Is all in a pie

… it really is… or at least pies are rather important part of British cooking. There’s something comforting in their nice and steamy presence. And I’m not talking about sweet pies like apple pie or cherry pie, but savoury ones – steak, sheppard’s pie, milkman’s pie or fish pie. Mr Fiance got me newest Jamie Oliver’s book for Christmas 2011 and I got pulled into the world of British food. Of course fact of constant travelling between here and there is influencing my taste as well.

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Traditional Sheppard’s Pie is basically mince and mash, where mince can be beef, veal or lamb. But I didn’t want a simple mince with mash, wanted nice chunks of beef, with gravy and mash. So decided that can easily give traditional dish an upgrade. I based my recipe on Jamie Oliver’s recipe from book “Jamie’s Great Britain” but went a bit further.

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Always seemed to have a thing for Britain and British food. Must be British by heart or something along the lines. Is rather unusual but true in my case. Of course especially now when I live between Poland and UK and Mr Fiance introduces me to British culture and food I feel even closer to UK then ever before.

(here for your viewing pleasure a picture of Mr Fiance, British Bestie and Me in our local pub in Colchester)
in vic

There’s no other place like Borough Market in London, or amazing bacon, thick cut chips, crisps with vinigar and salt, tasty breaded scampies, hot cross buns with clotted cream or a pint of good cider… you know what I mean, don’t you? British food is vibrant, fun and comes from all over the place, because every expat brings something new into British culinary tradition. In Colchester a walk distance from each other are Polish deli, Chinese Deli, English Butchers and Italian Deli…

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With british beef it’s enough to just give it a quick cook or roast, unfortunately polish beef is tragedy and that’s why I had to cook it under pressure so that meat would be tender and easy to bite into.
Because I chose chunks over mince, in my recipe there’s gravy to come with it, otherwise pie would be dry and not enjoyable.

Very well now the recipe.

Almost Sheppard’s Pie

1 kg good quality beef, diced
2-3 carrots, sliced
2 onions, sliced
1 leek, sliced
1 can chopped tomatos
1-2 tbsp flour (for gravy)
1 kg potatos
5-6 cloves garlic
cream (sour cream or creme fraiche) about 2-3 tbsp
knob of butter or two
milk, about 200-250ml

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In pressure cooker add some olive oil and toss all veggies (carrots, leek, onion) and give them a quick fry, add beef and tomatos, 1/2 can of water and put the lid on. Cook for about 45 minutes, until meat’s nice and tender.
Peel and dice potatos, add garlic cloves and boil until nice and soft, in seperate pot. When done, remove water and let steam for about 2-3 minutes. Do not turn off the heat, just reduce it and add butter, cream and milk and mash until the mash is nice and fluffy. If need be adjust amount of milk and cream. Season with salt and peper, you can add chopped spring onions or any herbs.
Open the pressure cooker and fish out the meat and veggies, place on the bottom of the casserole dish, put the juices to cook, and in seperate bowl mix flour with some of juices, then slowly mix into remaining juices, give it a quick boil, and then puree gravy with mixer. If you want more tomato taste, add 1 tbsp tomato puree. Season with salt and peper. Now spoon out the gravy, so that chunks of meat are covered but not drowning. Gravy should be nice and thick. Spoon the mash on the top and smooth the surface. Put into the preheated to 180C-200C oven and bake for 20-25mins. When done tak out from the oven and let stand for 5-10 mins before serving, which would allow the pie to be ready to serve and gravy not to be lava hot.

Posted in baking, beef, British Food, casserole, food talk, Jamie Oliver, pie, potato, pressure cooker, recipe, Sheppard's Pie, tomato | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Can You Slim Down Lasagna?

…. the anwser is yes you can do it! Seriously… and I’m so not kidding you. Lasagna was always to me about white sauce, plenty of white sauce, tomato sauce and decadent amount of cheese. As mentioned before Mom is sentenced to low fat food as otherwise her body seems to have huge issue with it. But Mom loves Italian food and loves lasagna, so she wants it and I will make it for her. Challenge excepted! Allez…

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First thing was to get rid of white sauce – too much cheese, too much flour, too much milk. I substituted that with layer of spinach with garlic and lovely mashroom sauce with few spoons of sour cream and 1 spoon of flour.

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This is simple lasagna, quick fix if you like but pack with goodies. So let’s get cracking with recipe:

Skinny Lasagna is Skinny

portion of your favourite bolognese sauce
200g of mushroom, sliced
ca 100g sour cream
1-2 tbsp flour
1 pack of frozen spinach leaves
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 lemon, juice
salt,
pepper
herbs of your choice
handful grated cheese of your choice
1 pack of lasagna

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Now it’s all about clever assembling. First of all give mushrooms a nice quick fry on olive oil, if you fancy you can slice/dice an onion or two for extra kick. When fried, mix well flour and cream and add to the pan, add some water and mix until nice and creamy and cooked. Set aside. In the other pan heat some olive oil, add garlic and defrosted spinach. Give it a quick fry and add lemon juice, season to taste.

In the lasagna form pour on the bottom some mushroom sauce, then layer of pasta, spinach, pasta, tomato sauce, pasta, mushroom sauce, pasta, tomato sauce, cheese 🙂
Now place in the oven and cook for about 40-45mins on about 200C. MIght be longer if you have a big portion of lasagna or you making two, just to save time and have sth tasty in deep freezer. Just watch pasta and you will know when it’s ready. Easy? Easy peasy…. now stuff your face and have glass of red with it, coz you so deserved it!

Posted in cheese, garlic, mushroom, pasta, soul food, spinach, tomato | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

C’mon caramelize me

Yeah here we go again, I’m ill again and therefore stranded home. The recent period seems to be rather harsh on me and my body decided to give in. So I’m staranded and lost my appetite, but every now and again I have cravings or weird ideas. And here today I want to share with you one of those which seemed crazy but proved to be amazing morning treat, quick and rewarding.

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And yes you see very well it’s caramelized toast with caramelized apples. So simple and so amazing. Just a dollop of plain yoghurt as topping and perfect little brekkie is there to keep you in good spirits.

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I could even imagine  it as an emergency dessert in case of unexpected crowd. Because ingredients are those rather common in every household – bread and fruits of your choice to be caramelized. I had apple but bananas would be great, strawberries, pineapple or practically anything your heart craves and what could be dipped in caramel. I had just simple sour dough white bread, but I think you can use anything. Even one day old croissants or challa bread.

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Recipe is really straight forward, but since I know that some of you like organized recipes so here we go:

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Caramelized toast with caramelized apples
(feeds one)

1 apple sliced
1 tbsp butter
2 tbsp light brown sugar
1 slice of white bread of your choice
2 tbsp light brown sugar (or there about)

In the skillet melt butter, add sugar and apples and cook until apples are tender. Remove from the pan. Place the slice of bread into pan and give it a quick fry on both sides, then sprinkle the top with sugar and flop it immedietly, then repeat with other side and give it a quick fry, until the sugar melts. Transfer into the plate. Serve with apples (or any other fruits) and dollop of plain yoghurt.

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Pasta & Basta

Some time ago we went to Munich, the trip was brilliant idea and definately I would so love to go there again. As always I was traveling on shoestring (why? because is way more fun this way) and most of restaurants seemed rather on the expensive end, until we stumbled upon Pasta&Basta.  It’s a chain of restaurants where everything is under 5 Euro (plate of pasta, small pizza, portion of lasagne etc), food is lovely and freshly made and athmosphere resembles Italian bistro. Fantastic spot indeed.

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Today I was looking for comfort and decided that there’s nothing better than a good plate of tasty pasta with tomato sauce. That’s how idea of Italian style chicken-tomato sauce was born. Recipe is as usual a quick fix, but healthy and made from scratch. Can be served with pasta your choice and of course modified according to your preferences. For instance one can add chilli, bacon or mushrooms, one can easily use minced beef or ground turkey instead, or just exchange chicken for turkey.

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What is most important about Italian cusine is simplicity. Simple and fresh ingredients, simple tastes and pasta. Of course there is sth nice and comforting about noodles, I’m not really sure what, but nothing makes me more happy than a good portion of spaghetti. Chicken is light, anchovy salty and tomatos juicy and fresh in taste. So what else do you need for a good meal?

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Pasta & Basta

(serves 4 maybe 5)

500g chicken breast, diced
400g can chopped tomatoes
1 can anchovy, chopped
2 onions, diced
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 jar sun dry tomatoes, sliced
2 table spoons olives, sliced
2 table spoon capers
herbs and spices of your choice
pasta of your choice
parmesan to sprinkle over the dish

In the frying pan heat some olive oil, put in onion, garlic, anchovy and give it a quick fry. Add chicken, sun dry tomatoes, onions and give it a good fry, add can of tomatoes and canfull of water, stir and let simmer until liquid reduces and sauce gets thicker, season up to your liking. Serve with your favourite pasta and sprinkle or ton of parmesan on the top. Enjoy.

Posted in anchovy, capers, chicken, pasta, recipe, soul food, tomato | Tagged , , , , | 5 Comments

Muesli For Breakfast

When I lived in Switzerland it was common to have muesli for breakfast. Muesli seemingly is a Swiss invention, which was introduced around 1900 by doctor Maximilian Bircher-Benner as a healthy meal for patients of his hospital. The idea was simple mix rolled oats with dried fruits, fresh fruits and add some dairy – this meal gives an energy boost and provides quite healthy start into day, without to much sugery goodness.

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Today when I needed a comfort and energy boost I decided to give muesli a brand new twist. And do tell what is better that cookies for breakfast? Especially healthy cookies – no sugar, no fat just healthy

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So I reached to my old trusty method of grinding rolled oats to get nice oat flour which I use as base for pancakes just to skip on white flour which seem not to be very nutritious. Skipped on fat as well, as seriously no need of fat in the cookies and added a handful of chopped dried fruits and some dark chocolate.

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Recipe as always is simple and straight forward, using ingredients most of us have handy home. From begining till serving recipe is ready in about 25 minutes, which isn’t bad at all for brekkie.
So what do you reckon? Cookies for brekkie? you are worth it 😉

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Morning Glory Muesli Cookies
(makes 6)

1/2 cup rolled oats, grinded (I use old coffee grinder)
1 egg
1 spoon brown sugar

1/2 tea spoon baking soda

1/2 small cup of natural yogurt

handful of dry fruits, chopped
30g dark chocolate, chopped

In a bowl mix together oats, egg, yogurt, sugar and soda. If batter’s too loose add more oats or flour. Add chopped fruits and chocolate. Mix well. Spoon out on the baking tray. Bake until nice and golden in 200C (probably about 15 mins, but it’s depending from the oven)

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Kaiserschmarrn or Breakfast like Sisi

Kaiserschmarrn what a funny name, isn’t it? Kaiser in Austrian German means “emperor” and schmarrn or schmarren means “nonsense”, Kaiserschmarrn is a sweet pancake which was designed as a dessert for empress Sisi wife of Franz Joseph I. Sisi is for Austrian symbol of Vienna and Austria and romantic story of Sisi and Franz Joseph was the source for nummerous films, plays and even cartoons.

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Kaiserschmarrn is light and fluffy and can be prepared in many ways. I guess there’s no proper way, as with the time it became most decadent dish for lazy brunches in Vienna and beyond. The main idea is that it’s carmelized pancake, one can add apples, raisins or almonds to that and serve it dusted with icing sugar or/and with confiture. Options are endless but most important elements are: carmelized apples or whole pancake and fluffy structure.

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It’s a quick fix and really satisfying breakfast dish. Of course it is a spoil and one shouldn’t have it too often but when comfort food and power breakfast is needed, there’s nothing better than good old Kaiserschmarrn.
My version is an express fix – I couldn’t be bothered to seperate eggs (just making a treat for myself), and used yogurt instead of milk. But must tell you, I loved every single bit of this brekkie. yes every bit and every bite, because Kaiserschmarrn should be torn into tiny pieces before serving. No idea why, but that’s how one serves it. So how about making yourself one and feeling like Sisy for the rest of the day?

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Kaiserschmarren or have  Sisi style breakfast
(for 1)

1 egg
3 tea spoons yogurt
2 spoons flour
1/2 tea spoon baking soda
1 apple, sliced
1 spoon of brown sugar
1 spoon butter

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In a bowl mix together egg, yogurt, flour and baking soda, mix well until nice and smooth. On the pan melt the butter, add apple slices and sugar, fry until carmelized and golden in colour. Pour on the apples batter and fry until light brown, turn the pancake and don’t worry if it breaks, that’s how it’s done. Fry until all bits are nice and golden brown on both sides. Before serving make sure that pancake is torn into small pieces (just for one bite). Serve with sides of your choice. I ate it just as it was 😉

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One potato, two potatos, three potatos, four…..

It’s been a while since I blogged, days just seemed to fly by and never had time to sit down and write. Winter is here to stay, so I’ve been craving soups lately. To me there’s nothing more comforting than a good bowl of soup, nothing fills better without the feeling of having eaten too much. For Christmas meal we cured joint of ham, which then needed to cooked before being roasted, and as Gordon Ramsey reckomended in “Ultimate Christmas” we cooked it in broth with veggies and spices. After ham was ready we froze the rest broth to use when needed.

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And what goes better with ham broth then potatos? A perfect match was done. This is a very simple, yet very satifying soup. Most important is a ratio of veggies to the amount of liquid. What I was looking for was soup that was nice and creamy, smooth but still light.

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The base of the soup is made of onion, leek and other root veggies of your choice, add some ginger for extra kick. Potatos are rather delicate in taste, but have full body and give adorable texture to the soup. If there’s enough of them, one can skip so yet popular in other recipes thickening soup with flour and milk. Thanks to using more veggies soup will be more satisfying, and generously filling without heaviness of diary and flour. An extra bite is provided by crunchy bacon topping. Soup can be easily adjusted to the vegetarian taste – just use vegetarian broth and skip the bacon topping, use carmelized onion or potatos bits instead.

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It’s a rather quick fix. Rather easy to adjust to seasonal tastes or personal preferences. Just remember the liquid should just cover the veggies, this way soup stays nice and creamy. You are more then welcome to sprinkle some spring onion or other greenery on the top, add some mushrooms, or celery or practically anything that takes your fancy.

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Potato – Onion Soup with Crunchy Bacon Topping

1 liter (or 2 pints) of homemade broth of your choice (I used Christmas ham broth with spices), in case soup’s too thick add another 300ml of water
1kg – 1,5kg potatos of your choice, peeled, and cut in small pieces
4 big onions, peeled and sliced
1 leek, washed, sliced
1 turnip, peeled and sliced
2 carrots, peeled and sliced
3cm fresh ginger, peeled and sliced

for topping:
500g streaky bacon, diced and fried until crispy, drained on the paper towel from excess of fat

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In the big pot on some oil fry and cook onions and leek until nice and tender, add ginger, carrots and turnip and cook a bit. Add potatos, broth and let simmer until potatos are nicely cooked. Season up and blitz until nice and smooth. If necessary season up again.
Serve with crispy bacon topping and some sour cream if you fancy.

Posted in bacon, broth, celery, ginger, ham, potato, soup | Tagged , , | 2 Comments