Monday, November 4, 2013

comfort food: kołduny

Sometimes you realize you did stuff wrong, that choices that were supposed to make your life better have all just gone to shit, you may never have the chance to do what you love and you can't even post anything to your blog more often than once in a month. At times like this, you need comfort food. For me, comfort food is not just about how it makes you feel when you eat it. The whole cooking process can be comforting too. That's why for me kołduny are the best comfort food known to mankind.

It may seem like I'm going sentimental, but I have to mention there's also some family tradition when it comes to this dish. First with my grandma and my aunts, then just with my Mom, we used to spend a whole day on this. We'd sit all together, make the first batch, trying to make the kołduny as small as possible and bragging about our skills, then we'd cook the first batch, eat it, suffer from overeating and start the next batch. Repeat until the filling is gone. There's something about forming the tiny dumplings that makes it a lot like occupational therapy.

The most amazing and important thing about the kołduny is the filling. Like in the Ukrainian pelmeni, you use raw meat filling. In this case it's lamb - the ultimate base of comfort food - not only extremely delicious, but also rich in things that actually improve your mood and make you healthier.

  • 500g ground lamb
  • marjoram
  • salt
  • pepper

The filling is quite simple, but you have to rely on your own taste here. I'd advice to use at least half glass of marjoram. You just have to taste it until it's good - add some of the spices, mix with a fork or with your hand, taste, repeat until you're satisfied. Try not to eat everything at once.

After you're done with the filling, cover it and put it in the refridgerator. Then make the dough, you'll find the recipe here. Let it rest a while in the frige too, and then cut out a small bit and roll it out thinly - the thinner the better, as it can't overwhelm the filling, it's just there to catch the fluids.

Now comes the occupational therapy part. You'll need a shot glass and an espresso spoon. Cut out circles of dough with the hot glass, put in the filling with an espresso spoon. Then fold it in half, close it squeezing the exces dough together with your fingers and, for decorative purposes, add "waves" by pinching it together along the side a few times, as close as you can.

When you're done with the first batch, boil some salted water in a short, but wide, pot. When it's boiling, throw the kołduny in and boil them until they float to the top, then just a minute more. Now, this is VERY IMPORTANT. DON'T DISCARD THE WATER. It turns into a perfect broth - serve the kołduny in it. Keep the rest of the broth and cook the next batches in it - it will be ever more flavourfull. Of course you can add some water every next time.

If you don't think you can eat all of them at once, you can freeze them before boiling. They'll be just fine.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

seasonal: mom's apple pie / szarlotka

This may be the first Polish recipe I'm posting here, but Autumn is a very Polish time of the year. Somehow we learned to take advantage of this gloomy time of year like no other folk. Perhaps it's because of the very special time on the beginning of the season, when everything is golden and the forests and orchards are crazy rich with stuff.

This is a recipe for apple pie for how my Mom makes it. I've never heard anyone NOT saying they've never had better. I certainly haven't.

the filling:

  • 2,5 sour apples (if possible of the Antonovka variety)
  • ground cinnamon
  • sugar

You can make the filling in advance, not too long ahead, of course. Peel the apples, remove the seeds, dice and cook them with some sugar and cinnamon - I can't tell you how much exactly - it all depends on the apples and your taste. Just remember not to make them too sweet - the dough will be sweet enough and the hint of sourness is quite important for this to be a perfect apple pie. Also remember not to cook the apples for too long - try to have most of them remaining in firm bits - remember they're still going to the oven and it's not called apple mush, now, is it?

the crust

  • 800g flour
  • 250g butter (one brick)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg-yolk
  • 1 sachet vanilla sugar (vanillin will do, if you REALLY can't get your hands on the real deal)
  • 1 sachet baking soda
  • 1 cup of sour cream (yoghurt will do, if you want the illusion of it being lighter
  • sugar (I'd say start with half-cup and continue from there until you're satisfied)

Sieve the flour through into a heap and make a small hole in the middle. Add the rest of the ingredients, chop it roughly with a large knife (or using a pastry blender, if you have one, I don't, but I'd love one, you know?) and then work it into a nice, smooth ball, checking the sweetness every once in a while and adding sugar if needed.

oven: 220C / 430F / gas mark 7

Divide the dough in two and roll out the first half onto a baking sheet fitting the baking tray you're going to use. Bake this first layer for about 15 minutes. Thanks to this the bottom crust won't get soggy and stuff. In that time roll out the second half of dough (once again - onto a fitted baking sheet). Take the first layer out from the oven (it should be golden, but not too dark) and evenly spread out the filling onto it. Cover it carefully with the second layer, remove the baking sheet and bake for another 15 minutes (or until the colour seems right).

To serve, sprinkle generously with confectioner's sugar and cut into even, square pieces. I never tried adding anything to it (no ice cream, whipped cream, nothing) - I think it's perfect on its own.

There's a profoundly sad story about how I learned to make this apple pie. I watched my mother make it for 19 years, but never touched it apart from stealing the raw dough (which is DELICIOUS). Until the day our horse died. Harcerz wasn't just any horse. He was about 34 years old (we could never agree on that and someone lost his papers) and he spent most of that time with my Mom. I grew up with him. In my life I saw more of him than anybody else (except, perhaps, my Mom). My first words were about him (and apples - for him). He was a nasty old monster, better than a couple of dobermans if let loose in the yard, but he loved me and he'd never harm me.

Anyway. The day I made my first apple pie. He was dying, we did everything we could, the vet was there for half a day already and my mother was faced with one of the most difficult decisions in her life. I moved out of the way, back to the house, through the kitchen entrance, as usual when coming back from the stable. And there, in the kitchen, I found a pastry board with all the ingredients on it, unmixed, waiting to be worked. I knew there's no way my Mom will be able to do anything with it and I figured this was a perfect way to get my mind off things just a little.

For most my life we made the apple pie with the apples from the Antonovka tree next to the stable. I used to climb that tree and pick apples for Harcerz. If I stopped, for example to eat one apple myself, he'd pull my shoelaces in a warning - do your job or fall down, your choice.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013


So I made a ramenburger. It was all I thought it would be. Took the recipe from Mashable and nailed it (well, apart from the shape part - shapes are not something I'm good with, especially with my raging impatience). Of course I left out the arugula, because, come on, why spoil a perfectly good burger with green paper in funny shapes?

Friday, September 13, 2013


seasonal: chanterelle and goat cheese trottelloni

When it comes to seasonal food, chanterelles for me are the most elusive. You can import fresh asparagus from Peru and pay a shitload of money, you can grow tomatoes all year long in glasshouses (and complain about their lack of flavour), but you can only get fresh chanterelles for these few weeks a year.

I have a few good recipes for stuff more elaborate than scrambled eggs with chanterelles (although that's actually good enough for me) and perhaps I'll manage to share them with you before the season is over, this is one of them. When it comes to chanterelles, simplicity is key, less is more - you wouldn't want to kill their flavour with too many ingredients. So, here we go.

pasta dough (I know this is not the classic italian recipe, it's more of a Polish dumpling dough recipe - you can use your favourite, I just got used to this one):

  • 2 cups of flour (the thinner the better)
  • salt
  • 1 large free-range egg (if you don't have those - buy some and stop buying other ones right this instant)
  • a cup of water (you may not use all of it, remember)

Sieve the flour to a large bowl, add salt and the egg - knead. Gradually add small amounts of water and knead further, until the dough is smooth, without any dry lumps. If you added too much water and the dough it too sticky, add some flour and knead again. Put the dough in a plastic bag and in the refrigerator - believe me, it improves the doughs quality when it comes to the next steps.


  • cleaned chanterelles
  • shallots
  • butter
  • soft goat cheese
  • salt and freshly ground pepper

Sorry for not giving you exact measurements, but there's just no way to do this, you have to go with your gut here. But, let's say for a medium bowl of chanterelles (while they're still in one piece) I'd take 2-3 challots and ca. 100g goat cheese.

Chop the chanterelles and the shallots rather finely. Melt some butter on a pan, according to your preference - I always use a lot of butter, but I understand people who don't. When the butter melts fry the challots on medium heat until they're translucent, salt them and add the chopped chanterelles - fry them for a little while, until they're a bit softer. Turn off the heat and add the goat cheese. Season with salt and pepper, stirr until it all combines and put it aside into a bowl to let it cool down. Cold filling, especially butter-based, is much easier to use than warm one.

Now, off to occupational therapy. It's good to have someone to help you and/or a few episodes of something good to watch. This will take you some time.

Cut away a fist sized piece of dough, leave the rest in the fridge. Sprinkle the table with flour, rub some on your rolling pin and roll out the dough as thinly as you can. Thick dough overwhelms the filling and throws off the texture balance of the dish. Using something like a espresso cup or larger vodka glass or similar in diameter (I'd say about 4-5cm?) cut out circles of dough. Prepare some cloths and a tray spirinkled with flour to put the ready dumplings on. Now, to the folding.

I called this shape trottelloni (from German Trottel - fool, that's my sense of humour right there), because first of all, it's so easy a fool can do it and, most of all, I couldn't find a proper Italian name for it - went through all the possible shapes of stuffed pasta and didn't find it. If you know a proper name - please share.

So, it goes like this - with an espresso spoon, put some filling in the middle of the circle, fold it in half and press the edges together. Then take the corners and, bending the dumpling, press them together too, just as you can see on the picture with my messily-manicured fingers. Repeat until you run out of dough and filling.

If you run of dough first, you can either make more, or freeze the remaining filling for later. If you run out of filling, roll out the remaining dough, sprinkle generously with flour and leave to dry. When dried, roll it into, well, a roll and slice thinly - you now have some homemade pasta you can store for later.

Back to the trottelloni. Get some salted water boiling, throw the trottelloni in and boil until they all float to the top and a few moments more. Serve with sage-butter. Enjoy.

If you made more than you can eat, you can easily freeze them (before cooking, clearly) - first on the tray you used to put them aside, and when they're already frozen you can put them in a freezing bag - they shouldn't stick together anymore.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

say hello to my perfect bread

He's so perfect, he'll probably say "hello" back.

100% spelt, including spelt sourdough for the first time.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

the heat is on - miami mojito

The weekend isn't over yet, nor is is hot weather, so why not treat yourself to the best summer refreshment - mojito. I found a great recipe few years ago and the reactions I get every time I make it are positive, to say the least. For me, this is the ultimate picnic drink, but I'll explain that in a moment.

Here's the video I got it from:

I always use brown sugar and I'm not really sure how they came up with using white here, whatever. Thanks to the blending, the flavours are really intensive and the grated lime skin really adds something special.

What I usually do is prepare the base and pour it into a plastic bottle and tell someone else to bring soda water and plastic cups wherever we're meeting. Then we're just mixing it with the water in the cup, each to their own linking. It's really convenient and much better than just drinking beer in a park.

Just to make it easier, here are the ingredients for a 0,7l bottle of rum:

  • a large handful of fresh spearmint leaves (believe me, peppermint won't work here)
  • 1,5 cup brown sugar (more like demerara, muscovado won't do at all, also, you may think that's a lot - it's not)
  • 0,75 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
  • a generous tablespoon of freshly grated lime peel
  • loads and loads of ice
  • a 0,7l bottle of golden or white rum (never dark)
  • a 1,5l bottle of soda water

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Köttbullar - IKEA meatballs

I've spent a lot of time trying to find THE recipe for THE swedish meatballs from IKEA. I finally found it somewhere deep in the forgotten corners of IKEA servers, in Norwegian. For those of you, who don't speak Norwegian: learn it ASAP, it's a great language. For those of you, who don't speak Norwegian and are not willing to learn - you're lucky I'm able to translate this recipe for you. Here it is.
Swedish meatballs
Real Swedish meatballs should be small and served with mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce.
  • 500 g highest quality ground meat
  • 4 tbs breadcrumbs
  • 2 ts (full) grainy or French mustard
  • 150 ml milk
  • 1/2 finely chopped onion
  • salt and pepper
Mix the breadcrumbs and milk and set them aside for 5 minutes. Mix all the ingredients together and form small balls. Fry them on butter or sunflower oil for about 8-10 minutes, depending on their size.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

a quick one - good housewifin'

There are days when you just can't be bothered with coming up with elaborate plans what to make for breakfast, dinner etc., but you still want it to be good and impressive. Days, when shortcuts are in order.
Shortcut one: find a stunning breakfast recipe somewhere you know you won't be disappointed. Let's say, on smittenkitchen. Here's what I found: shakshuka. Make sure, you make twice the amount you need.
Shortcut two: find a way of extending the meal to a satisfying dinner, let's say, turn it into a pizza (an appropriate amount for two people would be 1/4 of what Jamie suggests here, so keep that in mind unless you want to extend the shortcuts into storing some pizza dough for the next days).
Enjoy the comments. For me it was "wow, what is this" in the morning and "god, this is really amazing" in the afternoon. Thanks, Deb and Jamie!

seasonal - grill, simple lamb, asparagus

I've been experiencing some lags recently, so please excuse me for posting about asparagus way beyond season (well, at least in Europe). But, hey, the grilling season is still on, so perhaps at least the lamb recipe will be useful.

Both the green asparagus and lamb chops are extremely easy and fast to prepare, but at the same time - they're really impressive. All you need to do with the asparagus, once you cleaned them (which, in Europe, doesn't only mean trimming the lower ends - you should really peel them unless you're lucky enough to find 50 cm long asparagus you can afford to cut 15 cm off) is to sprinkle them with sea salt, freshly ground pepper and olive oil - they're ready to grill.

Now - with the lamb there are two ways to do this. An uncertain, easy one, and a delicious one you have to put some more effort into. You can either buy ready made pesto genovese for this, or make it yourself. Unless you have a brand you're sure of and very little time, I recommend making it yourself. I actually dislike pine nuts, so I substitute them with walnuts. With added garlic it's not really pesto genovese anymore, but, hell, it's god. I use a blender - this way it's easier to get a more even, flavourful sauce.

So, for the semi-pesto I throw a big bunch of fresh basil leaves, a handful of parmigiano, a couple pressed big garlic cloves (I usually add more, but I love garlic, not everybody does) and a handful of walnuts. I season it after blending - the parmiggiano is salty, so it's easy to overdo it with the salt before tasting.

TIP: To make the walnuts blend better with the other ingredients I use a garlic presser - no more large bits!

Back to the grilling - take the lamb chops (any lamb chops) and generously rub them with the pesto. Place them on the grill together with the asparagus. If the chops are small and thin, I recommend putting the asparagus on earlier, as they may take longer to cook. As for the times - don't require exact times for me - this all depends on the grill, the temperature you achieved, the size of the chops and most of all - on your preferences. I like it rare or at least medium-rare.

As you can see on the picture, I didn't use a regular grill/barbecue - I tried out the Lotus Grill thingy and I'm quite pleased with it. If you're doing it right, that is, read the manual and use all the things you need to use, including the lighting gel (unlike we did the first time round), it's really great. It heats up almost immediately, it's clean, doesn't take much space, you can use it on your balcony without annoying the people next door or above you. Also, if you're a design and gadget freak like me, it's simply pretty cool. We have the smaller one, but it also comes in bigger sizes for bigger parties. Check it out here:

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Barcelona - pure joy

Walking through the streets of Barcelona we stumbled upon something very close to heaven - an Enrique Tomas shop - a store with ham and wine. And they had the most amazing thing - ham cones.

A ham cone (a.k.a. chuches de jamon belota) has to be one of THE greatest inventions ever - finally a way to enjoy ham as a snack on-the-go! There are two versions of the ham cone - one with ham cubes and one with shredded, thinly sliced ham. I guess the second one is a better way to go, as the flavour is really intensive and can be overwhelming. Also, this form is better if you want to enjoy how the ham melts in your mouth...

This was one of the best, most inspiring things we saw in Barcelona, one of those things that, like vino turbio, brought us nothing but pure joy.

One cone costs 4,50 EUR, but it's a fair price for such quality and quantity - we took one for the two of us and were completely satisfied.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Barcelona - Can Maño

We went to Barcelona for the Primavera Sound Festival and were lucky enough to team up with people who went there many times before and knew exactly what to do when it came to dining. They took us to the most amazing place at Barceloneta, visited mostly by the locals. To get in there, you have to get in a queue at least half an hour before the opening.

The first amazing thing we got to know there (which stuck with us until the end of the trip and well beyond) was Turbio. This amazing white wine is unlike any wine I've tried before - it's enriched with yeast. Surprising, refreshing and truly delicious, sold in beautifully simple bottles with a thumb-sized label, available from 1,19 EUR in some supermarkets. We brought 10 bottles back to Poland.

Then came the food. I may have already mentioned I'm not really a fan of seafood which is, of course, a specialty of Barcelona, so I was really happy to see that the orgy started with deep fried vegetables - eggplants, sweet peppers and home-made french fries (as seen in the middle of the table). All of it amazing, but nothing comparing to the seafood part.

My mother always explained to me, that seafood tastes completely different when it's really fresh and served just a few hundred meters from where it was caught. As much as I hate to admit it - she was right.

We ordered some sick amount of food, including calamari, sardines and prawns, but my top 2 were chipirones (baby squid, top of the plate) and llangueta - the tiniest fish (just compare their size to the fork), both deep fried.

Everything was amazingly fresh and you had to eat it as soon as it hit the table - while it was still sizzling, crispy and hot. As soon as I got stuffed beyond my limits and had to wait a while to eat more, my satisfaction fell down a few levels - it all wasn't so great as it cooled down. So the way to go there is to take some friends and order really small amounts of everything, but frequently. They don't mind - everything is done extremely fast, like within two minutes from the time you'd placed your order.

If you ever go to Barcelona don't miss this place. It would be a sin.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

books: Doctor Who Cookbook

This came at a really perfect moment. As all the Whovians were scanning every possible torrent source for the supposedly (and obviously falsely) leaked final episode of season 7 - "The Name of the Doctor" - the searches started returning results with this little gem on top. The Doctor Who Cookbook, a collection of recipes gathered from the whole Doctor Who crew, published in 1985.

There's no point in reviewing this properly - it's key value is nostalgic, especially now that I found a Polish element there. One of the first recipes in the book is Chłodnik - the name and the dish 100% Polish. What is it? See for yourself.

btw, was this episode one of the best yet or what?

Tuesday, May 7, 2013


A friend brought us some edible bugs from Mexico - my fiancé is fascinated by the idea and I tried to force it into cultural foresight reports at work (with no success, not my fault).

Once you take a deep breath and explain to yourself that they're not going to start moving as soon as you put them in your mouth, it's really fine. The texture is crispy, that's true, but no more crispy than regular potato chips or something in sugar coating. And they taste really good. For me the flavour is much less weird than any fish or seafood.

The bugs are quite savoury, with a nice, tangy finish. A friend told me not to say they taste like chicken - well, they don't. The flavour is rather unique and much less "transparent", but it may just me the seasoning, about which I know nothing, unfortunately.

Anyway, I'll keep insisting that bugs ARE the future of nutrition, unless we want to kill off half of the population and stick with what we're eating now. I'm trying to think of something more to do with them - tempura seems to be the most obvious answer here, but perhaps I'll go with a salat, if with anything at all.

Monday, May 6, 2013

first time for everything: mussels in white wine

I guess I finally found a reason to have a social life - cooking for more people is quite fun. It's also a good excuse to make things that serve more than two and don't reheat well. Mussels - one of such dishes.

I don't actually eat seafood at all. Apart that one time I made deep fried mussels for someone. But these came out pretty well, I ate a few and did not want to throw up or even follow it with something to kill the taste. They're good for a dinner party, because you can prep everything in advance and just throw everything in a pan when the time comes.


  • a large knob of butter
  • few cloves of garlic
  • two shallots
  • one chili pepper
  • two celery stalks
  • a handful of parsley
  • a glass of dry white wine
  • 1,5-2 kg cleaned mussels
  • salt, pepper

Chop everything finely (except for the butter, wine and mussels, of course). Start with melting the butter and cooking the challots and celery until translucent. Add the garlic and chili, cook for a moment and add the mussels, parsley and wine, season. Cook under cover for a few minutes, shaking from time to time, so that everything mixes well. If the pot isn't large enough, use a second one - transferring the mussels back and forth once should do the trick. Take the lid off, cook for a few more minutes, discard the mussels that didn't open, serve with fresh baguette, make people happy.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Looks Like Shit, But That's Not It #1

Today in Looks Like Shit But That's Not It: Chicken in Black Bean Lava!

There's not much background to this dish: my fiancé likes beans and we try to eat relatively healthy recently, as serious cutting back on booze is not an option. So, here it goes.


  • chicken breasts, about 1lb / 500g
  • black beans, soaked and cooked or canned, about 1 can / glass
  • 1/2 red onion (or one small)
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 chili pepper (or more, if you like it hot)
  • 1/2 glass olive oil
  • salt
  • pepper

Heat the oven to 190C / 375F / gas mark 5

Using a blender, combine the olive oil with chopped onion, garlic and chili (you can also squeeze in a half of lime and/or add some corriander leaves), then add the beans and pulse until at least half of it turns into a smooth paste. Take an oven friendly dish and place the chicken breasts there after rubbing some olive oil, salt and pepper on them. Now, cover them completely with the paste. Roast for about 45-50 minutes, watch an episode of Breaking Bad or something, think of how I went all Walter White on Mexican inspirations. Voila.

Now you can serve your loved ones with a dish that looks truly disgusting, but, surprisingly, the texture and flavour are quite great. The bean coat should be crispy on the outside and soft closer to the chicken. The chicken itself, when I made it, remained soft and moist, as it should be.

PS: the black bean paste itself is a great dip or spread!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

test - baking bread in silicone form

I grew tired with removing pieces of parchment from every bread I bake, so I decided to see how a silicone form would work. This one is the 22,5 cm Bake It form from Duka. And it worked pretty great.

The bread may seem flat, but it's not the form's fault - I fell asleep while the dough was proofing and it collapsed before I put it in the oven and had no more strength to grow. That's the thing with baking your own bread - you need to be patient and alert at the same time.

Back to the form - the best thing about it is the removal - with just one move you take out a neat loaf of bread, it doesn't stick at all. I imagined it would require a bit less cleaning, but, to be honest, that was a bit unreasonable - you really just need to wipe it once and rinse it properly.

As for the baking, the bread was baked evenly throughout and less burnt on the sides, as it tends to be in metal forms. All in all, I consider the test to be successful and I'll definitely be using the silicone form again.

UPDATE: my second attempt has shown me, that it wasn't entirely my fault that the bread was flat - because the form is soft, any slight movement causes the dough to lose air and collapse. So I have to switch from proofing it in the oven to some other place, so that I don't have to move it around too much.

UPDATE 2: using the silicone form as a lining for a metal form seems to be the perfect solution, bake on.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

cheap, easy and fast - a whore of a dish

This is the cheapest and fastest meal that I know and, in my opinion, it tastes great, especially if you love pasta and spring onions like I do.

All you need is some pasta (preferably spaghetti, and don't try to save a few cents by buying the cheapest one, it's not worth it), cottage cheese, chives and one egg. If you don't have the time to spare or you just don't want to eat white carbs or whatever, just substitute the pasta with another egg.

Cook the pasta and chop the spring onions in the meantime, throw the pasta on a heated frying pan, quickly add the rest, season with salt and pepper, stir until the egg is ready and there, it's ready.

We call this type of dish in Poland "student food", so if you're not in a hurry go on and drink a not-too-expensive beer with it, like I did today.

I realized I didn't address this issue earlier - the eggs. I only use eggs from free range chickens. I don't want to sound holier-than-thou or anything, but this day and age you really voice your opinions through money and money only. By buying eggs from caged chickens you show your support to this stupid cruelty, but if you pay some more for free range eggs, you show the people to make the effort to produce them in a humane way, that it's the right way to go. And, believe me, those eggs taste much, much better.

Friday, April 19, 2013

cherish your bread

The first bread after a long break is like the first crepe - you don't really want to show it to anyone, you just eat it as fast as you can and pretend it was never there. Now, the second bread, remembering the disaster from the day before, the second one you want to treat as good as you can, it's so pretty, it grew so nicely, the crust is so crispy...

My second bread this year was, as usual, spelt on rye, this time with some pumpkin seeds. I baked it in the morning and without really waiting for it to cool down, made breakfast with it.

I went with fresh spinach (which I only rinsed in boiling water), put two loafs of warm bread on top, then a slice of bacon and sprinkled it generously with some grated gruyere (with a pinch of freshly ground nutmeg). I grilled it until the cheese melted (about 3 minutes), put a poached egg on top, a pinch of salt here and there, some freshly ground pepper and voila.

It took much less time than I thought it would and also it was more than enough for breakfast, more like a lunch serving for me, actually. And it was really, really great.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

waking up

There's something about spring, the sunshine, the smell in the air, that makes me want to bake bread. This will be the first one this year, the usual - spelt on rye leaven. I dug up the leaven I've been saving since the first time I baked bread and used it to set up this one. Now I just have to wait.

The Beef Wellington experiment finale (so far)

Beef Wellington is one of my favourite meals to make - it's relatively easy to make and the effects are absolutely stunning. But I knew, while simplicity is key, I can still make it better.
I went through all recipes for Beef Wellington from Gordon Ramsay I could find and combined the most interesting elements while also adjusting it to what's available in Poland. So, here it is:

  • a good beef fillet of around 0,5kg / 1lb
  • some olive oil
  • 150g / 5oz champignons
  • 1tsp butter
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme (not too big, they're really aromatic)
  • a bottle of dry white wine, refrigerated (come on, who'd want to drink warm white wine?)
  • 7 slices prosciutto
  • 250 g / 0,5 lb pack puff pastry, thawed if frozen - and this is important - you can only use butter based puff pastry - margarine just won't to, believe me, I tried
  • 1 egg yolk beaten with 1 tsp water
  • freshly ground pepper
  • coarse sea salt

oven: 220C/fan 200C/gas 7

Open the wine bottle and pour yourself a glass - you need to see if it's right, don't you? Then start with the mushrooms - clean them, cut them and throw them in a food processor - you'll want them chopped in little pieces, but not blended. Melt some butter on a pan and throw in the mushrooms, add the thyme sprig and a splash of wine. Now that you don't need the wine anymore you can drink the rest. If there's someone in your kitchen that doesn't get in your way - share.
Now, the thing about the thyme sprig is, it will add a hell lot of aroma - you don't want it too big, as it will simply kill the flavour of the mushrooms. Fry the mushrooms until they loose all the liquid (remember to move them around every once in a while, so that they don't stick to the pan and/or burn).

When ready, take out the thyme sprig, put the mushrooms in a bowl and just wipe the pan with a paper towel - I'm not a fan of doing the dishes, so I try to use as little things as possible when cooking. It's your home, not a restaurant, it's mostly about your convenience and fun. Now comes a quite important step - you have to "close" the beef, so that it doesn't "leak" later - if it does, it's not only going to lose a lot of flavour, but also the pastry will be soggy and no-one want's that. So heat up some olive oil on the pan and throw in the fillet, just sear it quickly on every side, so that you don't see any redness lurking on the surface, set it aside and season it with freshly ground pepper and sea salt.

This is when we're getting to the assembly. For that you will need cling film and a lot of patience if, like me, you are utterly terified of using cling film. So, unroll some cling film, let's say 2x longer than the meat you have. Place the prosciutto slices on the cling film, so that they slightly overlap. Eat the last one or feed it to your non-annoying companion. Then spread the mushrooms on the ham and put the meat on those layers. Now gently wrap it all up - remember not to overlap cling film with the rest - it has to be the outer layer. Then grab the excess foil on the sides and twist it as strong as possible - this is important for shaping the thing evenly, and regular shapes seem to be key to impressive presentation. Put the meat in the refridgerator and go watch an episode of some show.

If at this point you have a thawed margarine-based puff pastry laying in front of you, throw it out and go buy one made on butter. Don't worry about the meat in your fridge, it can stay there until tomorrow if it has to. Now that you have proper puff pastry, roll it out on the table and prepare another sheet of cling film. Strip the meat from the foil and put it in the middle of the puff pastry. Use the egg wash on all the sides of the pastry then wrap the meat in it as if you would wrap a present. Cut the excess pastry away (but not too much, as it won't hold when it grows in the oven). Now repeat what you did with the cling film before - wrap, squeeze tightly and put in the fridge.

At this point you can do whatever - you can leave the prepared wellington in the fridge until next evening, or just for one hour, as you wish. When you take it out just paint it with the remaining egg wash and put it in the pre-heatet oven for about half an hour. Take it out, let it rest for 15 minutes, amaze your guests. The last time (picture above) I served it with this amazing salad from Sass and Veracity and it worked great together.

Recipe notes:

  • use butter based puff pastry, never margarine - unless you're vegan there's no reason to poison yourself with that stuff, but if you were vegan you wouldn't be reading this recipe, would you?
  • don't add too much thyme to the mushrooms as it will dominate the whole thing
  • I've read recipes for a 1kg (2lbs) piece of meat - don't do that, it doesn't make much sense - if you want to serve more people just make two smaller wellingtons, like I did recently (fed 6 and had a small bit for breakfast)

Sunday, April 14, 2013

growing up

Before the long overdue end of winter I realized a change occured in me - I just couldn't wait for the summer, not because of the weather, but because of the fresh vegetables. I can't stop thinking about asparagus, fennel, green beans, artichokes, new potatoes and what I will do to them once I get them in my hands. All the pasta, the soups, the shaving, the grilling... I consider it a sign of me growing up, not that I can really explain it. I seek out more and more challenges in the kitchen and vegetables make for a vast world of amazing possibilities.