My perfect beef casserole

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Winter doesn’t want to give up this year and there is no better way to warm up during these cold days than making and eating a nice casserole.
I have always loved stews and over years I reached a good level of perfection in making them. The recipe below is based on my experience and was created by combining few methods together and choosing what works best. You can treat this as a base for any beef type casseroles and add other ingredients you like.

You will need:
600g diced beef meet (i.e. brisket or anything else your butcher recommends)
500 ml red wine
2 carrots
10 – 15 baby onions or few shallots
250ml Chicken stock
Olive oil
Salt and black pepper
Fresh parsley leaves

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My favourite winter salad

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I discovered this simple recipe in one of my cook books and immediately it’s became my favourite winter salad.

The base are boiled eggs, new potatoes, green leaves and vinaigrette sauce and the rest depends on your mood, season or content of your fridge. I experimented with adding salami, blue cheese (mostly St Agur), red peppers or slices of radish (in the season) and they all worked quite well.

For the basic version you will need:

Green leaves (I use lamb salad, rocket, different forms of watercress and sometimes spinach)
Eggs (2 per person)
Few new potatoes
Red onion
Dill
Fresh mint and parsley
Olive oil, white wine vinegar and mustard
Salt and fresh black pepper

To make vinaigrette mix oil, vinegar, mustard and pepper. It’s best to combine mustard with vinegar first and then add olive oil slowly whisking to make it to together. You will learn to choose the best ratio of ingredients for you – some people like to add more mustard, some prefer it milder, just find what works best for you.

Arrange leaves on individual plates, add few leaves of fresh mint, parsley or any other herbs you like (i.e. chive). Cook potatoes in salted boiling water and when soft sprinkle some good quality oil, dill and salt over them. Hard-boil eggs (around 8 minutes in slightly salted simmering water, you may add few drops of vinegar for easier peeling) and cut them in quarters.

Arrange everything on a plate, add few thin slices of onion, pour the sauce over and serve.

I am sure you will love it!

Lentils – my new discovery!

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During such cold days there is nothing better than a plate of hot casserole with a glass of good red wine for dinner. Stews are my favorite food in winter s– easy to make, rich, warming up, great to share and perfect for lunch next day.
This year I discovered lentils as a perfect base for a one pot meal. If you still don’t know what to cook tomorrow try my version of lentil ragout.

You will need:
250g of lentils (I use green puy lentils )
Sausages (2 per person)
1 leek
1 red onion or few shallots
1 carrot cut into large circles
Glass or red wine
200 ml of stock
Parsley
Salt and pepper
Oil

Check if your lentils need to be soaked or rinsed before cooking and follow the instructions suggested.
Heat oil in pan and fry sausages until brown, then remove. Add some more oil to the same pan and cook carrots. When brown add onions or shallots and leek cut in medium size pieces. Feel free to use any other vegetables or herbs you may have – tomatoes (canned or fresh), red peppers, garlic, chilies, thyme… everything works.

When it is all nice and brown add sausages, lentils, stock, wine, pepper (and salt if you want) and bring to boil. Simmer for around 30 minutes or until tender and sausages are cooked through. If the stew is too dry just add a bit of boiling water.

Stir in some parsley and service with nice rye bread.

Isn’t it easy?
Smacznego!

Summer in Poland

Like every year I spent part of my holidays with my family in Poland enjoying my mum’s cooking with fresh ingredients coming directly from the garden, playing with children and doing not that much.
August is a very busy month in Polish houses – this is when we start canning, pickling and preserving food for cold winters. Many people in Poland still mostly eat seasonal food so you won’t really see tomatoes or green salads on our tables in December. We make sure though we are ready for the cold months much in advance with our home storages full of marinates, jams, pickled vegetables or dried mushrooms.
Last year I recommended you to come to Poland in September to try our national specialty – ogórki kiszone (in the best translation I found – Polish style pickled cucumbers). They are a great source vitamin C and keep us going through the whole winter. The brine is apparently a miraculous handover cure and has a very good effect on the digestive system.
They are extremely easy to make so you may want to try yourself.

Ogórki kiszone my mum’s style

You will need:

Medium and small fresh cucumbers
Fresh garlic
Dill
Peppercorns
Water
Salt

Make sure that your cucumbers are freshly harvested as the fermentation process depends on the bacteria covering skin of growing cucumbers. Choose those which aren’t too large and have regular shape becasue they simply taste better. Those gigantic ones you buy in the supermarkets are definitely useless (and tasteless!) here. Traditionally ogórki are harvested around 5:00 am (we don’t suggest you go to such extremes though!) as the temperature that time makes them perfect for pickling.
To prepare the brine you will just need to dissolve 1.5 spoons of salt in 1 liter of cold water. The more salt you add the more sour the cucumbers will be.
Then place few cut garlic cloves, peppercorns and dill sprigs on the bottom of medium size jars and add washed cucumbers arranged tightly one next to one. Make sure they won’t move in the jar. Add enough water to cover everything and lid the jars.
Some people add horseradish roots or bay leaves as well – feel free to experiment with tastes you like most.
Cucumbers pickled for 3 days only are less sour and are called ogórki małosolne (‘slighty salty cucumbers’). You can store your jars even for few months in a dry cool place.
In some parts of Poland ogórki are stored in large barrels in a specially created storage placed in the rivers.

In winter they are perfect with sauces, salads or… shots of vodka.

Marta’s cake with summer fruits and crumble

 

We all spent last weekend in our family home and to celebrate this visit Monika, our cousin, Ola, and I baked a fantastic cake – really delicious and very easy to prepare. The only secret is to use the best quality product. Take some very fresh eggs, butter and fruits from local market and get cooking!

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