Your favourite recipes this week:

Best recipes of 2013...

Another year gone. Another one ahead of us. Last year was full of new discoveries for me, when it comes to new ingredients, tastes, dishes. My short trip to Mallorca introduced me to delicious ensaimada and churros. Through out the year I've discovered new dishes, ingredients and spices like sumac, pickled eggs, labneh (yogurt cheese). You can say that I've traveled around the world on my plate - and there's so much more so discover/EAT! Can't wait what's in store for me in the New Year! :)

Hope you all will have good, adventurous, prosperous and the most important... delicious 2014!

See you in the New Year!

Apple & custard pie...

Apple pie with custard is perfect combination, a match made in heaven! So... why not combine both within the pie?! It's nice, creamy and moist, not too sweet (because of the custard and plenty of cinnamon). I've put an extra attention into slicing my apples to make sure they're completely baked and not crunchy - I like soft but not "mushy" apples in my cakes, but that's just me ;) I'm afraid that I wasn't brave enough (nor did I have enough time on my hands) to make custard from scratch - but if you can, by all means do!

How to make it...

Dad's Christmas cookies...

This recipe have been in my family for a long, long, long time. I remember making those cookies with my Dad before each and every Christmas (hence the way I always call them - Daddy's Christmas cookies). We would make them about 2 weeks beforehand and store in an airtight cookie box, although sometimes not that many survived till Christmas... ;)
Now, as I have moved out from my family home, I can't imagine Christmas without those lovely little treats, the smell of those cookies being baked announces to me that yes, Christmas is truly on its way. Now it's my time to pass those Christmas traditions and in a way create some new ones with my two little sous chefs :) so the tradition (and the recipe) can live on.

Christmas cookies

I know that the quantities are quite "generous", but with giving away good few of them and the fact that they keep well for so long, I always make a big batch. You can easily divide the recipe by half (then use 2 egg yolks + 1 whole egg), but who would want to do that? Enjoy!

How to make it...

Liver and bacon casserole...

I'm a HUGE fan of liver - especially lamb's liver. It has very delicate and slightly "herby" taste to it. It's not very popular in Poland, as lamb is not the most popular meat (mainly because of the high price) but fortunately in Ireland it's widely available and not so expensive.

Word of advice - find a good butcher, a really good one! I normally do all my "meat shopping" in the same place, but my butcher's shop is not in town and on this occasion it wasn't on my way at all. Thinking - all butcher shops should be the same and a liver is just a liver, I bought it somewhere else... Well, won't do my shopping there again! It wasn't "cleaned" and I feel cheated - if you've ever seen a liver, you know that besides cutting it into slices it should be trimmed - it was not! I've spent good 10 minutes trimming my liver and surprise, surprise - after that "operation" I had to discard a bit. I know that profit margins might not be the biggest and that there's some work involved in it but... Qualified butcher would do what I have done in half the time! Yes, it would be "lighter" on the scales and they would make less money because of it, but... they wouldn't lose a client! So find a good butcher and stick to him/her! Even if you have to pay that little bit more - it will pay off in the long run, trust me.

Back to my dish - I know that title says "casserole" and you can't(!) cook liver for too long, as it will get really tough and not nice at all, but the way this dish is cooked guarantees you soft, delicate liver full of flavor!

The above dish is based on a recipe from "The Spanish, Middle Eastern & African cookbook" by P.Aris.

How to make it...

Black pudding Spanish way...

Ireland meets Spain - on the plate anyway. This little dish, with hardly any cooking at all, is great idea for a little starter. I believe that every country in the world has its own version of black pudding, every version little different - depending on the ingredients, herbs available at hand. Only in Poland I know that there are at least 2 different version of black pudding, depending on the region you live in, so I can only imagine all those different versions around the world.
Intrigued by that I've done a little bit of online research and... Some black puddings out there sound fantastic! I only wish I could try them all... Some of the more interesting are:
Taiwan - pig's blood cake made of pork blood and sticky rice is served on a popsicle stick;
Vietnam - blood sausage, boiled or fried, made with pork blood, pork fat, basil;
Spain - morcilla de Burgos which contains mainly pork blood and fat, rice, onions, and salt. Other varieties introduce breadcrumbs, pine nuts, and almonds.
Iceland - made from lamb's blood and suet, rye flour and oats, traditionally stuffed into pouches sewn from the lamb's stomach;
Chile - may contain a variety of ingredients, such as chopped onion and spices, cabbage, peppers, watercress, rice, meat or even dried fruit or nuts.

"Black puddingblood pudding or blood sausage is a type of sausage made by cooking blood or dried blood with a filler until it is thick enough to congeal when cooled. The dish exists in various cultures from Asia to Europe and the Americas. Pig, cattle, sheep, duck, and goat blood can be used depending on different countries. In Europe and the Americas, typical fillers include meat, fat, suet, bread, cornmealsweet potato, onion, chestnutsbarley, and oatmeal. In SpainPortugal and Asia, potato is often replaced by rice." - by

How to make it..

Ragu: Meat sauce, Bolognese style... based on recipe by Marcella Hazan.

Spaghetti is one of the most favourite dishes in my house. I always want to freeze a portion, so I can have it as a quick dinner during the weak, when I get back from work but... there's usually nothing left to freeze... This recipe intrigued me from the very beginning as I've never made my spaghetti sauce with milk. I must admit - I was missing something really good. The meat is only sauteed, not browned and the milk makes it extra soft and delicate. Long, slow cooking creates creamy, thick and slightly sweet tasting sauce. A great recipe, easy to make - you just have to leave it bubbling away so the time can do its wonders!

This recipe comes from a fantastic cook book "The Irish beef book" and was inspired/based on Marcella Hazan's famous ragu recipe.

How to make it...

"The Irish Beef Book" by Pat Whelan & Katy McGuinness (book review)...

"The Irish Beef Book"
by Pat Whelan & Katy McGuinness

Hardback (256 pages)

Chapters: Introduction; Steaks; Roasts; The Classics; Quick; Long & Slow; Burgers, brisket, meatballs & dude food; Pasta & Pizza; Pies; The other bits. 

"Many supermarkets now offer little choice beyond steak and mince, and I think that over the past few decades the knowledge of what to do with the less familiar cuts has been lost. That's one of the reasons I wanted to write this book, to share the recipes and tips I have accumulated over the years, so that everyone can learn to enjoy the rich diversity of wonderful meals that can be prepared using the best of Irish beef." - Pat Whelan

I think there are no better words to start this review, to describe purpose and character of this great cook book, than Pat's original words. I think it was a long overdue, that Ireland finally had a cook book almost entirely about one of its greatest food products - beef. I just couldn't wait to lay my hands on it and start flipping through the pages. Pat and Katy share values that are close to my heart too - respect for tradition, skills (which are unfortunately being forgotten in today's world) and respect for the animal itself.

Introduction is quite long (in comparison to other cook books) but there's a reason for it. Pat explains/describes his passion for Irish beef, for good quality meat and tells us a little bit about his background and family business - a butcher shop. It's a very interesting introduction to the recipes which are to follow and he also teaches us about basics when it comes to choosing your beef - as well as good quality butcher.
Selection of the recipes in the book will give you ideas and  help you to deal with not so popular cuts like: shin (which I think is overlooked way too often!), oxtail, beef cheeks, liver etc. But you'll also find many recipes for so popular steak. Recipes are easy to follow, clear and use ingredients that you will find around your house (lots of vegetables like carrots, parsnip, potatoes; also pasta and many herbs to name few). You can easily half or double the amounts given and trust me - you would want to do the latter and make use of your freezer! You'll find recipes for light lunch, Sunday family dinner, a weekly quick supper, a friend's get together and many more.

All in all - a fantastic collection of "all beef" recipes (not only those of Pat & Katy's), a reference to which I'll be going back again and again, a must have if you're a "carnivore" ;) and would like to eat/use more of a beef than steak alone (and it has so much more to it!) also a fantastic idea for a present!

The only thing that I wasn't very fond of in the book are... photos. Way too dark for me and I think they weren't doing any justice to the dishes. But I guess it's a personal thing, a matter of opinions.

Some of the recipes I've already tried:

Braised steak stew

 Quick buttermilk cornbread

Ragu sauce, spaghetti bolognese

About the authors:
Pat Whelan is the fifth generation of his family to be involved in farming and meat production and has established a reputation as the foremost butcher in Ireland, recognised as an Irish Food Hero by Rick Stein. From his farm at Garrintemple, Pat supplies all the beef and lamb to his family business, James Whelan Butchers, with shops in Clonmel, Co. Tipperary, Avoca Monkstown, and Avoca Rathcoole, Co. Dublin. Pat was also Ireland’s first online butcher. His rigorous approach to animal husbandry and devotion to exemplary standards and the craft of butchery has earned him numerous accolades. As chair of the Tipperary Food Producers, Pat is a key member of the flourishing Irish artisan food community. Pat lives in Clonmel with his wife and three children. Pat is the author of An Irish Butcher Shop.

Pat & Katy (photo by

Katy McGuinness is a restaurant critic and food writer. Her work has been published in the Irish Times, The Irish Independent, The Sunday Tribune, Image and Image Interiors. She is a contributing editor at The Gloss and writes regular food features for The Sunday Times. Katy is a member of the Irish Food Writers Guild. - by

I received a free copy of this book to review from Gill & Macmillan Books. All thoughts and opinions stated in this post are 100% mine.

Tribute to the Queen of all Daring Bakers and my friend - Lis...

I though I knew what I want to write, what I want to share with you about Lisa, but no, as I still can't believe that she's not here anymore, I really don't know where to even start...

My heart hurts, I don't believe that I won't receive an email from her anymore - and those were some epic emails! Her sense of humor, wit, care and a very big heart for others, joy of life was always coming through those words I was reading. Although I never had a chance to meet Lis in person (and yes, we were planning to meet eventually!) it felt like I knew her my whole life. She would make me laugh, give me a kick to do something or just listened (well more like read) when I just needed to "went". She was always thinking of others. When she learned that I'm a big fan of The Sopranos she... sent me The Soprano cook book! Who else would do that?! She was a friend, a true one. She was a good person and there are so little of those nowadays. Well, I can assure you, that world just got a little bit more grayer without her in it...

A tribute to dear Lis - co-founder of The Daring Kitchen and a blogger on La Mia Cucina. Nothing would be good here now. But what I've done is I created a dish  myself, just thought of some ingredients, thought it may work together and I just went for it! Lisa always encouraged us (Daring Bakers and Cooks) that no matter the result - you at least gave it a go! And results were not always perfect! How many of those "not so pretty" cakes we've seen on blogs, how many pictures of some perfect cakes but... upside down on the floor! ;) How many times I've spend hours in the kitchen, sweating and swearing, but still I would come back for more. Daring Kitchen is a place where you're asked to push your boundaries, to try something new, learn and in the process discover some new tastes, ingredients, dishes. I think that at this stage Daring Kitchen has traveled all around the world with its monthly challenges. What a legacy to leave behind! I don't know what will happen to The Daring Kitchen now. Lisa was the one holding everything together, making sure that there are challenges each month, that everything is running as smooth as possible (mind you, there were some hiccups sometimes, but it just made things more fun!). I would like Daring Kitchen to go on, to continue, as I think that's what she would like. No, it won't be the same thing without her, but I think she would like us Daring Bakers and Cooks to continue being brave in the kitchen, to just "go for it", learn and what's even more important - have fun in the process!

Going back to my dish. I was thinking of cooking something from the cook book I got from Lisa but... I got a sudden inspiration and (with the daring spirit within me!) I decided to cook just that! It's partially based on one of previous challenges Ricotta Gnocchi, but it's totally my own take on it.

So, I'll leave you with the recipe below and... Thank you Lis for everything! For helping me discover the "daring chick" within me (something we were calling each other), for the laughs, for kind words. You'll be missed dearly! I hope that you're having fun up there! Cooking like a storm with Julia Child, drinking some red, enjoying that big slice of chocolate cake and listening to Cher in the background! Goodbye my Friend.

How to make it...

Pumpkin fritters...

It's only this year, this Autumn to be exact, that I discovered wonderful, tinned pumpkin puree. I know - better late than never! After baking with it a little bit - delicious brown butter pumpkin bread - I wanted to use it again. I've found an interesting recipe on Pinterest (to which I'm a little bit addicted, but who isn't?!) and decided to give it a go (changing it only ever so slightly)...

Pumpkin fritters! So good I couldn't stop eating them - probably not the best thing for my waistline now... What's more - my 2 little sous chefs ate 3 each! I can't really find a better recommendation that a toddler munching away, with a smile on her face asking for more :) I Hope you'll give it a go. It's very easy (my little sous chefs made the batter almost all by themselves) and it's quite quick to make too. It's at its best on the same day of making - but don't worry, it won't last longer than that anyway...

How to make it...

Braised beef shin and chorizo...

This is only my second time making stew using beef shin - why, oh why I'm not using it more often?! Such a fantastic piece of meat, soooo good in stews and in general for slow cooking, so delicious and tender when cooked properly, so very "beefy" and so not expensive like other cuts of beef! This recipe is "all in one pot" type - which saves you a lot of mess and cleaning, washing up after too. I'll definitely make it again, very soon, as it's this type of comfort food which goes very well with the weather we're experiencing at the moment (miserable, windy, rainy, wet, cold days and nights).

Recipe taken from "The Irish beef book" by Pat Whelan & Katy McGuinness.

How to make it...

Quick buttermilk cornbread...

I've already attempted making cornbread once, but as I wasn't entirely happy with the result I decided to give it a go one more time. This time my bread turned out completely different. It had more bread than cake consistency. Little crumbly but still moist. Could probably have more colour on it, but I'm thinking of slicing one loaf and frying with some butter :) First loaf was used entirely for dipping in hearty stew - which created rather perfect relationship.

This recipe comes from "The Irish beef book" by Pat Whelan and Katy McGuinness.
I halved the recipe and ended up with two nice size loaves, so if you don't have a big family (like myself) half of the quantities below will be plenty.

How to make it...

Polish racuchy with apples...

This is something that reminds me hugely about my childhood - my Nana makes them, my Dad makes them :) I'm pretty sure that each and every family in Poland has their own version of this little treat. You can make them on their own, yeast version, with no filling at all. I like mine with a slice of apple inside (of course pealed and cored). Apple get nice and soft and gives it sweetness. The below version is an easier one - instead of yeast, baking powder is used. So... what are you waiting for? To the kitchen!

"Racuchy is a traditional Polish dish from the same family of foods as the crêpe and similar to American pancakes. Racuchy is made from some flour,milkeggssugar and a pinch of salt. Racuchy are made with yeast or, in other versions, baking powder or baking soda is used. Rauchy are pan fried in oil. In Poland racuchy are usually eaten as dinnersnack or supper." - by

How to make it...

Braised steak stew... with dumplings...

This is one of those dishes that's best enjoyed during cold, rainy, windy Autumn or Winter days. It doesn't call for many ingredients - just few simple ones which you actually might have at hand at home. Of course the beef is a main performer here and for that I recommend you to go to a trusted butcher (please, if you can only afford it - and it's really not that expensive as you might think - buy your meat from the local butcher rather than a supermarket!). The recipe was also provided with an idea for herby, horseradish dumplings - but for those I had literally 1 ingredient at home... Had to improvise so a quick look through many of my cook books and... a recipe for simple dumplings and all ingredients at hand!
Below the original recipe from "The Irish Beef Book" by Pat Whelan and Katy McGuinness, but for my small family I used only third of the amount given for each ingredients.

How to make it...

Money for Jam by Oonagh Monahan (book review)...

"Money for Jam: The Essential Guide to Starting Your Own Small Food Business"
by Oonagh Monahan

Paperback (171 pages)

Chapters: Introducing the Opportunity; Starting Out; Navigating the Food Legislation Minefield; Ensuring Food Hygiene; Product Development, Routes to Market; Branding and a Marketing Plan; Labelling, Nutrition Claims and Allergens; Making and Managing Money; Training Requirements; Bread and Baking; Jams, Chutneys and Preserves; Duck Eggs; Ice Cream, Yogurt and Cheese; Value-added Meats; Smoked Meat, Cheese and Fish; Where To Now? Help is At Hand.

I won't be alone in saying that each and every person who bakes, cooks a little better than average, had a thought in their mind at some point, that maybe, just maybe they can sell, what they're doing so well. And here's a question that probably each and every of those people asked themselves (including myself!) "But where do I even start?!" So, if you happen to live in Ireland (as this book refers to laws and regulations specifically on The Green Isle) "Money for jam" would be a great point/place to start.

Besides formal regulations, information about registering your new food business, rules you would have to obey, they are also information about creating your product, your brand, about market research, marketing and everyday business dealings like finances, dealing with suppliers and your clients. Oonagh's language is clear and easy to understand, no complicated words that you might need a dictionary for, no definitions straight out of the marketing or law books. If you happen to be a complete novice you won't feel out of place and I think you'll actually believe in yourself more. You'll see that it's all not as scary as you might have thought and what's more - that it IS achievable! 

Putting aside all the rules, requirements, labelling, packaging etc. we're also shown how each food sector has its own specifics - like what you would need to start a bread baking business, which is completely different from keeping ducks for selling their eggs. How market for jams and chutneys is different from that for smoked meat or fish. There are case studies, cost comparisons and information as to where to look for suppliers, equipment and even your potential clients. At the very end of the book you'll find a complete list of of all the resources mentioned in the book, contact details and addresses for all the institutions connected with food industry and other companies in that field.

So if you're seriously thinking about starting your dream job - your own company (being it home based or a little bigger venture) producing food for sale - Oonagh's book is a great reference, a handbook that you'll get back to again and again.

About the author: Oonagh Monahan has over 14 years experience of the food industry, working with small producers in particular for over 10 years, helping them to start up and grow their businesses. She has worked with producers of every variety of food: everything from fudge, sausages and bread to beer and cream liquors. As one of her clients said, she is like a big sister – the person you turn to when you need advice, help and encouragement! - by

I received a free copy of this book to review from Oak Tree Press. All thoughts and opinions stated in this post are 100% mine.

Buttermilk chocolate cake...

Someone told me recently that I really shouldn't call this cake a "chocolate cake" - as it has no chocolate, non whatsoever in or on it! Well, it is dark brown, it smells of chocolate and it definitely tastes chocolaty so... I'm sorry, but I will call it exactly that - a chocolate cake (because, to be honest with you, I can't find any other name for it... Can you?). This recipe is quite easy, it's one of those where you make everything in a one bowl, just adding things to it as you go. It definitely saves you some washing up afterwards! :) It keeps well for few days - but I doubt if it will "survive" that long...

How to make it...

Vanilla & blackberry cupcakes...

Who doesn't like a little treat with their cup of tea or coffee? Well...? I strongly believe that such person doesn't exist ;) I often make cupcakes/muffins at home for many reasons: a.) they are quick and easy to make with my 2 little sous chefs, b.) they fit perfectly into my lunch box c.) if you add fruit or use wholemeal flour etc. you can have that feeling that you're eating "healthy". There are many more reasons why you should bake in general - you know exactly what has gotten into it, the end product won't get much fresher than that and you're making exactly what you like and will enjoy eating :) Back to today's recipe - what to do with a box full of freshly picked blackberries...? Apart from a delicious cobbler that is! Bake! They're not very "watery" fruit so won't give away much liquid during baking (which can easily ruin your whole bake...) and their quite strong taste won't get "lost" either (even if you're using only little of them). Vanilla goes well with all kind of fruits, but I think it's particularly nice with the sharper ones like blackberries.

How to make it...

Brown butter and raisins pumpkin bread...

What is an ultimate sign of Autumn? Yes - a pumpkin. What is the most comforting food this time of the year? Yes - a pumpkin cake/bread with a hot cup of coffee, tea or cocoa in the other hand!
It was my first time ever baking using pumpkin puree - well, second as I already made a pumpkin bread 4 days ago and it was a TOTAL disaster. I then found a different recipe, changed it ever so slightly and here's a result - moist but still with a light texture, nutty and a little sweet pumpkin bread. It was very easy and relatively quick to make - my 2 little sous chefs were helping me all the way :) and the smaller sous chef (2 years old) loves the cake! She couldn't get enough of it! When she saw me having a slice she run towards me shouting "cake, cake!" with her mouth wide open! :D This recipe is definitely a keeper and something I will make often for sure - changing raisins for something else like candied fruit, chocolate chips etc.
If you have some nice recipes using pumpkin puree please do let me know! I'm always on a "look out" for new ideas - especially that I'm a "pumpkin puree virgin" ;)

How to make it...

Apple, peach and blackberry cobbler... recipe by Rick Stein

With plenty of apples and blackberries in the house  cake was in order. My first thought were crumble - as it is favourite with my two little helpers but... How many crumbles can one eat before one gets bored of them.... Just by a pure coincidence, while flipping through a magazine I stumbled across something called cobbler. I've heard about them many times, but never really gave them much notice. Well, now was the time! :) Went "on-line" immediately and started looking for a good, reliable recipe and who's better to trust (not only when making something for the very first time) by one and only Rick Stein! And voila! I just knew I can't go wrong with his recipe! The result is just fantastic. A topping which is something between a sponge cake and a bound cake. Very light, not dense at all (which I was afraid of) and a nice, thin kind of crust on the top. So - my fruit choice (and I sauteed the apples in cider and sugar to make them softer) and Rick's recipe for cobbler resulted in a dish that I can't get enough of! And if you add some vanilla custard on the side AND a cup of coffee! Recipe for a success! :)

"Cobbler refers to a variety of dishes, particularly in the United States and United Kingdom, consisting of a fruit or savoury filling poured into a large baking dish and covered with a batter, biscuit, or pie crust before being baked. Cobblers originated in the early British American colonies. English settlers were unable to make traditional suet puddings due to lack of suitable ingredients and cooking equipment, so instead covered a stewed filling with a layer of uncooked plain biscuits or dumplings, fitted together. The origin of the name cobbler is uncertain, although it may be related to the now archaic word cobeler, meaning "wooden bowl"." - by

How to make it...

French Food Market.... Heaven for foodies!

I'm just back from my holidays in France and want to share with you one of the best thing France has to offer to it's inhabitants and visitors alike. Farmers' Markets in France are an institution of its own. They are deeply routed into regional history and traditions. You'll probably find a weekly market in almost all French towns, villages and big cities too. Obviously, it is fruit , vegetables and local produce in general that are the mainspring of most markets. The smaller the market, the more of a local producers you'll find. In rural areas, it is still possible to find markets where small farmers sell just their own produce - potatoes, vegetables and fruit in season, flowers, farm-produced cheese and different kinds of meat (both raw and cooked/smoked), home-made bread, lots of seafood (fish, prawn, oysters, mussels), eggs and even a living rabbit or week-old chicks.

You can be sure one thing when buying on a French market - the product you'll buy will be fresh and you can count on an advice from it's producer/seller (as to how to choose it, cook it and/or store it). By the way - would you believe that I completely forgot to buy the artichokes!?!? I had them (tried them) many years ago and wanted to eat them again... Silly me... Aren't they beautiful? Big, round, green flowers - I would almost put them in the vase rather than in the oven ;)

What I did remember to buy was garlic and a lot of it! I don't know if it's only me, but I find it VERY hard to buy a good, tasty and one that doesn't "go bad" after two weeks garlic here in Ireland (most of the ones I can find here in the shops is imported from China...).

Preserves by Pam Corbin (book review)...

"Preserves - River Cottage Handbook No. 2"
by Pam Corbin

 Hardcover (224 pages)

Chapters: Seasonality, The rules, Jam & Jellies, Pickles Chutneys & Relishes, Cordials Fruit Liqueurs & Vinegars, Bottled fruits, Sauces Ketchup & Oil-based preserves, Useful things

River Cottage has a series of great books which are handy guides, in a small format and thick cover. Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall is a real passionate "foodie" (producer, consumer) - something which hugely contributed into creation of those books. As it's already autumn in the air and it is THAT time of the year for making jams, relishes etc. for the coming winter (and the whole year round) I've picked this book from my shelf to write about - and highly recommend it to you!

Pam Corbin is very strict on health and safety, but everything in a modern, not over complicated way. There are some really useful tips about sterilising, filling and sealing, all in a form of handy, easy to read tables - so even if you're complete novice when it comes to making your own jams, pickles, she'll take you all way through.She explains everything, covers all the basics and more. Explains that like chutneys are not marmalades etc. This book is like a mini encyclopedia of all things in jars.

Of course the real test is in the recipes. I like the way in which book is written and divided into useful and thematical chapters. Each recipe is on its own page and there are lots of useful illustrations.I love the seasonal advice that tells you when to make a particular preserve. Pam also suggests interesting variations which you probably wouldn't think of yourself, like: Whiskey marmalade, Indian spices (like fenugreek) in the rhubarb relish, Pickled crab apples instead of pears and many more.
Things I was surprised with are the recipes on how to make: passata, fruit leather(!), quince jelly and compost heap jelly. She also tells you how rewarding it is to make your own jam or jelly, way more better (and healthier) than buying one from the shop. More to that - this book also teaches about seasonality, which seems to be forgotten in our modern, hectic lives.

Honestly - if you're looking for a big in content, but small in size, book about food preservation don't look any further!

Some of the recipes I've already tried:

Homemade piccalilly

About the author: 
Pam Corbin has been making preserves for as long as she can remember, and for more than twenty years her passion has been her business. Pam and her husband Hugh moved to Devon where they bought an old pig farm and converted it into a small jam factory. Always using good, wholesome, seasonal ingredients, their products, sold under the Thursday Cottage label, soon became firm favourites with jam-lovers the world over. Pam has now hung up her professional wooden spoon but continues to 'jam' at home. She also works closely with the River Cottage team, making seasonal goodies using fruit, vegetables, herbs and flowers from her own garden, from Park Farm, and from the fields and hedgerows. - by

Tart Tatin.... recipe by Michel Roux.

I'm a BIG fan of tart tatin! I can have it literally at any time day or night - and if you throw in some vanilla ice-cream with that... Mmmm... Nothing better than that now :) There are lots of recipes for Tart Tatin out there and they vary between each other slightly - not much as the principles are the same each time. This version of the famous desserts belongs to Michel Roux and it is fool proof. Hope you'll try it - especially if you're using ready made shop bought pastry - the rest is quite simple and quick to do.

How to make it...

Asian & Turkish pickled eggs...

Pickled eggs are literally everywhere when you live in UK or Ireland. I finally(!) had to try them. I didn't want to go to the shop tho and just buy them as I was afraid they will be very vinegary (and I'm NOT a fan of vinegar...) So after finding something on Pinterest I decided that it's a high time I finally man up and do it! ;) I was pleasantly surprised how easy it was to prepare it - apart from boiling the eggs there's hardly any work involved. You just have to wait a week and... you'll end up with nice, spicy, not boring eggs - perfect for your sandwich, salad or just on it's own with ketchup (as my lil Baby J liked the most).

"Pickled eggs are typically hard boiled eggs that are cured in vinegar or brine. This was originally done like many foods as a way to preserve the food so that it could be eaten months later; pickled eggs have since become a favorite among many as a snack or hors d'œuvre popular in pubs, bars and taverns, and around the world in places where beer is served.
After the eggs are hard boiled, the shell is removed and they are submerged in a solution of vinegar, salt, spices, and other seasonings. Recipes vary from the traditional brine solution used for pickles to other solutions which can impart a sweet or spicy taste." - by

 How to make it...

Hasselback potatoes...

This simple recipe for baked potatoes is all over the Internet (especially on Pinterest). I finally had to try them. Just the other day we got quite big rooster potatoes and I thought they'll be perfect for that! It turned out to be very easy (although a little bit tricky) to make and the taste is amazing. A cross between baked/roasted potatoes and French fries. Delicious!
While doing some research on this method of roasting/baking potatoes I've learned that the recipe originates from Sweden and that traditionally it also calls for breadcrumbs and cheese. My version was simpler (but I'll be definietly trying the original idea very soon!).
Hope you'll try and do make them! They are amazing! My 3 years old Baby J loved pealing slice by slice and putting the whole piece into her little mouth saing "I love them mummy!" I honestly can't give you a better recommendation than that :)

How to make them...

The Daring Bakers #24 Indian bolinhas de coco (Cardamom Flavored Coconut Cookies)...

Aparna of My Diverse Kitchen was our August 2013 Daring Bakers’ hostess and she challenged us to make some amazing regional Indian desserts. The Mawa Cake, the Bolinhas de Coco cookies and the Masala cookies – beautifully spiced and delicious!

Second part of the Daring Baker's challenge this month - part one with the Mawa cake can be found HERE. I decided to divide the post as it would be an awful long one.... ;) Back to the merit tho - I made those cookies with my lil sous chef J - she enjoyed making little balls and flattening them out on the baking tray (when they didn't look like circles at all - but that's part of the fun!). The only problem then was that they were completely different sizes and baked very uneven, some burning completely... Cookies were easy to make, not a lot of work, but a lot of waiting, so it's best to make the dough the night before. everyone loved those little coconut treats - this one is definitely a keeper! :)

How to make it...

The Daring Bakers #24 Indian Mawa (milk) cake...

Aparna of My Diverse Kitchen was our August 2013 Daring Bakers’ hostess and she challenged us to make some amazing regional Indian desserts. The Mawa Cake, the Bolinhas de Coco cookies and the Masala cookies – beautifully spiced and delicious!

I love Indian cooking so I couldn't miss this month's challenge! OK, to be honest... Mawa cake IS a lot of work, well mailny the very beggining of it is - the evaporating of the milk, keeping and eye on it stirring it constantly to make sure it won't burn... Work was greatly rewarded tho! It tastes divine, so sweet, milky, it's nice and light but still very moist. Even tho I loved the cake and had a big fun making it with lil baby J (who's enjoying all the baking activities now, as she's already over 3 years old) I don't think I'll be making this cake again - purely that it's taking ages to make! But... if you give it to me - anytime day or night - I'll gladly eat the lot! :)

PS. There's another part of the challenge - cookies - which you can find HERE (it was all too much for one post).

How to make it...

Humble potato and National Potato Day...

Everyone living in Ireland knows that Irish are VERY fond of their potatoes. They would eat them in any form or shape, any opportunity they get! And I'm highly supportive of that myself :)
Today is National Potato Day so I thought of gathering my favourite potato recipes and telling you a little bit about Irish love affair with this humble spud and about the spud itself.

The origins of the potato can be traced to the highlands of the Peruvian Andes-mountains in South America on the border between Bolivia and Peru, 8,000 years ago. There, research indicates, communities of hunters and gatherers who had first entered the South American continent at least 7,000 years before began domesticating wild potato plants that grew around the lake in abundance. Some 200 species of wild potatoes are found in the Americas.

It is thought that the potato reached Europe in the hands of returning Spanish explorers around 1570. How the potato came to be introduced into Ireland is not precisely known, though popular myth credits its introduction at Youghal, Co. Cork by Sir Walter Raleigh. Other anecdotal evidence suggest that the potato was washed up on the shores of Cork after the wreck of the Spanish Armada in the area.

The “Great Famine” in Ireland from 1845-1849 was caused because the potato crop became diseased. At the height of the famine at least one million people died of starvation. This famine left many poverty stricken families with no choice but to struggle for survival or emigrate out of Ireland. Towns became deserted, and shops closed because store owners were forced to emigrate due to the amount of unemployment. Over one and a half million people left Ireland for North America and Australia. Over just a few years, the population of Ireland dropped by one half, from about 9 million to little more than 4 million.

There are now over a thousand different types of potatoes. Potatoes have become an integral part of much of the world’s cuisine. It is the world’s fourth-largest food crop, following rice, wheat, and maize.

In Europe per capita production is still the highest in the world, but the most rapid expansion over the past few decades has occurred in southern and eastern Asia. Potato consumption is expanding strongly in developing countries, which now account for more than half of the global harvest and where the potato’s ease of cultivation and high energy content have made it a valuable cash crop for millions of farmers. China is now the world’s largest potato-producing country, and nearly a third of the world’s potatoes are harvested in China and India.

VARIETIES (most popular ones)

Rooster -  Rooster is the most widely grown potato in Ireland and is available all year round. The variety has red skin with yellow flesh. The good skin finish and uniform shape with shallow eyes makes it easy to peel. The texture allows it to have a wide range of uses such as boiling,steaming,baking,roasting  and chipping.Rooster is also easier to cook than other floury varieties.

Book review - The Sopranos Family Cookbook...

"The Sopranos family cookbook: As compiled by Artie Bucco"

Hardcover (208 pages)

Chapters: Introduction by Artie Bucco, Cooking the Neapolitan way, The Soprano family tradition (Corrado Soprano Jnr), Sunday dinner (Janice Soprano), Feeding my family (Carmela Soprano), Mis Cucina (Artie Bucco), Cooking for the whole famiglia (Charmaine Bucco), Rage, guilt, loneliness & food (Dr. Jennifer Melfi), My Nucci (Paul Gualtieri), Cibo D'Amore (Adriana La Cerva), Grilling - Italian style (Anthony Soprano), If I coudln't eat, I'd f***ing die (Bobby Bacala), Afterword by Artie Bucco.

I'm a BIG fan of the TV series The Sopranos, so immediately when I only saw this cook book I just had to have it :) It's great! If you are a Sopranos fan and a foodie as well, you have to have it. If you watched even only one episode you'll know that the food is an important part of their lives - they are eating something almost constantly! Lots of family parties, lots of wakes... Christmas dinners, BBQ etc. All the recipes in the book are easy to follow and with very clear instructions. You wont find ingredients that are hard to get, so all the dishes in the book will be available for you to make. The dishes I'm immediately thinking of when watching The Sopranos (mainly because they are 'family favourite and always present) are: Struffoli (p.31), Giambotta (p.42), Manicotti (p.56) or Ziti al Forno.

This book isn't a cook book as we know it. It's more a little history of The Sopranos Family and Italian/USA cooking traditions. The big appeal of this particular book is the way in which it ties into the show itself, which is visible here in the form of in-character narrations (different in each chapter) - Artie Bucco gives the history of Vesuvio's and shares a chapter of restaurant style recipes (he's also the main narrator in the book), Charmaine Bucco discusses the challenges and etiquette of professional catering before revealing some recipes that are easily prepared for a bigger crowd of guests, Adriana La Cerva gives a chapter of romantic recipes and tips for that perfect "dinner for two", Tony himself talks about Perfect grill party and Carmela about family gatherings. The chapters show characters well too, especially Janice's self-centered and artificial memories of days growing up around the Soprano family table and Uncle Junior's views (not only on food). There are many large photographs from the show as well as some letters and other family keepsakes. If you - as I - love The Sopranos... you really need to have this cookbook in your collection.

Some of the recipes I've already tried:

- Struffoli
Very easy to make and sooooo delicious!
But I'm warning you - it IS addictive! ;)

- Uova in purgatori (eggs in purgatory)
Quick and easy - perfect meal for lunch.

Flan (shortcrust) pastry & apple tart by Michel Roux...

I'm always a "yes person" when someone even as much as mentions an apple pie/tart! Michel Roux's apple tart/pie isn't any different! What's more - I think this is one of THE BEST apple tarts I've ever eaten! OK - there's a little bit of work involved here but result is SO worth it! The finished tart looks stunning - would be a perfect centrepiece for a party :) The pasty is short, crispy and buttery and what's on top of it is just pure heaven! :D You DO have to try it! My favourite of eating it - warm with a bit of vanilla ice cream on the side.

This recipe comes from a fantastic book "Pastry" by Michel Roux.

How to make it...

Turkey & rosemary meatballs...

I know... I've been away for quite some time - a month to be exact. I know there's no excuse for neglecting my passion - which is cooking & baking and I DID neglected it, not only My Kitchen (blog) but cooking/baking in general... and I also neglected you. I'm sorry.
My life is a little bit hectic recently. I'm a little bit lost in all that but... During last week I've found that cooking and even more so  - baking, brings me peace, relax, takes me away from everyday life rush, worries, troubles. Allows me to spend some quality time with my Lil Baby J - who LOVES baking with her mummy - and also allows me to be alone, in my kitchen, busy behind the stove or putting together a cake or something sweet. Gives me a little bit of "me time" - which all of us need from time to time. Fortunately no big "dramas" in my life - just everyday life: work (which gets to me quite badly recently), money, what to do in life/future etc. To do something for myself I've started walking (don't know what's the proper name for it - power walking/fitness walking?). It allows me to clear my mind, keep in shape and achieve some personal goals, prove myself in some way, shape or form and I already have some personal achievements on that front (finishing of 10K race).

Back to cooking and baking - I'm back for good! You won't get rid of me so easily ;) So I hope you're back with me too! Ready for some delicious sweet and savoury dishes!
And we're starting with something easy, quick and perfect for summer BBQ! Enjoy!

How to make it...

Classic Pineapple Upside Down Cake... by Anna Olson.

I saw the pineapple upside down cake sooooo many times, what's more - I already tried to make it once, but I failed. Some time has passed since my last attempt (I think something like 2 years...) and I said I won't be "beaten" by a cake. So, I found a good recipe (well, a reliable source of Anna Olson), assigned a quiet time when I can concentrate and do it and started lining up all the ingredients on my work top. And then a disaster again! NO buttermilk... No panic - found some vinegar and worked with what I had. To my huge surprise and amazement the cake isn't difficult to make at all! The only part where you might struggle is with making caramel. The result... I couldn't stop eating!!! I have to honestly admit now that it was ME who ate most of it...
I'll be making it again - and soon! I'm just thinking about trying some other fruit, like peaches for example. Any other ideas in regards to what would work here? Have you tried it with something else than pineapple?

How to make it...

Buttermilk cranberry muffins...

I love the versatility of muffins and the fact that they're so easy and quick to make! I always, but always, have my little sous chef with me in The Kitchen - a 3 years old (yes, already a 3 years old) Baby Girl J. She loves helping mummy and everyday, every morning (without an exception) first thing she'll ask me would be "Mummy are we baking a cake?". When I'm at home that day and I'm not working, the answer is usually "YES!" :) She loves counting and adding ingredients, mixing them, saying "That's enough mummy!" and then of course, there's that time of anticipation when we wait for the cake/muffins/cupcakes to rise in the oven and bake. Mind you - she might not always eat the end result (she didn't inherit a "sweet tooth" after mummy, which Baby Girl E certainly did!). 
Those muffins were easy and quick to make and I actually also made a second batch, without the fruit though but with the cocoa instead.  

How to make it...

Easy rhubarb chutney recipe...

Rhubarb chutney - Yes! After all it is season for rhubarb now and when you get a big bag of rhubarb for free you better use it all. Some of the rhubarb I got was already transformed into a delicious rhubarb crumble  It was my first time making any kind/type of chutney ever! I'm not a fan of vinegar, any vinegar - I don't like the smell and taste isn't my favourite either. But saying all that the end result was fantastic! You can't really taste the vinegar itself, only a kind of "zing", you can definitely taste rhubarb and the spices - which aren't overpowering.

A delicious accompaniment to cold meats, cheeses and pies and a star on the Christmas table and especially good with pork pie and a good cheeseboard.
I found a basic recipe fr rhubarb chutney on the Internet, but had to tweak it a little bit and below you have a final, my version of it.

How to make it...

Classic New York style cheesecake... recipe by Anna Olson.

Probably everyone, but everyone heard (if not even tried) New York style cheesecake. Well, I've heard about it many times, but tried it for the first time in my life only now. I have to admit something here - I'm not a fan of lemony cakes, lemon creams etc. as I always find them tasting somewhat "fake", like a washing up liquid (that's how I fell about them anyway). This wasn't the case though. I liked the cheesecake a lot! Mind - it IS very rich and I needed a good cup of strong coffee with it! The only bit that was too lemony for me was that lemon cream topping (but it was easily removable ;) ). All in all I loved it! But next time round I think I'll swap the lemony cream on top for the raspberry one - so the sharpness of the raspberries will cut through the very rich cheesecake.
If you haven't tried New York style cheesecake yet - do it! And do it asap, cos you don't know what you're missing!

"New York-style cheesecake relies upon heavy cream or sour cream. The typical New York cheesecake is rich and has a dense, smooth and creamy consistency. Sour cream makes the cheesecake more resilient to freezing and is the method by which most frozen cheesecakes are made. However, a lavish variant uses sour cream as a topping, applied when the cheesecake is cooked." - by

How to make it...

Rhubarb, apple & blueberry crumble...

Crumble IS the favourite sweet treat at my house. Doesn't matter if there's a chocolate cake, tort, cupcakes next to a crumble... Crumble is and will be the first choice for my 2 lil girls. It's actually a good thing, because crumble is mainly fruit (yes I know, and a lots of sugar too, but still..). Main ingredient of any good crumble, well actually  base without which you don't have a crumble at all is... FRUIT! Our all time favourite is apple crumble, but I do like to experiment with other fruits. A very good combination is an apple & banana crumble! This time though, was a time for rhubarb. Result? A fantastic crumble which disappeared in few seconds! And two very small, but on that occasion very full and happy tummies :)

What is your favourite crumble? Are you a traditionalist in that department and go for apple or do you experiment? Tell me!

How to make it...