Kouign-amann - Breton cake...

One of my favorite treat in the whole wide world! One that reminds me of summers in France :) of my dear French friends. So few, everyday, simple ingredients and such an amazing result! Kouign-amann is an essence of Brittany for me (aside from salted caramel and galettes of course). How I missed that taste!
It's really hard to describe kouign-amann. Breadish, sweet and sticky, "caramely", crunchy outside and soft, almost velvety inside. I love it slightly warmed, so the caramel becomes soft, paired with a side of cream or vanilla ice-cream (but I will happily eat it plain, as it is, with just a cup of strong, black coffee to keep it company).


I will not lie to you - it IS tricky to make, even though all the steps of the whole process aren't that difficult. It was quite daunting when I read the recipe (and please, DO read it from start to finish before you start doing anything!) but I didn't give up and... I'm so glad I was daring enough to make it :) The recipe and instructions call for pastry rings, in which you're supposed to bake your kouign-ammans, but as I didn't have them I simply used... muffin/cupcake baking tray. Which thankfully worked well! The below recipe comes from a great book "The Baking Bible" by Rose Bernabaum - and I do admit, that I haven't heard about her much, before I came across her newest cook book. I like Rose's writing style, which is clear and simply, explaining everything with the smallest detail. It reminds me a little of Julia Child and her writing.
I'm putting the recipe here exactly as it is in the book - because of the complexity/many steps of the whole process and the fact that I really want you to try it and succeed!

kouign-amann breton cake

"Kouign-amann (pronounced [,kwiɲˈamɑ̃nː] Breton pl. kouignoù-amann) is a Breton cake. It is a round crusty cake, made with bread dough containing layers of butter and sugar folded in, similar in fashion to puff pastry albeit with fewer layers. The resulting cake is slowly baked until the butter puffs up the dough (resulting in the layered aspect of it) and the sugar caramelizes. The name derives from the Breton words for cake ("kouign") and butter ("amann"). Kouign-amann is a speciality of the town Douarnenez in Finistère, Brittany, where it originated in around 1860." - by wikipedia.org

How to make it...

Pumpkin scones...

I know that probably at this stage you have enough of all things pumpkin ;) but if you still haven't overloaded on that delicious taste, this is a great idea to maybe use that last can of pumpkin puree sitting in your cupboard..? I love scones a lot! Really A LOT! Funny thing is that I've never even heard of them when living in Poland (well, not those 8 years ago, maybe they're known there now, with the BBC food cooking programs etc.). I love making scones too. It's so simple that I can't really justify going out and buying them in the shop.
The smell when they're baking and the sensations when you're cutting through freshly baked, still warm scone. Your knife is going through a little thicker, only ever so slightly crisp crust and then very soft, crumbly inside. I immediately put a thin slice of butter for it to melt. Hot, strong coffee with it and perfect breakfast sorted!
Below recipe comes from a great blog Joy The Baker. I really enjoy reading her posts and drooling all over the photos! The original recipe calls for different topping of the scones, but I've stick to my favorite - icing sugar dissolved with tiny bit of water and poured over. Wait till it sets and you're ready to enjoy! :)

pumpkin scones

How to make it...

Polish apple cake - Szarlotka...

Probably one of the mos famous cakes in Poland - if not THE MOST famous. But I'll stop you right here before you'll start saying "this is not the recipe my grandma used etc." Traditions, more than anything, are passed form one family member to the other - and szarlotka didn't escape this fate either. I'd say that there are as many versions of this cake as there are families in Poland and all around the world with Polish roots. I've already made few versions of this cake myself and the below one is one of my favourites! The recipe came from a great blog (another Polish gal Anna, not living in Poland ;) but cooking a lot of Polish dishes!) - La cuisine d'Anna. We bake/cook a lot of our recipes and we're always happy with the result :)
Back to this fantastic cake. There's almost no work involved in it at all. Besides some simple mixing of ingredients together and grating the apples (which would be the "polish way" of preparing apples for apple cake) you'll have a fantastic szarlotka in no time at all!

polish apple cake

How to make it...

"The Nation's Favourite Food FAST!" by Neven Maguire... (book review)

"The Nation's Favourite Food FAST!"
by Neven Maguire

Hardback (304 pages)

Chapters: Introduction, Soups, Starters, Salads, Beef, Chicken, Lamb, Pork, Fish, Eggs, Vegetarian, Takeaway my way, Pasta, Dinner party, Vegetable sides, Leftovers, Lunchbox, Kids' favourites, Desserts, Baking, Breads. 

It's not the very first book on the market about fast cooking, about getting a nutritious plate of food on your table, all home made in a very quick time - or at least time similar to picking up the phone, ordering your take away and waiting for it. It seems to be a new trend in cooking - make something nice, nutritious, from scratch fast. I thinks it's a reflection of times we're living in - everything became faster and on many occasions some things like values, standard were lost in the process. But not for Neven! He'll show you how to prepare delicious dinner, lunch, sweet treat in no time at all - but some planning ahead and preparation is usually the key here. I'm already a very happy owner of Neven's previous book "The Nation's Favourite Food" so I was waiting for this one with anticipation. And again - I'm anything but disappointed

I really liked how the "theme" and the layout from the previous cook book was kept - even the chapters! So having both books really does make sense - first one as a "go to" for weekend, laid back, sometimes traditional dishes, the new addition "Fast" - for fuss free solution to your weekday meals and some treats too!

The recipes, as you can expect from Neven, are again fool proof! Yes, I'm standing behind those words with full confidence. Even when reading the recipe you can see that the steps are well explained and there's a reason/purpose in each and every one of them. Recipes aren't complicated and easy to follow, no expensive and hard to get ingredients used and yes, "as it says on the tin" - everything is relatively quickly to make - from start (pealing, chopping etc.) to finish (putting ready made dish on the plate) it should really take you more than about 40 minutes on average. Because all recipes are quick to make - they are also quite simple/easy, but it doesn't take away from the taste

All in all - a great cook book! If you already own Neven's previous book, this will be great continuation/addition to it. If you're a busy parent, student or just simply don't like or have much time to spend standing over your pots and pans, but still want a good meal at the end of the day, do have a look at "The Nation's Favourite Food FAST!" - you won't be disappointed!

Some of the recipes I've already tried:

I've also made Neven's Chips & Fish - loved the thin, crispy batter, almost tempura like! Twice baked chips (which I always do anyway) had temperature guidance in regards to the frying oil - something I usually struggle with! Very helpful :)

About the author:
From a very young age, one of Neven Maguire’s favourite pastimes was to shadow his mother in the kitchen, watching her cook. He began experimenting with ingredients in the home kitchen at the tender age of ten and his pastime soon became his passion. After studying catering in Fermanagh College in Enniskillen, Neven went on to train in some of the highest-profile restaurants in the world, including the Michelin starred Roscoff’s in Belfast, Grand Hotel in Berlin and Arzak in San Sebastian. He also worked with Léa Linster, the renowned Michelin starred chef from Luxembourg, whom he credits as a major influence.
In 2001, Neven took over MacNean Restaurant, turning a local establishment into a national phenomenon and in 2012 published the highly acclaimed MacNean Restaurant Cookbook. Neven presents the top-rated cookery show on RTÉ, Home Chef. He lives in Blacklion, Co. Cavan with his wife Amelda, and twins Connor and Lucia. - by Gill & Macmillian Books.
I received a free copy of this book to review from Neven Maguire himself. All thoughts and opinions stated in this post are 100% mine. 

Pear and hazelnut cake.... by Nigel Slater

Definitely that time of the year. Time for comfort cakes with a hint of spice - very early prediction of coming Christmas - although shops all around us have a little different than subtle reminder of coming Christmas and shopping craze they always count on... crazy! Let me enjoy the Fall and all it has to offer, it's barely after Halloween and not even after Thanksgiving! Well... I haven't seen Coca-Cola light up trucks commercial on TV yet, so Christmas season hasn't officially started yet ;).
Going back to our cake today. I absolutely loved it! All the different textures (soft and the bottom, juicy pears in the middle and crunchy crumble topped with sticky and sweet syrup). The cake is sweet, spicy, little tangy from the pears - perfect! OK, I have to admit that there is a little bit of work involved in this one - but believe me, it is well worth it! Once you've read the recipe till the very end (it is very always a good thing to do, but especially on this occasion), once you've prepare all the ingredients ahead, have them at hand on your worktop, this cake won't look as scary to make as it might seem.
The recipe isn't mine (although I would love to take credit for something SO delicious!). It's by Nigel Slater, a very trusted person to whom I always turn to when I have an abundance of a particular fruit or vegetable and don't really know what to make out of it. None of his recipes I already tried failed me, and I highly doubt that there will be a day that it will fail me...
So, gather your pears, prepare that baking tin and then enjoy that well deserve cake!

pear and hazelnut cake by nigel slater

How to make it...

Creamy chicken korma... by Neven Maguire

Huge, huge, huge fan of Indian Cuisine. Have I mentioned I like Indian food? ;) I like it a lot, especially when it's "home made". I'm not particularly a fan of Indian take away, always find it little on the greasy side and everything overpowered with one particular spice (well mix of them if you want to be very exact - Garam masala. Indian cuisine is perfect blend of so many different spices and herbs, of perfect marriage of usually a long list of ingredients - but everything very easily accessible and affordable (especially if you buy it at the source, in your local Indian/Arab shop, everything is in much bigger containers and cheaper than at your local supermarket).
I would love to be able to visit traditional, authentic, home kitchen and learn all the ropes from the source - a person who grew up surrounded with such food and is full of tips and tricks that I could learn and use in my kitchen while cooking Indian. Maybe, one day, who knows, but at the moment cook books, Internet, TV and my experience (done through trials and errors ;) ) are my help.
The below recipe comes from "Fast", cookbook by Neven Maguire. While he's definitely an Irish chef, very much into traditional cooking, his take on one of the most popular Indian take away dishes is a great attempt! I loved the blend of all the spices, the fact that you could taste all of them and none over powered the other one and... It wasn't too spicy, but neither it was bland. I hope you'll try it instead of picking up the phone and ordering that take away - it's cheaper, much tastier and really easy and quick to make! So go one -> of you go to that kitchen, chop chop! :)

How to make it...