma
That's the lady who sold us the sorrel at the market. We always wash the sorrel thoroughly first. Fry it in a large knob of butter until it wilts. Allow it to cool for about 20min, then blend. The old method is to push it through a sieve with a wooden spoon, but blending is much easier, so I suggest to do that. Put it in the biggest pan you can find and fill half-way with cold water. Bring to the boil, then turn the heat down and simmer for half an hour. Near the end of the cooking time, we season the soup with salt and pepper and thicken with plain flour, stirring all the time. Bring it back to the boil for 5min, allowing the flour to do it's job.
Before adding the yoghurt, we allow the soup to cool down a little bit again, for about 20-30min. The lady's grandma would have used thick cream rather than yoghurt I expect but the lady uses yoghurt and it works very well. Not to mention being healthier. So you do it like this: put the yoghurt you intend to use in a large cup and add a tablespoon of soup, stir it in. Add another tablespoon and stir it in. Repeat about 5 times. Finally, pour the whole thing into the soup and stir vigorously. Heat the soup a little before serving. Hard boiled eggs inside each bowl are a necessary addition, the potatoes with dill are optional but highly desirable


1 large bag of sorrel
50g butter
3 tablespoons flour
150ml greek yoghurt
Salt and white pepper
Hard boiled eggs

Sunday 10 August 2014

A big, fat Polish salad with wild girolle mushrooms

Intense weather. August in Poland is hot, close and stormy.  I kind of like it. Intensity is a bit underrated in the UK I feel. The UK is all about cool, while Poland is a land of extremes. Perhaps the weather is more important in the formation of national attitudes than we realize. In this intense heat it's difficult to eat warm food, so I made a big, fat salad for dinner yesterday, making use of the local "girolle" mushrooms and adding crunchy goat's cheese croutons. I should have poached an egg and put that on top, but I didn't think of it at the time. It was delicious none the less and an unusual way to eat these wild mushrooms that start popping up around now
The base is a mixture of salad leaves with fresh dill - Warsaw style. The croutons are simply Polish bread, grilled on both sides with a hard goat's cheese grated over one of them. The girolles are fried with plenty of garlic, salt and white pepper. The vinaigrette is flaxeed oil/olive oil mixed with some lemon juice, cider apple vinegar, salt and white pepper again. White pepper gives a salad a distinct East European flavour

Thursday 31 July 2014

Three grain mango salad and swimming against the tide

There's no denying that I'm swimming against the tide here. London is a city where most people work hard and party hard, then when they've had enough they settle down and start a family. Which is fantastic if that's what you actually want. After 8 years on the treadmill of London life I realized that I didn't know what I wanted anymore: I was tired, my diary was filled with plans I had no energy for and my choices were coming from a strange place. I was rushing from one commitment to another, going along with the current, but not being fully present anywhere. I was disconnected from my body and my spirit, while my mind was working overtime. I felt like a machine. I decided that I needed to re-establish my sense of personal freedom and individuality. Slowly, like a child working out who they are and what they like, I started. On the outside nothing changed at first, it was a simple inner choice to commit to myself. It turned out that what I was looking for was this: That feeling of anything being possible, of life as an adventure... Long, meandering walks through the quiet city streets when everyone is at work... Waking up each day at a time that is right for my body and deciding what my goals and priorities are according to how I feel... Being able to stop work and go for a run when the sun comes out... Working solely on projects I believe in... So far so wonderful. Here's the catch: it's not bloody easy. You need to somehow make money in order to survive, your sense of self is constantly tested, you feel judged often, at times you doubt everything, you make mistakes, you loose your balance... There is no safety net. You know all those uncomfortable feelings you'd rather distract yourself from? They're all here, waiting for you. You have to be strong if you want to go this way. One day you wake up and take stock:  I'm still here, surviving; I've learnt that I have the capacity to love myself unconditionally; I feel physically and mentally better than I did 5 years ago (no more chronic back ache for a start); I'm more present, more myself; I drink less alcohol (most of the time) and my diet is healthier, not because I'm trying to be healthy but because it feels natural to me. So I've gone all the way back to the simplest and most important thing of all: health. With that in mind, here's a lovely three grain mango salad for you
Cook all the grains together, as that makes things super easy - they all take about 25min. Then just leave them, covered, in the pan to steam for a bit, before cooling. All the vegetables and herbs need to be chopped quite finely for this. Enjoy, preferably in the sunshine.


Pearl Barley
Bulgur wheat
Cherry tomatoes
Chia seeds for topping
Lemon juice
Olive oil
Celery salt and pepper 

Tuesday 29 July 2014

White chia seed and banana cake, a strange method

I love cooking, as you know, but not having any scales, combined with a preference for healthy, savoury food has meant that I rarely bake. People tell me that baking is therapeutic, I find it powdery and messy. Until recently. You see I've found a strange method of baking that is most pleasing to my senses. It's physical, soft and aromatic. Every time I bake in this way, I find it such an enjoyable experience that a few days later, I bake again, trying the method out with different ingredients. I love the way it feels to do something differently to how you've always done it. For example, what's also occurred to me lately is that I can run around the park in the opposite direction... for the 12 years I have been running around Victoria Park, I've never thought to change direction - now everything is new! Small changes in behaviour and habit can have an enormous impact on the psyche. This is the lesson I now need to apply to the rest of my life: make small, important changes
So here is my strange baking method: Instead of putting all the dry ingredients in a bowl first, I melt the butter, then add the sugar and the chia seeds. I take the pan off the heat, sieve in half the flour, slowly, stirring; add the egg yolks. I stir more. I add the mashed banana, then the other half of the flour. Stirring all the time. Finally, the egg whites. At this point, I use the whisk to beat it all together and create the desired fluffiness, before pouring into a greased baking tray. Bake as you would with any other cake, in a pre-heated oven at around 180 for about 45min. Serve with a dollop of bio-yoghurt and some organic honey. Chia seeds, by the way, are one of the healthiest foods around, high in Omega 3, fibre and protein. 


3 bananas, mashed
100g white chia seeds
125g raw cane sugar
2 eggs (whites beaten)
125g butter
125g plain flour
Yoghurt and honey to serve

Tuesday 15 July 2014

Bulghur, broccoli and blue cheese salad, with a dream of sustainability

There is nothing quite like the feeling of eating something that you have grown yourself. Unfortunately, the only things I can say that about at the moment are my mint and rosemary, yet I milk this glorious feeling for all it's worth with Moroccan mint teas, mochitos and today, with this fresh tasting bulghur wheat salad
I have just returned from a camping trip in Cornwall with a new found vision of sustainability. Places like Henry's campsite and The Eden Project are my inspiration. And probably also my boyfriend, who is one of those green-fingered people. I have never been part of the green fingered club myself, but I'm (slowly) learning, and trust me, if I can become more green-fingered, then so can anyone. I'm starting to realize that it's more of a skill than a talent. The way I think of it is, you need to treat your plants like you do your pet: make sure they have food and water, talk to them, love them etc. This slightly mad method is working well for me, even though one of my favourite plants has just been ravaged by a snail in the few days I've been away (the said plant is recovering in a sunny spot inside the house now and I am confident it will survive)
To make this salad, cook the bulghur wheat, fluff and cool. Crush the walnuts by banging them with a rolling pin, inside a plastic bag and add to the wheat. Cover the broccoli with some boiling water and add sea salt. Leave for 3-4mi,n then drain and immediately place under cold running water, until cool. Chop into centimeter pieces and add to bowl. Chop the mint very finely and add. For the blue cheese I used a delicious, blue goat's cheese from L'eau a la Bouche. Place all the vinaigrette ingredients in a jam jar and shake vigorously for a few minutes before pouring over the salad. I used half a lemon, about 3 tablespoons of olive oil and a heaped teaspoon each of the wholegrain mustard and mayo, but do just play it how you feel it


Bulghur wheat
Tender-stem broccoli
Fresh mint
Blue cheese


Olive oil
Lemon juice
Celery salt
Black pepper
Wholegrain mustard

Tuesday 24 June 2014

Minty strawbellini: a perfect summer cocktail

As my friends know, inventing cocktails is one of my favourite pastimes. I don't do complicated though. I tend to take a well-known cocktail and rework it with some local, seasonal ingredients. The "Bellini" cocktail was invented at Harry's Bar in Venice and consists simply of fresh peach purée and local prosecco
My version - the " Minty Strawbellini" - is more English. It includes fresh British strawberries and mint, mushed into a purée along with some good quality honey, and topped with pink cava or prosecco

Tuesday 10 June 2014

Another Polish dumpling recipe

Potatoes, rice, pasta, sweet potatoes, new potatoes, rice again... If you would welcome another carb onto your dinner plate, then look no further than these simple dumplings
They are called "kluski kładzione", which translates as "laid dumplings" (more or less) because we "lay" them onto the water (that's why the lack of uniformity). Language is like a window into another world, therefore my tendency is always to try and explain, yet often translating Polish to English makes very little sense. The way that these languages are formed and used, the imagery surrounding them, the associations... they really are like two different planets
Here are those dumplings replacing potatoes or rice with a dinner of lamb and cucumber salad. They are fantastic with any kind of sauce or gravy...
And here they are again, showing off their versatility as a pudding, fried on some butter with a dash of cinnamon and a spoonful of honey


300g plain flour
2 eggs
Pinch of salt

Blend these ingredients together, by hand of in a blender, to create a batter that's similar to pancake batter but much thicker and stickier - this batter does not come off the spoon easily. Bring a pan of salted water to the boil. Take a spoon and put it in a cup of freshly boiled water for about 3min. Use the spoon to take a bit of the batter and place it into the water. You need to do this quickly and efficiently, yet without splash back. You may need to cook them in two batches. When they swim to the top, give them a couple of minutes extra and remove

Friday 6 June 2014

Asparagus and walnut tagliatelle

You know that feeling when you could chew off your own arm, you're that hungry? When you worry you might faint if your chosen recipe takes longer than five minutes to cook... It really is a small miracle when at a time like this you create a dish that's actually worthy of a blog, yet this is what happened today...
I cooked some fresh pasta, you know the sort that takes about 3min to cook, and threw the chopped asparagus tips into the boiling, salted water for the final minute. In the meantime, I fried some lovely, French garlic and fresh chilli in olive oil, and crushed walnuts with the back of a knife. Threw them in, grated some lemon zest and fried it all for a further 2min. I drained the tagliatelle and asparagus and added these to the frying pan, squeezed in the lemon juice, and immediately started grating Parmesan into the mix. Season with plenty of celery salt and black pepper before serving. My neighbour tried to speak to me as I was carrying this into the garden to eat. I said "hello" in such a way that he immediately understood that I was very, very hungry

Sunday 25 May 2014

Călușari Romanian wine

The Călușari are a secret society who are said to ward off dark magic through their dance. It's also the name of this Romanian wine you can buy here or in certain wine shops dotted around the UK
It's light-bodied yet full of dark flavour - the sort of tobacco and cherry notes you'd expect from a more full bodied wine. And well worth a try!
You can see how transparent it is up there, but on closer inspection you'd also notice a hint of violet round the edges, a note echoed in the aftertaste. I'm not a wine expert and this is the first time that I've tried a Romanian wine, yet I find it fascinating how a good wine can reflect it's country and culture. This one is vibrant and light, but also deep and melancholy, with a hint of magic... It just dawned on me as I was writing that sentence that a friend once described me in similar tones! The exact phrase was "chirpy, with a hint of melancholy". Perhaps this is why I love this wine

Tuesday 20 May 2014

Nettle soup with chickpeas and feta

If your garden is anything like mine then you'll have plenty of stinging nettles in it at this time of year
This is in fact the ideal time of year to cook with them, as they are still young. Once they have flowered, they are too old
Pick them with gloves on, obviously, then pour some boiling water over them, and they're ready to use! I added mine to this refreshing, zingy soup, but you can use them in any recipes that require spinach or greens
For the soup, you will need to soak the chickpeas and peas over night (you can also use lentils instead of the peas), then simmer in a large pan of boiling water with some fresh ginger and the chopped red chilli for about an hour, taking any scum off the top when it starts bubbling up. At the same time, cook the rice. After about an hour, add the halved cherry tomatoes and the chopped nettles to the soup and squeeze in one of the limes. Season with fish sauce, black pepper and paprika and allow to simmer for another half an hour or until the tomatoes have completely disintegrated. To finish, squeeze in the remaining lime and serve on top of the rice, crumbling feta cheese on top. The amounts below are all approximate, use whatever you feel is appropriate to your tastes


200g dried chickpeas
50g dried peas or lentils
Large handful of nettles
100g cherry tomatoes
2 limes
Red chilli pepper, chopped finely
Tablespoon fish sauce
Inch of fresh ginger
1/2 teaspoon paprika
Black pepper to taste
200g feta
50-100g cooked rice per person

Saturday 10 May 2014

Greek feta cheese pie

I have brought you a little gift from Greece - cheese pie. This recipe belongs to Vaso's mum, but I have had to adapt it slightly to suit UK ingredients
Make the filling by squishing the feta and lightly beaten eggs together. Add black pepper and squish some more (I did this with my hands but feel free to use a fork or any other squishing device), until it's nearly smooth, then grate the cheddar in. The pastry here is different to the Greek stuff. I used the pre-rolled sheet and rolled it out even more on a floured surface, until it really couldn't get any thinner. It was 60cm in length and I cut it into four equal strips. Take three of the strips, oil them and lay on top of one another on some foil. Place the filling on top, flatten and cover with the last sheet. The original recipe calls for 6 layers at the bottom and 5 on top, but this is not possible with this pastry. If you make your own or find the super thin sheets (I have since found out that you search for these in the freezer) then you can try it. You could use two sheets of the pre-rolled stuff, but it will make it too pastry heavy in my opinion. Fold all the sides and corners in, sticking them together with oil, before baking in a pre-heated oven at 180 degrees C for around an hour
Greece was magical as always. I must have been to Greece about a dozen times over the years and each time it leaves me with unforgettable memories and a hankering for more. Always that same herby smell, the connection to antiquity, the warmth of the people and the air. I started off in and around Athens, spending quality time with my beloved old friend, Karina, her family and friends. In Oropos, I watched a breathtaking sunset, swam in the crystal Aegean and celebrated Easter with an egg fight; in Athens, I sunbathed on a massive terrace not far from the Acropolis, drank Greek wine here and delved deeper into the city. The delving brought immediate rewards as in Monastiraki, after years of dreaming about it, I found Stavros' the poet sandalmaker's shop where I bought a pair of the best Greek sandals in Greece
I met my new love on Mykonos. We visited the gods on Delos, got to know one another intensively and at times brutally, ending up in hospital on the last day. No we didn't beat one another up, thankfully, but we did crash the bike

Cheese Pie - Ingredients

1 sheet filo pastry, pre-rolled
400g feta
100g cheddar
2 eggs
Black pepper
Olive oil
Plain flour

Friday 25 April 2014

Eating Greece

I'm in Greece doing non-specific, food-related research
That may sound like I'm just on holiday and eating a lot... which is partly true... But I'm also collecting recipes, which I will cook and tell you about when back home

Thursday 17 April 2014

Amaranth porridge with berries

There's something that happens when I'm about to get on a plane. I always manage to either miss my flight or create some kind of unnecessary drama. Even when in other areas of my life I feel calm and content, the time comes to catch a flight and something inevitably goes wrong. I should be in Athens right now, but I'm not. I wouldn't say I'm London either. I'm occupying a space in between two worlds, neither solidly in one nor the other. Like the Cheshire cat in Alice in Wonderland, I'm just not all there. Or here. Some would argue that this is a natural state of affairs for me and they'd have a point, yet at this moment in time this quality is so pronounced that I feel like parts of me could easily just disappear like they do to that cat. Yet like him, I'm quite enjoying it. I'm using this strange space to look at my life  objectively and make some small yet important changes, to experiment with how I normally do things. In my everyday life I'm often too busy in the action of doing to take a step back and reflect on how I could improve the process. There are infinite ways of doing things, why do we get stuck in one mode like machines I wonder... Some things just work so there is no need to change them, yes, but other things don't work, yet we get stuck in a habit - those are things I'm targeting right now. One habit that I have no intention of changing for the time being however, is porridge for breakfast. That's working out very well. There are so many variations that I can't see myself getting bored. I made this one with amaranth grains and berries the other day. It's a grain I've never used before and was a bit puzzled by, yet it turns out that it makes a brilliant porridge, less stodgy and sticky than oats
I cooked it first in lots of cold water. I'll be honest with you, I wanted to use it for a salad, yet I quickly noticed that it was turning into a porridge-like consistency and went out and bought some quinoa for the salad instead. I think the grains are actually too small for a salad and also I cooked them in too much water to allow them to separate. But for a porridge they were perfect. So the next morning I took a spoonful of the cooked amaranth and diluted it with plenty of almond milk. I allowed it to simmer, along with a handful of raspberries and blueberries, a pinch of salt and some honey for around 10min, until the raspberries disintegrated completely. Then I  added a bit more almond milk to reach a consistency I was happy with. Amaranth is completely new to me in this form (I've tried the leaves before), it has an unusual taste, neither sweet nor savoury, it's lost somewhere between the worlds just like me, so it needs strong, decided flavours that push it in either one direction or the other... I think I've just managed to empathize with a grain

Tuesday 15 April 2014

A rowdy springtime salad

The sun is shining and London is in a good mood. This is the positive side of living somewhere where the weather in unpredictable - when the sun does come out, the whole city is on a natural high. My friend, Ash, tells me that in Australia, where she comes from, good weather is expected and because of this it makes no difference at all to peoples' mood... here, everyone is just so damn grateful for any bit of sunshine they can snatch, that when it does come out, and especially on a day when it is needed, during a picnic or barbeque, London acquires a festive atmosphere. Luckily, our sun dances worked last weekend and our star came to the annual cherry blossom picnic. This is the fourth year we congregate under the cherry blossoms in Victoria Park and do our version of Hanami
This year I made a spicy and colourful salad, which was dubbed "rowdy salad" by Ashley. It's the most fitting name for it considering the pink radish, purple carrots and fresh chillies. Did you know that all carrots used to be purple? This is something new that I learnt last weekend. I thought the carrots I bought were a hip novelty, in fact, they were a return to the old ways. The world works in spirals, everything is a continuation or a development, nothing is really lost - I like that


Quinoa, cooked
Alfafa and broccoli sprouts
Radishes, chopped finely
Fresh red chilli, chopped finely
Purple carrots (or normal carrots), grated
Virgin olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon of mayonnaise
Garlic salt
Black pepper

Wednesday 9 April 2014

The best chocolate mousse in the world

I have eaten many, many chocolate mousses in the 34 years I have spent on this planet. Anja's chocolate mousse has been my favourite, closely followed by the one served at Saint Janou in Paris. I have attempted to make many chocolate mousses too. Some attempts have been disastrous (one New Year's Eve a couple of years ago comes to mind), some fair, the last one pretty good, following Elizabeth David's famous recipe I found here. But my wanton days of folly and experimentation are over as far as chocolate mousse is concerned. I know a good thing when I taste it, and I'm happy to eat only this chocolate mousse for the rest of my days. I'd marry it tomorrow if I could

So this is the magic recipe: melt the chocolate over some warm water simmering in a pan, add the butter and mix the two. Beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt until they form peaks and don't move at all. Beat the whipped cream with the icing sugar until they reach the consistency of the stuff you get in a tin, again, almost solid. Stir the egg yolks and sugar together vigorously, until the sugar disintegrates and the mixture turns very pale in colour. Allow the chocolate to cool slightly and mix the egg yolk into it. Fold it into the egg whites, stirring gently. Once it's mixed, fold in the whipped cream. Do not beat at this point. Only stir. Be gentle, yet thorough, like Anja. When everything has turned into a pale brown, creamy goo, cover with cling film and cool in the fridge. Cooling overnight is preferable, but a couple of hours will do if pressed for time, as I was when I made it. Like everything good in life - enjoy, treasure and don't mess around with it!


200g Cadbury's "Bournville" dark chocolate or another dark chocolate that isn't "too dark"
1 tablespoon butter (salted)
3 eggs
2 tablespoons caster sugar
Pinch of salt
250ml whipped cream
1 tablespoon icing sugar

Monday 7 April 2014

Venison stew with chocolate and chilli

Early Spring, with it's constantly changing moods, can bring about a melancholy in me. I have to remind myself that life isn't just about bright sunshine and balmy Summer evenings; that we need the rain, wind and grey moments too. I am impatient for the sun. I am in fact impatient for everything, bordering on intolerant at times. When something is clear to me, I want to impose that clarity on the whole world. This is an immaturity in me, reality can be seen and expressed in many different ways and everyone has their own process. I am learning to let go. Feeling my impatience, anger and sadness as strongly as I can and then accepting that it makes no difference, and that's how it's supposed to be, so I can relax. I made a late Mother's Day lunch for my mum and the family yesterday. They came an hour and a half early, catching me by surprise and I very nearly ruined it, but luckily managed to relax and accept the situation in the end. The main course was this stew
I had a hunch that venison and dark chocolate would work, especially with a chilli kick. And the red wine. These strong flavours together are a dream. Fry the carrot, onion, celery and ginger first for about 5min in the olive oil. Add the venison chunks and the chilli, seal the meat for a couple of minutes then add the paprika, ground ginger and cumin, stir and fry for another minute, add a splash of water. Season with salt and pepper. Pour over the wine, cover and simmer for about half an hour. Add the red pepper and chocolate. Simmer some more. If it looks dry then add more red wine. It needs about 2 hours in total, until the meat is so soft that it's falling apart, but make sure you stir it every 20min or so and make sure it's not drying out, adding splashes of wine when you need to. Right at the end add the fresh coriander and serve - it works well with sweet potato mash you see up there. For dessert we had Anja's chocolate mousse, which is the best chocolate mousse in the world, and I will tell you about next time

Ingredients (serves 4)

400g venison, in bite-sized chunks (remove any stringy bits)
6-8 squares dark chocolate
1 onion, finely chopped
2 carrots, grated
4 celery stalks, finely chopped
1 red chilli, chopped
1 inch fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon paprika
Approximately 1/3 bottle red wine
Handful chopped fresh coriander
Mild oil for frying
Salt and pepper

Monday 31 March 2014

Leftover risotto balls aka arancini

It's too easy to live a life filled with anxiety, frustration and stress, especially in a city like London. The more we want to move away from negative emotions, the more they stalk us. I've found that the only way is through: to accept that life is not meant to be easy, it's meant to make us grow. Ironically, once you accept life with all it's issues, the issues often give way and the clouds part. I'm going through one of these sweet moments right now, and it's giving me such an innate trust in the universe that every setback I encounter, every emotion that I face, I know is there for a reason and I accept them all. I am in the process of building the life I want, a very simple one in a way, yet here in London this is a challenge. I now see this as a good thing, because life would be monotonous with no challenges
I am eating simply too. Plenty of grains and vegetables, not much meat. I have a house guest in my living room and we share a lot of our meals. Recently, I made a risotto with some dried wild mushrooms I still had from Poland. The next day I rolled the left over risotto into small balls - it was still sticky from the melted parmesan. I could have rolled the balls around in some breadcrumbs like they do in Sicily, but I forgot and just fried them in about a centimeter of olive oil, turning every few minutes. They were divine! Make sure you don't throw away your left-over risotto, and do this instead. I ate them with a rocket salad on the side for lunch

Saturday 15 March 2014

Sweet pumpkin and walnut dumplings

It dawned on me today, as I was sitting cross-legged on a quiet, sunny spot on the South Downs, my unkempt hair falling across my bare, shiny face, that I turn into a complete crusty when I'm in Eastbourne. It's something about being so near to the Downs I think, and with these massive windows we have in our house it's like I become a part of this windswept, weird landscape. There is not that much to do here, yet I am quite happy whiling away the hours cooking, walking and chatting to my parents. This morning my mum and I made pumpkin dumplings
I'm making yet another attempt at generally avoiding sugar and, yet again, my mum has tempted me away from my goal with these gorgeous little mouthfuls of sweet, nutty pumpkin dough. They are a different take on the Polish "lazy dumplings", where we use white curd cheese instead of squash. Actually, yes this is a good point - you can use both pumpkin and orange squash for this - in Polish-speak they are considered the same thing
Halve the pumpkin or squash, take out the seeds, pour over a little olive oil and bake in a very hot oven for about 40min, until you can easily take the flesh out with a spoon. You only need half for this recipe, it makes plenty of dumplings (enough for 4 people). So, allow it too cool a little then scoop the flesh out, add the flour, egg, half the cinnamon and the caster sugar and make the dough. If it's too sticky, add some more flour. Right at the end work the crushed walnuts into the dough and roll it between your hands into a flat, snake shape like that up there. Cut it diagonally and cook in a pan of boiling, slightly salted water. When they pop to the top, give them one more minute, then remove them with one of those spoons with lots of holes in (what are they called again?), allowing as much of the water to drain as possible. Cook them in a large pan and in rounds, not all at once. Once done, place on a large plate with some butter over the top, so that they don't all stick together. You can eat them immediately with brown sugar and more cinnamon, or re-fry later. Both ways are equally delicious


Half a pumpkin or large squash, pureed
400g plain flour
1 egg
4 tablespoons caster sugar
100g walnuts, crushed 
2 teaspoons cinnamon
Pinch of salt
Brown sugar to serve
Butter to serve