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

Saturday 8 March 2014

Russian buckwheat blinis with sour cream, salmon and dill

There is a Russian saying that "life begins and ends with a blini", which shows the true value of these mini pancakes in that part of the world. I'm not trying to suggest that blinis are given to babies in Russia, I expect that the saying indicates that when you eat your first blini, this is when "real life" begins. A life of social gatherings, full of family and friends, a life where you can make your own choices, have a voice that's heard and taken seriously. I don't know about you, but when I was a child, I couldn't wait for this life to begin, I always wanted to be a part of that infinitely interesting adult world. Today, I gave blinis a new context when I made them for brunch here in London, which I think it suits them perfectly
You need buckwheat flour to make proper blinis. Sift this, along with the plain flour and a large pinch of salt, into a large bowl. Meanwhile, heat the milk gently (I need to use goat's milk because of my lactose allergy - it works well in this recipe), add the sugar and make the yeast with it. Allow to stand in a warm place for 10min before using. Whisk the eggs as much as you can into the flour, then add a tablespoon of melted butter and keep whisking. Finally, add the yeasty milk and whisk that it. Cover with a wet towel and allow to stand in a warm place for an hour. I usually turn the oven on for 5min, then turn it off and put the bowl in there. Fry the blinis in more butter, and place in a warm oven to keep warm before you serve them, but don't wait too long as they have a tendency to go hard. Serve with smoked salmon, sour cream and dill, sprinkled with a touch of black pepper. Or caviar if that's how you roll

Ingredients (makes 14-16 blinis)

100g buckwheat flour
100g plain flour
2 eggs
Large pinch of salt
100 g butter
300ml milk
25g dried yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
100g good quality smoked salmon
250g sour cream
Handful chopped dill
Black pepper

Tuesday 4 March 2014

Coconut and oat breakfast scones

Everyone loves scones. I always forget how much I do until I inadvertently try one, then I'm just all over them. Can't stop. The shop-bought ones are fluffy admittedly, but often unhealthy, laden with sugar and fats, so when I realized I was going to be having a scone love affair (replacing the now tired cinnamon bagels I've been eating all Winter) I quickly made some reasonably healthy ones. They may not be as fluffy as their shop-bought brothers, but home-made scones have their own wholesome charm, especially when warm, and you can add your favourite ingredient to the mix, which for me, at this moment in time, is coconut
Soak the coconut in the coconut milk for a couple of hours, use just enough to moisten the coconut, as we don't want too much moisture. Sift the flour and baking soda into a bowl (we want to add as much fluffiness as we can), add the sugar and the butter, cubed and softened. Work the mixture between the fingertips until it resembles breadcrumbs - this usually takes about 10min. Add the coconut and egg, which will make the mixture very sticky. Blend it in as much as you can, then add the oats to soak up the excess moisture. If it is still too sticky then add a bit more flour while rolling it out on to a worktop. Roll it out until it's around 2-3cm thick and use a cutter, or a glass, to cut round shapes out of it, 5-7cm in diameter. Place on a greased baking tray and into a preheated oven (180 degrees C) for around 30min. I used coconut oil to grease the tray, and also to slather the still warm scones, then devoured them with an obligatory cuppa


150g plain flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
150g light brown or coconut sugar
150g salted, soft butter
100g dessicated coconut, soaked in coconut milk
1 egg
100g oats