Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Poland: More Than Pierogis

Back in May, I took my first trip to Poland. We were going as a family quest for information so I didn't have a huge itinerary or bucket list. Obviously I was planning to eat a lot of pierogis but I was not prepared for the level of food Poland has to offer! Not just the variety of traditional food but also quantities. There were numerous occasions where we dined with family and it was just course after course of homemade dishes that I'd never heard of! The below is a summary of the more traditional ones (I think...) which I hope to try and make one day.

1. Pierogis- Okay, yes, there is more than just pierogis in Poland but come on! Pierogis! They come in all kinds of varieties including fruit! I'd never had blueberry pierogis before but I will certainly be having them again.



2. Babka- This is a kind of cake which is open to interpretation. Sometimes it's a desserty cake and sweet but the variety I found more often was a potato babka. It looks like a loaf of mashed potatoes so thick, you can slice it like bread. And oh so greasy and delicious.

3. Bigos- In my brain space, I often mix this up with babka because it starts with a 'b' too. Bigos though is a saurkraut dish with meat. I don't actually like saurkraut but I love bigos. The saurkraut is soft and not sharply fermented like the saurkraut I'm used to. Mixed with kilbasa or beef, it becomes a hearty stew, minus the broth (sometimes called Hunter's Stew which I've had in the US).

4. Goulash- Now this is a stew. Again, there are a number of ways to make this but it reminds me of chilli but with an eastern European flare. In my mind, it's like the Polish equivalent to American chilli. 

5. Ice Cream- Fine, Poland didn't invent ice cream but they love it. Ice cream everywhere. Sometimes it's more like gelato but they have the home-churned variety as well. Perfect for the hot summer days of sun! We went to Bubble Waffle which has locations all over the world so check it out.

Monday, July 10, 2017

City Guide: Calgary

Almost every year since graduation, my college/uni friends and I have done a summer trip together. Always somewhere new and always a mix of outdoorsy and city things. We've been all over the west coast of the US from LA to Vancouver, Puerto Rico, North Carolina and now Calgary, Canada. Outdoor activities include hiking, kayaking, or jet skiing (one time it was cliff jumping) while our city activities keep us cultured so we go to museums or well-known restaurants.

We stayed at a place half-way between Calgary and Banff National Park so we could easily go from our active selves to our city selves and in between, we cooked a lot of meat and ate a lot of eggs. Shopping for 8 people is tough and there was a point where we had 8 dozen eggs, 8 loaves of bread and an $8,000 cucumber (okay, they refunded us $7,998 for that one). Somehow, I escaped dinner duties but managed to make a whole lotta pancakes, french toast (see 8 loaves of bread comment) and cinnamon rolls throughout the week.

Here are some of the activity highlights I would recommend if you're planning a tip to Calgary anytime soon:

1. Lake Louise- When deciding where to go, we get very scientific and make a survey of places to go. The survey results usually end up being ignored but someone suggested Lake Louise and we said 'sounds great!'. This is what brought us to Canada. We did the Plain of Six Glaciers trail which goes around the aqua lake and up into the mountains. This was an all day hike but not extremely steep so doable for beginners but bring lots of water! At the end of June, there was a bit of snow across the path so prepare yourselves for that as well. But! You are rewarded by an amazing little tea house (appropriately called The Plain of Six Glaciers Tea House) at the top of the mountain. They don't have running water, bottled water is heli-dropped to them, but their cakes are delicious.

 
2. Sulphur Mountain- This was a more difficult climb which was mostly comprised of switchbacks. It's advised to allow 2-3 hours for this hike so not as long as Lake Louise but there's also a gondola you can take up (and/or down) the mountain instead. This is attaction is part of a larger attraction with a hot springs spa (highly recommended) and cave tour. The view of the Canadian Rockies can't be beat and we even had a couple mountain goats cross our paths. If that's not a reason to bust into Julie Andrews songs, I don't know what is.

 
3. Banff Canoe Club- Initially we were looking at kayaking/canoeing on Lake Louise but having done the hike already, we opted for something new and found this kayaking club right in Banff which was pretty cost effective and allowed us to paddle around a creek and then a calm lake surrounded by mountains (okay, and one highway). The staff were super friendly, even if they did accidentally ring us up for 450 boats (there's a theme here with the over-charging). Definitely bring bug spray, the swarms are legit.

 
4. Skyline Luge- Moving away from the hiking genre of activities, this luge is basically real-life Mario Kart in Calgary's Olympic park. You take a chair lift to the top, get a safety demonstration and away you go! While I don't think they'd let you tie balloons to the cars, Mario noises are not discouraged...

 
5. Ice Cream- No hike is complete without a post-hike milkshake. Or at least that's our motto. We went to Old School Ice Cream after our first day of hiking and proceeded to go there after every one of our hikes. Luckily, the staff changed every day so they don't seem to have noticed how much ice cream we ate here. They are cash only though but accept USD at a 1:1 conversion rate.

 
6. Heritage Park- I was sceptical about this one but it turned out to be really fun! It's basically a recreation of Canada through the ages so important historical figures' homes are rebuilt, there's an old main street with a working post office and general store as well as small roller coasters. A steam boat cruise is included in admission and takes you around the reservoir with a great view of downtown Calgary.


7. Maple Lattes- We happened to be in Calgary for Canada Day, their 150th in fact! As if everything wasn't maple leaf forever already, we found Rosso's to have a maple latte on special. Who knows if this is a full-time deal or not but over ice and it was a perfect hint of Canadian pride without being overly sweet. They're also known for their coffee quality so worth a trip for straight up coffee as well.

 

8. More Ice Cream- Made by Marcus in Calgary was our final ice cream stop of the trip. They had only a few flavors but also unique sundaes (think hand toasted marshmallows and macaron topping) that were  made with soft serve. Milkshakes and boozy flavours were also in order.

 

9. Calgary Farmer's Market- Literally our last stop before the airport, we initially went to this market looking for Jelly doughnuts shop but it was full of so many other places to eat and stock up on maple things (and crafts), we almost lost track of our mission. But in the end, Jelly doughnuts was amazing (maple bacon doughnut, highly recommended) and should also be visited.

 
And because 10 is better than 9:

10. Nature- In general, just embrace the amazing scenery of mountains, sky and trees. You're bound to see a rainbow (or two!) after one of the many flash mountain storms and we even caught a meteor shower one night.

 


Wednesday, June 21, 2017

BakedIn: Chocolate Eclairs

A couple months ago I shared my first BakedIn experience, a baking prep service that friends gave me for my birthday. The subscription service gives you the non-perishable ingredients, special equipment and instructions, you provide the things like eggs and milk. They also provided bonus salted caramel marshmallows which I promptly ate, two at a time.

I was intimidated to try making these eclairs after the fail-forward attempt at whoopie pies. This was a whopping 4 chef hats out of 5, an indication of difficulty, and required a multi-phase approach. Much more intimidating than the muffin mix still waiting to be baked.

So after the recent London Bridge attacks, I was at home thinking about how I didn't want to leave my home and how much time I spend in Borough Market and just generally feeling awful about the world. So these eclairs kept my frantic mind busy, following logical steps and let me escape the illogical world without answers for just a bit.

Apparently eclairs are made with choux pastry! It sounds fancy, it's also light and fluffy. Butter and milk are boiled together, flour is stirred in and the dough sticks together. If I could pipe these all over again, I would cut a bigger piece of the piping bag off and make big eclairs. As it were, I treated the piping bag like I was going to pipe icing and made a bunch of mini eclairs. Still delicious but much more time-consuming.

Tray by tray, these are baked. Once all the baking was done, I chilled while the eclairs chilled before making the cream filling. I love whipping cream because it's so dang satisfying to just go from cream, cream, cream, oh snap we have whipped stuff! Piping the cream into the eclairs was messy but doable. In theory, the eclair shell is fluffy and pretty hollow but it's easier to pipe into each end separately instead of hoping the filling makes its way through the whole thing.

And at long last, the decoration! At this point, I got lazy and decided to forgo the caramel topping and just melt the chocolate and ice the eclairs in their classic chocolate glory. And sprinkles because why not?!

I must say, I'm quite proud of myself for these and someone even told me I should actually quit my day job and become a baker. I'll take it! And a bunch of eclairs, please!




Recipe
Eclairs (Choux Pastry)
  • 120ml milk
  • 120ml water
  • 100g unsalted butter
  • 5g sugar
  • 3g salt
  • 150g plain flour
  • 5 eggs (4 for the dough, 1 for an egg wash)
Whipped Filling
  • 360ml double cream
  • 20g powdered sugar (icing sugar)
Chocolate Frosting
  • 100g milk chocolate
  • 60ml double cream
  1. Put milk, water, butter, salt and sugar into a saucepan over low heat and heat until the butter is melted.
  2. Bring the mixture to a boil and then immediately remove from heat. Stir in the flour, all at once, and mix with a wooden spoon until smooth. 
  3. Return the flour-butter mixture to heat and warm for about 1 minute until the mixture is slightly dryer. 
  4. Remove the pan from heat and pour into a large bowl.
  5. Add the eggs (just 4 of them), one at a time, to the dough and mix with a wooden spoon until the pastry is smooth.
  6. Preheat the oven to 200C (350F) and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  7. While the choux pastry (yup, you just made choux pastry!) is still warm, fill a piping bag (or a ziplock bag and you can cut a corner off) with teh dough. Clip the corner of the bag, narrow to make small eclairs and wide for larger ones.
  8. Pipe the pastry onto the baking sheet. You can do either mini eclairs or full size. These won't expand much, just puff up so you can put them about 1/2 inch apart.
  9. Make an egg wash by beating the last egg in a small bowl. Brush the tops of the piped eclairs with the wash to ensure a nice golden finish.
  10. Bake for 20-25 minutes until crisp and golden.
  11. Place the eclair shells on a wire rack and allow to cool completely. Repeat piping until all the choux pastry is finished.
  12. While the eclairs bake, combine the milk chocolate and 60ml of cream in a saucepan. Heat until the chocolate is melted and transfer to a bowl. Cool in the fridge for 15 minutes.
  13. Once the eclairs are cool, whip the double cream and powdered sugar together using an electric mixer. Whip until the cream is thick.
  14. Pour the whipped topping into a piping bag (or ziplock bag, see above tip!).
  15. Cut a small slit in the side of the eclairs. I found it best to make two slits, top and bottom. Pipe the cream into the eclairs being careful not to burst the pastry. Continue until all the eclairs are filled.
  16. Final step! Spoon the melted chocolate mixture over the eclairs to cover. You could drizzle white chocolate or sprinkles on top for extra pizzazz! 


Monday, May 15, 2017

Red Lentil and Vegetable Soup

Still May, still cold. This shift in cold weather has meant those pesky winter colds and coughs are back and I have fallen victim to the sore throat and chest cough that comes with it. As a result, all the tea and soup!

This recipe come from the Oh She Glows cookbook which I'm slowly but surely cooking my way through. I've previously made the curry and cauliflower stew and peanut vegetable stew which were amazing so was excited to try something new, especially when it's called 'on the mend soup'. Just what I need.

 
The onion and garlic are sauteed until translucent. Spices and all the peppers are added: cumin, cayenne, paprika and chilli powder. So much spice, it's great. Allow the spices to simmer a bit before adding the vegetable broth (you could use chicken broth too if you're not going veggie), diced tomatoes, red lentils, and carrots.

All the work is done now, allow the soup to come to a boil and then simmer until the lentils are cooked through. The final stage is adding some chopped kale or spinach while the soup is still hot. The leaves will wilt but not overcook.

 
While I hope you enjoy this soup, I think I hope more that you're already warm and enjoying iced coffee in the sun.

Recipe

  • 1 Tablespoon coconut oil
  • 1 sweet onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon chilli powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne peper
  • 5-6 cups vegetable broth
  • 3 stalks of celery, chopped
  • 1 cup of carrots, chopped
  • 1 cup red lentils, uncooked
  • 2 cup chopped spinach or kale
  1. In a large pot, heat the coconut oil. Saute the onion and garlic until the onion is translucent.
  2. Add the spices and celery. Cook for another 5 minutes.
  3. Add the broth, carrots and red lentils. Bring the mixture to a boil and then reduce to a simmer.
  4. Cook until the carrots are soft and the lentils are cooked.
  5. Stir in the spinach (or kale) while the soup is still hot so it wilts but doesn't overcook. 
  6. Enjoy not on a warm spring day but only when it's grey and raining. 

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Cabbage and Sausage Stew

I am not a cabbage fan. I never had a cabbage patch doll and I don't like cabbage stews. I'm a terrible Pole. But I'm coming around to it.

Over the holidays (yes, the Christmas holidays all those moons ago), my mom made a cabbage stew that actually wasn't the terrible soggy lettuce I expected from cabbage (not a reflection of my mom's cooking). I'm also not a huge leek fan, not sure of their purpose but let's give them a go. Browned sausage and root vegetables really made this a hearty and warming stew.

And even though it's MAY, it's freezing by British standards so yes, we're talking about stew. We start by browning the sausage in a soup pot with a little bit of oil to keep them from sticking to the pan. This is the basis of our flavoring.

Once the sausage is browned, remove from the pan and cut into bite-sized chunks. Return to the pan and add the broth along with chopped carrots. Carrots will take the longest to cook so we give them a head start. Next, add some great northern beans (drained) and the cabbage leaves and leeks, roughly chopped.

Recipe
  • Olive oil
  • 6 chicken sausages (I used spicy ones but you can use plain if desired)
  • 1 small head of cabbage, chopped
  • 2 cup carrots, chopped
  • 2 leak, chopped
  • 1 14 oz. can of white beans (cannellini or Great Northern)
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 2 Tablespoons tomato paste
  1. In a large sauce pan, heat the olive oil. Brown the chicken sausages until all sides are light brown.
  2. Remove the chicken sausages and cut into bite-sized pieces. Return to the pan.
  3. Add the cabbage, carrots and leaks. Saute with the sausage for about 5 minutes.
  4. Pour in the broth. Stir in the seasonings and tomato paste.
  5. Stir in the beans.
  6. Bring the soup to a boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer until the vegetables are soft (30-40 minutes).
  7. Eat with some hearty bread or you can freeze this soup for a rainy day!