Krakow – City Break

Last weekend saw me, my sister and my mum take our first trip abroad together, just the three of us. It’s crazy that in almost 30 years, we have only ever been to London together on a mother/daughter break. We wanted to go somewhere different and a few of mine and my sisters colleagues mentioned how good Poland, in particular Krakow was. With the help of dad, we managed to get a good deal on flights on a hotel. The hotel, Queen Boutique was in a good location, 15 minutes walk from the Old Town and 5 minutes walk from the Jewish Quarter. The train station was 20-25 minutes walk away and was how we got to the centre from the Airport. 9 zloty each and a straightforward journey and walk (if I can work out how to buy tickets and which stop to get off at, anyone can).

Beer Hall

Bierhalle – Pork Crackling and Lard, Sour Rye Bread Soup, Pierogi, Beef Stew with Potato Pancake

Groats

Gruzinskie Chaczapuri Restraunt – Georgian Dumplings, Breaded Pork Cutlet with Roast Potatoes, Goulash with Sauerkraut and Groats

Milk Bar

U Babci Maliny – Mixed Pierogi. Peramin Chill Out – Cocktails and Gin

We stayed there for four days (Saturday to Tuesday) and planned two days of activities before we got there. The difficulty was deciding which to do. If you’ve ever been away with me, you’ll know that I love food and when I’m abroad (especially somewhere for the first time) I like to try as much of the local cuisine as I possibly can. I probably ate more in these four days than I do normally in a week! A unique way of doing this is booking onto a food tour. I was able to find one with the help of Trip Adviser. Eat Polska offered a small group tour around Krakow sampling local cuisine. In four hours you would visit four different establishments and sample 12 different foods (plus a shot of vodka). We did this tour on the Monday and was worried that we would be repeating foods that we had already tried as we were having our meals in restaurants that did local cuisine (think goulash, beetroot soup, pierogi and sauerkraut). But we needn’t have worried. Our tour guide took us to places that we wouldn’t have considered (or I turned down as not authentic enough), very informative on the history of Polish cuisine and a true foodie. We were learning from each other on food trends, behaviours around food and I picked up some recipes. I surprised her with my knowledge on Polish cuisine (all learnt from my Polish Meat Free Feast). I strongly recommend booking a place on this tour (or look for food tours on your next city break). It’s not only about trying local cuisine but also about learning about the history and culture of the country. We visited one of the numerous food markets and the amount of seasonal fresh produce available was good. Made me envious of how much we take for granted having produce available all year round. We struggled with the cheeses and meats but still managed to eat all our cake 🙂 Our eyes may have been bigger than our bellies as we then stopped of at E.Wedels for a trio hot chocolate taster. You’ll be pleased to know that we were then in food comas for the rest of the day.

Food Tour

Eat Polska Food Tour (plus a Trio Chocolate Sampler)

Our tastings were:

  • Zapiekanka – Polish Street Food, pizza
  • Zalewajka – sour rye soup
  • Barszcz z pierogiem – red borscht / beetroot soup with dumplings
  • Obwarzanek – Polish pretzel
  • Sliwka wędzona – smoked prunes (yes…that is correct)
  • Śledź maties z kwaśną śmietaną, gryczano grzybowym poppingiem i dymką – matjes herring with sour cream, buckwheat popping and spring onion (a modern twist on traditional cuisine)
  • Stek Hanger na ziemniaczanym racuchu z boczkiem z sosem z boczniaków i pieczonego czosnku – Hanger steak on potato pancake with bacon and oyster mushrooms and baked garlic sauce (a modern twist on traditional cuisine)
  • Biała kasza gryczana smażona z warzywami, słonecznikiem i boczniakiem – Fried white buckwheat with vegetables, sunflower and oyster mushrooms
  • Puree ziemniaczane – Potatoe puree
  • Warzywa z czosnkowo – ziołowym masłem – Vegetables with herbs & garlic butter
  • Wódka Baczewski – shot of Baczewski vodka
  • Polish cheeses: – twaróg – quark, oscypek – smoked sheep’s milk cheese, koryciński – cow’s milk cheese, klagany – mild cow’s milk cheese, homiłki – cheese balls with mint
  • Coldcuts platter: schab – pork loin, salceson – brawn, boczek – pork belly, kiełbasa – sausage, pasztetowa – spreadable pate
  • Vodka chasers : smalec – lard, chrzan – horseradish, ogórki kiszone – sour pickles, sour dough bread
  • Kremówka – cream cake

Our second booked activity was a visit to Auschwitz and Birkenau. Although my mum was a bit reluctant to go on this tour, we felt we needed to as it is part of our history. Although very emotional, the tour and attraction have been done in a respectful manner. It is something that you would need to do if visiting Poland. It does take a day to visit and I would suggest that you only do the one trip in the day. Some tours offer both this and a visit to the salt mines but personally, I think that it is too much for one day. However, I would like to go back and visit Krakow again to go to the Salt Mines and visit some of the other attractions that we were unable to do. We managed to walk around the Castle and visit the Underground Museum. 

Sights

Before getting to Krakow, I had a mental list of the different foods that I wanted to try and I managed to sample them all. On our first day we had lunch in a beer hall where I got to try sour rye bread soup with white sausage. In the evening I tried Georgian beef stew with groats and sauerkraut. I learnt from the food tour that groats is buckwheat and is a well used grain in Poland. The following evening we visited a milk bar which was different. The menu consists of cheap, traditional foods. The room is set up with long benches and stools and is more of a self service. Orders are placed at the till and you then wait for your number to be called. I tried to re-create my homemade Polish feast and tried the beetroot soup and the peirogi three ways. Another thing I learnt from the food tour was that the beetroot borscht I’d made is known as Hungarian borscht in Poland (explains why the beetroot soup was more of a broth in the milk bar). Our final meal in Poland was in the Jewish District where we enjoyed a set menu. I finally got round to trying the last item on my mental food list, bigos stew!

Momo

Momo Cafe – Pumpkin Soup, Bigos (Hunters Stew), Mama’s Tea.

Baked Doughnuts (Attempt 3)

Third time’s a charm. I did it. I successfully made a baked doughnut that looked like a doughnut and tasted (depending on who you speak to) like a doughnut. Mr W said that it tasted better than some shop bought ones he’d had. Result 🙂

For this attempt, I found a recipe on the Lakeland website (it was attached to the doughnut maker kit I bought). It gave recipes for ring doughnuts and filled doughnuts so I used the filled doughnut recipe. again, I halved the recipe as it made 10 (too many to eat if they don’t turn out too well). I let Mr W choose his filling when we went shopping (strawberry jam is the classic doughnut filler apparently). This recipe used yeast (like the other recipes) and also had egg in it. The dough needed to be proved twice. This time I sat the dough in front of the fire (an excuse to get nice and toasty) and this worked a treat. I also used my food mixer with the dough hook to ‘knead’ the dough just to make it a little easier. It probably took around the same amount time but it can vary depending on ingredients and temperatures. The difficult part for me was the filling of the doughnut. I didn’t check what jam Mr W had picked up (not seedless in case you were wondering) and the nozzle kept getting blocked. But I got there in the end. Me and Mr W had a doughnut on the night I made them and my sister (and Mr W again) had another the next day. They passed the test. The jam was still in the middle and hadn’t soaked into the doughnut. I admit, the doughnut still had a bread like flavour/texture but it was lovely and sweet. Next time I’m going to try the ringed doughnut recipe and glaze them.

A couple of days later I tried one of the attempt 2 doughnuts that I’d kept in the freezer. Big disappointment.

Recipe taken from Lakeland website

FILLED DOUGHNUTS
Made using the Doughnut Making Kit – Makes 10
What you need
240ml milk
40g butter
500g strong white bread flour
50g caster sugar
2 tsp salt
7g sachet fast-action yeast
2 eggs
Method
1. In a small saucepan, warm the milk and butter until just hand hot, mixing the butter until it melts
completely.
2. Sift the flour and sugar into a mixing bowl and stir in the salt and yeast.
3. Slowly add the milk mixture and the eggs to the dry ingredients, mixing with a wooden spoon. You can
use your hands but the dough is very sticky.
4. Tip the dough onto a floured surface and knead for 10 minutes. As the mixture is sticky, it may be useful
to use a dough scraper to lift it and fold it over.
5. When the dough is smooth and elastic – persevere, this will happen – place it in a lightly floured bowl,
cover with a damp cloth and leave to rise for 1 hour.
6. Divide the risen dough into 10 equal pieces. Roll into balls and place into the moulds. You can also roll
the dough into sausages and shape them into the ring moulds.
7. Cover the moulds with oiled cling film, making sure the cling film doesn’t touch the dough. Leave to rise
again for 1-2 hours until doubled in size. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 180C / Gas 4.
8. Bake in the middle of the oven for 10-15 minutes until golden. Leave to cool and fill with jam, custard,
cream or any other filling of your choice.

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Last weekend was a busy baking/cooking session as I also gave the Peanut Butter Millionaire Slices another go (recipe was mentioned in a previous post). When I took them into work first time, people felt that it needed the caramel layer that I chose not to make. This time round I made it. So there was a layer of biscuit base, peanut butter icing, salted caramel with crushed peanuts, dark chocolate, toffee drizzle and crushed peanuts. I made them as a late birthday treat for my previous manager (couldn’t make them on a work night due to them taking around 8 hours). In her words they were epic.

Meat Free

So last weeks meat free Monday highlight was the home made soup (again, part of my epic weekend baking/cooking). Mr W bought me Mexican Food Made Simple by Thomasina Miers. In here I found a recipe for Sweet & Spicy Squash and Chickpea. My disappointment was that it only served 2, no leftovers for another day. I did adapt the recipe slightly to suit the ingredients that I had in. If you a soup lover, please give this a try. Below is my adaptation of the recipe.

  • 1 heaped tsp cumin seeds
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large leek, washed and sliced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1 dried chilli, chopped
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 butternut squash, peeled, deseeded and chopped
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 400ml chicken stock
  • 1 can chickpeas
  • salt and pepper
  1. Heat oil in a pan. Cook the leeks for 5 minutes over a medium heat until tender before adding the cumin, garlic, chilli and oregano. Cook for 3 minutes.
  2. Add the squash, cinnamon stick and bay leaf. Stir the mixture and then pour over the stock. Bring to the boil then turn down and simmer for 15 minutes until the squash is soft. Add the chickpeas and season.
  3. Blend the soup if you like. I blended using a hand blender so that I could still leave some chunks in it.

Stem Ginger

So, the other week I came across a jar of stem ginger in the cupboard and didn’t know what to do with it. A lot of recipes were using it to make cakes but I wanted to do something a little different. On the label it suggested you visit their website for recipe ideas, so I did. The first recipe I came across was for a Spicy Butternut Squash and Ginger Risotto (I’ve been loving the squash this week). I decided to use pearl barley instead of risotto rice and threw a bag of spinach in towards the end of cooking. The end result was lovely. I brought the leftovers in the next day for my sister and she enjoyed it also (may have been a little hot for her). It did take me almost 2 hours to make (ended up missing a Pilates class and getting chilli in my eye) but it was worth it. Click here for the recipe.

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I also made some Ginger and Mixed Seed Flapjacks for a visit down to Lincoln at the weekend. I was going to put on a picture but Mr W ate half of the last slice and it looks for sorry for itself on its own on the plate. But take my word for it, they were yummy. MR W would have preferred if there wasn’t honey in it but I think that was my favourite bit. Instead of using clear honey I used some Mexican Orange Blossom honey which gives a subtle orange flavour. I also melted around 50g of dark chocolate to put on the top. Ginger and dark chocolate are a great combination. The recipe suggested it served six. I used a smaller tin and cut it into 8 decent sized portions and would probably cut into ten next time. In the W household, Mr W is the flapjack making King but I think I have redeemed myself with this bake. Millie, here is the recipe as promised.

Healthy Start

I hope the first week of 2016 has been good for you all (especially the dreaded first full week back at work). I know I’ve been feeling it a little this week and coming home from work a little tired but it’s a good excuse to snuggle up on the sofa wrapped up warm.

Rather than set resolutions this year (I know I can never keep them) I have decided to set myself (and Mr W in some ways) challenges/goals for the year. The main focus for this year is to be healthy through healthy eating and exercise. I’m wanting to make sure that we both get plenty of fruit and veg in our diets so that we are getting all the right nutrients. So, an obvious thing to start doing was to introduce a meat free day. I wanted to do ‘Meat Free Mondays’ but then realised that my job may require me to eat meat on Mondays so Mr W suggested a meat free day a week instead. So this Monday started off with a home-made vegetable soup for lunch that I found in my go to Good Food cookbook recipe here. I did cheat and use dried herbs and it did require a bit of seasoning (and good old Worcester sauce) to lift the flavour. The leftovers went in the freezer ready for this Monday. Tea had some Italian inspiration using gnocchi and butternut squash with a rosemary butter sauce.  If anybody has any suggestions for meat free recipes, please leave a comment as inspiration is always needed.

I came to the realisation that during the week I can easily reach and surpass my 5 a day recommendation for fruit and veg (more veg than fruit mind) as it is easy to snack on this at work. But when it comes to the weekend I find that I can struggle to get past 3 servings (and drink my usual 2 litres of water). So, I have decided to make myself smoothies for my weekend breakfast. Last weekend I was on kiwi and spinach smoothies. For those who want to try it, chop up two kiwis and add to a blender with a couple of handfuls of spinach, couple of spoons of natural yogurt and 100ml water, then just blitz together. This weekend I’m on banana, pineapple and kale. So it was half a frozen banana (slightly defrosted), 12 chunks of pineapple, a couple of handfuls of kale and 100ml of water blitzed together. If you’ve never had a smoothie before, these green smoothies do take a while to get your head round (Mr W always has comments on the greenness of it) but I feel like I am adding those extra nutrients into my diet. People can say that smoothies are high in sugar but by making them yourself you can control what goes in. I try to keep the fruit down to the equivalent of 1-1 and half servings then top it up with the greens (low in sugar and fat but have the iron or folic acid).

Exercise….Probably one of the main focuses of resolutions. For a few months now I have been doing some form of exercise for 5-6 times a week. These sessions haven’t been intense, some cardio or strength training to get my heart going in the morning. I think that this could be why I haven’t been ill so far this winter. Doing some exercise each day (along with a healthy diet) keeps the immune system at its best. However, too much exercise can put too much stress on the body and weaken the immune system. So remember, everything in moderation (exercise and diet). So for this year I just want to keep this routine going. It can take up to three weeks for your body to get used to a routine so I’m hoping that now I’m beyond that stage, I can keep it up.

In my last post I mentioned about some healthy baking. This weekend I am going to give the baked doughnuts another go (using my doughnut kit and possibly AirFryer, this is my new toy for the year). I will give an update on this in my next post. Again, any suggestions for uses of the AirFryer (I got a Phillips one after a colleague at work recommended it) please leave a comment. I will be attempting kale crisps in it later today so fingers crossed.

 

 

Millionaires

There’s been a bit of a trend over the past few weeks with my bakes being around requests made from colleagues. The first of these being the ‘Key’ Lime Pie, which was a success. The second being the caramel custard doughnuts, which were not so successful, definite room for improvement. When shopping at the Trafford Centre last weekend I stumbled across the Lakeland store (a new addition to the shopping centre. Unusual that it is all on one floor compared to the other stores I’ve visited) I purchased a doughnut making kit so will need to find a weekend where I can use this for attempt two. Now, the request for this bake came from my boss. She wanted a millionaires peanut butter caramel shortcake. Straight away, I started searching for a recipe and it didn’t take long to find. A shortbread biscuit base with a peanut butter filling, then a caramel layer  topped with a chocolate layer (recipe here). Now, my boss didn’t want a shortbread biscuit base, she wanted the same base that I’d used for the ‘Key’ Lime Pie. Experimentation time!!!!!

So, I used the basic biscuit base recipe for the ‘Key’ Lime Pie and decided to add a handful of peanuts to the biscuits before crushing to add a bit of texture and nutty flavour. I then used the peanut butter icing layer from the Good Food recipe I’d found to get the peanut butter element in. I also sprinkled on a handful of peanuts for good measure. I decided to not include the caramel layer for a number of reasons; I was worried that it would make the slice too sweet, I didn’t think I had enough room in the tin I had used, I didn’t have enough time. Rather than using the suggested dark chocolate, I used milk chocolate so that it wasn’t too bitter (only had 85% dark chocolate in the house). I then decorated the chocolate with the suggested caramel sauce.

Caramel and Peanut Butter Biscuit Slices

Cuts into 8 pieces

  • 300g Hob Nobs
  • 150g butter, melted
  • 50g peanuts, plus handful extra
  • 70g butter
  • 110g smooth peanut butter
  • 70g icing sugar
  • 150g milk chocolate, broken into pieces
  • 70g dairy fudge
  • 1 1/2 tbsp milk

Method

  1. Heat the oven to 160C/fan 140C/gas 3. Whizz the biscuits and peanuts to crumbs in a food processor (or put in a strong plastic bag and bash with a rolling pin). Mix with the melted butter and press into the base and up the sides of a 17cm square tin. Bake in the oven for 10 minutes. Remove and cool.
  2. To make the peanut butter layer, melt the butter and peanut butter in a small pan and mix until smooth. Sieve the icing sugar into a bowl, then pour in the hot butter mixture and stir to combine. While the mixture is still warm, pour over the base and smooth out with a spatula. Sprinkle over the handful of extra peanuts. Chill for 2 hrs until set.
  3. Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water. Meanwhile, put the toffees and the milk in a small saucepan and gently heat. They will clump together and struggle to melt at first, but keep heating and eventually they will turn into a runny toffee sauce.
  4. Remove the tin from the fridge and pour the chocolate over the salted caramel layer, tipping the tin to spread the chocolate over the surface. Use a spoon to quickly drizzle the caramel over the chocolate in a thin loopy pattern. If the toffee starts to get too thick, add a splash more milk or cream and pop it back on the heat until runny. Put the tin back in the fridge to chill for 2 hrs before slicing.

These went down a treat at work. My boss felt it ticked all the boxes she wanted (though she did suggest not adding the peanuts into the base as didn’t add anything). Others felt that the caramel layer was needed as it would take it to the next step. I felt that the biscuit base was too crumbly which may have been caused by the addition of the peanuts, therefore I’m in agreement that these do not need to be there. But, all in all, I am happy with how it turned out.

Caramel and Peanut Butter Biscuit Slices

On Thursday, my sister and I got to visit Nutters in Norden to take part in one of their Masterclasses (thank you mum and dad for paying). We watched Andrew Nutter prepare a three course meal (and a soup) before getting to sit down and eat the courses for our lunch. The menu was: Pardon Peppers with Chilli and Ginger Salt; Pumpkin Soup En Croute; Roast Hake with Smoked Haddock Potato Cake and Frazzled Pancetta; Dingley Dell Pork Belly Confit with Black Pudding and Creamy Lancashire Arancini; Pear and Almond Tart. Below is a picture of what we got to eat for lunch.

Nutters

Afterwards, my sister came back to mine and did a spot of baking. One of her favourite bakes is Millionaires Shortbread. So, in a week we’ve had the classic and the twist on a classic. Now these were very tasty. The shortbread wasn’t overly sweet meaning that the slice was too sickly (could possibly manage two if you wanted to be naughty).

Millionaires Shortbread

Finally, with it now moving into Autumn, I love making soup as a warming lunch. A couple of weeks ago, me and Mr W were in Scotland and called upon some friends (another Mr and Mrs W) and were given a bowl of lovely home-made Carrot and Orange soup (made by other Mr W). Now, Mr W took a liking for this soup and requested the recipe. So today, I made it. Now, at first, Mr W didn’t think it tasted as strongly as orange as other Mr Ws did but he did think it was still tasty. The more he ate, the more he felt the orange did come through. What I like about this soup is that the orange adds a subtle sweetness that doesn’t overpower the overall flavour of the soup. Thank you Mr and Mrs W for the recipe (and home-made bread. We had to make do with shop bought rolls today, they were still good, just not as good).

Carrot and Orange Soup