Sunday, 29 December 2013

"Dobra Kasza Nasza" in Zakopane

Kasha ("kasza" in Polish), or grains, are such a common food stuff here that actually we have sayings about them. For example, a person may be described as someone who "doesn't let anyone blow on their kasha", meaning that they don't let anyone boss them around, or "take the piss" as we would charmingly say in the UK. There are many varieties of kasha and all are available in this restaurant in Zakopane, recommended to me by my old childhood friend, Iza, who writes this blog
Zakopane is the Winter capital of Poland, somewhere we have spent the past couple of Christmases, and a place that's popular all year round with tourists: full of cosy, wooden restaurants and hearty "mountain" food. If you are a keen skier or snowboarder, used to the likes of the Alps, you may not feel completely satisfied with the conditions here - the Tatra mountains, being a national park, have but one slope you can ski down (this was closed due to wind this year), so the main ski area is Białka Tatrzańska, a 30min drive away, in the direction of Kraków; apart from this it's just an odd slope here and there. However, it is well worth a visit, any time of the year, if only for the atmosphere. If you do find yourself in this magical little town, you may get tired of all the "mountain" food after a couple of days and this is why I would recommend "Dobra Kasza Nasza" - it's different to all the other restaurants in Zakopane, in food and ambiance alike
I would also strongly recommend the "kwaśnica" for starters, the Polish sauerkraut soup that in other parts of Poland goes by the name of "kapuśniak". The ribs are a tasty main if you're hungry, otherwise go for one of the baked kashas. I ordered the millet and pumpkin one you see up there, which was nice (not a very descriptive word, I know - it would be inaccurate to use anything stronger, yet it was "quite nice"). I would however go for something else next time, probably buckwheat based, as this is the kasha that I most associate with Poland and that I miss when I am out of the country. They also have a couple of delicious unpasteurized beers on tap

Saturday, 14 December 2013

Chocolate Chlli Con Carne

I've had some kind of awful throat infection the past week, so I haven't been able to get much food down me, yet I've been craving Chilli Con Carne - melt-in-the-mouth beef and vegetables filling me with warm, spicy goodness. The Chilli that I make is always vegetable-rich and always cooked for as long as possible - usually between 2 and 3 hours. P loved it, and I asked him about Chilli Con Carne in Mexico, where he has spent a lot of time. He told me that they often add chocolate, an idea that I fell in love with immediately. So the next day I added some Green&Blacks dark chocolate to the Chilli that I'd made and it really has elevated it to a whole new level for me
I love chilli, and each time I cook it I feel like it tastes just that little bit better than the last time. This is because I have picked up many little "chilli secrets" along the way, and found some things out through the repetitive cooking of this dish over the years. Adding plenty of vegetables is one of these little secrets - they really do add so much flavour - yet they must be chopped as finely as possible for maximum effect. For some reason, this makes a big difference. So once chopped, fry the onion with the grated carrot and celery in plenty of olive oil for about 5 minutes, add the beef and chopped chillies and fry while stirring and breaking up the mince for another 5 min. Add the paprika and ginger, add the wine, keep stirring. Add the chopped tomatoes, crushed garlic, plop the whole chilli in the pan, some salt and pepper and bring to the boil, then turn the heat down and simmer for about 2 hours, stirring occasionally. Add more wine if at any point it seems a bit dry in there - we want enough extra liquid for there to be bubbles. After two hours, taste it and season to your taste, add more paprika if required. Add the chocolate, kidney beans and most of the chopped coriander, reserve some for garnish. Allow the chilli to simmer for another 20min or so like this, then serve on top of rice, with fresh coriander on top and, if you fancy, some sour cream on the side. It's easy to make a good chilli, but to make a really excellent one, you really must put a bit of love and care into it, don't just cook it automatically, but strive to improve and perfect it. Perhaps sometime in the future I will learn a few more secrets and make a better chilli than this, but at the moment, this is the pinnacle 

500g organic minced beef
3 red chillies, 2 chopped finely, 1 whole
2 garlic cloves, chopped and pressed with the back of a knife
2 carrots, grated
1 onion, chopped finely
2 celery sticks, chopped
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
2 glasses of red wine
1 tin of red kidney beans (the ones in chilli sauce work especially well)
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon paprika
1 teaspoon ground ginger
50g good quality dark chocolate
Large handful fresh, chopped coriander

Thursday, 12 December 2013

A snack: quick guacamole on rye bread with grilled cheese on top

It's just a snack, but it was so tasty I'd feel bad if I didn't share it with you
Take a piece of rye bread and toast it. Meanwhile, mash a soft avocado with some sea salt, half a red chilli and a bit of fresh, chopped coriander. I could have used my pestle and mortar for this, yet I used an ordinary fork and a chopping board. Squeeze a bit of lime in to make the mashing easier. Place the guacamole on top of the rye bread and put it on a baking tray. Grate some cheddar on top. Or another strong-tasting hard cheese. Grill until the cheese is melted and golden, then sprinkle with chilli sauce to finish. Yum!

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Polish wild mushroom soup with crunchy macaroni

I love the smell of dried, wild mushrooms so much that when I open the box, I can barely tear them away from my nose. Recently, my mum asked my auntie whether she'd taken any of her wild mushrooms that were standing in the kitchen, to which my aunt's response was "No, I was just smelling them", so I guess this fascination is common. The smell is pungent, musky and sweet all at the same time, almost sexual in a dark, unexplained way
So I used these mushrooms to make a very simple, clear, wild mushroom soup. As it contains macaroni, it is quite substantial so you can have it for dinner, however, I also used some of the vegetables from the stock to make a Russian salad too, for starters
First, wash and rehydrate the mushrooms, rinse and cover in boiling water twice. Make the second bowl quite large, and keep them in there for a good few hours, then keep this brown, flavoursome water. To make the vegetable stock, cook a large peeled carrot, a parsnip, an onion, a potato (if you are making the salad, otherwise, forget it) and some celery in a massive pan of salted water. Remove the carrot, parsnip and potato after 30min if you are making the salad. Continue cooking the other stuff for another half an hour. Combine the two stocks: the mushroom and the vegetable, season well with salt and pepper, and bring it back to the boil. Chop the mushrooms and add them to the pan. Cook for another 20min, and meanwhile make the macaroni. Once it is ready, drain and then fry it in some butter until crunchy. Serve the two together

Monday, 25 November 2013

"Superfood" healthy french toast

There are few foods in this world that are quite as sexy as French toast drizzled in honey. Yet the dangerous voluptuousness of the classic recipe has made it a once-in-a-blue-moon treat. So imagine my glee at discovering that French toast can be made healthy without loosing its sex appeal. The replacements were simple: wholemeal bread instead of white, coconut oil instead of butter. Then to up the flavour stakes: plenty of cinnamon and vanilla, and a pleasant maltiness added by my superfood of the moment, maca powder
Beat the eggs with a fork on a large plate; add the cinnamon, maca powder and vanilla essence and keep beating until smooth. Halve the bread, and dip each bit in the eggy mixture, covering both sides well, before frying in hot coconut oil. When golden and crispy on both sides, remove from heat. Drizzle in honey and sprinkle with a tad more cinnamon before serving. For 1 slice of bread you will need 1 egg, 1/4 teaspoon each of cinnamon, good quality vanilla essence and maca powder

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Polish sauerkraut and wild mushroom stew with pearl barley

Perhaps it's my grandma's recent departing or perhaps it's that I'm working on a book on this very subject, but Polish food is playing the leading role in my life right now. This is a reworking of a classic vegetarian sauerkraut stew, which we would traditionally eat on Christmas Eve (as part of the 13 non-meat dishes). Today, I experimented with adding pearl barley and the result was stunning! This is an innovation I will be propagating henceforth. I think it may catch on, because it makes this dish into something quite special, more balanced, giving it a risotto-like consistency and the strong flavours something to sink into
Those up there are the mushrooms picked this Autumn by my uncle Kazik, which were soaked in cold water, washed under running water and then  re-hydrated in hot, boiled water overnight. Make sure you reserve the water, as it's one of our essential components. Brown the onion on a medium heat in the oil, then add the sauerkraut, the mushroom water and the prunes. Bring to the boil and simmer, covered, for approximately an hour. After about 20min add the wild mushrooms. Meanwhile, fry the other mushrooms on a separate pan in the butter. After about 5 min, add the marjoram. Once they are nicely browned, toss them into the main pan and continue cooking along with the rest of the stew. In another pan, cook the pearl barley in some vegetable stock. We use the beer to add moisture while your stew is cooking. Near the end of the cooking time, add the beans and pearl barley, season to taste with soya sauce, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper. That down there makes enough for 5-6 portions, yet all the measurements are approximations so feel feel to add and subtract to your own taste. Remember to make more than you need, as it tastes even better the next day


1 jar sauerkraut
1 onion, finely chopped
1 tin butter beans, drained
250g pearl barley
Handful dried wild mushrooms, rehydrated and chopped
Handful closed cup mushrooms, chopped
Prunes, pitted and chopped
Beer – half a pint
2 tablespoons mild oil
1 teaspoon marjoram, or more
2 teaspoons ground flaxseed (optional)
100g butter
Soya sauce
Worcestershire sauce
Salt and pepper

Monday, 11 November 2013

Babcia Halinka's pierogi - sauerkraut and mushroom Polish dumplings

It's a strange kind of sadness when your last grandparent dies. Of course, at 33, my childhood is long behind me, yet while any grandparent still lives, there is still a connection, someone who still sees you in that way. My Babcia Halinka was born in Vilnius, Lithuania and died in Warsaw, Poland, just before her 90th birthday. The culture in Poland is such that as a child, your grandmothers help to bring you up. So Babcia Halinka took me for long walks around Warsaw every weekend, she took me to the theatre and to Chopin concerts in Lazienki Park in the Summer. Her cupboards were filled to the brim with old clothes and materials, which I used to dress up in to perform. There were always plenty of cushions on her Bohemian furniture and I used these to make a nest for myself, something I will always associate with that time in my life, and I still find myself trying to recreate now. I'd run round and round her flat, in which every room was connected to the next. Or we'd cook in her tiny little dark kitchen (it was in the middle of the all these inter-connected rooms). This is how she would make "pierogi" and her favourite filling of sauerkraut and mushrooms, a recipe she passed on to her daughter-in-law (my mum) and my mum gave to me just yesterday, when I announced the sudden urge to make dumplings. I felt close to my gran making these today, in the same way she used to do, all those times, in that dark, little kitchen outside of time

400g plain flour
2 egg yolks
2 tablespoons butter, melted
4-5 tablespoons boiled, tepid water
Pinch of salt

4-5 mushrooms, chopped
large handful sauerkraut
small onion, chopped
olive oil and butter
salt and pepper

Sift the flour into a bowl and add the yolks, butter and salt. Blend with your fingertips, then stick together to make dough, adding the water, bit by bit. Kneed the dough for about 7-8min, before covering in a damp towel and leaving to rest for 20min. Make the filling by frying the onion in a large knob of butter until golden. Add the mushrooms and fry until the water has evaporated. Cook the sauerkraut by simmering in a pan of water for about 15min. Blend everything. Add some olive oil if you are finding it difficult to blend. Fry the mushy ingredients all together in some more butter, or olive oil if you don't want to overdo it on the butter front. Allow to cool. Now roll out the pierogi dough on a floured surface, as thin as you can. Use a large cup to cut circles in the dough of about 9-10cm in diameter. Any less than 9cm and it gets a little hard to get a decent amount of filling in. Use a teaspoon to put in a dollop of filling into the middle of each circle. Flatten the edges before you attempt to stick them together. Press hard, be bold. Bring a pan of salted water to the boil and place about 6 pierogi in at a time. Cover. Once they float to the top (you'll have to check every minute or so), give them another 5min, then remove. You can eat them like this, but I like to fry them in a mixture of butter and olive oil first, it makes them even tastier in my opinion

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Okra with black beans

I'm going through a bit of a veggie phase right now, coming up with random combos of vegetables with various sauces and spices. This okra and black bean West Indian style curry was a particularly tasty invention
I stir-fried some chopped fresh ginger, chilli and garlic in vegetable oil (olive oil is too overpowering here), then added a mixture of Caribbean mild curry spices (turmeric, coriander, cumin, fennel, ginger, chilli, fenugreek, salt and pepper) and grated some fresh nutmeg. Then the okra. After stir-frying on a high heat for about 7 minutes, add a tin of chopped tomatoes and the drained black beans and season with garlic salt, pepper and chilli sauce. I used this one down here - it's a mild chilli sauce I bought in California. It tastes a bit like Worcestershire sauce. Allow to simmer for about 10min and serve with rice

Tin of black beans
Tin of chopped tomatoes
Red chilli
Fresh ginger
Garlic clove
Caribbean curry spices
Fresh nutmeg
Vegetable oil
Chilli sauce
Garlic salt and pepper

Monday, 28 October 2013

A hearty pumpkin soup with pork and pearl barley

I know that hearty soups without meat do exist (I'm sure they do), and I certainly do not feel the need to eat meat every day of the week, yet I have found that the addition of meaty goodness is what constitutes a hearty soup for me personally. At the risk of sounding like a witch, I always like to boil a good carcass. To make my own stock or as a soup base. And I get 2 carcasses for £1 at Ginger Pig, so it's a small price to pay for the depth that it will give a dish. I also bought some good quality lardons from them (by good quality I mean from happy pigs, which is the only kind I like to eat), so this soup is more than a little meaty
Start off by making the chicken and onion stock - boil a couple of carcasses with a peeled onion and some salt for 2-3 hours. You can add a bay leaf in there if you have one, I didn't. Meanwhile, roast the pumpkin, in chunks, with some olive oil and salt, for about 20min. It's much easier to peel then. Drain the stock into a new pan, so that you are left with a clear liquid. Add the pumpkin chunks and any meat that's on the carcasses to the clear stock and allow to cool. Blend. Pour it back in the pan, season with garlic salt, black pepper and nutmeg, then add the pearl barley and bring back to the boil. Simmer until pearl barley is ready (about 30min). Chop the lardons up if they are quite big, like mine were, then fry until crispy. Add to the soup. Deglaze the pan with the soup to get all the flavour off it. Add chilli sauce if you like it spicy

Half a pumpkin
2 chicken carcasses
1 onion
Handful of Lardons
Pearl barley (large handful)
Garlic salt
Black pepper
Chilli sauce
Olive oil
As for the seeds, you may want to roast them for an hour with some salt and a little olive oil. Half way through, sprinkle with a little soya sauce and chilli sauce for an amazing beer snack. I like to leave a bit of the pith on there too as it turns brown and crunchy

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Pickled Pumpkin

October is one of my favourite times of the year. I like the slight nip in the air, the fact that the sun still comes out often enough for me to run by the canal a few times a week and I especially like the way the wind makes the smell of food cooking carry down the street, so that it seems as if the entire population of London is eating delicious, hearty meals. Even as I write this I smell gravy! I also like the way I start seriously thinking about making mulled wine "sometime soon". I've already made mulled beer... I was coming down with a cold, so it was medication really. I warmed a can of beer with a couple of inches of cinnamon stick, lots of good quality honey (my mum's friend who keeps bees near Rye gave us this "Romney Marsh honey"), a slice of fresh ginger and some freshly grated nutmeg, finishing it off with a squeeze of lemon. It's not quite my dad's creamy mulled beer, but it was very easy and quick to make and it certainly hit the spot - the next day I felt much better
And I love the way I get slightly obsessed with pumpkins now. It's a very short, intense love affair, where I attempt to find as many things to do with the pumpkin as possible before getting thoroughly tired of it and moving on to the next food obsession (mulled wine usually). I've never pickled pumpkin before, so this is truly an exciting experiment for me. I am, however, Polish, therefore I do have a natural confidence with pickling, an almost genetic advantage I like to think
First, take the juice and rind of 1 orange, 2 inches of ginger (peeled and chopped), half a nutmeg and about 3 or 4 cloves and simmer with 2-3 tablespoons of water for approximately 7-8min. Meanwhile in another pan, I cooked half of the peeled and chopped pumpkin (about 300g) in 250ml of white barley vinegar and 2 tablespoons of sugar. The other half of the pumpkin is going in a soup that I shall tell you about shortly. Make sure that the sugar has dissolved first, before you put the pumpkin bits in. Cook for about 5min on a low heat then pour in the spicy water mixture and cook for a further 3-4min. At the same time, in a third pan, you need to steam the jars - you'll need 2. Put them in the pan, pour some boiling water on top, cover, bring the water back to the boil and turn it off. Allow them to steam for about 5min before removing. There are a lot of things going on at once, I know, but believe me, it's all very simple in practice. Put the pumpkin bits in the jars and cover with the liquid. Close the jar immediately and leave to pickle in room temperature for at least 18 hours, before putting in the fridge
Now, this is the proper science experiment bit: As with gherkins, you need to check and see when the taste of the pumpkin is right for you. I will let you know my findings below. Remember, once you open a jar, you should eat the contents within a week
After 18 hours: Already very good! Now the jar is open in the fridge, so it's progress will probably be different to the jar which is closed, but I will let you know how they taste in another 48 hours anyway

A couple of days later: They were indeed a little better after 48 hours, but the difference was not astounding

Monday, 21 October 2013

Pumpkin placki with almonds and honey

It simply wouldn't be Autumn without you being inundated with my pumpkin experiments. So here we go. This is my take on the traditional Polish recipe of "Apple Placki". If you would like to try the original recipe, then simply replace the pumpkin bits with apple bits (they do not need to be cooked obviously) and the nutmeg with cinnamon
We need to cook the pumpkin a little first, before adding it to the batter – par-boil it for around 20 minutes in salted water - before draining, peeling and chopping it into little bits. Sieve the flour into a bowl, add with the egg, milk and yoghurt and blend it into a  batter - just a bit more runny than pancake batter. You may want to beat it a little to get it nice and smooth. Add the sugar, nutmeg and salt. Heat the oil on a large pan and add small ladles of the batter onto it. Fry until golden on both sides. Put the made ones in  a warm oven, drizzle runny honey on top and add the flaked almonds too at this point, so that they brown a little in the oven


250g flour
1 egg, beaten
1 tblsp yoghurt
1 cup almond milk
½ small pumpkin
1 teaspoon nutmeg
Coconut oil for frying
Pinch of salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon runny honey
Flaked almonds

Friday, 11 October 2013

Salad with roast peppers, red onion and home-made croutons (Cooking for Simone part 2)

I have been traveling for ever now it seems like. Living out of a suitcase, waiting for delayed planes, lost luggage and suspected terrorists. Meeting friends in unlikely places, swimming in any bit of water I can find, whether it's a sea, ocean or an unexpected lake. Eating pastas and pizzas in Italy, oysters washed down by plenty of wine in Napa and San Francisco. Some tacos and beer too. Quite a few burgers. The last time I properly cooked was in LA, when I made healthy stuff for Simone and myself every day. This was a particularly well-turned-out salad with some of those small red and yellow peppers (they should be called baby peppers but they're not as far as I know), a large red onion I found lying around the fridge and some warm, crunchy home-made croutons. There is really nothing in the world like home-made croutons, I seriously must encourage to make them yourself
I cut the tiny peppers in two, took the seeds out and roasted them with the roughly chopped red onion, plenty of olive oil and some dried herbs (thyme and rosemary I believe it was). At the end of the roasting time (it should take about 40min in total) squeeze some lemon in. I picked my lemon straight from the tree in the garden - and this is one of the reasons why I would live in LA. I made the croutons by frying cubes of bread in very hot olive oil until brown on both sides. Then you need to take them out and drain them on some paper to remove excess oil, and add a bit of salt. Serve all this on a bed of lamb's lettuce and cherry tomatoes with your favourite vinaigrette. Unfortunately, Simone will not give me the recipe for her special vinaigrette, as she is convinced that one day she will bottle it and make her millions. She is probably right

Sunday, 29 September 2013

The perfect brunch aka Cooking for Simone part 1

By coming to Los Angeles I have unintentionally extended my Summer. It's about 31 degrees C here during the day! I have also made my friend Simone, who moved here a couple of years back, very happy. She's been a little stressed writing her book, so I've enjoyed helping her out by cooking healthy, tasty meals and imagining out-there sexual fantasies (she's writing a book about sex). It's a hard life. Today, I made this brunch
I lie about it being perfect, as there was one thing missing - a Bloody Mary. But with that addition, I couldn't think of a much better one. If I had the kind of lifestyle when I could eat brunch every day of the week (I can dream), then I would alternate this with Eggs Benedict. So it's pretty good. The eggs are my mum's Polish recipe: fry a finely chopped onion in butter, covered, for about 10min, then add the eggs which have been beaten and seasoned with sea salt and paprika. Cover the baby spinach in boiling, salt water and after a couple of minutes, drain it. Toast the pine nuts until slightly browned. Squeeze the water out of the spinach and add to the pine nuts along with some olive oil. Fry for about 5 minutes while stirring. Squeeze some fresh lemon into it and continue frying for another minute or two. Serve with fresh, warm bagels if possible

Saturday, 21 September 2013

La Stella Marina di Montecristo, Cagliari: possibly the best fish meal in Sardinia

It's the second year in a row that I've ended up in Sardinia, so it's fair to say that I am a little bit in love the place. This time round, I was there for over two weeks. I went to a festival and travelled down the east coast with girlfriends. Last year it was the west coast with my ex, LT. They are completely different, both equally beautiful and in some way, magical. At least to me
One place I do not love in Sardinia in Cagliari. It's a large city in the south. There is nothing wrong with it per se, it's simply a bit underwhelming in comparison to the rest of the island. It is nevertheless where we ended up having the best meal of our entire trip, in a weird, little, kitch restaurant full of locals
It was recommended to us by Alberto, our host through Airbnb. It's always fish and it's always cheap. You eat what they give you, no menu. For a person who doesn't particularly enjoy making decisions and loves all food, like myself, it's heaven
I could take you through everything we ate, all the different types of fish and seafood, finished off with sweets, mirto and limocello, but as it is different every night, I think it would be quite pointless. Also, having returned from Sardinia last night, I have found out the my second beloved gran (the only one left) is not well, possibly on the way out, so I need to fly to Poland today. I'm writing this in the one hour I have before I go to the airport again, therefore I do not have time to focus on the details of this meal. I hope that you get the idea of what it was like from the pictures. All you really need to know is that if you are in the area, you should come here. You need to book ahead and the meal will set you back around 30 euros per head with wine. You pay at the till at the end, no faffling around with bills and tips

Saturday, 31 August 2013

Spaghetti with breadcrumbs

You know how I love simplicity. In food and in life, though the "in life" bit doesn't always come as easily. In the kitchen I am in control, whereas in life there are many conflicting forces at work, people who think and feel differently to me, with desires that don't necessary match mine, I tend to veer into strange corners. When I talk about simplicity in the kitchen, what I am really talking about is soul food - those homely recipes that make you feel warm and cosy on the inside and take hardly any effort, or ingredients, to make. When my semi-Italian lover (for want of a better definition at this moment in time) reminisced about spaghetti with breadcrumbs in Tuscany, I  immediately had to try and recreate it - even though it was 4am - instinctively knowing that this had the potential to be one of those special dishes
Yet I was sceptical throughout the entire cooking time, modifying and elaborating the dish with whatever I had lying around the cupboards and fridge, trying to make it edible. It ended up being much more than that. In fact, I recreated again the next day for lunch too. And I think I may well recreate it many more times in my lifetime. I used wholewheat spaghetti for this, which I cooked in salted water until it was al dente. While this is cooking, fry the breadcrumbs in the mixture of olive oil and butter (mainly olive oil). Once they have turned golden (after 3-4min), add the garlic salt, pepper and dried thyme, then cook for a further 2min. Turn the heat off and add the lemon juice. When the spaghetti is done, drain it and add it to the pan with the breadcrumbs. Put the stove back on and toss it all  together while heating for a couple of minutes - ideally you would use a very large frying pan for this. Finish off with plenty of freshly grated parmesan cheese. Do not eat at 4am if you care about your waistline

Friday, 30 August 2013

Courgettes stuffed with cinnamon lamb

When I was working all the time I imagined that having free time in London would be massively productive. In actual fact, I have become a cat. I sleep, I sunbathe, I eat, I meditate, I run in the park, make love and stretch, write a little bit. OK, so cats don't write, but you get the picture. I thought that I would be blogging every day, but no, I am too busy stretching and meditating, apparently this can  take entire days. At times I feel that familiar, suffocating feeling start to creep in - guilt. I then remind myself that I had been working full time for over 8 years, that I deserve to live a little, even a lot, that life is short, that I need to enjoy my freedom, and I try and let that suffocating feeling go, to feel grateful that I've had this beautiful Summer in London. Being brought up a Catholic, it's not easy letting go of guilt, but I won't give up trying. I want my actions to come from a place of love, and not of guilt or any other negative emotion. I'm still cooking all the time, but right now it always seems to be late at night, when I can't take good pictures. Yesterday, I finally managed to cook something before the sun set - it was these lovingly stuffed courgettes
They seem Middle-Eastern in flavour with the lamb and cinnamon flavours, yet this is a (heavily modified) Polish recipe. Often these two worlds meet in the kitchen, due to many factors - Arab traders in the Middle-Ages swapping spices for amber from the Baltic sea, Jewish and Armenian influences from the movements of people through this land over many centuries, and constant wars with the Ottoman Empire when Poland was still great...
Wash and dry the courgettes, then slice them in half and scoop out the insides carefully (I used a small, sharp knife and my fingers). Chop these bits and blanche in boiling, salted water for about 5min. Meanwhile, chop the onion as finely as you possibly can. Fry it in the olive oil, then after 10min, add the lamb mince. Use a fork to mash these together while they are cooking. Add the cinnamon, salt and pepper. Keep mashing and cooking for about 5min, then add the drained courgette meat. Cover and allow to simmer for about 10min, then take the lid off and keep mashing. Finally, remove from heat and add a tablespoon of breadcrumbs to soak up the juices. Allow to cool slightly before stuffing the courgettes with the mixture. Bake for 30min at about 150 degrees C, serve with white rice

Ingredients (serves 2)

150g minced lamb's meat
3 courgettes
1 red onion
2 teaspoons cinnamon
Salt and pepper
Olive oil for frying

Monday, 12 August 2013

Quinoa salad with gorgonzola and burnt-garlic vinaigrette

I've had the strangest few weeks in ways that I can't even begin to explain. I haven't been cooking much, as attention has been focused inwards. I think in time I will appreciate that this was an important period for me, my personal development, yet I have no idea why yet. I have the oddest sensation that something is shifting inside me, yet I have no clue as to what end. I've been given this book to help with the process and it's unputdownable (I think I just made that word up), both frustrating and mind-blowing. In the midst of all this inner turmoil, I managed to make this lovely quinoa salad with blue cheese, broccoli and burnt garlic vinaigrette. The garlic isn't actually burnt, it's just browned to turn it crispy and give it that smokey flavour you sometimes find in Asian food, and I feel compliments the quinoa. Basically, heat the oil in a frying pan and when it's hot, throw in the chopped garlic. Fry for 1 min, stirring, then turn the heat off and allow it to carry on browning for a minute longer, then place it on some paper, to remove excess oil, and add it to the vinaigrette (I always use a jar). The salad turned out surprisingly well, which I've decided to take as a good omen, a sign that I'm heading in the right direction...

Quinoa, cooked
Tin of mixed beans, drained
Broccoli, steamed
Gorgonzola, cubed
Red pepper, chopped


Juice of 1 lemon
Garlic, browned as described
Olive oil
Garlic salt 
Black pepper
1 teaspoon wholegrain mustard

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Maca meringues

When left to my own devices for the day, I seldom do more than cook and write, interjected with spurts of yoga to wildy inappropriate music (dubstep yoga anyone?) and perhaps a spot of meditation once I'm feeling a bit frazzled. It was on a day like this that I, faced with a couple of egg whites left over from this mayonnaise recipe, decided to make meringues. Not just any old meringues though, I wanted to make them a little bit special, as you do: to put my own Zuza stamp on the whole meringue genre. I settled on adding a tablespoon of ground maca powder, for a malty, creamy kind of vibe

2 egg whites
Pinch of salt
75g caster sugar
1/2 teaspoon good vanilla essence
1 tablespoon maca powder
Beat the egg whites with the pinch of salt until they form soft, snowy peaks. Add the sugar, maca and vanilla essence and carry on beating until the peaks turn caramel. Pour little blobs of the mixture onto a greased baking-papered tray and bake in a pre-heated oven at 180 degrees Celsius for just 5min. Now, the secret to crunchy-on-the-outside-and-soft-and-chewy on the inside meringues: turn the oven off and leave the meringues in there to cool for 2-3 hours. And that's how you get sinfully tasty maca meringues. I polished them all off in under 48 hours. I did attempt to give some away, yet somehow, I completely forgot

Monday, 22 July 2013

Homemade mayonnaise

I believe that challenges help us evolve. This standpoint informs most of my life decisions, so I never choose people or situations that will make my life easy. I'm not saying that this is always the best approach, it's just how it is for me, sometimes to my detriment even. And let me tell you, dudes and dudettes, things do not get much more challenging than making your own mayonnaise in 40 degree heat (officially, it is 31 but my living room is a suntrap). Well, I guess 50 degrees would make it more challenging, but I would call that madness. It's been boiling hot for over two weeks now (not complaining!) and I had freshly baked bread and all the raw mayo-making ingredients winking at me, so off I went. You do not use an electric whisk for mayo by the way. I don't know why, you just don't, so it's always going to be a workout

2 egg yolks
100ml vegetable or groundnut (flavourless) oil
100ml light but good quality olive oil
1/2 teaspoon mustard
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
Large pinch pepper
Juice of 1 lemon
Beat the egg yolks with the seasoning and mustard until they reach a creamy consistency (about 10min). Now, slowly, start adding the oils, beating all the time. After another 10 minutes or so your mixture should have the consistency of mayonnaise. Now add the lemon juice and keep beating. You may want to season more, to your own taste, at the end of the process. I would only use shop-bought mayonnaise in recipes that require mayo, or in my BLT, but this stuff is more like Aioli, so I spread it on bread instead of butter and use it as a dip

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Seafood by the sea, the way it should be

This is how I like to eat when I am by the sea
I really can't recommend this fish shop on the seafront in Eastbourne enough. I cooked the clams simply, in cider, adding a bit of crushed garlic, seasoning and a bay leaf, and simmering until they all opened up (of course, as with mussels, you need to chuck any ones that are already open beforehand). The prawns and scallops were fried together on a large pan with olive oil and more crushed garlic. Once they were nearly ready, after about 4 min (2 each side), I squeezed half a lemon on top, seasoned them with sea salt and freshly ground pepper and gave them one more minute, covered. They produced this lovely, seafoody, orange sauce all by themselves. Clever prawns

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Refreshing bean salad

Ah those dreamy days... 
You know the ones I mean - when it feels like you are receiving a special gift from the universe: the sun is shining, you are in the right place at the right time, old friends reappear as if by magic and you happen to be in the most perfect, remote, rural setting. Sometimes you forget that these places even exist while living in London
So it was on one of those days that I decided to make this bean salad, shared with me on the beach in Birling Gap by my old pal, Lou Lou, who I hadn't seen in two years but just happened to be at her parents' house at the same time that I'd decided to visit my dad
A bean salad may not seem like the most refreshing food on the face of this earth, and yet this one really is. It's that East European combination of sour cream, cucumber and dill that does it. You blend the sour cream with the crushed garlic, salt, pepper and dill first, then pour over the beans and cucumber


Tin of cannellini beans, drained
Tin of butter beans, drained
Cucumber, peeled and chopped
Handful chopped dill
250ml sour cream
2 garlic cloves, crushed
Salt and white pepper

Friday, 12 July 2013

Malty snickers iced-coffee aka probably the best iced-coffee in the world

After an impromptu barbeque last week, I found a freezer filled with mini Snickers ice-creams, which inspired me to make this particular iced coffee. I've been messing about with various recipes all this week, and finally today, I have arrived at the perfect one which I would like to share with you. I prefer to use instant coffee, using a strong-tasting filter coffee gives it a much stronger coffee flavour obviously, and I prefer it when it tastes more like a milkshake. The maca root powder adds not only health benefits, but also more maltiness. Just blitz all the ingredients down there in a blender until smooth and fluffy

1 cup of coffee
1 teaspoon honey
1 mini Snickers ice-cream
1 tablespoon maca powder
1 cup of almond milk
Handful of ice

Monday, 8 July 2013

Lazy brunch east-european style: placki with tomato salad

So, it's my first day off in London in a looong time. It's boiling hot. I slept in deliciously until about 11am, then rolled out of bed and warmed up the placki I made for my friend, Ayesha, yesterday. Ayesha loves potatoes. This morning I ate them with salted yoghurt and a slightly spicy cherry tomato salad - just some cherry tomatoes, basil, good olive oil, a squeeze of lemon and some fresh chilli thrown together. Life's feeling pretty good...
Placki are one of the most simple and brilliant things to make. You grate some potatoes (1 per person and 1 extra on top) and an onion, making them as mushy as possible, add an egg, some flour and season with salt and pepper. For 3 potatoes I added about 2 tablespoons of flour. Heat some oil up on a large frying pan and spoon on the mixture on to the hot oil. Fry until brown on both sides, which takes approximately 10min. I make them all first, keeping them in the a warm oven until they're all ready to be eaten, but some like to eat as they go, the choice is yours

Sunday, 30 June 2013

Summer spaghetti with cherry tomatoes, basil and crayfish

Life is full of unsung heroes - invisible people that make your life better in small ways and don't ask for anything in return. And food is the same. Normally, I don't blog about every little thing that crosses my lips, every ordinary pasta dish or pedestrian pasty, but sometimes you eat something so simple, so ordinary and it's just so bloody perfect that it would be a massive shame to forget about it. Perhaps it's the moment more than the actual dish: waking up after a nap on a hot Summer's evening, starving, still mildly euphoric from a beautiful, intense Saturday night spent getting to know someone new and quite special, having no idea what to eat or how to acquire that food in your dazed and sleepy state, then remembering a conversation from the previous night about simple pasta dishes, and realizing that this is exactly what you need. Then, making the said pasta dish, with love and care, creating something that fulfills all the unspoken needs and desires of that particular day... this is it
It's wholewheat spaghetti, cooked al dente. The sauce is garlic and good cherry tomatoes fried in olive oil, with fresh basil and ground, smoked crayfish, which I buy from the Wholefoods section at Tesco or in a Caribbean shop. Obviously, you need to season the sauce with salt and pepper, and I also added some Caribbean hot sauce at this point and squeezed in half a lemon. Finally, I transferred the spaghetti to the pan with the sauce and fried it all together for a few minutes, making sure all of the pasta was coated, before adding a bit more freshly ground black pepper. Super easy


Wholewheat spaghetti
Cherry tomatoes
Garlic clove
Big handful fresh basil, chopped
Handful ground crayfish
Half a lemon
Caribbean hot sauce
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Jamaican Summer beer cocktail

This is the most refreshing cocktail I've ever had, perfect for a Summer evening, or even afternoon. It is only beer after all (with the tiniest bit of rum). I adapted the recipe from the one I tried at The Rum Kitchen a few weeks ago, which, incidently, is a really fun place for a night out in West London

1 part ginger beer to 2 parts beer (Red Stripe is obviously ideal)
1 teaspoon (or more) Spiced Rum
Few drops of Angostura Bitters
Lime juice (about half a lime per big glass)

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Rummy coconut cake with a cream-cheese lime icing

Although I'm not a massive baker and probably never will be for the simple reason that I prefer savoury food, now and again baking can be really fun. Especially making up your unusual flavour combinations, I love that. Today, I was in a Caribbean mood so the cake was coconut with lime icing washed down with ginger beer cocktails. I will tell you all about the cocktails next time. Today is about the seriously boozy cake I made for my friend Anja's birthday. It's a semi-healthy one, having replaced normal sugar with coconut sugar. I was going to replace the butter with coconut oil, but in the end I got a bit nervous about that and settled on the normal stuff in the mixture, greasing the tin with coconut oil
First, pour the rum over the dessicated coconut to soften it. Melt the butter in a pan on a low heat, then add the sugar and turn the heat off. Beat the two together until they reach a creamy consistency. Add 1 teaspoon of vanilla essence, then start cracking the eggs in. Between each egg add a tablespoon of flour and keep blending. Add the rest of the flour, keep stirring until you get a smooth paste at which point add the rum-soaked coconut. Bake this in a pre-heated over for 45min, on about 180C. Time for the icing: blend the cream cheese, icing sugar, lime juice and remaining vanilla essence until it has the right consistency - I'm sure you know what I mean by that. Once the cake has cooled, ice it and grate some lime zest over the top. It's pretty damn good, especially with the Caribbean-style cocktails I'll blog about in a couple of days. As I don't own a set of scales, the measurements down there are all approximates

250g plain flour, sifted
250g slightly salted butter
4 eggs
250g coconut sugar
200g dessicated coconut
100ml of spiced rum
2 teaspoons of good quality vanilla essence 
200g cream cheese
Juice of 1 lime
100g icing sugar
lime rind to decorate