Sunday, 11 November 2012

When I was a child, I never liked a soups with bits. The so - called bits were usually vegetables floating in a pot - overcooked,  with no colour and as soft as worms... At least this is how I imagined them! yuk... most of the time, my mother had to carefully drain my portion of soup before I even considered to touch the bowl... she even used to call me a French little dog :) Funny tho, I don't like the soup bits today either! However, they don't get thrown away nowadays. In fact, when it comes to food in our house, nothing is thrown away. The scale of hunger in the world and the problem of food waste in the western countries have taught us a certain respect for food. But this is not what I wanted to discuss here...
I'm talking about the fact that almost all our meals are planned so that, if we've got any leftovers from dinner or lunch, they can be reused in other combinations. The remains of these unplanned meals are often used the next day, or they land in the freezer waiting for a better time and idea ;)
Let's get back to the soup bits. They are not a problem for me any more. With the miraculous invention of a blender, all bits, instead of unnecessarily land in the trash, turn my soup into a lovely cream. So, there is no need for any thickening ingredients, such as flour or creams and milk. Most importantly, the blending process allows for a short cooking of vegetables so that all of the nutrients remain in the soup. The Polish cuisine creamy soups emerged relatively recently. Thanks God! As soups really have a special place in our daily menu. But if there's no mood for one of those watery borscht or chicken broth, light, creamy and beautifully coloured vegetable soup will give your autumnal dinner a completely new dimension. Such is today's soup. Creamy, with purple cauliflower and red cabbage with white sausage.

Purple Soup

small purple cauliflower
half a small red cabbage
2 small potatoes
1 small red onion
2 cloves of garlic
1.5 liters vegetable stock / homemade broth
1 teaspoon of cumin
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 white sausages

Chop the onion and fry it in olive oil in a pan, add the crushed garlic cloves, cauliflower florets, shredded cabbage and peeled and cut potatoes. Stir genlty, add a tablespoon of cumin and cook for a few minutes. Pour vegetable broth or chicken broth and cook over low heat for about 20 minutes. Blend all the ingredients to obtain purée. Warm up a frying pan with a tablespoon of olive oil. Cut the sausage into little slices and fry briefly until golden brown. Garnish the soup  with your favourite spices or a yogurt. Serve with slices of white sausage.

*** Vegetarians can skip the sausage option with the soup because it tastes great without it. Taste equally great with garlic croutons, or a thick slice of fresh bread.


Wednesday, 7 November 2012

I don't know about you but in London as soon as the Halloween emotions fall, the city gets into this magical pre-Christmas, festive mood. The stores here are already selling Christmas delicacies, shopping malls are already competing who's gonna assemble larger and more colorful Christmas tree and the busiest shopping street in London is flashing with its beautiful hanging lanterns... hmmm ... many of you would ask if it's not too early yet for all this Christmas business? :) But what the hell, I like the festive mood, I like when it's cold outside and my nose is frosting in the air, when the house smells of oranges and cinnamon... Recently, I even found myself singing quietly the Christmas song that was played in the shop... lallalala
I also like Christmas food all year round. One of those unique recipe that you can eat just when fancy it, I want to share with you here.... it's a lovely combination of aromatic and moist, Polish mushroom and cabbage filling wrapped in a crispy South American empanada pastry. It tastes delicious with a cup of hot red borscht. It can be a great cold addition to your everyday lunch box, or simply a great nibble with a pint of lager :)

Empanada with Polish Christmas stuffing of mushrooms and cabbage
The filling inspired by this recipe and the pastry recipe comes from the "1000 recipes" book by Victoria Bllashford-Snell

For the pastry:
450g plain flour
pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper
85g butter, diced
2 eggs, beaten, plus extra one for glazing
4-6 tablespoons of hot water

To make the pastry, sift the flour into a large mixing bowl with 1/2 tsp salt. Add the butter and rub in with your fingertips until it resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add the beaten eggs with 4-6 tablespoons of water and combine to form a dough. Cover with clingfilm and chill for 30 minutes in a refrigerator.

Mushroom and cabbage filling:
500g mushrooms
1/3 kg of sauerkraut
1 medium onion
salt and pepper to taste
oil for frying

Put sauerkraut into the pot, cover with cold water and cook for minimum 1 hour, until the cabbage is tender. Strain through a sieve and squeeze out the water properly. Finely chop. Peel the onions and mushrooms and chop finely. Heat an oil in a frying pan. Fry onions together mushrooms. Season with salt and pepper to taste (at your discretion). Simmer until mushrooms are tender and their juice evaporates. Throw in the chopped cabbage. Season to taste with salt and pepper if necessary, and cook together for a few minutes. Remove from heat and cool.

Preheat the oven to 190 degrees. Roll out the pastry to a thickness of 3 millimeters. Cut out 24 rounds with a pastry cutter (I've used a large diameter glass). Put two teaspoons of filling on 12 rounds and cover with another ones. Pinch the ends of the rounds with your fingertips ;) You can also make the pattern around the edges with a fork. Brush with egg yolk. Bake empanadas on a baking sheet, for about 20-30 minutes, until golden. Enjoy!

Delicioso! :)

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Hi, are you cold after a long walk and a muse at a cemetery?
I am...Although, I've lived far away from homeland for several years, every year, traditionally, I go to the cemetery nearby to put a candle on a group grave, or ideally on a grave that's been long long forgotten and neglected. There is lots of beautiful cemeteries in London. Those on which celebrities are buried, those with Egyptian alleys and the local, smaller, more anonymous... and those I like the most... They're full of family histories and where gravestones often reflect the lives of their owners. The narrow lanes between the tombstones, century-old trees and their branches displacing gravestones from the ground and benches where you can rest for a while. I was enchanted as usual by the most beautiful grave of a little girl and the old man, whose dog is still standing at his feet.

I light a candle in the cemetery chapel for those who have gone, I have a moment for reflection... I remember!
It's freezing and I'm coming back home to enjoy a bowl of hot potato and leek soup with mustard toasts. There is nothing better to warm the soul ;) I warm my homemade broth and throw a few potatoes and leeks. I'm warming up the oven to bake few thin slices of bacon and baguettes. Then just to quickly blend my soup and... I'm warming up in this cold afternoon of All Saints...

Potato and Leek Soup with mustard toasts
(Inspired by BBC Good Food)

50g butter
10 rashers streaky bacon , chopped
5 large leeks sliced
2 large potatoes, cubed
1.2l vegetable stock
2 bay leaves
300ml milk
handful chopped parsley

For toasts:
1 long thin baguette
4 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp wholegrain mustard

Melt the butter in a large pan, add the bacon and fry it until it is just starting to colour. Add the leeks and potatoes, then stir well until they are glistening.
Add the stock and bay leaves, season and bring to the boil. Partly cover and simmer for 15 mins, until everything is cooked. Fish out the bay leaves, then purée the soup in batches in a food processor or blender. Return to the pan and stir in the milk. Reheat gently and season to taste. Add more stock or water if the soup seems too thick (this will depend on the size of your potatoes). Sprinkle with parsley to serve.
Make the toasts: heat oven to 200C/fan 180C/gas 6. Cut the baguette into thin diagonal slices. Mix the oil and mustard together, then brush over both sides of the bread. Spread them on a large baking sheet and bake for 10 mins. Serve with the soup for dipping. They can be baked earlier in the day and served cold or warmed through in the oven.

Have a lovely and calm evening!
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