Friday, July 27, 2012

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...

Monday, July 23, 2012

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...

Saturday, July 21, 2012

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...

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

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...

Monday, July 16, 2012

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...

Saturday, July 14, 2012

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...

Thursday, July 12, 2012

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

How to make it...

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Harty's Original Pepper Jelly Products...

Created as an exciting alternative to conventional sauces and dips, Harty's Original Pepper Jelly is the simple but inspiring way to enliven any meal or snack. From hot and spicy jalapeno pepper to the extremely mild and subtle nuances of our char-grilled variety, there's a Harty's original Pepper Jelly to suit all tastes. - by Melanie Harty

I've found out about Melanie Harty and her jellies when looking up local produce and local farmer markets and how grateful I am for doing so. Melanie has a great product, very versatile (which you will notice below) and quite unique too. I've never attempted making my own jelly (being it pepper, cranberry, mint or any other...). I was lucky enough to try 4 of the jellies: Cranberry hot pepper jelly, Mint jelly, Char grilled pepper jelly and Hot apple and sage jelly. Only natural products, no preservatives and no colourings are a huge advantage of all the jellies. I cooked with them quite a lot and it was a nice addition to all of my dishes - and even one drink!

Char grilled pepper jelly
This is my favourite of all the jellies that I've tried so far. - it's a shame it doesn't come in a bigger jar (like a 3 litre jar! that is ;) ) So versatile you wouldn't believe it! It's peppery, little sweet and you can definitely taste the 'char grilled' peppers! It dissolves well in sauces and stews. Just a tablespoon or 2 will make a difference with your dish. I will stock up on this one, as from now on it's an essential ingredient in my cupboard!
Tried it in chicken and chickpea stew as well as with Polish gnocchi (kopytka).

Mint Jelly
This jelly is very nice and delicate. A versatile condiment. The traditional mint sauce for lamb dish comes to mind, but I encourage you to broaden your horizons and try something different with it, like me in a drink(!) - apple & mint Zubrowka, or a dessert suggested by Melanie - strawberries with minted creme fraiche.

Hot apple and sage jelly
Little on the hot side, so if you're not a fan of spicy food that might not be your prefect jelly. Great with all pork dishes. Hubby uses it as a dipping sauce instead of chili sauce. I've went a little further and created a recipe for beautiful glaze for a piece of ham - ham cooked in cider than baked in honey, apple and sage glaze. Next on the list to try with this jelly are: prawns in tempura batter and stir fry pork.

Cranberry hot pepper jelly
It's perfect in a sandwich with chicken breast or turkey. It can replace (and will for me) all those dishes when you traditionally use cranberry sauce/jelly. This jelly is a step further from your traditional cranberry one. It gives a little kick and more flavour into your meals, but it's not hot at all, mild flavour of peppers so even a toddler a child wouldn't mid it. Great idea for a salad dressing with this jelly is on Melanie's site - summer leaves with blue cheese, beetroot and cranberry pepper dressing.

The jellies would help to bring the flavour in lots of your dishes. They will be perfect as a dipping sauces, they have the right consistency, so you would just have to put them in your little serving bowls and they're ready to serve. They would be great as a dipping sauce for fish cakes, nuggets, prawns, anything in tempura batter etc.
Harty's jellies are definitely our family's favourite jellies and a must have in our cupboard. All the jellies are great - more so, my Hubby couldn't decide which one is his favourite, as he loves them all (yes, love is the word he used!).  That kind of standard for that price is a real bargain and I wouldn't even attempt to make those kind of jellies myself. There are more jellies than those above and personally I can't wait to try the rest in Harty's range of jellies. The jellies we didn't try yet are the hot pepper ones, as I have to admit of being a little "chicken" when it comes to hot peppers in the kitchen ;) but I'll try them for sure, with moderation that is... which means only one thing for me - a trip to the next Glenbeigh farmers market!

The jellies are available in lots of different shops and supermarkets across Ireland and outside of the country too. Full list can be found on the official website, there's also possibility of buying the range on-line.

*I received a free sample of all the above products to review from the harty's Foods. All thoughts and opinions stated in this post are 100% mine.

Monday, July 09, 2012

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...

Friday, July 06, 2012

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

How to make it...

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

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...

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Ballybrado Junior Muesli, Oats, Bread & Cake mixes... all organic...

Mission Statement - Our objective at Ballybrado is to spread the joy of food and living in harmony with nature, and taking a responsible role in society by producing wholesome and tasty food in a sustainable manner." - by

If you eat porridge and/or use oat flakes frequently for your baking etc. you'll know that it's very hard to get good oats. Usually the ones I buy aren't cleared properly (have lots of rinds) and the flakes itself are very hard. This was a different experience alltogether.

My Hubby had a childhood memory brought back to him - when he was few years old, him and his siblings used to go and play on the farm, amongst the growing rye etc. They would pick up the seeds, crush them in their hands and eat, just like that. Yesterday he put his hand in the pack of oat flakes, picked up a few and ate... just like that :) He said it's the same taste, a taste of summer in Poland, when he was just a little boy... oooh, how sweet :)

Besides oatflakes I've also recieved muesli - so popular today. Personally I'm not a huge fan of muesli mixes, as they have too many raisins for my liking, even though when it says that it's a mix of few things all I can see on my plate are oat flakes and raisins!

Organic Standard Flake Oats
What's included: oat flakes
Comes in a 750 g package, rrp: € 2.55

Nice, medium sized oat flakes. 'Clear' scent of fresh oats - meaning there's no 'stale' smell present (which I used to find in some other brands, like it was kept in a wet conditions without any fresh air). Clean, no hard 'skins' present. Great for normal, traditional cooking on the stove and rapid one in the microwave as well (or like my Hubby - eat it raw ;) ). Simply delicious - in any form.
Tried in traditional porridge. Flapjacks next on the list! :)

Organic Junior Muesli
What's included: Sunflower seeds, Spelt flakes, Raisins, Golden linseeds, Puffed spelt, Corn flakes, Oat flakes, Strawberries, Coconut, Chocolate crunchy.
 Comes in a 500 g package, rrp: € 4.95

The mix is well balanced, not too much of only one ingredient. Muesli is crunchy, but not too hard. Addition of chocolate crunches and dry strawberries makes it sweet so you don't need to add sugar or honey to make it sweet. The fact that the mix is only from organic ingredients gives it a huge plus, I'm so aware of (and against) all those GM grains and products these days and I avoid them at any cost.
Tried with warm milk - nice, doesn't become sloppy after a minute, no need of extra sugar.
Tried with plain, Greek yogurt - very good (my prefered way of eating muesli) no sugar needed.
P.S. Don't know why it's called 'Junior Muesli' cos I could eat it all by myself ;)

The parcel I recieved was quite big and it contained 3 more packs of baking mixes.
As you all know 9 out of 10 times I bake/cook from scratch but that one time (when it's hectic, I just don't feel like it etc.) I would use mixes of all sorts. In generall I'm a supporter of good baking mixes, for those who may not be brilliant in the kitchen (or just don't want to bake from scratch on that given day), but still want to enjoy home made, freshly baked bread or cake.

Little Bakers cake mix
What's included: cake mix (spelt flour, corn starch, sugar, baking powder, lemon zest) you have to add 3 eggs and 150 g margarine/unsalted butter
Comes in a 350 g package, rrp: € 2.85

The batter comes together nicely and yes - I've made it with my 2 year old :) She was helping me mix it and she was counting the eggs. I've poured 2/3 of the batter to the baking tin and added a cocoa powder to the rest. Poured the cocoa batter on the top and baked it like that. The result was good, but in my humble opinion this cake mix is to use it with 'something', to add something extra to it. For example make cupcakes with fresh fruit, add cocoa or chocolate to the mix, add raisins or nuts of some kind, make a frosting on the ready baked cake etc. The plain cake, just as it was in the package might turn out too plain. All in all - a very good mix and organic!

Brown bread mix - Multi seeds soda bread
What's included: bread mix (spelt, oat flakes, seeds of sunflower, pumpkin, seasame, chia, baking soda, cream of tartar, seas salt) you have to add 350 ml milk or 450 ml buttermilk
Comes in a 454 g package, rrp: € 3.03

This is a kind of bread you can find in health stores. It has lots(!) of seeds. The making of the bread wasn't difficult, batter rather than a dough (as it's quite wet and liquid) was easy to work with and there's no need for kneading. The result is good - quite dense bread, but very nice taste and smells delicious. Good with sweet things like honey or jam, as well as cold meats and cheeses.

Spelt bread mix for a Buttery Toast
What's included: bread mix (white spelt flour, instant dry yeast, raw cane castor sugar, sea salt) you have to add 50 g butter and 400 ml milk
Comes in a 500 g package, rrp: € 3.62

This is my definite favourite out of the above 3 products. I was a little bit worried when I've started making it, as the batter was really runny and I thought this can't be right, but in the end all worked great. I was also suprised by the long time I had to bake it for, but again - it came out of the oven as it should have. The bread is moist, nice even holes, very buttery indeed and makes great toasts. For that price and the fact that it's organic, it wins for me with other similar products and it's definietly better than a store bought toast bread!

All in all, at the end of the day, it's about the quality of the flour and Ballybrado flour IS very good, not to mention - organic.

All the above products are available in most health food stores in Ireland and in approx. 30 Supervalu stores nationwide. At the moment Ballybrado products aren't available on-line.

For more information about Ballybrado and their products please go to
*I received a free sample of all the above products to review from the Ballybrado Ltd. All thoughts and opinions stated in this post are 100% mine.

Sunday, July 01, 2012

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...