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30 September 2013

Sour Cucumber Soup


One of the favourite Polish classics, done in a very traditional way. The stock is based on pork ribs, which give it a wonderfully sweet, aromatic flavour, much more hearty than chicken or vegetables. The meat is juicy and melt-in-your-mouth tender, and together with the sweet carrots and dill mellows down the sourness of the cucumbers a little bit, adding up to a flavourful, moreish combination.




Ingredients:
  • About 900g of pork ribs
  • 1 jar (should be about 0.9-1l) of sour cucumbers, or cucumbers in brine – easily available from any Polish section in any major supermarket.
  • 2 large carrots, grated
  • 1-2 parsnips, chopped into pieces, sliced up or however else you like it.
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 4-5 allspice berries (or a tsp of ground allspice)
  • 3-4 bay leaves
  • 1 tbsp of ground black pepper (or less or more, depending on your taste)
  • 1-2 stock cubes (vegetable, pork, bacon or chicken will do)
  • A small bunch of finely chopped fresh dill (about 2 tbsp)
  • 500g of potatoes, peeled and chopped into bite-size pieces
  • 2 tbsp of butter

  1. Place the pork ribs in a large soup pot with about 2 litres of cold water, add the bay leaves, allspice, pepper, grated carrots, chopped parsnip and 1 stock cube. Place on very low heat and slowly bring to boil. Make sure it doesn't boil too hard – you just want it to simmer away very gently. Leave it like this covered on very low heat for about 2-3 hours, or until the meat is so soft it falls off the bone as soon as you touch it. By then you should have quite a lovely, aromatic stock.
  2. Fish the ribs out of the stock and place them on a plate or in a bowl. Let them cool until they are safe to touch and peel the meat off the bones. Dispose of the bones, chop up the meat into small bits and put the meat back in your soup.
  3. Take the sour cucumbers out of the jar (keep the water) and grate them. In a pan, melt the butter and roughly gloss the onion in it. Add in the grated cucumbers and fry them up a little bit until they become a bit softer and soak up the butter.
  4. Add fresh dill, and the cucumbers with onion to your soup. At the same time, pour in about half of the cucumber brine water you had left over. Bring the soup back to boil and let it simmer for about 20 minutes. After about 20 minutes taste the soup and decide whether it needs any more spices – if you'd like it a bit more sour, add the rest of the cucumber brine water. If it needs more salt, add another stock cube. If you want it to have a bit more heat, add some black pepper. If you decide to add some more cucumber brine, leave it simmering again for a while before you try it again, as it will gradually become more and more sour over the next few minutes.
  5. In a separate pot, parboil your potatoes in salty water. Once they are ready, drain them and add to your soup.
  6. Simmer it all together a little longer until the potatoes are fully cooked.
  7. Plate up and garnish with a bit of fresh dill. If you want the soup to be a bit more creamy, you could add a spoon of sour cream to your plate. My other half even likes to add a splash of Tabasco!

23 September 2013

Starbucks Style Cinnamon Rolls


My (yet another) attempt to re-create the gorgeous cinnamon swirls from Starbucks. I have to say, in my humble opinion, the icing turned out even better than the original, but the dough was just a little bit drier. Good enough for me! :) I reckon this is as close as I'll get to the original. I'm pretty damn proud of myself! :)




Dough:

Ingredients
  • 250ml warm milk (about 45 degrees)
  • 2 eggs, at room temperature
  • 75g of unsalted butter, melted
  • 600g self-raising flour
  • 1/2 tsp of salt
  • 100g sugar
  • 2 1/2 tsp of dried yeast
Filling:

Ingredients
  • 225g dark brown sugar
  • 2 1/2 tbsp ground cinnamon
  • 75g of unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/2 glass of raisins (if they're very dry, soak them in hot water for about 20 minutes)
Icing:

Ingredients
  • 100g of cream cheese (I used Quark, but any other soft cheese will do just as well)
  • 50g of unslated butter, at room temperature
  • 200g of icing sugar
  • 1/2 tsp of vanilla essence
  • 1/8 tsp or salt
  • Zest of 1 orange

  1. Mix the yeast with warm milk in a large bowl until fully dissolved (I used a milk frother. Probably not the most professional method, but it worked! :))
  2. Mix in the sugar, butter and salt. Add in the eggs and mix in quickly, or otherwise they'll cook!
  3. Add flour and mix roughly together with a spoon. Once it starts sticking together, knead the dough by hand for about 10-20 minutes (be prepared to have sore biceps the next day) or until the dough starts coming off from the bowl and shape it into a large ball. Leave it in the bowl, cover with a cloth or kitchen foil and let it rise in a warm spot for about 1 hour, or until doubled in size. If like me you live in Scotland - good luck finding a warm spot.
  4. Roll the dough out on a floured surface into a 40x50cm rectangle. Spread the melted butter (75g) on the dough and sprinkle on the raisins. Mix the sugar and cinnamon together and sprinkle on top through a sieve to avoid larger lumps. 
  5. Roll up dough and cut into 12 slices. Place buns in a lined and greased 23x33cm baking tin. Cover and let rise until nearly doubled, about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 200 degrees.
  6. Place in the oven and bake for about 15 minutes, or until golden brown.
  7. Beat together cream cheese, 50g of soft butter, icing sugar, orange zest, vanilla essence and salt. Pour the icing over the warm buns.
  8. Take a bite while they're still piping hot, burn your mouth and tell yourself it was worth it...






16 September 2013

Zebra Cake


This is a really nice and simple recipe. It's exactly the kind of cake I like most, not having a massive sweet tooth - it's moist yet very light, it's got plenty of lovely flavour, but it's not too sweet or overpowering at all and doesn't make you feel sick with sugar after a slice. Or two. Or five. ;) And it goes perfectly with tea!




Ingredients:
  • 5 eggs
  • 1½ glass of cater sugar. Or normal sugar. Or icing sugar. Whatever sugar you've got :)
  • 1 glass of plain flour
  • 1½ glass of self-raising flour
  • 2 tsp of baking powder
  • 1 glass of sunflower oil
  • ¾ glass of fizzy lemonade
  • 1 tsp of vanilla essence 
  • 3 tbsp cocoa powder
  • Another 3 tbsp of plain flour

  1. Separate egg yolks from whites. Beat the whites with sugar until you get soft peaks. Still mixing, add in the yolks one by one until they are mixed in well.
  2. Add in the flour and baking powder and fold in gently with a large spoon or a spatula until there are no lumps left.
  3. Add in the oil bit by bit and fold it in until fully incorporated. Add in the vanilla essence as well.
  4. Gradually add in the lemonade and mix it in as well. Try to pour it in quite gently so that it doesn't fizz out - you want to keep the bubbles in.
  5. Divide the mixture into 2 equal parts. Add the cocoa to one half, and the remaining 3 tbsp of plain flour to the second half. Mix them in.
  6. Take a round cake tin, about 20cm in diameter should be about right. Pour in 3 spoons of brown batter in the middle of the tin, then 3 spoons of white batter in the middle of it, then 3 spoons of brown and so on.
  7. Bake for 40-50 minutes at 180 degrees.

9 September 2013

Mascarpone-Ricotta Cream with Strawberry and Black Pepper Compote


By far and undeniably the best dessert I ever made. The Mascarpone-Ricotta cream is so light, flavourful and delicious it's hard to stop eating it once you've tried it. Strawberries and black pepper are one of these combinations that sound wrong, but couldn't be any more right - like chocolate and salt. Pepper brings out the flavour in the strawberries and a subtle hint of balsamic vinegar adds that extra little bit of freshness.




Mascarpone-Ricotta Cream:

Ingredients:
  • 300ml of whipping cream
  • 450g of ricotta cheese
  • 220-250g of mascarpone cheese
  • 3/4 glass of sugar
  • zest of one lemon

  1. Beat the cream until you get stiff peaks.
  2. Using a mixer, combine the mascarpone, ricotta, sugar and lemon zest until you get a smooth, creamy texture.
  3. Gently fold in the whipped cream with the cheese so that it's fully combined, but be careful not to mix it too much, so that you don't lose too much of the fluffiness.


Strawberry and Black Pepper Compote:

Ingredients:
  • 350g of fresh strawberries
  • 3 tbsp of sugar
  • 2 tbsp of water
  • A few drops of balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp of coarsely bround black pepper

  1. Cut the strawberries roughly into halves or quarters and place them in a pot with the sugar, black pepper and water.
  2. Place on low heat and bring to a simmer, stirring frequently until all sugar is dissolved. Cover and simmer for about 3 minutes.
  3. Let it cool and add in the balsamic vinegar.

I layer the cream with the strawberry compote and sprinkle a little bit of dark chocolate shavings on top. Bon appetit! :)












2 September 2013

Irish Coffee Cake with Cinnamon Glass



Perfect for breakfast ;) It’s guaranteed to brighten up your day, but I wouldn't drive to work after a couple of slices!





Cake:

Ingredients
  • 150g sugar
  • 150g butter or margarine
  • 3 eggs
  • 150g self raising flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tbsp hot water
  • 1 tbsp instant coffee
  • Prune jam (you can use strawberry if you can't find prune)
  • 50(ish...) ml of rum

  1. Mix the sugar with butter and whisk until you get a very fluffy and pale creamy texture.
  2. Whisk the eggs in a mug with a fork and then add them gradually to the mixture with 1 spoonful of flour each time.
  3. Add baking powder to the mixture and fold it in gently.
  4. Dissolve the coffee in boiling water and add to the mixture still folding. Pour into a cake tin lined with baking paper and bake for 30 minuted at 160 degrees.
  5. Once it's ready, take it out of the oven and set it aside to cool.

Icing:

Ingredients
  • 225g icing sugar
  • 100g butter
  • 1 1/2 tbsp instant coffee
  • 1 tbsp hot water

  1. Mix the butter and the icing sugar until light and fluffy. 
  2. Dissolve the coffee in boiling water and add it to the butter and icing sugar. Be careful not to add too much liquid as the icing will become too runny.
  3. Once the cake has cooled, slice it into two halves and using a teaspoon sprinkle the rum equally over the two halves.
  4. On the bottom half, spread a thin layer of prune jam.
  5. Place the top half on top of the bottom one and cover the whole cake with icing.
Cinnamon Glass:

Ingredients
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 1 tbsp cinnamon

  1. Prepare an oven tray lined with grease-proof paper.
  2. Mix the sugar with cinnamon and place it in a frying pan.
  3. Put the pan on medium heat and leave it until all the butter melts. Do not stir it no matter how tempted you may be, because it will clump up.
  4. Once the sugar is melted, pour it out onto the baking tray evenly to create a large, thin sheet.
  5. Leave it to cool for a few minuted and once it's completely hardened, whack it with a blunt object to break it up into pieces.
  6. Use these pieces to decorate your cake. Go wild! :)