Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Barley risotto with roast pumpkin & beets

Risotti are one of my biggest love affairs in the kitchen but also I love buckwheat or barley so much that I was extremely happy to use them in the same way I use arborio rice. Especially that those two are very typical for Central of Eastern Europe and sometimes I miss some Slavonic flavours. This dish is a very nice mix of Polish (barley) and Italian (method and parmesan) influences, a perfect Autumn dish.

This time I have incorporated pearl barley into a risotto recipe that I have found in “Good Food” magazine for spelt risotto. Also I have changed it slightly as I though using a mascarpone cheese in quite buttery and creamy dish is too decadent. Not mentioning that I did not have this cheese at home… Anyway – the outcome was extremely tasty. I have tried this sort of dish before with some mushrooms but this time I though it is the right time to start pumpkin season. So here we go!

Serves 2

about 200g pearl barley
about 30g butter
large, white onion, peeled and diced
ok. 150ml dry white wine
ok. 1l vegetarian stock
2-3 olive oil
half small butternut squash, peeled, deseeded and cut into bite size chunks
2 fresh beetroots
spring of fresh rosemary
handful of freshly grated parmesan
freshly grated black pepper

Sprinkle the unpeeled beets with some oil and place in the oven (180C) until soft. Cool down slightly, peel and dice. Set aside.

In a pan melt half of the butter and fry the onion until soft. Add the barley and mix until covered in fat. Next add the wine, stir and leave it to evaporate. Next add a ladle of hot stock, cover and leave until most of the stock is soaked. Uncover, add some more stock; do not let the barley to dry out. Cook until the barley is soft, over a medium heat. It will take about 20 minutes. Season with salt (if needed, sometimes stock is quite salty, so you do not need an extra salt) and pepper.

Meanwhile roast the pumpkin on a baking tray. Sprinkle with some olive oil, pepper and add rosemary. Roast in 180 C until soft, but still firm. For last 3 minutes add the beets to reheat them. Remove the rosemary.

When the barley is cooked remove the pan form the oven, ad the remaining butter and parmesan, stir well and set aside for minute, or two. It should become quite creamy.

Place onto the plates, add some roasted vegetables on the top and serve immediately.

Saturday, 25 September 2010

Plum & almond cake

End of the summer and beginning of warm autumn always remind me dinners at my Granny's house - in September she always makes a kind of dough and wrap the prunes in it (knedle ze śliwkami in Polish - it is little bit like Italian gnocchi but filled with fruits, clik here to see what it looks like). It tastes great, but I can get hold of this particular type of plums she uses. It is similar to damson, but bigger and sweeter. Although I love plums I do not fancy making my Granny's dish as I think it would not be as good as that one back home... Instead I indulge myself with plum cake, especially that my boss gave me some plums from his garden.

It is easy and quick to make and it makes a great treat for your afternoon tea.

Makes 25cm round tin

250g unsalted butter
200g caster sugar ( I used golden)
5 eggs
tsp vanilla extract
250g plain flour
level tsp baking powder
handful of almond flakes
about 600g plums, halved, weight after removing stones

Preheat the oven to 180 C.

Mix sugar with butter until fluffy. Next add eggs - one by one mixing all the time. Add vanilla extract, sieved flour with baking powder and mix. Place the mixture in round cake tin lined with baking paper.

Sprinkle half of the almonds on the top, place halved plums and sprinkle with the remaining almond flakes. Bake for about 30 minutes, remove from the oven and let it cool down in the tin.

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Five or less ingredients #3

Previously in this series:

#1 Series rules and pork stir fry in caramel sauce

#2 Salmon baked with fennel and black olives

Right, I am back with my series, I have to admit I had a break for a while with 5 ingredients dishes. Now I would like to present a pasta dish, while we are in the pasta mood after making a homemade one. Also I am using the courgettes that are still in season. Easy dish, tasty, light and very quick to make – it only takes time to cook the pasta, meanwhile you can prepare the rest of ingredients. It is better to use a garlic infused olive oil but extra virgin is good as well.

Tagliatelle with courgettes & sun blushed tomatoes

Serves 2

about 200g tagliatelle (or other long pasta)
2 small courgettes
few tbsp garlic infused olive oil
few sun blushed tomatoes from olive oil
parmesan or pecorino
freshly ground black pepper

Put a big pan filled with water on the hob to boil the pasta. Meanwhile prepare the courgettes.

Using a veg peeler cut the courgettes lengthwise into ribbons. Fry them in the pan/skillet in olive oil – gently, try to not damage them and do not brown them too much.

Boil the pasta accordingly to producer’s instructions, drain and mix with the courgette ribbons. Add some pepper and sun blushed tomatoes then plate. On the top add some parmesan shavings (I made them using a veg peeler). Serve immediately.

Monday, 20 September 2010

Review & I fight my demons vol. 2

Recently I mentioned I am going to test my new kitchen equipment that was kindly offered by CSN Stores. Also at the same time I fought my next culinary demon - homemade pasta.

Honestly, before I made my own pasta I thought it was extremely difficult, time consuming and the outcome would not be good enough to waste my time and money to buy a pasta maker. Also I was told it is not worth buying £20-30 makers, as they do not last long and are difficult to manage.

So when I had the opportunity to shop at CSN Stores my first thought was - pasta machine! I have decided to go for Imperia pasta maker, which costs around £50-60 and seems to be in the middle range of manual pasta makers. I have decided to buy this one, without any attachments to make short pasta or ravioli, because I did not know if making homemade pasta will be fun. Now I know t certainly is!

Right... Perhaps I will introduce you to the machine first. Imperia Double Cutter Pasta Machine came in the box and it was quite heavy, yet not to heavy to handle. It has detachable handle, tabletop screw clamp fitting and full care and use instructions.

The machine consists of two rollers that can be gradually adjusted (6 positions), rolling the pasta into thinner sheets as the handle is turned. Also it comes with tagliatelle and spaghetti attachment. Once the correct thickness has been achieved you can either cut you pasta sheets into your favourite shape or feed it through the cutter.

The rollers and the cutter run smoothly, the maker is solid and once secured to the top it can be one hand operated without sliding. The extra attachment to make short pasta is available and it is matter of time until I buy it, because I already love to make my own pasta. Also, I will use it to roll out the dough for lasagne sheets, handmade ravioli or Polish dumplings. I do not have the attachment to make ravioli, but these are so easy to achieve when you have a perfectly rolled dough. I just make them by hand and pastry cutter.

I am very happy with my new equipment and would recommend making your own pasta to everybody who loves simple Italian food. Homemade pasta does not need fancy ingredients - good quality olive oil, garlic, basil and parmesan are more than enough. Let pasta speak for itself.

Now, I tell you how to make your own pasta. I used recipe from fabulous book "Made in Italy. Food and the stories" by Giorgio Locatelli for fresh egg pasta using Italian "00" type flour. You can use one egg for every 100g of flour, however it is good to add some extra egg yolks. The more egg yolks you add the more brittle the pasta becomes.

Homemade tagliatelle

Makes about 600g

500g Italian "00" (doppio zero) flour
3 large eggs in room temperature
2 egg yolks (optional, you can use whole extra eggs)
pinch of salt

Preferably make pasta by hand, especially when you make small amount as it can be difficult to mix well by food processor.

Sieve the flour into a bowl, then turn into a mound onto a clean surface and make a well in the middle. Sprinkle the salt into a well and then crack in the eggs.

You can have a bowl of water on the side, so you can wet your hands to help bring the dough together if it getting too difficult towards the end of kneading.

To begin brake the egg yolks with your fingertips and then begin to move your fingers in a circular motion, gradually incorporating the flour until you have worked in enough to start bringing in together in a ball. The you start to work the ball of dough by pushing it with the heel of your hand, then folding the top back to itself, repeating again and again.

To make the dough you have to spend a good 10minutes on kneading, the dough should come together and feel quite stiff. However it is no good to overdo the dough. You need to leave it in damp cloth for about 1 hour to rest and it will become softer.

Next roll the pasta using a rolling pin first so it is not too thick when rolling in the machine, about 1 cm thick is enough. Put the machine of the thickest setting and start rolling. You have to support the rolled dough with you hand so it will not fold or stick. Change to next setting and roll again. Repeat another 2-3 times taking the setting down every time.

Next fold the pasta onto itself, put the machine into first setting and put the pasta through. Repeat 2-3 times, changing the setting to thinner. If you feel the dough is too sticky dust with very little flour. The final dough should be about 1.5mm thick, shiny and with no lines in it. You can use it to make long pasta using cutting attachment, or cut it by hand. Also you can cut it into lasagne dish or use t to make filled pasta such as tortellini or ravioli. You can dried it and keep in the paper bag, or in the jar or you can use it straight away.

Fresh egg pasta needs only about 3-4 minutes of cooking.

Also today I will show the recipe from the same book for a classic pesto that is delicious with homemade pasta. Homemade pesto is much better than a shop bought one, as the shop bought one can be too garlicky and has chemical smell and taste.

Classic pesto

Makes small jar

2 garlic cloves
2 tbsp of pine nuts, slightly toasted
250g basil leaves
2 tbsp pecorino or parmesan cheese, grated
around 300ml extra virgin olive oil
tiny pinch of salt

Either in the food processor with a sharp blade or using pestle and mortar start with the garlic and salt. Smash the garlic, then add the nuts and crush them, but try not to overwork them. Drop in the basil leaves a few at time and work them in as quickly as possible. Then add you cheese and oil until you have bright, green paste. The quicker you bring it together the brighter the colour will be as you will not generate too much heat.

Place in the jar, cover with layer of oil keep refrigerated. It will keep for 6 months, especially if you used young basil that did not start to flower.

See also:
I fight my demons, vol. 1

Saturday, 18 September 2010

Green bean curry

There seems to be a strong catholic tradition in Poland that makes people not to eat meat on Friday. Fish is allowed, but can be quite expensive, some people do not like it, sometimes it is difficult to buy fresh, tasty fish in Poland without spending a fortune. I would think that sticking to this tradition makes Polish people aware of many tasty vegetarian dishes. Unfortunately I can still see some people mourning about Friday diners. They are lacking of inspirations, sometimes have to adjust dinners to few other members of family who do not certain food i.e. fish. Sometimes they have a problem with cooking filling, comforting dish to other members of family who do not accept dinner without meat. I would like to make it clear that it is not my tradition, but still in my opinion not eating eat at least once a week it good for health and environment. I prefer to eat meat 2-3 times a week myself, so I have no issues with that.

Even if we drop the idea of cooking fish, there is still a huge amount of vegetarian dishes that we can cook. Why not to cook vegetarian curry for a change? In India due to the religious restrictions many people is on vegetarian or vegan diet and their food is fantastic! The veg curry ideas are endless and it is your own imagination that limits you. Use seasonal vegetables, in winter stick to frozen or tinned ones and create your own tasty curry. I made this one, because my boss gave me a bag of various beans and I wanted to utilise it in dish that is tasty, filling and is suitable to reheating next day for lunch. If some of the people still do not like this idea I am going to cane them with green beans.

Serves 2-3

2-3 tbsp sunflower oil
1 red chilli, seeds removed if you prefer mild curry, finely chopped
piece of fresh ginger, approx. 3cm, peeled and finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
half tsp turmeric
half tsp mustard seeds
tsp ground coriander
tsp garam masala
large red onion, peeled, cut into eight pieces, each split into single layer
ok. 400g green beans, cut into bite size pieces
ok. 200ml chopped tomatoes (preferably skinned)
400ml coconut milk

In a pan fry the garlic, chilli and ginger for a minute, next add all the spices and fry for 30 seconds. Next add onion and fry for a minute and add tomatoes, beans and coconut milk, season with little salt. Cover and simmer for about 15 minutes or until beans are soft.

Serve with rice (preferably basmati, we run out, so had it with wholegrain and it was OK), naan bread and chutney mango. Next day I had it with rice only and it was very tasty too.

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Pork sausage & thyme risotto

As I mentioned few times in the past we both love risotto and it is our Friday night celebration to cook risotto and have it with a glass of wine. Our culinary heaven. We prefer vegetarian risottos but few people asked me if I have a good recipe for risotto with meat. I have to admit I was not very keen to make meat risotto but I decided to experiment with this dish few weeks ago.

I have to admit it was nice, but not as nice as any veggie risotto. Even my partner, who is a great meat lover pointed out that we should stick to veggie version of this dish. However I will post the recipe here, so meat lovers cannot feel ignored anymore - at least when it comes to cooking risotto.

Serves 2-3

onion, peeled and finely chopped
200g arborio or carnaroli rice
approx. 25g butter
approx. 150ml dry white wine
approx. 1 l vegetable stock
approx. 200g pork sausage (I used pork and herb sausages from local butcher)
2-3 tbsp fresh thyme, leaves picked
2 handfuls freshly grated parmesan
freshly grated black pepper

Keep the stock hot all the time. In a separate pan heat half of the butter, add the onion and fry very slowly without colouring until softened. Then squeeze the meat sausage out of the casing into about walnut size pieces and fry until browned. Next add rice and turn up the heat.

Fry the rice, stirring all the time. After a minute it will look slightly translucent. Add the wine and keep stirring until alcohol will evaporate.

Once the wine has cooked into the rice, add a ladle of hot stock and turn down the heat to a simmer so the rice doesn’t cook too quickly on the outside. Keep adding ladlefuls of stock, stirring – you will notice a creamy starch from the rice. This is why you have to allow each ladleful to be absorbed before adding the next. This will take around 15-20 minutes, until the rice is cooked. Season with pepper.

Remove from the heat and add the remaining butter, half of parmesan and most of thyme leaves (leave some for garnishing). Stir well and allow to rest for 2 minutes – this will make risotto really creamy and oozy. Sprinkle with the remaining parmesan and thyme leaves and serve immediately (as risotto cannot be reheated!).

Monday, 13 September 2010

Cauliflower & gorgonzola soup with pear relish

I mentioned few days ago that I had a soup crisis and did not eat the soups for weeks until I have finally found inspiring recipes. There was a recipe that really impressed me and I wanted to make this soup as soon as possible. It is a recipe for a cauliflower soup that I have found in Good Food, October 2010 issue (I have made few alterations). Very unusual, very good for Autumn, very comforting and pear relish takes it to a very exciting new level. I hope it will interest you too and you are going to make it. It is definitely worth it.


Serves 4

1 medium cauliflower
2 tbsp unsalted butter
2 small yellow onions, peeled and diced
few thyme springs
bay leaf
1 l vegetable stock
200g gorgonzola
2 tbsp crème fraîche
freshly ground black pepper

Remove the outer leaves from cauliflower and cut into florets, saving the stalk and chopping it into pieces.

Melt the butter in a pan add the onions and fry until translucent and soft. Add cauliflower, thyme, bay leaf, stock, little salt and pepper. Cover and simmer until the cauliflower is soft.

Remove bay leaf, crumble in gorgonzola, add and stir to combine. When the cheese is melted whizz the sup until perfectly smooth. Reheat gently.

Pear relish

2 tbsp dried cranberries
1 tbsp currants
2 firm pears
1 firm apple
75ml cider or red wine vinegar
2 tbsp caster sugar
tbsp picked thyme leaves
half tsp ground cinnamon

Soak cranberries and currants in little warm water for about 10 minutes and drain.

Core and dice pears and apples, leave them unpeeled.

Melt the butter in a small pan over a low heat, add the diced fruit and cook for 5 minutes. Next add all the remaining ingredients and cook for about 10 minutes. The relish should be shiny and slightly translucent. It did not work with mine and I was afraid of overcooking the pears and apples so I drained them. I added 2 tbsp caster sugar to the pan and left it until it turned to caramel. Next I added the drained fruit and left it to caramelised a bit.

You can keep the relish in a covered bowl in the fridge for a week.

Serve a soup with a little warm relish in the centre, sprinkled with some pepper and fresh thyme.

Food heaven.

Friday, 10 September 2010

Sour chunky cauliflower soup

I have been trough a culinary crisis recently. A soup related one. I cooked soups for my partner but did not eat them myself for few good weeks. I did not fancy any soup that I already knew; I was looking for something new, something rehashing and exciting.

Recently I saw two recipes for cauliflower soups I was excited about. These were what I have been looking for. One of them I still have not made and it is Good Food magazine recipe (I will make it though, as I have all the ingredients in my fridge now), the other one I have found on one of the Polish culinary blogs. It may sound weird to you, but believe me – if you like sour and salty taste you will love it.

It is similar to Polish soup made from gherkins from a salty brine (ogórki kiszone or ogórki kwaszone), not pickled in vinegar! I would made some of those if only I could get hold of fresh gherkins but unfortunately I have not seen them in the shops or on local market. Therefore I decided I will prepare cauliflower the same way I would do gherkins and then cook a soup. Very, very interesting. Are you afraid to try it? Should not be.

First of all you need a big, clean jar to prepare cauliflower in brine. Then in the jar place:

2 small cauliflowers cut into florets
2-3cm piece of fresh horseradish, unpeeled
2 garlic cloves, peeled
tbsp of dill seeds (suva seeds)

And just cover with warm salted water. I would think about 1 tbsp of salt for a pint of water. Leave it in warm place for 2-3 days, until it smells and the water looks bit cloudy. Remove the cauliflower from a jar, keep the water and discard dill seeds, horseradish and garlic.

In a pan boil some vegetable stock, and next add the following peeled and diced vegetables:

2-3 potatoes
2 carrots
garlic clove


bay leaf
2-3 allspice
few whole black peppercorns

Boil until the vegetables are soft and add the cauliflower and salty water accordingly to your taste. The more water you add the more salty and sour the soup will be. Boil for another 5 minutes.

Chop a handful of fresh dill, add to the soup and if you like you can add some crème fraiche. Serve hot.

It is not that scary, is it?

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Spicy roast leg of lamb

I like living in the countryside. Sometimes I complaint about cinema or shopping centre being so far away, but I rather go shopping few times a year (it is whole day challenge) or travel to nearest fitness centre twice a week but come back from work to quiet and peaceful environment. Here a walk to the river or Pennines hills is a matter of minutes. Also I have an opportunity to buy some products from local producers such as free range eggs or meat. I pay a good price and I know exactly where the meat comes from and this is extremely important for me.

Few weeks ago my partner ordered a half lamb from a local farmer I mentioned some time ago. Surprisingly the meat was ready to collect few days earlier than we have expected so my partner went to get it and I was trying to empty our small freezer. I have managed to place everything in there and now we are stocked for good few moths.

Today I am going to show a recipe from “Indian food made easy” by Anjum Anand that I love and it would be perfect for those who do not love the smell of lamb. It is marinated for long time and spices make this meat very aromatic without a typical lamb smell. Although the smell is not totally gone. I have changed the quantities and method slightly.

approx. 2 kg leg of lamb

For the marinade

2 tbsp vegetable oil
5 tbsp lemon juice
approx. 5cm fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
6 large cloves garlic, peeled
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 tbsp ground coriander
¼ tsp red chilli powder
1 tbsp garam masala
freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp water

For the honey rub

100g almonds, blanched
150ml Greek yoghurt
2 tbsp honey

Blend together all the ingredients for the marinade in a blender or food processor.

Trim the excess fat and membranes from the leg of lamb. Make deep regular cuts all over the flesh with a short, sharp knife. Rub in the marinade, making sure you get it into the deep cuts. Place the lamb in a plastic food bag with the marinade and leave in the fridge, ideally for 24 hours.

Next day for the honey rub place all the ingredients in a food processor and blend. Take the lamb out of the fridge and remove the plastic bag. Rub the honey blend into the lamb and ideally leave the lamb for another two hours, covered, in the fridge.

Remove the lamb from the fridge and bring to room temperature before cooking and preheat the oven to 225C. Place the lamb in a ovenproof dish with cover and roast for 15 minutes then lower the temperature to 180C, add half glass of water and cover. Roast for another 1 hour 40 minutes. Uncover for last 10 minutes.

Remove from the oven, cover with kitchen foil and leave to rest for about 10 minutes.

Carve and serve with potatoes and vegetables.

First day we had it with roast potatoes and Vichy carrots. Next I have carved all the meat off the bone, placed the bone in a pan added some water and boiled for about 1 hour over a low heat. I used the stock to cover meat leftovers and made sure all the almonds from roasting are added to the gravy as well. Next day I served lamb with this gravy and creamed potatoes and green beans. Any meat leftovers I freeze and going to use it when making pate or for Polish dumplings (pierogi) filling.

Friday, 3 September 2010

Goats' cheese & vegetable melts

Like I mentioned few das ago I like goats' cheese a lot. If you like goats' cheese to please check out this lovely caramelised onion.

Today I am going to show a different way to have a goats' cheese which I love, as it is simple, tasty and you can have a half job done in advance. I like to make more vegetables and store them in a plastic container in a fridge and just reheat them slightly in a microwave when I fancy this melt. They will last few days refrigerated and preparation is only a matter of minutes.

It is ideal to have with glass of your favourite wine, you can serve it as a lunch, light supper or a starter.

red bell pepper, cut into bite size chunks
small courgette, cut into bite size chunks
small aubergine, cut into bite size chunks
tbsp olive oil
handful of fresh thyme
few slices of goats cheese
few slices of good quality bread, one-two days old (I used sourdough bread with olives and sun dried tomatoes)
2 garlic cloves
few sun dried tomatoes from olive oil
freshly ground back pepper

Preheat a pan/skillet and add the olive oil. Next add peppers, courgettes, aubergine and picked thyme leaves. Fry until al-dente, stirring from time to time making sure the vegetables are not browning too much. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 200C.

Using a food processor or pestle and mortar mash sun dried tomatoes and garlic until smooth.

Place bread slices on a baking tray and put into the oven for 3 minutes.

Spread tomato paste on the bread slices, top with vegetables and slice of cheese. Bake until the cheese is melted.

Remove from the oven and garnish with fresh thyme. Serve warm.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Lemon & courgette risotto

We both love risotto and sour dishes. This risotto seems to be an ideal dinner for us and when courgettes are in season we eat it quite often. We tend to cook risotto on Friday night when we know we can totally relax and have our favourite bottle of wine. There is no shopping to do, there is no need to rush anywhere – we can have this refreshing, comforting bowl of risotto and enjoy ourselves. I have to admit we always regret when our bowls are empty even our bellies are full.

As I am a great fan of risotto I have to say it again – it has to be creamy and oozy, so please do not trust the recipes giving 400ml of stock to 200g of rice which I have come across recently. It will be too dry. I assume that some people rather have stylish picture of dry rice than a real classic dish.

Serves 2-3

small shallot, finely chopped
200g arborio or carnaroli rice
approx. 30g butter
juice + zest of one lemon
approx. 150ml dry white wine
approx. 1 l vegetable stock
small courgette, sliced
handful of fresh basil
2 handfuls freshly grated parmesan
freshly grated black pepper

Keep the stock hot all the time. In a separate pan heat half of the butter, add the shallot and fry very slowly without colouring until softened. Then add add rice and turn up the heat.

Fry the rice, stirring all the time. After a minute it will look slightly translucent. Add the lemon zest, juice (reduce the amount of juice if you do not like sour dishes) and wine and keep stirring until alcohol will evaporate. Season with pepper.

Once the wine has cooked into the rice, add a ladle of hot stock and turn down the heat to a simmer so the rice doesn’t cook too quickly on the outside. Keep adding ladlefuls of stock, stirring – you will notice a creamy starch from the rice. This is why you have to allow each ladleful to be absorbed before adding the next. This will take around 15-20 minutes, until the rice is cooked.

For the last five minutes add courgette and stir gently so you do not tear up the slices.

Remove from the heat and add the remaining butter, half of parmesan and whole basil leaves. Stir well and allow to rest for 2 minutes – this will make risotto really creamy and oozy. Sprinkle with the remaining parmesan, some more pepper, garnish with basil and serve immediately (as risotto cannot be reheated!).