Saturday, 24 December 2011


Measure of appetite 

Few cubes of nice atmosphere 
Pinch of surprises and gifts 
Few drops of romantic aroma 
A glass of kindness 
Few tablespoons of sweet moments 
Bunch of closest friends and family 


Combine all ingredients and mix with hot beautiful moments. Pour into a clean bowl of love, decorate with lots of hugs and kindness, sprinkle with little gifts and memories. Bake in the aroma of friendship and understanding. Serve on a plate of acceptance and trust with your family and friends! Enjoy your Christmas dinner! 
To all our readers, friends and family, we wish you a Merry Christmas! 
Daria and Jarek

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

There are millions of things to love about Christmas... Carols that are sang on the streets, the radiant beams of lights and garlands in a windows, the scent of spruce, orange and cinnamon that fill the air at home... a snow balls that when shaken are releasing familiar sounds of Christmas songs ... It's also a season of magical kindness and caring which spread around like an epidemics... 

It is also a tradition that is passed through generations, which I’m drawing on a piece of kitchen notepad... perhaps one day I will pass it onto my children... One of these traditions is waiting for the one and only special dinner and a careful preparation of various delicacies, which is an integral part of the festive season in Poland. Our mothers and grandmothers spent long days on preparing the best home recipes, which they handed down to us carefully. I remember when, as a child a few days before Christmas Eve, I watched my mother bustling around the kitchen stirring, kneading and mixing something... I remember myself peeking into the oven through a little glass window and waiting for the cake to raise... I also remember how I helped to chop the onion for the pickled herrings... brrrr... I probably cried for Poland at the time... :)

Every year in our family home, a typical Christmas Eve dinner included a traditional herrings in sour cream. A few days before Christmas Eve, me and my mother marinated tones of herrings in vinegar and then at dinner they were served in aromatic sour cream sauce and accompanied by jacket potatoes. And this year, me and Yarek won’t miss them in our house too... However, we love to experiment a little, so apart from our traditional herrings we will have a little herring roulades with red pesto. 

Traditional herring in sour cream 

6 salted herring fillets ala Matias 
2 medium onions 
400g sour cream (18%) 
Freshly ground pepper 
1 bay leaf 
3 grains allspice 

A few days earlier, rinse the herring fillets thoroughly with water and prepare a vinegar marinade. 

For this you need: 2 medium onions, 100ml of vinegar (10%), 400ml of water, 8 grains of allspice, 2 bay leaves, salt and pepper and a teaspoon of sugar. 

Pour vinegar into a saucepan with water, season with allspice and bay leaves. Add the sugar, salt and pepper (at your discretion). Bring to a boil and cook about 5 minutes. Let it cool for 30 minutes. In the second pot, put sliced onion and blanch them with boiling water and allow to cool. Fill previously preserved jars with a layer of herring fillets cut in chunks and a layer of onion slices. When the jar is full, pour the cooled marinade together with allspice and bay leaves. Seal the jars and set aside in a cool place. Thus prepared herring may be stored for months. 
When the Christmas Eve comes, so marinated herring pull out into a bowl, add freshly sliced ​​onions (the amount at your discretion). Mix sour cream with sugar, salt and freshly ground black pepper. You can add a few drops of lemon juice. Mix all ingredients thoroughly. In our family home, we always added a little bay leaf and a few grains of allspice to this creamy mixture to give an extra flavour. Pour the prepared sour cream to the bowl with herrings. And you're done! Serve with jacket potatoes or bread. 

Experimental herring roulades in red pesto. 

6 slices of salted herring 
2 cups olive oil 'Extra Virgin' 

Red pesto 
A small handful of basil leaves 
40g parmesan cheese 
30g walnuts 
1 or 2 cloves of garlic 
150g of sun dried tomatoes 
A few tablespoons of olive oil 'Extra Virgin' 
A touch of balsamic vinegar 

Toss all ingredients into a food processor or blender and mix until a paste. 
If you have more time, you can also use a mortar. Add a little more olive oil if the pesto is too dry. Transfer to a jar and let stand for some time until flavours are combined beautifully. 

Rinse the herring fillets thoroughly under water and dry with paper towels. Cut each fillet lengthwise into halfs in order to obtain two long thin slices. Cover each piece of herring with red pesto generously and roll into a little roulades securing with wooden toothpick. Thus prepared roulades can be now composed tightly in jars previously preserved. Pour olive oil. It is important to thoroughly cover all the herring with oil to prevent rotting. Then gently shake jar to get rid of the air bubbles and twist tightly. Thus prepared herring roulades may be stored in a cool place for months and months. It taste best after a few days when all the flavourings mix together.

Oh happy days!!! Enjoy!
Daria & Yarek

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Well, and again we disappeared for a few moments... that's only because last month was full of events, beautiful meeting, culinary news, and a small kitchen tragedy... 

Starting from the fact that this year, autumn arrived to the island like never before... beautiful and long. You can see that only on postcards, full of gold and red colours, surprisingly not so rainy and  the temperature outside was just perfect, distracting and inviting for a long walks... so staying indoors was definitely not an option!
We also experienced a small kitchen tragedy... :( Our beloved food processor of a very reputable brand (we will not say which one) could not bear our culinary impressions, it mumbled, wheezed and broke down completely... it wouldn’t be so surprising if it didn’t happen the day after the warranty expired and I must mention that the warranty lasts for a year.  So, considering the brand and the price of the machine, it should last for years... I remember those old-fashion food processors at my mum's home, which were not so technically advanced, and served us for many years... I have to definitely mention the juicer (I won’t mention the brand either) that we had to hold tight in our hands, otherwise it would have flown all over the kitchen... and the carrot juice from it was so delicious...

In the middle: Frederick Rossakovsky-Lloyd

November this year was also marked by various artistic/friendly/cultural events. Definitely, I wanted to mention the exhibition of paintings and sculptures by Frederick Rossakovsky-Lloyd. Frederick asked us to prepare a catering for his private view, which accompanied greatly the contemplation of his art... so, it happened... Our menu included various tiny appetizers, such as packets of feta and grapes carefully rolled in parma ham by Yarek and tied with chives; mini potato pancakes with feta cheese, spinach and garlic mini tarts, little Thai ‘mar hor’ bites made of pineapple with onion chutney and peanut butter, muffins with goat cheese and thyme. I have to admit that the evening was successful and our little bites disappeared in the blink of which made us even happier...

Little Parma Ham Parcels with Feta Cheese

5 slices of Parma ham or prosciutto
8  grapes
 150g Feta cheese
A few sprigs of chives

Rinse and dry the grapes, cut lengthwise into halves. Each slice of ham slice lengthwise into three strips of equal length. Similarly, cut feta cheese into 1.5 cm cubes. Next, lay a slice of ham on a board, put a feta cubes on it and half of the grapes, wrap each side together with the chives so that look like a small 'package'.

Potato Cakes with Feta and Herbs

3 large potatoes
70g feta cheese
a few sprigs of chives
handful of dill
1 egg
salt and pepper (to taste)
1 clove of garlic
handful of bread crumbs
olive oil

Boil the potatoes and mash it in a processor or with a fork. Crumble feta cheese with a fork, add to the potatoes and mix thoroughly. Add rest of ingredients and mix together with a wooden spoon. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees on the 'grill' option. Then, form small cakes and cover with a breadcrumbs. Put the potato cakes on a baking tray and sprinkle with olive oil. Bake for 30 minutes, turning until golden brown. Serve hot or cold as a snack.

Enjoy your meal and have a warm evening!

Sunday, 16 October 2011

For centuries, bread had a very important role in human life - not only was the basic food, but also had a symbolic dimension. Its symbolism is extremely rich. Bread was often considered as an unusual food, noble, and in many cultures, especially in Christian was a symbol of holiness. It meant fertility, wisdom and wealth. Therefore, always consumed during vows and masses. Bread also symbolized dignity and worth of human labour... and the habit of sharing bread survived to this day symbolising friendship and hospitality. According to this beautiful custom, we meet today (online) with all home bakers of the world to share our delicious slice of bread with oat flakes ... 

All bakers, we wish you delicious and beautiful loaves! 

Oatmeal Bread 
By Jeffrey Hamelman ‘Bread’/found at Polka

375g white, strong bread flour 

125g wholemeal flour (100%) 
83g rolled oats 
313g water (at a temperature of 24C) 
50g milk 
33g runny honey 
33g vegetable oil 
11g salt 
1 1/2 teaspoon instant yeast 

Place the oats in a mixing bowl and add the warm water and let stand for 20 minutes. When softened, can be easily crushed between the fingers. Add the remaining ingredients and knead everything thoroughly. The dough should be moderately loose with slight tackiness from the honey. 

Cover the bowl with the linen cloth and leave in a warm place to rise for 2 hours. Fold the dough once, after 1 hour. When the dough doubles, gently shape the round loaf and moisten the surface with water (I did it with my own hands) and then sprinkle with oats. Thus prepared loaf, cover with a cloth and leave to rise again for about 1.5 hours. 
Bread can be baked in a baking tray. However, we used the baking stone (pizza stone). This needs to be put into a cold oven so that it’s warming up with it. Preheat oven to 240 degrees C and bake for 15 minutes, then reduce temperature to 220 degrees C to finish the bake in a receding oven for 10-15 minutes. 

Happy World Bread Day 2011!!!!

Bake Bread for World Bread Day 2011

Monday, 10 October 2011

I often flip through magazines in search of culinary inspiration or just a food that can be done in the blink of an eye. I noticed one interesting regularity - most recently in the British culinary magazines you can read more and more articles dedicated to 'Budget Meals'. In times of overwhelming economic crisis, culinary journalists are full of ideas for the cheapest and quickest dishes. The idea seems to be great, of course if we do not lose the quality of the ingredients. And in huge majority of cases the quality of recommended ingredients is very surprising. I must admit that many of these 'budget' ideas captivated us so much that we really want to share them with you... :)  not even because of the price, which seems to be peanuts, but also in terms of diversity of ingredients and simplicity of preparation.

So, tonight we share with you an 
Asian broth with meatballs and winter greens.
Serves 2/ Easy/ 30 minutes

250g lean pork mince
6 green onions  (3 finely chopped, 3 sliced)
4cm piece fresh ginger (peeled, 1/2grated, 1/2 sliced​​)
2 red chillies (1 finely chopped, 1 cut into strips)
2 handfuls of bread crumbs
sesame oil
1l chicken/vegetable broth 
2 star anise
soy sauce
 100g Kale or other greens/cabbage 

Mix the pork mince, finely chopped spring onion, grated ginger, finely chopped chillies and breadcrumps and 1/2 tablespoon sesame oil in a large bowl. Season really well then form into small balls. Brown all over in a non-stick frying pan. 
Put a chicken stock, star anise, sliced ginger and a good splash of soya sauce in a large saucepan. Simmer for 5 minutes and add the kale and meatballs, then simmer for 10 minutes. Add a teaspoon of sesame oil and the sliced spring onions and chilli. Serve in a large bowls.

Isn't it easy peasy? 
Have a lovely evening!

The recipe comes from the 'BBC Olive' by Janine Ratcliffe. 

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Living on a foreign land and being a stranger can be a bit difficult at the times... well, at least nowadays no one force us to choose where we live... however, we’re still far away from our families and friends... Me and Karolka are a living proof of the long, beautiful friendship at a distance... separated by thousands of miles and so we meet together to bake... Today, we return to our native Eastern European traditions... we see each other in a small window of Skype, on a laptop laid on the kitchen table... carefully studying Karolka’s great-grandmother recipe for Buchty. Buchty are one of the most famous baked buns filled with marmalade, ideally plum marmalade. They are one of those recipes that you pass from generation to generation and this is how Karolka got hers from her grandmother, who apparently had received it from her mother... 

I love our long lasting conversations on the Skype... we're gossiping, sharing the news of recent days, disputing about cooking, gardening and medicine, our men, politics (sometimes as it always makes us very angry)... hehehe in a meantime, we’re mixing all the ingredients: flour, milk, yeast, melted butter. We’re drinking tea with lemon (don’t confuse it with lemon tea), we’re talking about flowers and herbs. When buns are prepared and they doubled their size, we shove them into the oven and wait. We've got a moment to gossip about everything and nothing... the weather today is beautiful, better than in a summer. There is something strange going on with the weather in our part of globe, we can’t believe that a few days ago we wore an autumn, heavy cardigans... Ok, our buns are ready, they smell lovely, let’s take them out – we say. We’re taking pictures, showing our buns to each other... we’re so excited and feel as if we were right next to each other... like those little buns in a baking tray... 

‘Buchty’ Buns with homemade plum marmalade. 

1 / 8 l milk 
20 g fresh yeast 
75 g sugar (at your discretion) 
80 g butter 
250 g plain flour 
2 eggs 
Pinch of salt 
120 g plum marmalade (I used my own home made marmalade) 
Extra: ½ cup butter melted in a pan 
For crust: 2 tablespoons butter, dissolved in a little pot, 4 teaspoons sugar, 2 tablespoons flour, 1 teaspoon of vanilla sugar. Mix all ingredients to a lumpy consistency. 

Heat the milk. Combine crushed fresh yeast in a bowl and mix with half of the preheated milk and 1 tablespoon sugar. In a large bowl, sprinkle the bottom of the same pinch of salt (in our case about ½ teaspoon) Add flour. Make a small hole in the flour and pour yeast mixture into it and sprinkle them with flour. Allow to rise for 15 minutes in a warm place. 
In a small saucepan, melt the butter. 
To the bowl with the flour and yeast, add 1 egg yolk and 1 egg. Combine with remaining sugar and milk. Using wooden spoon, mix all the ingredients together by moving the spoon from the bottom to the top of the dough to form a smooth dough. You never knead your yeast dough in a machine, the whole secret is in the mixing with the wooden spoon so you can see a bubbles on outer side of the dough. Then pour warm (not hot) butter on the walls of the bowl and doing the same movements with a spoon from the bottom quickly form a smooth dough. The dough should be thick so you can easily form a small balls. Optionally, you can add raisins previously soaked in milk and dried. Cover and place the bowl in a warm place for at least an hour. The dough should double its size. 
Preheat the oven to 180 ° C. Then smear the baking tray with butter and sprinkle with flour. 
Melt an extra 100g of butter in a pan and use it to cover your hands so the dough is not sticking to the skin. Gently press the dough and divide into 8 large servings. Take each ball and push a teaspoon of plum jam inside it. Each of the balls, dipped in butter and put in the tray. Allow to double the volume for 15 - 30 minutes. Then, using a kitchen brush to smear each ball with egg white and sprinkle with the crumble. 

Bake for 30 minutes. Great warm or cold with a Glass of milk. 


Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Some time ago, we purchased on Amazon a book of Jeffrey Hamelman ‘Bread: A Baker's Book of Techniques and Recipes’. I have to admit that it is pretty advanced and sophisticated as for a home bakers like us. It’s a great source of essential, accurate and detailed technical information and a comprehensive array of artisan formulas. However, long, time consuming recipes, minimal number of photos, lots of yet undiscovered by us terms, such as oxidising, autolyse, stages of fermentation... I could probably go on and on about it.... I could see the lack of my knowledge in those unsuccessful baguettes I made few months ago.... Even though I followed all the steps, they were hard as a stones... hehehe But the Rome wasn’t built in one day, was it? And I don’t give up easily, believe you me! 
Today, I looked into the book again with an intention of trying again, one bread immediately caught my attention and it actually doesn’t need any pre-fermented sourdough culture (mine unfortunately died recently as I forgot to feed it). Since, I promised to dedicate all September posts to potatoes, there it is – Roast Potatoes Bread. So, reading the formula, I was a bit reluctant and worried that it will come out rubbish again... therefore, I've searched internet and looked into one of my favourite polish baking blog of Liska (nick name of the author) and obviously found this simplified version of Hamelmans’s potato bread. Liska’s one doesn’t need pate fermentee made the day before baking. However, Hamelman’s recipe suggest roasted potatoes rather than boiled potatoes (as in Liska’s formula). I find that oven roasting them concentrates the flavour in a way that boiling them does not. Moreover, leaving the skins on saves time and the dark skin bits contrasts nicely with the crumb colour once the bread is sliced. Hamelman also suggest using other ingredients, such as garlic and rosemary which I used in this recipe today and I have to say that they are beautifully composed in the entire recipe. So, the result is that: Simplified recipe of Liska + Roast potatoes, garlic and rosemary of Hamelman = Full Success!!! Just have a look at the photos.

Roasted Potatoes, Garlic and Rosemary Bread

100 g potatoes 
400 g strong bread flour 
200-250 ml of water 
1.5 teaspoon salt 
1 teaspoon sugar 
1.5 tsp dried yeast 
3 tablespoons olive oil 
3 cloves of garlic 
2 sprigs of fresh rosemary 

Wash the potatoes, dry them and cut into small cubes. Bake potaotes with garlic and rosemary and a few teaspoons of olive oil in the oven preheated to 200 degrees. Then, cool the potatoes and mash with a fork carelessly. Do not discard the burnt skin as it will your loaf a nicer colour and better taste. Mix all the ingredients in a large bowl. Add the water gradually as the amount depends on the type of flour and consistency. Knead smooth and elastic dough (by hand or mixer). Transfer to a bowl greased with olive oil, cover with foil and set aside to raise for an hour. Then, form a round loaf with your hands, and transfer to the basket lined with the cloth and solidly floured to raise. Allow to raise for 45-60 minutes. If you have got a pizza stone – insert it into the oven and heat to 240 degrees. If you don’t have a pizza stone, just use the baking tray lined with a baking paper. Spray the oven walls with water or ideally, put about 1 / 2 cup of ice cubes onto a bottom of your oven. Transfer your raised dough into the oven and bake. After 10 minutes, reduce temperature to 210 degrees and bake for another 15-25 minutes. Cool your loaf down for a good 30 minutes before you start to consume it. And enjoy! 

I definitely recommend the book of Jeffrey Hamelman 'BREAD. A baker's book of techniques and recipes.' to those, more experienced home bakers. 

Friday, 16 September 2011

Anyone who doesn’t like potatoes, please raise your hand!!! I doubt there is such person! Or at least, I’ve never came across anyone who doesn’t love potatoes. Our love to any type of potatoes knows no boundaries. They can be either sweet or salty, boiled, baked, roasted, fried... you name them and we love them... This is one of the most, if not the most versatile root vegetables, potatoes are simple, rich in nutrients and vitamins and delicious in any form. In fact, we might dedicate the entire, chilly September posts to different potatoes recipes of the world. 

So let's start with this very banal and impressive Hasselback Potatoes. The recipe has its roots in Sweden and is named after Hasselbacken, a Stockholm restaurant which first served the preparation in the 1700s but you'll also see them referred to as "accordion potatoes" on some menus. To this day, they are still prepared very similar to the original recipe so that each potato is cut into thin slices, but not the entire diameter of the potato, and then roasted in a buttery olive with garlic resting between slices. However, many like to play around with seasonings and garnishes. In addition to the stylish look, there is still a phenomenon in this method – with the additional crevices that are exposed to high temperature of your oven, it becomes beautifully crispy on the outside and delicately soft and creamy inside. This definitely enhance the potatoes’ flavour. Prepared this way, they can be served as an appetizer, as a side dish to the main course or snack. We recommend leaving the potato skins and eat the potato with it, because all the most valuable nutrients, such as Iron, Proteins and Vitamin C are located just beneath its skin. 

Ingredients (for two hungry peeps) 
2 large potatoes (any kind), thoroughly washed and dried. 
4 garlic cloves 
4 tablespoons unsalted butter 
coarse sea salt and pepper 
3 tablespoons olive oil 

Preheat oven to 220 degrees. Thinly slice garlic cloves. Set aside. Rinse and scrub potatoes well. We’re keeping the skin on so it needs to be clean. Slice a thin layer off of the bottom of the potatoes. This will give them a solid base to rest on to get sliced. Slice into the potatoes but not completely through them. Slice potatoes, creating very thin rounds connected at a base. Slide garlic slices in between potato slices. You might actually need to shove them in… the potato might be pretty tight. Just be careful not to tear the bottom. Place potatoes on a baking tray. Generously sprinkle potatoes with salt. Top each potato with a layer of butter. Drizzle with oil. Bake for 1 hour or until tender on the inside and crisp on the outside. Remove the tray about every 15 minutes to baste potatoes in the oil and butter on the pan. This will make the skin crispy and delicious and the potato extra buttery. When cooked through and crispy, remove from the oven, cool for 10 minutes. Top with spinach pesto and serve. 

For the Spinach Cashew Pesto
Inspiration from Joy the Baker

2 loosely packed cups of spinach 
2 garlic cloves 
1/4 cups roasted cashews 
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice 
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest 
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese 
salt and pepper to taste 
1/3 cup olive oil 

Place garlic cloves, spinach, nuts, lemon juice, zest and Parmesan cheese in the bowl of a food processor. Blend until spinach is broken down and, whiles still blending, slowly pour in the olive oil. Turn off food processor, taste and add salt and pepper as needed. Serve over potatoes! any excess of pesto can be stored in a jar in a fridge and used for any type of pasta or just with a garlic bread as a snack.

Enjoy and have a lovely weekend!

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

We honestly admit that we love meat (all kind) but we don't have to be a vegetarians to understand the importance of animal welfare. As a carnivorous person myself, I have to put up with the fact that animals have to die. Nevertheless, it matters about animal welfare, and it's best if the animal's life is reasonably good and it grows well in the most natural environment for quite a while before it ends up being killed and eaten. Particularly notable are the chickens that seem to be grown in the most appalling conditions and this is because of the increasingly growing demand of the world market. Thus, hens, which hit the shelves of our favourite stores look great, but do we realize what kind of life they led before they were so beautifully arranged to attract our eye in the supermarket? The whole thing about animal welfare was already publicly raised by a number of organisations but the celebrity chefs have the biggest input in this matter... especially, Jamie's Oliver whose campaign in 2007 was to make people aware of the conditions in which chickens were kept, so then people could make informed decisions about what to eat, rather than allowing the factory-farming industry to hide the shocking truth.What's interesting about his campaign is that it doesn't urged people to an absolute transition to vegetarianism, but to stimulate an informed choice. We have already made a choice... And you? We strongly recommend you to watch the entire experiment of Jamie Oliver HERE

And here we go... on the table today is this beautiful, tasty free range chicken - recipe by Jamie Oliver.

Roast chicken with vegies and herbs

1.5 kg chicken 'free range'
2 medium onions
2 carrots
2 sticks of celery
1 bulb of garlic
olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 lemon
small bunch of fresh thyme, rosemary, sage, or a mixture of all these herbs

Take your chicken out of the fridge 30 minutes before it goes into the oven. 
• Preheat your oven to 240°C/475°F/gas 9 
• There’s no need to peel the vegetables – just give them a wash and roughly chop them 
• Break the garlic bulb into cloves, leaving them unpeeled 
• Pile all the veg and garlic into the middle of a large roasting tray and drizzle with olive oil 
• Drizzle the chicken with olive oil and season well with salt and pepper, rubbing it all over the bird 
• Carefully prick the lemon all over, using the tip of a sharp knife (if you have a microwave, you could pop the lemon in these for 40 seconds at this point as this will really bring out the flavour) 
• Put the lemon inside the chicken’s cavity, with the bunch of herbs 

To cook your chicken
• Place the chicken on top of the vegetables in the roasting tray and put it into the preheated oven 
• Turn the heat down immediately to 200°C/400°F/gas 6 and cook the chicken for 1 hour and 20 minutes 
• If you’re doing roast potatoes and veggies, this is the time to crack on with them – get them into the oven for the last 45 minutes of cooking 
• Baste the chicken halfway through cooking and if the veg look dry, add a splash of water to the tray to stop them burning 
• When cooked, take the tray out of the oven and transfer the chicken to a board to rest for 15 minutes or so 

Enjoy and have a nice evening!

p.s if you want to read a bit more about chicken welfare, have a look here, and here and here

Sunday, 14 August 2011

And again, it will be about gnocchi... I can’t help it that I love them and if only the day had 50 hours I would do them every single day... I have written about them before here (click). But I will write again! So, after all my investigations trying to find out whether they are polish or italian invention, and although they are done exactly the same way, I felt that it would be fair to leave polish dumplings being dumplings and Italian gnocchi being gnocchi... The former dumplings will always remind me of home, made by my Mum, who always served it with some meat or mushroom sauce. Oh! And I can’t forget to mention that dumplings were a hit of students’ life – we used to go to these cheap milk bars where you could buy them for pennies with accompaniment of butter milk.... oh, happy student days... But gnocchi on the other hand will always be associated with my first funny trip to Italy and will remind me of something fancy, different types potatoes, fancy ingredients, cheese sauces and Italy itself of course... 

Today, we did fancy gnocchi! We combined British and Jamaican sweet potatoes together with parsnips, blue cheese and pine nuts. Check this out! It tasted absolutely gorgeous! 

500g parsnips 
500g sweet potatoes 
50g parmesan 
2 tablespoons olive oil 
175g plain flour 
1 large egg 
25 g butter 
400g fresh spinach 
125g blue cheese 

Preheat oven to 180 ° C. 
Cook the parsnips in a pan of boiling, salted water for 3-4 minutes, then drain and place in a baking tray with the sweet potatoes. 
Drizzle half the olive oil, then roast for 30 minutes until tender, turning regularly. Whizz in a food processor, then push through a potato ricer into a bowl. Allow to cool. The secret of good gnocchi is that the potatoes must be completely cool before combining with flour and eggs. 
Stir the parmesan into cooled mash, along with the flour and egg yolk. Season well, turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth. Divide the dough in half. Roll both halves out into 2.5 cm diameters logs, then cut into 3cm pieces and place on a floured plate. 
Bring a pan of salted water to the boil and cook the gnocchi in batches for about 2-3 minutes until they float to the surface. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain. Melt half the butter in a frying pan over medium heat, then add the spinach. Fry for a few minutes, until wilted. Season with nutmeg to bring out its flavour and a hint of chilli. Melt the remaining butter and fry the gnocchi for a few minutes until lightly golden. Serve on a bed of wilted spinach with the blue cheese and pine nuts sprinkled over.


Friday, 12 August 2011

Well, there are as many types of tomato soup as many people on Earth. 'You like tomato and I like tomahto ...' I don’t know the person who doesn’t like tomatoes, not to mention tomato soup, on which most of us probably grew up. From childhood, I remember the one with sour cream and rice or pasta made with chicken broth made on previous day. Then, in busy student days, when there was no time to cook proper food, there was a trend for a readymade hot cup of Knorr tomato soup and I wasn’t that bad, I have to admit! Later, after the first visit to Italy, we tended to prepare this lovely tomato, basil and parmesan cheese with garlic croutons. Since we have an access to a variety of spices and products of the world, our famous tomato soup transformed with each cooking - once delicate in flavour and creamy and spicy with a hint of the smoked paprika, and another time with plenty of rosemary and yoghurt ... I could go on and on about it... After all these experiments, it was time for something more traditional with a hint of something new... While searching for inspiration, we combined a few different recipes we’ve known already and in this way we came up with the best tomato soup we’ve ever eaten. 

Our tomato soup 

1kg San Marzano tomatoes 
2 large carrots 
4 garlic cloves 
1 large onion 
½ l vegetable stock 
sea ​​salt 
Freshly ground pepper 
Pinch of smoked paprika powder 
Olive oil with white truffles 
A few tablespoons of Greek yoghurt 
Pasta 'Stellette Stars' (small, in the shape of stars) 

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Wash the tomatoes, peel them and cut crosswise. Peel the carrots, onions and garlic. Arrange all the vegetables in a baking dish, sprinkle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Bake for approx. 1 hour. Remove from the oven and peel off the skin from the tomatoes. Using a blender, puree all the vegatables until you’ve reached the desired consistency. We like more lumpy consistency rather than completely purred. Add your vegetable broth and smoked paprika powder and season with salt and pepper as you like. Lastly, stir in two or three tablespoons of Greek yoghurt. Serve with the pasta stars previously cooked. And sprinkle the soup with some truffle oil as you serve. 

There are few versions of the Gershwins’ ‘Let's Call The Whole Thing Off' song... however, our favourite one is that sung by Elle Fitzgerald and Luisa Armstronga, which you can listen here as you eat your favourite tomato soup :)


Thursday, 11 August 2011

Oh Dear... it’s one of those days that you've got no appetite and most of all I can't eat anything. But the dinner with friends is set for 2pm... Mamma mia! What am I going to do now? I flip through the culinary books and magazines nervously but none of the recipes satisfy my capricious taste today...I look at photos of beautiful dishes and they do not move me somehow... After half an hour of browsing through I find it... Yes yes, I got it!!! I yell at the entire kitchen... and at that moment the phone rang - 'Beloved, we just left the house, and will see you in an hour...' - announced friends. OMG, and I haven’t even started... oh well, I have to quickly think of something to impress them before the main course and even stimulate the appetite for what is about to begin. And once again, I realized why I love the Italian way of eating, relaxing and indulgence in the kitchen... They are the ones who invented antipasti, appertizers... or whatever you wanna call it... 
The history of antipasto traces back to the ancient Romans who featured antipasto as a stimulant before the main meal. It evolved from two very different cultural conditions – extreme wealth and the poverty of necessity. The wealthy used the antipasto as a prelude to a multi-coursed banquet. For the poor, antipasto was a street food eaten while working or shopping. 
Like the opening credits for a film, the appearance of the antipasto announces to the crowd that something special is about to begin. Even the sight of small appetizers beautifully prepared can change the mood of gathering, luring guests to the table... And their main purpose is to stimulate the appetite (which I need today) and the taste buds without a sense of fullness. It is served cold or at room temperature, its components as colourful as possible. But most of all, they need to encourage your guests to start the meal... even if your appetite is not agreeing with you today... 
A good antipasto plate will always have some combination of fresh melon or tomatoes, thinly sliced cured meats like prosciutto, marinated olives or mushrooms, vegetables, cheese, and seafood. Look what we did...

Rocket Salas
Serrano Ham thinly sliced 
Honeydew Melon bites
Thin flakes of Parmiggiano Reggiano
A pinch of freshly ground pepper
A few drops of raspberry-blasamic glaze

Recipe for Raspberry -Balsamic Glaze
2 cups fresh raspberries
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar 
2 tablespoons sugar

In a small saucepan over medium heat, bring 1 cup raspberries, the balsamic vinegar, and the sugar to a simmer. Allow the mixture to simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 15 to 20 minutes. The balsamic glaze is done cooking when it has reduced in volume and thickened.

All components of your antipasto arrange on the plates, sprinkle with freshly ground pepper and drizzle with rasberry-blasamic glaze. Serve before main meal and you'll see the faces of your guests! They will be delighted!


Wednesday, 3 August 2011

It happened… I decided to learn to bake cakes... I have to admit that I never had a particular spirit either a will for baking. And the first and the only attempt to bake a Brownie was a total failure. My Brownie had a rather runny consistency and we could easily sip it from the cup.... heheheheh 

In this way, I gave up all the baking attempts for years. However, since I’ve managed to bake some beautiful loaves of bread, I thought why would fail to bake some simple cakes... and succeeded!!! A few days ago, we enjoyed our scrumptious, homemade banana bread. The reason I chose this for my big baking return is that the recipe is so easy to make and obviously because of bananas.... who doesn’t like bananas? It's one of those fruits that you can do absolutely everything - from the cocktails and cold and warming desserts to cakes and muffins... And I even noticed that lots of my British friends enjoy their double toasts with slices of banana in the morning.... to one's heart content!!! 

As always before the great kitchen challenges I searched the Internet totally and I found this great recipe, the effects of which can be seen below. This bread is perfect for breakfast or unexpected Sunday visit of your friends... Literally super fast....

Banana Bread 

Makes 1 full-sized loaf or 2 small loaves 
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees. 
In one bowl, combine: 
1/2 stick (4-5 tablespoons) butter, softened 
2 eggs 
2 or 3 very ripe bananas 
2/3 cup sugar 

Use a potato masher, fork, or spoon to squish the banana and mix the ingredients together. It is alright for there to be small (1 centimeter) chunks of banana in the batter, but you want most of the banana to be reduced to mush. 

In another bowl, combine: 
1 1/3 cup all-purpose unbleached flour 
3/4 teaspoon salt 
1/2 teaspoon baking soda 
1/4 teaspoon baking powder 
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (optional) 

Combine the wet and dry ingredients and mix until the ingredients are blended together. 

If you like, stir in additional ingredients here, such as chopped walnuts or pecans, dried cherries or apricots, or chocolate chips. A handful (about a half a cup) is about right. 
Pour the dough into greased baking pans and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Small loaves take around 30 minutes, a normal-sized loaf takes around 50 minutes. 
Remove from the oven. This bread is great warm, but it is excellent cold too. 
After they have cooled for 5 or 10 minutes the loaves can be removed from the pan to cool. Once they are cool they can be individually wrapped and frozen. 

Enjoy and have a lovely evening! 

Saturday, 23 July 2011

I guess, we all have a big shelves full of cookery books in our kitchens. But there is always the one that we use mostly, we love it for its recipes and the style of the author.... Some time ago, I stopped buying the ‘just cookery books’ as I call them. I love those books that are much more than wonderful recipes with photos, they tell stories, give a vivid and fascinating insight into the authors’ lives  and you can read them again and again and again... not only in a kitchen...
And definitely Mary Contini is one those authors that I can endlessly read and laugh at her little charming story where she unravels to her daughter Francesca, the family story like a precious thread. It’s full of warmth, love and respect for traditional Italian attitudes to food as the cornerstone of a nurturing family life.

This is how she wrote to her dear daughter Francesca....

‘’Dear Francesca,
When your dad was very young, he spent many long summer holidays with his grandparents, Annunziata and Luigi. He learned to speak Neapolitan, to understand the Italian mentality and to enjoy the best Italian food. Annunziata loved him with a passion and cooked for him all the best she could afford. She was an instinctive cook. She never read, never owned a cookery book, but had learned from her mother and mother-in-law how to feed a family. Like us all, she did have one or two blind spots. She knew that her grandson loved gnocchi. She always made them for him the very day he arrived. He enjoyed the ritual of pleasing her by eating two or three platefuls. Her gnocchi were quite heavy and, as she got older they got heavier. By the time she was eighty-five, they were referred to as ‘pietre di piombo’, ‘lead stones’ – though never in her presence.
On honeymoon, when we visited, she insisted on showing me how to cook her gnocchi for my new husband. It was now my duty, after all to provide him with all his needs. Gnocchi included!!! To prove to her how he loved her, and I suspect to let me know who was going to be a boss, your dad ate not one, not two but three huge plates of ‘stones’... Let me just say that it took him three days to recover, and he didn’t quite keep up his air of authority at all times....
These are my mummy’s gnocchi. Many Italian women add some baking powder to prevent them being heavy. Mummy uses a little self-raising flour to the same effect. You need to choose floury potatoes to make gnocchi. Waxy or new potatoes don’t work.’’

450g floury potatoes, such as Maris Piper, Kind Edward or Desiree
1 organic egg yolk, beaten
200g plain flower
20g self-raising flour
Maldon sea salt

100g butter
100g sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
150g mixed olives, pitted
Handful fresh basil leaves, roughly torn, plus extra to garnish
150g ball mozzarella, drained
Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling

1. Boil the unpeeled potatoes in a large pan of water until tender. Drain and, when cool enough to handle, remove the potato skins. Mash until really smooth.
2. Add the egg yolk, plenty of salt and the flours and blend everything with together with clean, floured hands. Turn out and knead on a floured surface for a few minutes.
3. Put a large pan of water on to boil. Cut the dough into 4 and roll out each piece to 2cm ‘ropes’. Cut off at 2.5cm intervals and cook the gnocchi in the boiling water, in batches, for 3-4 minutes (4-5 minutes, until risen to the surface.
4. Preheat the grill to high. Heat the butter in a large ovenproof frying pan over a medium-high heat. Add the gnocchi, in 2 batches, and cook until crispy and golden. Return all the gnocchi to the pan. Add the tomatoes, olives and basil and warm through.
5. Tear the cheese over the gnocchi, pop the pan under the hot grill, until melted and golden. Serve, drizzled with oil and the extra basil.

Mary Contini continues to her daughter... 
‘’....Traditionally, gnocchi were made by eye. The women never weighed the potatoes and flour. They just judged when they had added enough. Use the recipe above as a guide and make them how you like them.
Francesca, don’t let Nonna Annunziata know that your dad likes my gnocchi better than hers!...’’

I did my gnocchi according to Contini's recipe and they tasted absolutely scrumptious.... finally, I found the best consistency of gnocchi.... thanks to Mary and Francesca..... 

Enjoy yours!!! 

Fragment of the book 'Dear Francesca. An Italian journey of recipes recounted with love.' by Mary Contini. 

Monday, 18 July 2011

We're back... After several months of absence we are back blogging again... We laughed with Jarek that it begins to be our ritual that every year, around May, our culinary activity goes out of the window, cookbooks become overlapped with a nice layer of dust, our everyday screaming food processor suddenly does not want to utter even a whisper, various products and delicacies hiding in cabinets are not tempting us with their flavours and aromas, and our culinary afflatus together with spirit go on holiday... even random peeping to our favourite blogs from time to time, somehow do not evoke more emotions... whether this is lack of time or post winter fatigue... who knows? well, it’s time to come back from these holidays!!! And so, today the kitchen looks like a hurricane flew across it – the food processor dance into its own rhythm, my laptop lying quietly on a refrigerator and  displaying five different recipes for muffins. Pots and bowls are flying all over the kitchen, beautiful smell of cinnamon spread in the kitchen air and me.... Excited and impatient, I stand at the oven and pierced with culinary thrill of excitement waiting for the cinnamon - plum muffins....

Cinnamon - Plum muffins
Ingredients for 12 muffins:
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon bicarbonated soda
2 eggs, beaten
120 g caster sugar (I put 60g)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
half cup of oil
300 g Greek yogurt
6 plums, cut into small pieces

For sprinkling:
1 / 4 cup Demerara sugar

Traditionally beat the eggs lightly then add the yoghurt. Combine the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, bicarbonate soda, little pieces of plums in a separate bowl. Add the dry mix to the wet mix until combined. Spoon into muffin tins, sprinkle with Demerara sugar and bake in the oven at 190 degrees for about 25 mins or until golden brown. Cool on wire rack. 

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