Saturday 30 May 2015

Prune sauce for venison and the joys of experimentation

Experimentation is always fun, as long as you keep your mind open, your ideas flexible and some degree of control over what you're doing. If you see something's not quite working out, why not change direction? This is what I did with this venison (and I was very pleased with the result).
My lilac tea (yes, from the pretty bush), which was meant to flavour the sauce, turned out bitter and disgusting. I know what I did wrong now- too many stems- but rather than go ahead with the original plan, I grabbed what was available and I felt would work with the taste of venison meat: prunes and red wine. I wasn't wrong. So now I'd like to share my discovery with you. This is how you make prune sauce for venison: soak the prunes in warm water if you have time. While they're soaking fry the venison steaks, and let them rest in a warm place for at least 10min, but no longer than 15min. Melt some butter on a frying pan and add the prunes, cover in red wine. Turn the heat down and allow to simmer, stirring occasionally. After about 10min, once the prunes have disintegrated and the sauce has reduced, push it through a sieve. Put it back on the frying pan and season with salt and pepper. Add a splash of wine if it's too thick. After about 2min it's ready to serve with your venison steaks.

Thursday 28 May 2015

Semolina and chocolate dessert

Has anyone ever been more tired than me? I might be emotional if I had the energy, but it's ran out. Don't worry I haven't got some strange, undiagnosed illness, it all makes sense and I will tell you why I'm so very tired soon. In the meantime, I need to write and cook, write and cook, and even though those are the things I love doing most, it doesn't always come easily. Some days are a fountain of perfectly chosen words, metaphors and ideas, while others are... Blank. And part of writing a book appears to be not letting the blank days get you down. Sugar helps these days. I spent so many years trying to avoid it, but now I just don't care. These semolina desserts topped with chocolate sauce and pecans are nutritious, refreshing and energising all at the same time. Perfect.
First, you need to blend the semolina well with a couple of tablespoons of cold water. Bring your milk to the boil and stir the semolina into it. Allow to simmer and thicken. Once it's gloopy, take it off the heat and cool completely. While its cooling make the chocolate sauce by heating the butter, sugar and cocoa powder along with 3 tablespoons of water in a pan, and stirring until smooth. Toast the pecans on a frying pan - it makes them so much tastier. Once the semolina is cool put it in a blender and slowly add the lemon juice, sugar, vanilla essence and butter, blending all the time. When you have a paste pour it into your serving bowls, top with chocolate sauce and pecans and chill for at least half an hour. Semolina, or "kasza manna" as it's known in Poland, is often eaten for breakfast so I think these little pots would also make a lovely start to the day.


8 tablespoons semolina
400ml milk
125g sugar
125g butter
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
Juice of half a lemon

2 tablespoons raw cacao powder
100g butter
100g sugar


Monday 18 May 2015

Rhubarb cake with meringue topping

I'm a big believer in openness. So much so that sometimes I worry that I overshare on this blog and try to tone down my natural tendencies. Yet I have been given some feedback recently from a few different people and apparently you, the reader, likes to get personal. Don't worry, I won't hit you with a bomb of over-personal information right away (or perhaps you'd enjoy that) but I can commit to slowly opening up once more, perhaps a bit more like I used to when I first started this blog. When I examine my approach, there was no conscious change, yet I think that with time I started holding back a little bit with the fear of being seen as an emotional car crash. I love receiving feedback because it alters my perspective. It gives me a chance to let go of any fears I have and grow more into  myself, even if sometimes that might be slightly dramatic or over-emotional. I am Slavic after all. And talking of those Slavic roots, here we have a cake based on my gran's old recipe, only with seasonal rhubarb...
There were a couple of mishaps while making this: firstly, I misunderstand my mum when she was reading the recipe aloud and put too much butter in the dough, so it was too soft. Secondly, my mum put it on too a high a temperature in the oven. No matter. It was delicious nevertheless. Here however I give you the correct quantities and temperature, so that yours will be even better still.


500g plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 egg yolks
350g of  caster sugar
2 tablespoons sour cream
800g rhubarb
150g raisins
1 teaspoon vanilla essence 
4 egg whites, beaten to stiff peaks

- Make dough out of the flour, baking powder, 125g of sugar, sour cream and egg yolks
- Take a handful of dough and put in the freezer
- Put the remainder of the dough in a plastic bag in the fridge
- Peel the rhubarb, cut into chunks
- Mix the rhubarb with the raisins and 100g of sugar
- Butter a baking tray and roll the dough out to fit the bottom
- Place this in a pre-heated oven for 10min at 180 degrees C
- Add the rhubarb mix and put it back in the oven for another 10min
- Beat the egg whites until they form stiff peaks.
- Add vanilla essence and the remaining sugar tot he whites and keep blitzing until the mixture thickens
- Pour this over the top of the rhubarb.
- take the small dough ball out of the freezer and grate over the top
- Bake int he oven altogether for a further 35min at a reduced heat (about 160 degrees C)

Wednesday 13 May 2015

Sesame flapjacks (no sugar)

My apologies. My aim is to blog at least once a week, a commitment I've been neglecting of late. I am in a period of restructure. I am restructuring my timetable, my habits, my priorities, my social life and my mind. That's basically my whole life come to think of it. I have 5 months to hand in the manuscript of my book. This sounds like a long time but I know it isn't, because I've been writing my book. For 5 years. Yes, granted - that wasn't full time - but still, there's no room for complacency. This is my dream project, and I don't think I have ever cared about something work-related this much before. That's not to say that I haven't cared, only that this is very, very important, you get me? Everything else will need to stay on the backburner for the time being. Happily, cooking is a big part of my dream project. Also, I have to eat and keep my energy levels up. Flapjacks are always good at times like these.
This is because oats release energy slowly, as do sesame seeds. As usual, I avoided sugar and used good quality honey instead. I also substituted some of the butter for coconut oil. It made them more crumbly, but this was not a problem for me.


100g oats
100g sesame seeds
150g butter
200ml honey
50g coconut oil
50g almonds

Melt the butter and oil in a pan. Add the sesame seeds and fry until golden. Add the honey and the almonds. And anything else you fancy really. Pour the mixture into a greased baking tray and bake for 25min at about 180 degrees C.