Monday, December 28, 2015

How to make Hummus from scratch...

I'm in that category of people that love hummus, and can it it with almost anything! I simply love that stuff! The only problem  - it's quite expensive when bough ready made, and from supermarket, as the one from delicatessen etc. was never within my tiny budget. And you're getting such a small container for such a big price. But what is hummus anyway? Few simple, and cheap, ingredients blended together. The devil is in the balance, in the right quantities of those few ingredients. So, I set out to make my own! WHY I didn't make it sooner?!?! It's simple, soooo quick (even if you chose to peal the skins of chickpeas, which I always do) and you're getting quite a big batch, even from one can of chickpeas.

The below quantity of ingredients is to my taste, it works for me. First batch of hummus had too much tahini in it, next one was too acidic because of me being too generous with the lemon juice, but throughout some trials and errors I've found my perfect "mix", so feel free to experiment, add more lemon juice or tahini, depending on your individual taste. Extras like coriander and cumin - that was a tip I got from one of the chefs, from the restaurant I work in. I'm planning on making hummus with some caramelized onion, and also one with some grilled/roasted red pepper. It's a great dip/spread to experiment with and find your own favourite!

Out of all the ingredients the only one that you'll have to invest in is the tahini, the bigger size jar is a little pricey, but it will last you for quite long time, as you need only few tablespoons each time you'll be making hummus. Chickpeas are one of the cheapest canned pulses you can buy, and all the seasoning you probably have at home already - so no reason not to make your own version of this popular meze dish!

Hummus is brilliant as a part of your "party spread/table", with just some carrot and celery sticks, crackers on the side, it will be ideal finger food. Also nice as a little nibble when watching TV (that's usually how and when I eat it ;) ) or a light starter.

How to make it...

Monday, December 21, 2015

Sweet potato and coconut soup...

This is a kind of soup perfect for a cold day - the heat from the spices will warm you up, but at the same time won't burn out a hole in your stomach, as the spices are softened slightly by the creamy coconut milk. I'm a huge fan of Indian spices and the whole cuisine - which is one of the richest and most divers in the world! Yes, I will visit India one day, it IS on my "bucket list" ;)

sweet potato and coconut soup

Back to the soup though. It's quite quick to prepare and if you don't have sweet potatoes at hand feel free to use butternut squash, or any other pumpkin for that matter. You can make this soup as spicy or as mild as you like, you can easily adjust the seasoning to your taste - it's mainly chillies, garlic and ginger that give this soup the heat, that warmth. Garam masala and curry powder (especially if it's mild one) give mostly the taste, that round flavour.

Curried sweet potato soup

How to make it...

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Mincemeat loaf cake...

If you've run out of time to bake your Christmas cake, or simply not feel like baking it at all, and the sheer thought of baking mince pies gives you shivers - those mincemeat loaves are perfect alternative to both! You have kind of a Christmas cake and that distinctive mince pies taste and smell, here in this simple loaf. It's a cake, that can be a real show stopper (given some love and time to decorate it), it's a cake that you can proudly place on the table after the festive Christmas dinner, and everyone will thank you for that. You'll have a cake, with all those Christmas flavours, but at a fraction of work needed for the traditional one.
You could probably "feed" it with some whiskey or brandy, to make it more special and festive, but I don't think there's a need for it. Mincemeat gives it all those flavours you need and are looking from your Christmas bakes.

Mincemeat loaf cake

Mincemeat keeps the loaves moist and give them that "Christmasy" feeling - all those different spices and sultanas. They also smell like Christmas itself!
You can leave them without any decoration at all - as you'll have almonds and cherries on the top, but I think that simple icing sugar + water glaze and some star sprinkles will make those loaves more "festive".

Mincemeat loaf cake

Making 2 loaf cakes at one time means you have one for now and one to freeze, they freeze very well (up to 2 months). The baked loaf will keep up to a week, just wrap in a clingfilm and keep in an airtight container.

How to make it...

Tuesday, December 08, 2015

Oxtail stew with butternut squash and cinnamon...

Oxtail is that kind of meat that we tend to forget about, but it's full of flavour and prepared well - long cooking on the bone - there's really few other cuts that can stand next to those big flavours. It's perfect "go to" piece of meat for wintry, slow cooking, comfort food. And it's one of the cheapest cuts too! There'sd a chance you'll have to order it from your local butcher, as we had to do, as unfortunately it's not the most popular cut, hence usually not available on a daily basis.

This recipe comes from Yotam Ottolenghi's "The Cookbook". For the amount of work involved in this dish I was expecting out of this world flavour sensations! Unfortunately it wasn't to be... It IS tasty, it IS a good, fully rounded dish. You can pick up on cinnamon and butternut squash, which  goes really well with oxtail, gremolata gives it a nice kick of freshness and lifts up the whole dish. Recipe calls for a red wine, I went for Shiraz (but think also of Pinotage), as I think that its strong, spicy flavour is just perfect for any wintry cooking! It really reminds me of Christmas. Textures are good too - soft, but not mushy squash and tender meat. Will I make it again though - I really don't think so.

How to make it...

Thursday, December 03, 2015

Cinnamon buns...

It's one of those sweet treats, one of those desserts, that are known all over the world, what's more - they're beloved and enjoyed, by those big and small, everywhere. We're tried to make them before, but it was rather unsuccessful attempt... This recipe is completely different though and comes from "The Bread Baker's Apprentice" by Peter Reinhart. It's the name alone that I'm willing to trust without any hesitation. And it didn't disappoint!

Yes, there's a bit of work involved, and it will take quite a lot of time, from the very start, through all the rising of the dough, until they're baked and ready to eat, but... It's all worth it in the end! You won't buy any other cinnamon buns, rolls, nor cinnabons like this! Besides - can anything ever compete with freshly baked, home made buns, cakes, or even cookies?! I doubt it ;)

The simple, yet sweet, enriched dough used to make these cinnamon buns is very versatile. It can also be used to make everything from sticky buns, crumb cakes to even fruit-filled pastries. This dough doesn’t contain eggs, like many other leavened ones, but it can still make all of these products, and more, but with less work than some of the richer recipes.

cinnamon buns

The main difference with these cinnamon buns and many other recipes you might find online, is that these are yeast leavened, whereas the other are usually chemically leavened (with baking soda and powder).

How to make it...

Friday, November 27, 2015

Light Christmas cake...

I've "discovered" Christmas cake only after moving to Ireland those many years ago. In Poland you would find a lot of different cakes baked for Christmas, but none could be called "the ultimate Polish Christmas cake", as it will hugely depend on the region of Poland, family traditions etc. In Ireland, and UK, this is way simpler - Christmas cake is only one, and when you mention it everyone will know what you're on about.

I wanted to finally start our own little family tradition, once the girls are old enough to participate in it (5 and almost 4 years old), so this year was very first one that a traditional Christmas cake was baked. Well, almost traditional... The "normal" version would be "fed" with alcohol over few weeks leading to Christmas, but with two little people at home that wasn't an option for me. I was on a look out for a recipe that would give me the same texture, lots of fruit, will keep long, have that same depth of flavour but without the alcohol in it. At some stage I thought it was impossible! But... There it was Mary Berry's "Christmas Collection" cookbook, and inside I've found a recipe for American light Christmas cake. No alcohol in it! I've changed the recipe ever so slightly, but the result was even better than I was expecting!

light Christmas cake

The cake is moist and full of delicious fruit. When you cut through, it looks like the most beautiful stained glass! There's just enough amount of the fruit and nuts, so you can fell different textures, but everything comes together and the whole cake is well balanced. I don't miss the taste of whiskey/brandy at all!

non-alcoholic Christmas cake

It is very, very important to drain and dry the pineapple well. If it is wet, the cake may become mouldy. If you would like to decorate this cake with almond paste and royal icing, do not decorate with almonds and cherries before baking. Icing and almond paste aren't very popular in my house, so almonds and glace cherries had to do. I'm pleasantly surprised how pretty the cake looks like, with so simple decorations :) Another proof that sometimes less is more!
Ideally, this cake should be made 1 month ahead and kept in the larder, covered with foil. This freezes well for up to 2 months. Thaw at room temperature for 12 hours.

How to make it...

Friday, November 20, 2015

Beef cheeks in beer...

It's this time of the year. Cold, windy and wet November always requires some serious comfort food. It's the time of the year when we need some hearty, meaty dishes to keep us warm on the inside and nourish our bodies with some full, rich flavours, sauces and wintry vegetables. I always find myself craving big bowls of tender juicy meat in some deep sauce, which I can use for dipping my freshly baked bread into.

Beef cheeks are very cheap cuts of meat and so underestimated. They are the perfect choice for slow cooking dishes and their rich, beefy flavour goes very well with winter vegetables like turnips, carrots, onions, garlic, as well as plain potatoes.

This recipe was taken from a fantastic book "The Irish beef book" by Pat Whelan. I've made few simple changes, mainly to accommodate what I had in my kitchen, as well as the time frame I had to make this dish. I've marinated the cheeks for well over 12 hours (something close to 16 h) and used red ale beer (the cheapest one from the supermarket). The sauce is very thin but rich in flavour, you could thicken it with simple roux, but I didn't think it's needed - it was perfect for small pieces of my fresh baguette to soak up all this amazing brown liquid!
Please be patient and do give the beef cheeks at least 3 hours in the oven. Other than that waiting time, the dish is really uncomplicated and easy to put together, as it cooks almost all on its own!

How to make it...

Monday, November 09, 2015

Pizza in 20 minutes? Yes! Cheats pan pizza...

We love pizza at my home. And what's not to love?! A piece of yeasty dough topped with thick tomato sauce, melted cheese, spicy salami, crunchy peppers... But mere thought of making the pizza dough sometimes prevent me from actually making it... Yes, I admit to occasionally going for the easy option - store bought pizza. No, I'm not proud of it, but let's be honest here - it's cheap, it's quick and kids will eat it! Yes, I have no control over what goes into it - both into the dough and on top of it - but it's also something I don't buy on a regular basis, I don't think it's even as often as once a month.
But I think I have found a resolution to the long process of making the pizza base...

quick cheats pan pizza

The recipe for this pizza base comes from "30 minute meals" cookbook by Jamie Oliver. One day, just recently, I couldn't figure out what to make for dinner. I couldn't figure it out, as first - there wasn't much in the fridge, second - I didn't have much time to make anything!
All of a sudden I remembered - there surely must be something in that book that I can make, with what I have at hand. And there was!

jamie oliver quick cheats pan pizza

Jamie's quick pizza is indeed a cheat! You substitute the daunting task of kneading and the time constraint of rising with a bit of hand action (or food processor) and self-rising flour. It's also very quick to assemble and cook. You simply fry the dough on the stove for about 3-4 minutes, and then finish it under the grill. The result? Not too bad, not bad at all actually! It won't have the texture and elasticity that some of the best pizza dough bases have, but if you're a fan of light and crispy crust, this pizza should satisfy you, and no expert kitchen skills needed to make it either! :)

How to make it...

Thursday, November 05, 2015

Quick Autumn apple cake....

And it's here. My favorite time of the year - Autumn. It's here in full swing - in Ireland it means rain, cold, strong winds, rain, short days, rain, grass changing its color from bright green to dull, brownish, rain, beautiful leaves (before they're all "torn away" from branches by the wind) and... more rain! Once it starts raining here, on the west coast of Ireland, it doesn't stop usually until the end of March (or not at all to be honest... ;) ).

Storms - I think that's one thing I'm not that keen on... I experienced good few winter storms already (one of the worst in the history - in February 2014). The wind scares me, makes me feel very uneasy, its strength and the sound - especially in the middle of dark night... There's no better place to be during the storm, than in your warm, cosy house, under the blanket, sipping some hot beverage (could even be a hot Whiskey!). Fortunately it's already November and no big storm has passed through yet, but I know it will come soon...

There's no "real winter" here, as most of us would know it. There's no "winter wonderland" scene, no hills covered with snow, and even if snow does make it appearance, it disappears within hours...

quick apple cake

Autumn shouts apples to me! It also shouts plums and pears, but we'll talk about those on another day ;) I didn't really plan this cake, it just... appeared in my head and I made it, I actually made it while waiting for my dinner to finish cooking. I already had the oven on and thought "What a waste that I didn't prepare anything sweet to bake now...". Then I immediately thought "Stupid me, why I won't put something together now!". Quick look around the kitchen - apples, flour, butter. There's an idea! :)

I left my apples really chunky, as I wanted their texture to be present in the baked cake, I didn't want a mush. I was also quite generous with the cinnamon and other spices - as I like them, especially this time of the year, they provide me with this warm feeling, with a weird sense of comfort... The batter is a simple mix of butter, sugar, eggs and flour, but I didn't make it too sweet. Flaked almonds on top, besides looking quite pretty, give a bit of different texture within a cake - you can easily omit them if you wish to.

This is my own recipe, so it was first time I made it and next time I think I'll use a smaller baking tin. I used 23 cm round tin and for that amount of batter it was slightly too big. The cake wasn't too high and you can see "apple shapes" on top of baked cake, as that's how thin the top layer was, especially that some batter filled space between and around the apples. Next time I will use a baking tin/dish not bigger than 20 cm. Other than that - a great, quick, Autumnal cake! :)

How to make it...

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Tomato jam...

This year was our second proper attempt at growing our own tomatoes. I do think it's well worth all the effort you're putting into it. They do taste different, you know that they're free of any pesticides etc. not to mention that a tomato plant looks rather pretty in the garden - first flowering and then decorated with all those colorful balls full of flavor and that amazing scent!
This year was rather hard for growing your own in Ireland, not only tomatoes. The summer was cold, cloudy and with a lot of rain. As a result of this Irish summer all our fruit were rather late - raspberries, blueberries, blackcurrant and the same happened with the tomatoes.

Between quite bad summer and already very cold, frosty nights they didn't have a chance to fully ripen.... Still we had quite a lot on our two tomato plants, and I would hate wasting them. My initial thought was to make some kind of pickle, something sour, but then I remembered a green tomato jam that I have tasted in France 3 years ago... So the tomatoes were picked in the evening and left on the kitchen counter.... only for me to find them in the morning and have a rather big surprise as overnight they have turned from nice green to bright yellow! (the red ones on the photo are from the shop). Plan was made for the jam - so jam it is. I was worried that it might not work with all the colorful tomatoes, but... I'm happy to say that the jam is just beautiful - sweet, but not too sweet, and you can taste that freshness of tomatoes. It's great as an accompaniment to goats cheese, ham or on a sweet bun or scones. I'm actually happy that my tomatoes have changed colour overnight - the jam looks so pretty thanks to that! Golden yellow thick jam with small speckles of red, green and orange pieces of tomatoes, suspended in the middle, looking almost like jewels.

How to make it...

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

One pot chicken with rice and vegetables...

I'm all for one pot dishes, it's not only laziness in regards to cleaning up afterwards, but also I find something strangely comforting and warming in those type of dishes... Especially this time of the year. It's Autumn, middle of October and last two nights we already had some frost and very low temperatures outside. It is beautiful though - nights are cold but the sky is unbelievable! The days - chilly, but sunny and trees are already making their seasonal change :) Autumn IS my favourite time of the year, there's something magical, even mystical about it... What's your favourite season of the year?

Back to my dish. I had no clue what to make for dinner the other day. Opened the freezer to find some chicken pieces, already in some kind of weird marinade (I'm not a fan of buying ready marinated meats, but sometimes you just can't walk pass by them, as they're usually at a great price!). So, I was presented with a chicken, in a marinade that I had no idea about, some vegetables at home of plenty of pasta, rice and other grains in the cupboard... My one pot chicken dish was loosely inspired by the chicken biryani (had to check the ratio of stock to rice etc) and it turned out really well! Nice warming, hearty flavours and very filling.

one pot chicken with rice and vegetables

How to make it...

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Pumpkin and milk chocolate soft cookies...

Yes, it's October, and yes - it's yet another recipe with pumpkin! But when else to embrace all that this amazing veg has to offer than in October?! October to me shouts: Autumn, pumpkin, rain, wind, orange leaves, wet socks... ;) But it also shouts: comfort one-pot food, warm blankets, lit fireplace, hot chocolate or tea and... baking with pumpkin puree filling the house with the scent of all those spices.

If I could I would use pumpkin puree all year round, but then, I guess it would loose some of that magic, charm and uniqueness that you're getting from that veg during October and November months.
Most of us would think about pumpkin pie or a soup, but personally I like baking with pumpkin puree like you would with carrot (for ex carrot cake). I've already made pumpkin bundt cake, scones, fritters and my favorite pumpkin bars! It was time for some cookies. Those cookies are quite unusual ones - they're soft rather than crunchy, little like a sponge. You really need to use chocolate chips  - being it milk, dark or even white chocolate, I'd say that without it they will be quite bland and the texture won't be right either.

pumpkin and chocolate soft cookies

The below recipe comes from The Hummingbird Bakery cookbook "Life is sweet", but I've changed it slightly (less sugar in mine, less ground ginger and different chocolate used). Hope you'll try and make them! :)

How to make it...

Friday, October 02, 2015

Apple & blackberry pie...

Yes, I'm lucky enough to have blackberries growing in my back garden. You have to be quick though - before all the birds will get to them first! It is tricky to pick them up too... The very top ones are gone, eaten by the birds, bottom ones - I dare you to pick up, I have a big rabbits family living in my garden and it's also an occasional visit place for a for or hedgehog :) So... the only "good ones" are kind of in the middle of the bushes. Tricky to get to them, but so worth it!
Had a little help from my 3 year old - she was holding a box, while mummy would bend almost like a member of the Cirque du Soleil while trying to reach those black, juicy fruit ;)

Don't know about you, but for me blackberries always mean one thing - a pie! And they go so well with another "autumnal" fruit - apples.
I'm always all for full butter pastry, but... but having read and watched about pastry making I've decided to use lard too. I'm still not entirely convinced that it was a good move on my part. There's something very rich and comforting about all butter pastry, whereas butter + lard combination failed to give me that feeling... It was good, short pastry, but for me I think I'll stick to all butter for my sweet bakes. Maybe there's something wrong with me, or my taste buds, but all butter pastry is the way to go for me when it comes to sweet pies.
I'm left with more than 100 g of lard, so I think that savory pie will happen someday soon. Can't simply throw away all that fat, besides - it might just convert me when it comes to meat/vegetable pies and their pastry casings ;)

apple and blackberry pie

How to make it...

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Rose veal rib eye steak with carrot and cumin puree, horseradish hollandaise and red onion tarte tatin...

How good does it sound now - Rose veal rib eye steak with carrot and cumin puree, horseradish hollandaise and red onion tarte tatin... Makes me hungry already! :)
This isn't my recipe, but it's one I'm familiar with, having it done with Chef Mark Doe from JustCooking, during our cookery demo at Flavour of Killorglin. It was only right that I'll share this with you. I'm a huge fan of veal, I was brought up on it, it's still very popular kind of meat in Poland. It did gain a "bad reputation" in UK and in Ireland, but thankfully it's changing. Methods of producing rose veal has changed a lot, the welfare of the animals, as well as process itself.

Our meat on this occasion came from Ballyhar Farm, locally from Co. Kerry. You can't get any fresher than that, not to mention that it's organic.
Hope you'll try and look out for rose veal - it really is worth looking for, and paying that bit of extra as well. It's not your everyday kind of meat, but for a special occasion, for that Sunday dinner it's perfect! 

Personally, I was responsible only for the hollandaise - lots of whisking that one, but so rewarding, creamy, velvety almost in texture and perfect accompaniment not only for veal! I loved the little red onion tart tatins - such a great idea! I was thinking that if you're having more people over for a meal, you could probably make one, big red onion tart tatin and just cut it normally, as you would, into triangles. If you were to add some nice salad on the side - those red onion tarts would be a brilliant idea for a vegetarian meal :)

How to make it...

Friday, September 18, 2015

Flavour of Killorglin and Cookery Demo with Mark Doe...

Food Festivals are getting more and more popular in Ireland, each year you see something new in the events' calendar. Flavour of Killorglin isn't new, but it was the first time I was involved in it, both in organization and participation.
In the organizing committee I was responsible for general PR, marketing and I'm looking after the official Facebook page and website, but.... the real fun for me was during the festival itself ;) during Cookery Demos to be exact!

This year we've decided to jazz things up and pair a local Chef with a local "persona/celebrity" - how I've found myself among them, don't ask! ;)
We've had very talented Patricia Teahan, Head Chef from Carrig Country House cooking with Michael Healy-Rae, local TD. Second demo was run by brilliant Chef Mark Murphy from Dingle Cookery School, showing how to cook to Brendan Fuller from Radio Kerry. Third cookery demo was run by one and only Chef Mark Doe from Just Cooking cookery school and his "sous chef" for the day was no-one else but... me :D

To say I was a little bit nervous at the beginning is an understatement! Luckily I had a pleasure to have met Mark before, so that part of stress, of cooking with someone I don't know, was out of the way. Still, you're standing alongside a true PRO!

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Pumpkin bars...

It's middle of September so... for me "pumpkin season" has started! :) I know that I'm not alone waiting in anticipation for those first days of Autumn to finally dig into that can of pureed pumpkin, to bake those gorgeous cakes and cookies, to fill in the house with pumpkin spice smell.

pumpkin bars hummingbird bakery

This cake, or rather tray bake that you cut into handy bars (hmm, maybe not so "handy" in my case, rather generous...), is simply delicious. Not too sweet (but I did cut back a bit of sugar), not too sticky. Springy, slightly moist sponge and that icing... Icing which I could eat with a spoon! Please, I'm begging you - bake it! Even if you're not a huge fan of pumpkin bakes, try this one. Pumpkin taste, as well as the amount of spice, is just right, not too overpowering.

The recipe comes from The Hummingbird Bakery cookbook "Home sweet home". Still going strong with my decision to bake through the whole cookbook. Not that it's such a horrible task ;)

How to make it...

Wednesday, September 09, 2015

Peanut butter & jam pinwheel cookies....

What's better than home baked cookies...? What's better than peanut butter cookies...? What's better than peanut butter cookies with strawberry jam...? Hardly anything! ;)
Cookies are usually quick to whip up together, to shape and bake... But they also usually equally quick (if not quicker) disappearing... Those cookies weren't any different. Yes, they were a little bit tricky to shape... rolling such a soft dough, with a layer of jam isn't the easiest thing ever, but the look of those little pinwheel and the taste are enough of the reward!

The recipe comes from The Hummingbird Bakery cookbook "Home sweet home", so... I'm well on my way of baking through the whole book! :)

How to make it...

Saturday, September 05, 2015

Green gnocchi with tomato sauce and Mozzarella...

Any kind of dumplings made with potato have to be good, right? I know it's like that with me ;) but, on this occasion I was a little bit skeptical when I read Anotnio's recipe for green gnocchi... I love spinach, I really do - Like it's sharp, metallic taste and that rough feeling you get on your teeth when eating it. I love traditional potato gnocchi too, but somehow I wasn't sure that those two would work so well together. Only for my trust for Antonio I gave it a go. How lucky! Gnocchi turned out perfectly! The texture was more rough than of those traditional ones - which I think are soft and "pillowy" like. The taste - spinach wasn't too overpowering and went perfect with potatoes. Tomato sauce and mozzarella binds everything together! (Even though my two little girls still ate gnocchi as usual... with melted butter and... sugar :P ).

green gnocchi

This great recipe comes from "Simple cooking" by Antonio Carluccio.
Green gnocchi are made by adding a little cooked, well-drained and very finely chopped spinach. Another type of gnocchi is what is known as gnocchi alla romana, and these are made with semolina or polenta.

How to make it...

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Peanut butter & chocolate cookies...

I really haven't planned to bake last weekend. There's so much going on in my life now that I actually never thought of it! How bad is that.... But having two little girls at home made me remember our "mummy's day off routine" very quickly! But what now... with almost an empty fridge and 2 eggs in the house... Thankfully there are recipes out there that won't require much - both in regards to the ingredients and time.
Those peanut butter cookies turned out to be easy and quick to make, and... they hardly lasted one day... Vanished within few hours! So, I'm sorry, but I can't say how they'll be on the next day ;) On the first day though - perfect! Light, crunchy with slightly soft/cakey centre, not too sweet and just perfect with a cup of strong coffee!

YES! Still going strong with my plan to bake through the Hummingbird Bakery cookbook "Life sweet life". This is another one from the list, I'd say another... 100 to go... :P at least I won't run out of anything sweet to go with my coffee anytime soon ;) This time - I haven't change a thing with the recipe, in regards to the ingredients. Those cookies need all the sugar that's there!

How to make it...

Saturday, August 08, 2015

Lemon drop cookies...

I'm really not keen on any lemony bakes. Don't know why, but they all taste to me like a washing up liquid... I just had bad experience with all I tired up to date, yes - I've never made anything "lemony" myself. I was quite worried when making those. I wasn't sure I'd like them... But then I thought - well, no "fake" lemon scent, no artificial ingredients that may indeed taste like lemon washing up liquid, so... I might as well try it.

How surprised I was! These Lemon Drops are quick to make, soft, slightly spongy and sooooo addictive! I was eating those cookies as well as my words! They taste fresh and zingy - no "fake" flavours, pure lemon! They are light so it's very easy to just keep eating one by one, especially when you have a cup of nice coffee on the side ;)

lemon cookies

This very easy and quick recipe comes from "Life is sweet" by The Hummingbird Bakery. This time I haven't change the recipe at all, as normally I would reduce the amount of sugar in Hummingbird Bakery recipes. I was afraid that the lemon taste will be too tangy, too prominent, so I kept to the recipe very rigorously - which rarely happens in my case... ;)

How to make it...

Sunday, August 02, 2015

How to make your own Ribena / blackcurrant syrup...

I know some people can drink water, just plain water, I'm afraid I'm not one of them... Give me wine anytime! ;) Or coffee! But water... and yes, I know we should, we probably even have to drink such and such amount of water everyday, but I simply can't... I almost have to force myself do drink a glass of water - unless I was running, training etc, but that really rarely happens, that "training" part...

To try and drink something besides coffee (of which I usually consume something in a region of 3-4 cups a day...) I'm trying to flavour my water. Just recently I took an advantage of fresh strawberries and dropped 4 of them into my bottle with water - amazing result! I really didn't think it would make such a difference and that the strawberry flavour would be so distinctive - at this point I should probably stress out that I just can't stand water with lemon... just can't!

We're all familiar with probably one of the most famous syrups - Ribena - which is simply a blackcurrant syrup. So... being an owner of two big blackcurrant bushes in my garden, which were full of fruit this year (and somehow no birds found them before me!) I decided to make my own Ribena. It's super easy and you have only two ingredients! What you're waiting for - make your own! :)

home made Ribena

How to make it...

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Gooseberry crumble...

I love a nice crumble. They're easy to put together, you can use almost any fruit and you can be quite adventurous with the crumble topping. This recipe was taken (although slightly changed) from Paul Hollywood's "Pies & Puds" cookbook. Unfortunately I didn't have few of the ingredients he was calling for, so had to improvise. I was particularly interested by the crumble topping - I've never made it using oats, but I have experimented with adding nuts into it. The result - very crunchy, somehow "rustic", delicious crumble which went perfectly well with gooseberries, apple and a splash of Calvados!

How to make it...

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Blackcurrant and peach jam...

We all love summer, don't we? I love this time of the year for many reasons, but one in particular - abundance of fresh fruit and the many ways I can preserve them for cold, winter months. I think of it as capturing all that sunshine, warmth, freshness in a jar and enjoying it by a cosy fire on a cold, miserable, winter day.
I'm lucky enough to grow some of the fruit myself - blackcurrants being one of them. I took a little plastic box and decided to go and pick up all that dark purple beads. Was hoping for a little bit to be able to make some kind of cake or cupcakes but ended up with... almost 800 g of the stuff! After "cleaning" and picking it I was left with little over 700 g. But there was a small problem - the fruit were very sharp and sour! No sweetness to them at all! I didn't want to end up adding tons of sugar to balance it out, so decided adding some other fruit. Having peaches at hand, and not any peaches but my favorite - "doughnut"/flat peaches, which were very ripe, sweet and juicy at that point - I decided to experiment a little. Below, the result of my jam creation :)

Peaches turned out to be the perfect fruit to pair with blackcurrants. They balance each other very well. You're getting a bit of sharpness form the blackcurrants, but it's balanced, toned down by sweet and mild taste of peaches. Hope you'll try and make my "combo" - fantastic on a buttered toast!

How to make it...

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Chinese Pork Balls...

This is very easy and quick dish to make. Think of it more as a starter or a finger food - perfect for a party, a night in front of TV or quick light lunch! Not a lot of work and it can be made in advance - just put already shaped meatballs in the fridge. The meatballs turned out to be very nice also when cold. There's a heat and a bit of spice - but not too much, just a hint, it's a more of a "bow" towards the Asian cuisine, rather than an "authentic" recipe. But I liked it that way, and because they were quite mild, my two little girls enjoyed them too :)

meatballs pat whelan

The recipe comes from a great cookbook "An Irish butcher shop" by PatWhelan.

How to make it...

Monday, July 06, 2015

Gooseberry crumble cake...

It's summer. And what comes with it is an abundance of fresh seasonal fruit and vegetables. No, I'm NOT complaining! What's more - I'm always waiting for this season with anticipation. I like trying making new things, dishes with fruit that we're all familiar with. This time it was - gooseberry. Actually, a whole bag of it! And it came to me for free. I already made the gooseberry jam (more of a marmalade actually) and a jam using the "jam sugar". I still had almost half a kilo of the fruit left. Quick browse through few of my numerous cookbooks and I settled for Nigel Slater's gooseberry crumble cake. Something like a coffee tray cake, which are so popular in the States.

I liked the different textures. Soft and light sponge like bottom, then sharp fruit, all topped with crunchy, sweet crumble. Perfect served with vanilla custard/ice-cream and paired with strong, black coffee. I think that other seasonal fruit like blackcurrants or blue berries would work here well too!

How to make it...

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Nectarine & plum galette / crostata...

There are a lot of them on the web. And I do mean a lot! But I don't mind - as each and every one seems to be prettier than the last one I saw. Called either galette or crostata (first French, the second one has it's origins from Italy). I really like those "free forms" pies, not perfect by any means when it comes to their shape - but so pretty, each an every one unique. They're very easy to make and quick to assemble. I'd say you could use nearly any fruit that's in season. Strawberries, or any berries for that matter, plums, nectarines, peaches, thinly sliced apples or pears. As we know some fruit are more juicy than others and the juices can easily soak into your pastry bottom making it quite soggy. bearing that in mind I decided to prevent that from happening. Simple trick of spreading some ground almonds before arranging the fruit worked perfectly! No soggy bottom! :)

Cold butter is the key here - or you'll end up with pastry that's not workable at all. Dice your butter into medium size cubes and keep it in the fridge till the very end, take it out just before adding it to your pastry dough. If you're short for time when making crostata, you can chill your dough in the freezer rather than in the fridge and cut that part of the process by 60 minutes!

How to make it...