Saturday, 26 November 2011

Apple & cranberry pancakes with spiced butter

I was really keen to cook those pancakes since I first saw them in December’s “Good Food” issue. I love the aroma and the taste of spices such as cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, pepper. In many Polish homes a gingerbread is served during the Christmas and the idea of having something for a breakfast with this hint of Christmassy was very tempting. Originally this was served with a cinnamon butter but I decided to go for the whole range of spices and use mixed spice. Also they recommend peeling the apple; I personally think that this would be such a shame to get rid of the apple skin. I also did not weight the cranberries, just added a good handful.  Don’t be surprised with the idea of salted butter being used along the sugar and spices – it goes amazingly good with the sour cranberries and the sweet syrup. 

This was one of the best things I ever had for my breakfast. I would highly recommend this for a breakfast in cold winter morning especially when you are planning a walk – it gives a real kick! We had it twice already and still can’t stop thinking about having some more.  

Serves 2-3

For the pancakes:

150g self raising flour
half tsp bicarbonate soda
pinch of salt
1 egg, beaten
about 140ml buttermilk
2 tbsp milk
about 40g melted butter
1 eating apple, cored and coarsely grated
handful of dried cranberries

more butter for frying
maple syrup for serving

Spiced butter:

about 40g salted butter
1 tbsp mixed spice
1 tsp caster sugar

To make the spiced butter roughly cut the butter with a knife sprinkle with mixed spice and sugar, chop little bit further so all the ingredients are mixed well. Form a sausage shape and wrap in a piece of paper, store in a fridge.

For the pancakes mix the flour with the soda and a pinch of salt in a bowl. Make a well in the centre and gradually whisk in the egg (I used fork), followed by milk, buttermilk and melted butter. Once the mixture is smooth and there are no signs of dry flour add the grated apple and cranberries.

Melt some butter in a frying pan and when hot ladle small amount of batter to form 3-4 pancakes, depending on the size of your pan.  Cook for about 3 minutes until golden and turn over and fry for 2 more minutes, or until golden.

To serve stack pancakes on a warm plate, add good knob of spiced butter on the top and drizzle with maple syrup.  And I swear - now when I am writing about this my mouth waters.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Sweet & sour sprouts (with sultanas & shallots)

Following my recent post about sprouts cooked in orange juice I now post another one, again with hint of sweetness for those who don't like the natural bitterness of  this vegetable. I absolutely love it. I can have a bowl of those sprouts on its own for a dinner and do not ask for anything else.

I found this recipe in December issue of "Good Food'" magazine but I have changed it slightly.


Serves 4

750g brussels sprouts, trimmed and bottoms slightly cut into cross
3 tbsp clarified butter (ghee)
2 medium shallots, peeled and sliced thinly
pinch of demerara sugar
small handful of sultanas
2 tbsp of balsamic or red wine vinegar
few pinches of sweet paprika powder
4 tbsp of almond flakes
freshly ground black pepper

Boil the salted water in a big pan and add the sprouts. In deep frying pan melt the butter and add  the shallots then fry over a low heat for about 8 minutes, until soft. Next add the sugar and sultanas and fry for another 2 minutes. In a separate frying pan dry - roast  (toast) the almond flakes. Add the vinegar to the shallots and let it bubble and reduce little bit before adding the boiled and drained sprouts. Mix well, season with some salt and little pepper, sprinkle with paprika and toasted almond flakes. Serve immediately. It is suitable for reheating however not as tasty as freshly prepared.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Italian style tripe

Finally I got round to cooking a tripe. Not that I have a childhood trauma or something, because in my closest family nobody ate tripe as far as I remember, however this is not very popular ingredient nowadays, especially in the United Kingdom. During the Industrial Revolution, especially in northern part of England tripe was a very popular snack. Poorest part of the society when coming back from shift in factories use to grab piece of tripe drizzled with some vinegar – it was cheap and fast food. There were special places where the whole process of cleaning and cooking quite smelly tripe took place. This is very interesting period in history of British food. On one hand there were poor working class people eating cheap cuts but on the other the Industrial Revolution changed the availability, distribution and production of food like never before. This period also brought the first food adulteration due to a rapidly increasing population. The food industry had a difficult time dealing with shortages of materials and in an effort to keep costs down, bulked up food items with bad quality fillers. One of the products that suffered the most was tea. On the other hand due to the expansion of railway system food was transported to the many places that could not get before. Faster transport meant better quality food available to more people... What I was writing about? Oh yes, the tripe.

Nowadays it is ingredient quite difficult to find and the whole process of bleaching and blanching the tripe is quite long and it makes tripe nearly as expensive as stewing beef. This could be a reason that people don’t buy it anymore and even good butchers don’t have it in stock all the time. I have ordered some and after searching the internet I found few Italian recipes. I didn’t want to cook tripe in traditional Polish way – spicy in broth with lots of marjoram, because my partner can’t stand them this way – I think he was forced to eat them when he was a child. So we both ate Italian style tripe and it was tasty, however it isn’t something that I would cook on a regular basis. I believe I haven’t found my perfect tripe recipe yet.  

This recipe is a compilation of few that I came across and to be quite honest the photos revealed something more stew like – thick, with little sauce. Mine tripe was more like a soup, thick and filling though. Marjoram is my addition, because I think it goes very well with tripe. As far as I am concerned this recipe is quite close to the traditional Trippa alla Romana, because of the use of wine and pecorino cheese. 

Serves 4-6

750g tripe, bleached, pre cooked and cut into strips  
4 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, peeled
2 carrots, peeled  
2 celery sticks  
3 garlic cloves, peeled  
150ml dry white wine  
200ml vegetable stock  
2 x 400ml tins of chopped tomatoes  
2 peperoncino peppers  
2 bay leaves  
few tsp dried marjoram
freshly ground black pepper  
handful of fresh mint, roughly chopped if large leaves
handful of freshly grated pecorino cheese (parmesan will do if you don’t have pecorino)

Chop the celery, carrots and onions very finely. I used food processor.

Heat a large pan and add olive oil. Next add the chopped vegetables and fry for about 5 minutes. Stir occasionally. Next add the wine and cook until nearly all of it evaporates. Add the tripe, whole garlic cloves, bay leaves, whole peperoncino peppers, tomatoes with the whole juice, stock to the pan. Season with salt and pepper (lots of pepper!), add marjoram, stir, cover, turn the heat down and simmer for about 2 hours, stirring occasionally.

Serve with some grated pecorino and fresh mint on the top.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Autumn walk with new lenses (lots of photos)

Recently I have found really good deal and bought myself new lenses: Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II. I did not have a time to practice a lot with food photos,  so I took my new "eye" with me for a walk. It is first time I have this kind of lenses (without zoom) and just started to learn how to use it, so please bear this in mind when looking at those photos. Any advice, especially relating to food photography, as to how make the most of this type of lens, will be very appreciated. Now please welcome to my village and have an autumn walk. Warm regards and enjoy rest of your weekend!


Monday, 7 November 2011

Brussels sprouts with orange

I know quite a few people who don’t like Brussels sprouts and I wonder why? OK, I am not entirely impartial as since I was a kid I loved this veg. However trying to be totally objective I have to admit that sprouts are little bit bitter and this could be a reason that some many people don’t like it. It is a shame because it is very healthy vegetable packed with fibre, antioxidants and vitamins. Perhaps today’s recipe will convince those who don’t like bitterness of the sprouts, as the orange makes this veg less bitter. I found the idea f cooking Brussels sprouts in orange juice in some old “Olive” magazine but have changed it – I added some walnuts on the top.    

Do you like this tiny-winy cabbage?

Serves 2-4

about 700g brussels sprouts 
about 30g of butter 
juice and zest of one orange (use a grater or a zester for a better vusial effect)
freshly ground black pepper

Place the sprouts into a deep pan with a lid along with the butter and fry for about minute or so. Next add the orange zest and juice along with the salt and pepper. Bring to a bubble then put the lid on, turn the heat down and cook the sprouts for 15 minutes or until tender (you have to chec, sometimes they only takes 10 minutes to cook). Shake the pan ocassionally so they don't catch.

On the dry frying pan toast the walnuts until crispy. Remove from a pan and chop roughly. Sprinkle the cooked sprouts before serving.  

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Butternut squash, leek & walnut bake

It is not the best looking dish. It is difficult to hold together when removed from a roasting dish, but even bit deconstructed it still tastes good. I did not want to use cream, eggs or more cheese, I wanted something light and use all leftovers I had in the fridge. My partner was away for few days and I could not be bothered to do some shopping or cook something more adventurous. I do not fancy cooking three course dinner if I have to eat it on my own. It is no fun. Do you think so?

Serves 2-4 

about 1.2kg butternut squash, peeled, deseeded and sliced (I used a mandolin with a crinkle blade)
3 small leeks, sliced, white and light green part, together about 275g
1 large garlic clove, peeled and chopped
about 25g butter
large handful of walnuts, roughly chopped  
about 300ml vegetable stock
freshly ground black pepper
freshly ground nutmeg
4 tbsp grated cheese (I used half pecorino and half cheddar – leftovers)  

Place an ovenproof dish on the hob and melt the butter. Next add the leeks and fry, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes. Next add the garlic, fry for about minute and remove from the dish. Set aside. 

Place half of the squash on the bottom of the dish (I do not add any slat, because stock and cheese are salty enough), add some pepper, nutmeg and place the whole leeks on the top. Sprinkle with the half of the walnuts, cover with the remaining squash. Again sprinkle with some pepper and nutmeg, add half of the hot stock, and cover with some kitchen foil. Place in the preheated (180C fan) oven. 

Bake for about 20 minutes, uncover, add the remaining stock, sprinkle with cheese and bake for further 15 minutes or so. 

I had some immediately, and the leftovers were suitable to reheat in the microwave.