Thursday 26 February 2015

Chicken and vegetable soup with gherkin "croutons"

My vegetarianism lasted about 6 weeks. It wasn't the taste of meat that knocked me off the wagon, it was something much bigger and more exciting - my book-to-be. There is a very good chance that I may get it published soon. The point being that this book would not survive my vegetarianism. I had to make a choice so I made it: vegetarianism can wait. Something that I haven't given up on is my monthly focus. March will be all about... decluttering. My home and my mind, one step at a time. Every day I declutter a tiny area of my flat - a shelf, a box, a draw... And how do I declutter my mind? Every morning I meditate and set my intention for the day. That's all. Simple, like all the best things in life. And talking of simple...since I'm eating meat again I made this chicken and vegetable soup last night. We'd spent the whole day cooking for the homeless and needed something nourishing.
 I used 3 chicken drumsticks as well as leek, celery and carrots to make a stock. Then I added the pearl barley, cabbage and potatoes. You need to allow this to simmer until everything is soft now - about 40min - before frying the cubes of gherkin on a separate pan until golden. While they're frying, season the soup with salt and black and white pepper until it tastes right to you. You may a tablespoon or two of brine from the gherkins too at this point. Turn the heat off. Pour the double cream into a bowl and whisk a tablespoon of soup into it, then another, then slowly start stirring the cream into the soup. Mix half the gherkin bits into it and use the remainder as "croutons".
In Poland we have a much loved gherkin soup, which gave me the idea to use gherkins in this way. This is a very simple soup yet the gherkins give it a fun twist. They're mini bombs of flavour in your mouth, exploding with a zesty juiciness and cutting through the the taste of  the other ingredients.

Ingredients (5-6 portions)

3 chicken drumsticks
100g pearl barley
2-3 potatoes
2 carrots, cubed
2 celery stick, chopped
1 leek, chopped
1/2 white cabbage 
Sea salt
White and black pepper
8-10 gherkins
Large pan of water

Wednesday 25 February 2015

Chilli and rye sourdough bread

Thailand was magical as ever. Days spent doing my favourite things: swimming outside; reading cookbooks in a hammock; eating fresh, healthy Thai food and bargain hunting in markets... Immersing ourselves in a different world. On my return, one of the first things I did was make bread. Once you have some sourdough, you see, you are held ransom to it, knowing that it has only a certain number of days before it's no good and I was already a day over. Luckily, I'd left the sourdough in a hyperactive fridge, so it was fine.
Since I was anxious not to loose my dough, I overcame my jetlag and made the bread, combining all the ingredients down there and stirring in the sourdough combined with warm water and adding more water as needed to create that desired peanut butter texture. I put it in a greased and floured tin, covered it and left it for 10 hours on top of the radiator, before baking it this morning (1 hour, 170 degrees C). We ate it with spiced scrambled eggs (ground paprika and coriander to be precise). It's a spicy bread, therefore you need to offset the chilli to create that winning balance. If you would like to make this bread and you live in the UK I would be more than happy to send you some of my sourdough. Remember to always save a couple of tablespoons of your dough for the future. 


350g rye flour
1-2 tablespoons sourdough
1 tablespoon plain flour
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon linseeds
1 tablespoon oats
3 tablespoons wheat germ
3 dried red chillies, chopped finely
Warm water

Tuesday 17 February 2015

Mango lassies on Koh Lipe

I'm going to come clean straight away - this is a cheat post, because I'm not making or cooking anything here in Thailand. I'm also not eating bugs or anything else out of the ordinary. I am however drinking these mango lassies every single day.
That up there is the beach on Koh Lipe that I'm drinking them on (the quieter Sunrise Beach). If you want to make one of these healthy, refreshing, wonderful drinks this is what you need to blend: yellow mangos (much more flavour than their green counterparts), natural yoghurt, ice. That is all.

Tuesday 10 February 2015

Polish carnival cakes: fat faworki

OK, so they're not really called "fat faworki", just "faworki", but mine turned out a little on the fat side and "fat faworki" has a certain ring to it, you have to admit. Crispy, soft and flaky all at once, they were rather delicious and did a very good job of impressing all the right people, so I can't complain. And yet... my faworki are still a way off from my gran's paper thin, melt-in-your-mouth ones. Nothing beats the taste of childhood.
These are traditionally eaten at carnival time, which is now, so it really is the ideal time to make them. They are very simple, as you can see. You sieve the flour into a bowl and add the other dough ingredients - crème fraîche, egg yolks, butter and icing sugar. I added moisture with the lemon vodka, just because that was on hand, but you could use a another spirit, or even vinegar or lemon juice. Kneed the dough for a couple of minutes, then roll it out on a lightly floured surface, as thin as you can get it. Cut the dough in rectangular shapes, about 9cm in length and 4cm in width, and put a slit in the middle of about 3cm. Now weave one end through the slit, in order to achieve the desired shape, like mine up there. We deep fry these in the rapeseed oil, about 30sec each side, or until golden. Make sure the oil is super hot - it should start sizzling as soon as the dough hits it. Sprinkle with icing sugar while still warm.


250g plain flour
50g salted butter
3 tablespoons crème fraîche
3 egg yolks
1 tablespoon icing sugar and more to serve
2 tablespoons strong spirit, like vodka 
500ml rapeseed oil for frying

Friday 6 February 2015

Homemade, natural, food beauty products: citrus, brown sugar body scrub and oat face wash

Where January was all about "health" for me, in February I am focussing on "beauty". I don't mean that I will be staring at myself in the mirror all February or drawing lines in black marker on my face, I just mean that at the age of 35 I may need to rethink some of my beauty regimes. I am so low-maintence that I verge on unkempt. I can completely relate to the comedienne Josie Long who apparently gets ready to go out in 10min and was once asked by an unimpressed boyfriend to brush her hair before a wedding. I'm kind of like that. It's OK, like Josie, I take pride in my "efficiency" and in the Summer you can get away with that attitude because you're fresh and tanned and all "I've-just-been-swimming-in-a-pond" wild. However, at this time of year I get tired of having flaky, chipped nails, spots and dry skin (yes, at the same time) and feeling a bit "meh". So February I am taking Biotin, using both serum and face cream, night and day, giving myself weekly facials and just paying more attention to the beauty side of things. Hopefully, some of these new habits will stick. In this spirit, I would like to share a couple of homemade beauty secrets that I love... they're made from food so they're still relevant to Cheesymash I feel. I'm off to Thailand next week (see how I just slipped that in there?) and as we all know: before tanning, exfoliation is needed. This is my citrus and brown sugar exfoliant, that smells divine and leaves your skins super soft and smooth.
It's just a combination of brown sugar, almond oil, grapefruit essential oil and grated orange peel (organic of course, as you don't want it to have been sprayed with nasty chemicals).
And that up there is a facial washing device that my mum introduced me to. The little satchel (made from a cotton handkerchief) contains organic oats, which have been blended to powder form. You wet the satchel with warm water and wash your face with it every morning. It's ideal for freshening your face after a good night's sleep and will leave it feeling soft and supple. Ideal if you have any redness or sensitive skin too! One of those will last for about 4-5 days. I use it when my skin needs a bit of extra care.

Tuesday 3 February 2015

Spelt and rye onion bread

My mum has three brothers and they all love to cook. Last week I was in Poland working on an important project. To celebrate my sending everything off on time, my godfather Wojtek (my mum's youngest brother) came round and taught me this way of making proper bread. We made one spelt and one rye one then, whereas this time I combined the two flours and left out the plain flour. This has made it even healthier and taste-wise, it worked beautifully. It's not too heavy at all, if that's what you're wondering.
Wojtek gave me some fermented dough, which I managed to smuggle through security in my hand luggage on the way back to London. In order to make "proper"  bread, you see, we need to use this rather than yeast. The only way you can get it is if you know someone that already has some spare and they give you a bit to use in your dough. Then every time you make bread (it needs to contain a lot of rye flour to make good leaven), you take 2 tablespoons of dough,  put it in a jar and allow it to ferment for a week in the fridge, you then need to make bread again the following week. It's quite a process even though the actual bread making is incredibly simple: Combine all the dry ingredients down there. Fry the onions in some oil, until they're golden like this:
Add the warm water to the fermented dough jar, shake it as vigorously as you can (my weak wrist action appeared to be a source of great amusement to my mentor) and pour that into the dry ingredients. Mix it in, then keep adding more water and stirring until you get the consistency of thick batter... Something like peanut butter maybe... Transfer that into the baking tray, which has been buttered and floured. Now allow to rest for 10 hours in a warm place. On a radiator perhaps? After exactly 10 hours, bake at about 150 degrees C, for 1 hour.
If you live in the UK (I'm sorry I realise that most of my readers are actually in the US), then do let me know if you fancy making some, because I'd be more than happy to send you some of my fermented dough and pass on the bread love.


200g rye flour

200g spelt flour
2 tablespoons fermented dough
1 mug of warm water (aprox)
1 onion, chopped 
1 tablespoon sunflower oil
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon linseeds
1 tablespoon oats
3 tablespoons wheatgerm
Butter for greasing tray