Sunday, 17 February 2013

Pig Under the Duvet


Of course, I mean pork, not the whole pig :-) the name for the dish was somehow inspired by the names of dishes I used to find really fascinating as a kid. A lot of dishes served covered with some variety of white sauce, often a cream or cheese based sauces tend to be called ".... under the duvet" or "... under the cover". Funny, isn't it?
I remember how gripping I used to find cookbooks, or my mum's recipe scrapbook as a child. Not that I wouldn't read other books, I did. I was quite a bookworm, and actually that hasn't changed.
There was certainly something intriguing about the dish names I found there, sadly most of the dishes rarely lived up to the expectations :-)
The names still don't cease to amuse me - when I see all the "the royal style" dishes - meats (mostly game), fish, pates, and even soups. There were also the 'luxurious', 'exquisite' or 'gourment' dishes - raging from meats, through salads, bakes, to cakes and  desserts - who wouldn't want to try those
There were many dishes "with a surprise" - which to me sounded promising, until I found out that the surprise was hard-boiled egg, cheese, mushrooms or  some vegetables. Come on, what sort of surprise is that? :-)
My favourite one of the lot is the so-called "Nothing Soup", which actually isn't a soup but a kind of creamy dessert.  Ah well, bearing in mind that my early childhood fell in the martial law period, I supposed people were trying to use fancy-sounding names to colour-up the grey reality. Maybe.

My dish doesn't really need any sugarcoating, it tastes delicious even if you call it exactly what it is - namely, pork with mushrooms and cream and cheese sauce.

Ingredients:

4 pork chops
salt, pepper
paprika
turmeric
plain all purpose flour
oil for frying

Sauce:
200g mushrooms
a clove of garlic
a pot of cream
200g grated strong cheese

Beat the chops with a mallet, sprinkle spices on both sides and toss each chop in flour. Heat the oil on a frying pan and fry the chops until golden brown on both sides. Place the chops on a baking tray.


Peel and chop the mushrooms and garlic, season and fry them. Put mushrooms on each chop and put them into the oven (180C).


In the meantime, combine the cream with grated cheese in a bowl, add salt, pepper, paprika and turmeric. Pour the sauce onto the chops and bake for a bit longer, until the top is golden and crispy. It's ready to serve, and truly delicious!




Thursday, 14 February 2013

Valentine's Day Shortbread Biscuits

I wasn't going to make anything special for Valentines, as day was going to be rather on a hectic side, but the craving for shortbread come all of the sudden and I couldn't get rid of it! ;-) I was very pleasantly surprised to find out how easy they are to prepare. All in all, I ended up making a small batch for the evening during my lunch break :-)

Ingredients: 

150 g soft butter
55 g caster sugar
180 g plain, all purpose flour
Use an electric whisk to cream butter and sugar. When the mixture is smooth, spoon in the flour and knead the dough until all ingredients combine. Gently roll the dough on a floured surface -don't press the rolling pin hard, as the dough is very brittle. When it's about 1 cm thick cut out the shapes and prickle them with a fork. You may need to use a fish-slice to transfer the biscuits onto a baking tray.

 
 Bake in 160C for about 15-20 mins., until they start getting golden-brown. That really is all there is to do! They are FAB-U-LOUS! ;-)

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Fat Thursday

It's definitely one of the best days in a year - diets are completely out of the question and it's actually required to eat doughnuts and other goodies. With time, this has lead to various competition, like eating as many doughnuts as you can - to time limits etc., which may not necessarily be the best idea. However, the concept of enjoying sweeties for a day is certainly down my street!

Apart from doughnuts, snot her traditional treat are faworki, aka 'brushwood' or Angel Wings, as they are brittle and apparently resemble wooden twigs that were used to heat houses. Popular in Poland, Lithuania and Germany, they are traditionally eaten during the Carnival, on Fat Thursday and on Mardi Grass, the Tuesday preceding the Ash Wednesday. The name comes from the medieval period when women would give a ribbon "favour" to their favourite knight. 

They're neither as difficult, nor time-consuming to prepare as they may seem, but they do disappear from the plates nearly as soon as they are placed on them.

You need:
500 gram of plain, all purpose flour
2 spoons of icing sugar
3-4 spoons of sour cream
1 large spoon of alcohol (e..g vodka)
5 yokes
1 spoon of soft, creamy butter
1 kilo of lard for frying
icing sugar, to sprinkle on faworki when they are ready

Mix flour, icing sugar, cream, alcohol and make a dough. When the ingredients have blended add the yokes and knead the dough again. If it is too stiff add the butter to loosen it a bit. Place the dough on the table and beat it well with a rolling pin until it is smooth and shiny and there are air bubbles inside (you can see them when you cut the dough). Place the dough in a bowl and cover it with a tea towel. Cut of small portion and roll them with the rolling pin as thin as possible. Then cut them into long stripes, about 3 centimetres wide.
Make an incision lengthwise, in the middle, so as you can pull one end through it, in order to give the pastry a bow-like shape.
                         
  When all faworkis are ready heat the lard in a frying pan and fry them on both sides until they're golden.
Serve sprinkled with icing sugar. Eat up quickly, before teh others clean the plate! ;-)

The same dough can be used for making carnival roses - instead of cutting long stripes of the pastry , cut 3 different sized circles, and make small incisions around (they'll turn up during frying and create petals). Place the circles on top of each other (make sure that they stick well, otherwise they may fall apart while frying). Fry the roses in small groups, ina  large amount of lard, gently turn them upside-down so as both sides are gold, then carefully take them off the pan. Sprinkle the roses with icing sugar and place a bit of jam on top, in the middle of each rose.

Saturday, 2 February 2013

Dumpling Soup

Soups are quite a big thing in Poland and many families will still have their lunch or dinner of two dishes - a soup followed by the main meal. Nowadays, perhaps less and less so with people spending most of the time chasing their own tails (sorry, pursuing their careers :-), but I guess many would agree with me that soups definitely are one of the best parts of our cuisine.
There are soups for each season - lighter for spring and summer (we even have fruity ones) and heavier, more substantial for autumn and winter. This soup is pretty filling so it may well be served as the main meal.

Ingredients: 

Soup:
4 chicken thighs
3-4 carrots
2-3 parsley roots
4-5 potatoes
0.5 celery root
1 clove of garlic
3 bay leaves
5-6 allspice grains
1 stock cube
1 tbsp mixed dry vegetables
salt and pepper

Place the chicken thighs in a large pan and cover with water, bring to boil. Add the stock cube, dry veg mixture, garlic clove, bay leaves, allspice, celery  peeled and diced potatoes and reduce the heat. Grate carrots and parsley on the largest holes of the grater and stir into the soup.

Dumplings:
0.5 cup of plain, all purpose flour
a pinch of salt
water

In a bowl mix flour and salt and add enough water to make a smooth dough. If it's too dry add more water, if too sticky, add more flour. When the dough is soft and smooth, break off bits and roll them in your fingers to make small balls. They need to be really small, as they'll swell during cooking.
 Add the dumplings, salt and pepper to the soup and simmer for about an hour. When it cools it can be stored in a fridge, and truth be told, it's best the day after or even a few days later, when all flavours mix properly. If it thickens too much in the fridge, you may add a bit of water when re-heating. Really worth a try.
 

 

Sunday, 27 January 2013

Ginger Biscuits

With about -15C outside, I decided we need something to "warm us up" :-) In other words, the cold weather served as a handy excuse to make ginger biscuits. Whereas I'm not entirely sure about their warming up properties, the flavour is definitely to die for!
They're amazingly easy and quick to prepare (it didn't take me longer than an hour to make a solid bunch of I guess around 150 biscuits). They've been miraculously disappearing from the plate at a stunning speed now :-)

Ingredients:

2 cups plain, all purpose flour
3-4 heaped tbsp ground ginger
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp ground cloves (or 5 whole cloves crashed in pestle and mortar)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
170 g soft butter or margarine
1 egg
1 cup caster sugar
4 tbsp honey
1 pack of vanilla sugar (or a few drops of vanilla extract)

In a bowl mix flour, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, baking soda and salt. In anther bowl mix butter with a food mixer until it's fluffy, then gradually add sugar and keep mixing. When it's smooth and fluffy add vanilla sugar and the egg, mix till smooth, then gradually start adding flour mixed with spices, and honey. You should get a really soft, but not sticky, dough. Cover the bowl with cling film and put into the fridge for 30 minutes to make it easier to roll and cut. If after taking out of the fridge the dough is sticky add a bit more flour. Roll the dough flat onto a floured surface - it should be about 0.5 cm think, and cut out shapes. Place the biscuits onto a baking tray lined with baking paper. Bake for about 8-10 minutes in an oven pre-heated to 170C. Cool on the rack for a few minutes and enjoy!!! I personally believe that they're best dipped in tea. :-)

Sunday, 20 January 2013

"Gołabki" - stuffed cabbage



I guess each Polish child, at some point, used to believe that "gołąbki" (the diminutive of Polish word for "pigeons") are made of pigeon meat. Whereas to some it may be a perfectly logical assumption, pigeon meat is not very popular in Poland, and the idea seems rather amusing to the majority of people. Quite frankly, the thought  of eating the meat of world's most scuzzy creature never ceases to give me the creeps.
As a child, though, I deeply believed that it was pigeon meat I got served stuffed inside the cabbage leaves. I seem to recall my grandmother fostering that belief, as my childhood credulity was the source of infinite joy to her. I don't quite remember when I found out about the real origin of one of my favourite dishes, but certainly was quite relieved by the truth. 
The dish is made of mince - traditionally mixed pork and beef, though minced pork shoulder will certainly suffice. Although it may seem like a complicated dish, it really is straightforward, and relatively fool-proof ;-P  It doesn't take more than half an hour to prepare (including boiling rice, blanching the cabbage and mincing meat) and about an hour to stew. Sadly, it is one of those dishes that taste incomparably better than they look, and it's rather hard to do a lot in the way of presentation.

Ingredients:

500 g minced meat (mixed pork and beef, or pork only)
1 egg
100 g rice
salt, pepper, paprika
1 stock cube  + water 
tomato puree

Mince the meat, season with spices and mix with the egg. Boil the rice and mix with the meat mixture.
 
Boil water in a pan big enough to fit the cabbage in. When the water boils put the cabbage in and boil for a few minutes. Take the cabbage out and gently peel off the leaves - be careful not to tear them as you do so. The first few layers of leaves should come off fairly easily, once they get harder to peel, place the cabbage into the pan with boiling water for another couple of minutes and continue peeling the leaves.

On each leaf place a bit of meat mixture (the amount depends on the size of each leaf)fold the sides of the leaf inside, on top of the meat, and roll it into a tube. Do the same with the rest of the leaves until you use up all the meat mixture.


Put the "gołąbki" into a large pan, they should be placed really close to each other, put as many in as you can cram. Once you've covered the bottom, place the rest of the "gołąbki" on top of the first layer, and finally put spare cabbage leaves on top.

Dilute the stock cube and pour into the pan. Cook for about 1 hour or 1,5 hour on medium heat, with the lid on. About 30 minutes before the end of cooking add tomato puree, salt and pepper.


Serve with boiled potatoes or mashed potato, and the tomato sauce made with the "gołąbki". When they cool down, store them in the fridge, according to some people they are best after a few days.  Though, do make sure they are kept in an air-tight container, as the smell of the cold cooked cabbage is not one of the nicest ones.

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Gingerbread Layer Cake

This Christmas I decided to "pimp up" my gingerbread a bit, after a last minute inspiration. I saw a photo of this cake, literally a day before making the cake and decided it's an absolute must this Christmas.
I really like how the cake combines gingerbread and gateau type cake features, it's both presentable and delicious.

The cake (4 layers):

150 g honey (liquid)
200 g butter or margarine
500 g plain flour
3 yolks
4 tbsp milk
1 tbs purified soda
100 g sugar
1 tbsp ground ginger
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp ground cardamon
1tsp ground cloves
a pinch of ground black pepper

Combine the ingredients in a large bowl - as it's really hard to do, you may be best off using dough whisks on a food mixer. Cover the bowl with cling film and put into the fridge for 24 hours.
After that time, divide the dough into 4 parts, place on a baking paper-lined baking tray and bake in 180C for about 15 minutes. Leave to cool.
 
The cream:

2 cups of milk (about 500 ml)
4 tbsp grit
300g icing sugar
250 g butter or margarine
vanilla sugar
vanilla extract

Additionally:
About 200g jam - plum or black currant  - to be spread alternatively with the cream.
Boil the milk, stir in the grit and sugar, reduce the heat and simmer stirring from time to time until it thickens. Leave to cool. Whisk the butter until fluffy, then gradually add cold milk and grit mixture (1 tbsp at a time), whisking all the time.

Spread the cream and jam on alternative layers of the gingerbread, then press the cake gently on the top. Cover with chocolate.

Chocolate spread: 

100g butter or margarine
150 g icing sugar
2 tbsp cocoa powder

Melt the butter, add sugar and cocoa, simmer for a few minutes, stirring continuously, until the mixture is smooth and shiny, and begins to thicken. It's ready to spread on the cake.

The cake is best if prepared 2-3 days in advance. Store in the fridge.



Friday, 21 December 2012

Gingerbread Houses

Gingerbread houses remind me of fairy tales. :-) I made my first "gingerbread winter village" a couple of years ago, and it's become an integral part of my Christmas preparation by now. You may say it's quite time (an labour!) consuming, but most of all - it's so much fun! OK, maybe apart from  the moment of sitting still and holding the walls and roof to "stick the house" together. :-)

Ingredients (enough to make a couple of houses)

2 and 1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup honey
1/2 cup icing sugar
1 egg
5 tbsp soft butter
1 tsp baking soda
1 tbsp cinnamon
1 tbsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground cardamon
3 ground cloves

Icing:
Egg white
Icing sugar


In a large bowl mix flour, sugar, soda, and spices. Melt butter on a hob and add honey and stir until they blend, then pour into the bowl with other ingredients and crack in the egg. Knead until the dough is smooth. Cover the bowl with cling film and put it in the fridge for 30 minutes.
Prepare a template for your house (front, back 2 walls and 2 pieces to make the roof). Roll the dough on a dusted surface and cut out the pieces of the house. Cut out the windows and place a boiled sweet into each - they'll melt into colourful "window panes". You can cut out the door, however, it needs to be done at the bottom of the "front wall" - if you cut the door out higher (leaving a threshold) it won't stick onto the house and you won't be able to give your houses slightly ajar door. That's what happened with my first houses, thus they lack doors. :-)
This tear I went for the "log cabin effect" - by making slight incisions on the gingerbread "walls", and created a small pile of wood in front of the house.


Bake the parts in 180C for about 10 minutes. Leave them to rest, then decorate the parts with icing before assembling the house. Leave the decorated parts to dry. Then stick the walls together with icing (and support them until the icing starts getting dry), then attach the roof.
My very first gingerbread house
my first gingerbread winter village
gingerbread log cabin