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