The Daring Bakers #21 Crackers...

I love cracker in any form or shape. This month's challenge showed me that it's quite easy to make crackers at home and they do keep well for good few days. I was supposed to bake 2 different types of crackers but... Since last Monday I'm back to work, full time. The only change is that we have moved since I worked last time. I leave house at 7.30 am and it's 7 pm by the time I'm back... Long day... and how I miss my girls!!! So, I hope you forgive me, but it's only one kind of crackers from me this time...
I've made one type of crackers but with four different toppings: sea salt & seaweed, crushed black pepper, chili flakes, sesame seeds.


Our July 2012 Daring Bakers’ Host was Dana McFarland and she challenged us to make homemade crackers! Dana showed us some techniques for making crackers and encouraged to use our creativity to make each cracker our own by using ingredients we love.

How to make it...

Spiced cabbage soup...

We cook a lot of soups, mainly because it's something that lil Baby J would eat almost for sure. We like cabbage so I was pretty sure this one will be a hit with our family too, and it was! I've saved some of the soup without the spice mix in it for our toddler, and make sure to do the same if you have small kids. The title is a little bit misleading as the soup isn't that spicy so if you're not a fan of spicy food you should like it too. Cabbage is in season now so make sure you use it. Nothing better than a fresh, local produce (the one that didn't fly half the world to finally land on your plate...).





This recipe is by Darina Allen, from a great book 'Ballymaloe cookery course'.

How to make it...

How to cook a great steak...

This one is Hubby's dish. It is a manly event in the kitchen and I won't deny it ;) He combined two great recipes into one, even better. He prepares the meat as per John Torode's advise and fries it as per Raymond Blanc's instructions. We don't eat it very often - for one this cut of meat isn't the cheapest one and what's more, we treat it as a special treat (besides it's not something that our 2 year old would enjoy... and we try to cook for whole family, so she can eat with us).
When buying your steak you should look for a well hung and matured meat. One of the biggest advantages of living in Ireland is an easy access to great quality beef!
P.S. This dish isn't for faint hearted... and it's a one that's a short way to the heart attack... or high cholesterol at least ;)



How to make it...

Polish donuts - Pączki...

Those are the donuts I remember from my childhood - which is quite right as this recipe is my Nana's recipe but made by my Hubby. He decided to master the recipe for donuts so... within the last 3 weeks he made donuts 3 times... not so good for my waistline but sooooo good for any other reason! :) This donuts are the type of donuts you would find in a Polish cake shop. They are slightly different from their American or even English cousins. There are few trick which help to make those donuts very light, fluffy and create that light ring around :)


Traditionally those donuts would be filled with a rose or plum or any other fruit marmalade. Nowadays you can find them sometimes filled with cream and custard. Ours weren't filled with anything as they were perfect on their own :) But you can always make 'empty' donuts, slice in half and spread some marmalade on it.

How to make it...

Spinach and goat's cheese tart... quiche....?

I can't really decide if it's a savoury tart or a quiche. When I started making it I didn't plan on adding the egg and cream mixture but when everything was already laid on the pastry it looked 'dry' so I just quickly whisked up an egg and added some cream and seasoning to it. So what started as a tart ended as a quiche ;)We bought fresh spinach - first time in my life, how pathetic is that... I always have a bag of frozen stuff in the freezer but I don't think this would work with the frozen spinach as well as it did with the fresh one. We also happen to stumble upon a fantastic, locally produced (from a farm just around the corner, I can hear the roosters in the morning and goat's during the day ;) ) hard goat's cheese - goat's emmental to be exact! Nothing works better than a simple marriage of goat's cheese and spinach!
The tart/quiche was a hit with booth the Hubby and lil Baby J (and she's a fussy eater recently as teething stops her from enjoying the food and the eating process...).


How to make it...

Aromatic pork belly hot pot...

I know it's not the best of summer dishes (as it really is autumn/winter one!) but with the weather we have here in Ireland it's perfect! It's only about 15 C, very windy and it rains, rains, rains, rains... well you can imagine... typical Irish summer ;) nothing we're not used to here.
I was feeling very under the weather and quite cold as well. It's really wierd when you have to turn on the heating in your house for the night, in the middle of July! But I always believe that if you can't warm up all you need is a good, comfort food, and better yet - a full bowl of it!
Hubby took out a nice piece of pork belly from the freezer and said - 'Do something with it' - and I did :) oh yes I did! I was skeptical about leaving the rind on, I was afraid it will be slimy etc. but no, it turned out great - very soft and velvety, dissolving in your mouth... yum!


This dish turned out to be very easy to prepare and not time consuming at all - well, besides the fact that you have to leave it to simmer for minimum 2 hours, after you do all the necessary work.
If you happen to have a proper summer weather right now at yours, make sure to save this recipe for cold winter evenings! Recipe taken from a great book 'The River Cottage - Meat'.

How to make it...

Polish sour rye soup - zurek...

I come from Silesia region, which is a region in the south part of Poland. Zurek is one (if not the) most famous soup there and one that is made frequently. I remember when I was only few years old I used to go to the next block of flats, to a rather old lady and buy the starter for zurek from her. My Dad used to make zurek every Friday. Now you can buy the sour rye starter in Polish shops but it's very easy to make one at home. Not to mention the shop bought ones aren't really very good. The shop bought ones will have an unwelcoming addition of vinegar to make them acidic - rather than natural yeast. It will be also watered down so the starter won't be so strong and your soup won't have the desired taste.


"In Poland it is sometimes served in an edible bowl made of bread or with boiled potatoes. The recipe varies from region to region. In Silesia, a type of sour rye soup known as żur śląski is served in a bowl, poured over mashed potatoes. In the Podlasie region, it is common to eat żurek with halved hard-boiled eggs. In Poland żurek is traditionally eaten at Easter, but is also popular during other parts of the year. It is usually served with bread or buns, and sometimes flavored with bits of sausage." - by mycitycuisine.org

How to make it...

Chicken and chickpea stew...

This dish was created out of necessity. I had only 1 chicken breast and had to feed 2 adults and 1 toddler with it... that's when your cupboard essentials come handy! I always have cans of all sorts: chickpea, mixed beans, baked beans, tomato puree etc. As I love all the Indian spices I used some of them here and they've added that depth of flavour to a normally quite boring and not special at all dish. The addition of kale leaves isn't necessary (I wouldn't omit the char grilled pepper though!). It just happened that kale in my garden was due harvesting some time ago and this was finally ITS time :) If you prefer vegetarian stew omit the chicken completely and use 2nd can of chickpea, of course then a vegetable stock rather than a chicken one is a must. The stew is very nice and comforting on a day like today - typical Irish summer: raining all the time and only about 15 C... and it's almost the middle of July...!

 

  
How to make it...

Polish vodka Zubrowka and a minty-apple drink...

This is very refreshing and easy drink to make - perfect for long, hot summer evenings. I'm not giving you exact quantities for the apple juice, as it's completely up to you how strong you want it. Try it if you can, DO! Zubrowka is a strong vodka, but it has very nice and subtle taste. It's one of the very few vodkas I would actually drink, bet then again - never on it's own, always in a drink of some kind. I know that you're all probably thinking, that being of Polish origins it means that I drink all kinds of vodkas and a lot of it - well it's actually a complete opposite! Vodka, as an alcohol, isn't my first choice. I enjoy a nice glass of wine (red or white), Martini or Irish cream.

Zubrowka with apple juice is very popular drink in Poland. It's easy and quick to make - simple combination of two liquids. I like it with a little twist - mint - and it has to be very cold. I know that some will also add a bit of ground cinnamon, making something called "apple pie drink" ;) Personally I haven't tried it, even though I love cinnamon.


"Żubrówka also known in English as Bison Grass Vodka, is a brand of dry, herb-flavored vodka that is distilled from rye and bottled at 40% alcohol by volume (80 proof). Its flavor is unique and is described as having woodruff, vanilla, coconut, and almond notes.The rye distillate is flavored with a tincture of buffalo grass (Hierochloe odorata), which also gives the spirit its yellowish color. This grass grows in the Białowieża Forest and elsewhere. A blade of buffalo grass is traditionally placed in each bottle of Żubrówka, though this is largely decorative.
The name Żubrówka comes from żubr, the Polish, Russian, Belarusian, and Ukrainian word for the wisent (European bison), which is particularly fond of eating buffalo grass." - by Wikipedia.org



How to make it...

Spinach and ricotta ravioli...

Spinach and ricotta ravioli is one of the most looked up recipes on-line... well I'm not surprised there! This is very nice, delicious and not so difficult dish to make, though a little bit time consuming. This is a perfect idea for a romantic lunch/dinner for two :)  you wouldn't realy make a huge batch, a dinner for 10 or more people as you would have to spend a good party of your day in the kitchen. This is definietly better than a shop bought version and one I encourage you to try.I went even one step further and made my own ricotta cheese!


How to make it...

Ham cooked in cider then baked in honey and apple glaze...

The most important thing I've learned when cooking ham is to soak it in plain water long before doing anything with it. Once, some time ago, we bought cured ham and I didn't soak it... just cooked it straight away as it came... well, that was a HUGE mistake. It was so salty that we couldn't eat it, we couldn't add it to anything else either... it landed in the bin. I just HATE waisting food, but there was no other option here. It was like eating salt on its own. This time I've learned from the mistake and the ham was 'swimming' in the water for good 20 hours (the water was changed 4 times during that period). Those 20 hours were still not enough, as the centre of the ham is still a little bit too salty. Next time it will be minimum 24 hours. Back to the recipe - ham cooked in cider rather than only water (which turned out very nice) and sticky, little on the sweet side glaze. Hope you'll try this twist on a traditional Sunday dinner.




How to make it...