Poland Your Way – Culinary Course

Sierakow Manor

I recently did a bit of consulting for an UK-based tour operator, Poland Your Way, for the launch of its Polish culinary course. The operator has launched this fabulous package for enthusiastic gourmands interested in learning more about Poland, its cuisine and culture. Travellers have the option of staying for three or four nights, with accommodation and courses provided at a country manor hotel, close to the historic city of Krakow.

Sierakow Manor
Sierakow Manor

The hotel, Sierakow Manor, was once a 19th-century Polish nobleman’s home but it has been lovingly restored, offering a perfect mix of historical elegance and modern comfort. During the day, guests will gain an understanding of Polish culinary traditions, local ingredients and cooking techniques. Classes and demonstrations will be run for English speakers. The groups will be relatively small, with a maximum of 12 people per class.

Some common dishes you’ll get to know include pierogi (dumplings), uszka (a smaller version of pierogi), barszcz (beetroot soup), golabki (stuffed cabbage leaves) and bigos (hunter’s stew). The hotel also produces a range of traditional pickles and jams, as well as stocking a range of local produce such as honey, cheeses and beers. All items are available for sale for guests to take home.

Sierakow Manor Bedroom
Sierakow Manor Bedroom

Each evening guests will enjoy a three-course dinner of traditional Polish food, with wine or Polish beers. On one night, there will be a tutored vodka tasting experience, comprising of eight varieties.

If you stay for the fourth night, you also have the option to enjoy an excursion into Krakow, a guided city tour and an optional lunch in the historic Kazimierz district.

3 nights £505 per person (sharing twin or double room). Non-cooking partner, £355, includes all meals and the vodka tasting. £100 single supplement.

4 nights £655 per person (sharing twin or double room). Non-cooking partner £505, includes all maels and the vodka tastking. £130 single supplement.

Poland Your Way can also arrange optional extra excursions for those who want to extend their stay futher.

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Russian Zakuski / закуски Recipe: Tomatoes Stuffed with Mushrooms

Russian Zakuski / закуски mushroom stuffed tomatoes

There are many Russian zakuski dishes (small, introductory dishes usually part of a welcome board serves to guests on arrival) that also double as impressive, party-piece starters.  These tomatoes are no exception.  The large tomatoes are stuffed with a mushroom and sour cream sauce which can all be prepared before baking for just 30 minutes before serving.  Ideal!  Should you have any mixture leftover it can be frozen for up to one month and used as a pasta sauce or sauce for a grilled chicken breast.

Russian Zakuski / закуски mushroom stuffed tomatoes

Here’s my recipe…

Ingredients

500g mushrooms, chopped (I use a mixture, wild are best but shitake and chestnut will do if availability is limited)

125ml sour cream

25g butter

1 white onion, finely chopped

2 tbsp parsley, chopped

4 large beef tomatoes

100g grated Gouda cheese

Instructions

Gently fry the onion, when softened add in the mushrooms

Russian Zakuski / закуски mushroom stuffed tomatoes

When sauteed add in the sour cream and parsley

Allow the mixture to cool

Cut the lids off the large tomatoes and hollow out the middle

When the mixture is cool, fill the tomatoes

Russian Zakuski / закуски mushroom stuffed tomatoes

Sprinkle the tomatoes with cheese and bake in an oven at 180°C for 20 minutes or until golden brown on top

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Want to Know What Tito Ate? You Need Tito’s Cookbook!

While I was in Belgrade I visited The House of Flowers, Tito’s Mausoleum.  On entering the museum and while buying my entrance ticket I was excited to spy a copy of Tito’s Cookbook.

Tito's Cookbook

The book, written by Anja Drulovic is a compilation of Tito’s favourite recipes, alongside images of him meeting international dignitaries including Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II and the Kennedys, famous actors such as Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, and even ruthless dictator, Saddam Hussein.

Tito's Cookbook

It’s certainly an interesting read, with some fantastic photographs.  Priced at 3000 Serbian Dinar I think it’s well worth buying for those with an interest in food and history.

Tito's Cookbook

Tito’s Cookbook by Anja Drulovic

Published by Laguna

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Book Review: The Global Vegetarian Kitchen

When The Global Vegetarian Kitchen recipe book by Troth Wells landed on my doormat I was rather eager to see what East European inspired dishes would be included.  While Eastern Europe is not renowned for its tolerance of vegetarianism there are plenty of renowned vegetarian dishes from the region.  I was rather pleased to see that of more than 100 recipes, Wells has included some East European delights in this latest book promoting vegetarianism.

The first recipe to grab my attention was the Turkish Thick Lentil Soup on page 58.  With onion, garlic, red lentils, cumin and chilli, this is a version of lentil soup which I particularly enjoyed at breakfast while in Istanbul.  This is my ideal of heaven on cold, winter days.

Rather more excitingly was the Turkish Moussaka recipe on page 108.  I would personally normally associate Moussaka with Greece but apparently this version is spelt musakka in Turkish which derives from the Arabic for chilled.

Yet another one of my favourites can be found on page 110: Mushroom Stroganoff.  The beef is substituted with chestnut mushrooms.

The ‘Swooning Imam’ or aubergine bake on page 138 particularly caught my eye.  Using onion, peppers, cumin, coriander, tomatoes and parsley, these stuffed aubergines look fantastic. It’s no wonder the Imam fainted at the taste!

For those with a sweet tooth the Russian Gramma cake featured on page 228 looks to be particularly pleasing and is complete with old family recipe (is there anything better than that?).

Of course the book also contains fabulous recipes from all over the world: America, India, The Orient etc.  This is quite possibly my favourite cookery book to hit the shelves this year.

The Global Vegetarian Kitchen
Published by New Internationalist
Author: Troth Wells
ISBN: 9781906523381
Publication date: October 2010
Price: £20.00
Hardback
Available from www.tr.im/nishop and all good bookshops

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Cosmo Hotel Berlin Mitte – New Exec Chef

When taste, scent and philosophy come together in the kitchen the results are sure to be interesting. Ottmar Pohl, the face behind the term ‘aroma cuisine’, is heading up the restaurant at COSMO Hotel Berlin Mitte. Executive Chef Pohl is famed for serving his guests out-of-the-ordinary and unique taste sensations using regional and Mediterranean herbs. By heating the rare and wild herbs in fragrant oils, Pohl releases their natural flavours. These unique aromas are used to dress organic meats and products which are sourced locally. The result is perfectly balanced dishes which are also kind to the environment.

COSMO Berlin Mitte Hotel

The design of the COSMO Restaurant is elegant and timeless. Clear shapes and warm colours create an informal and casual atmosphere, whilst ceiling-high windows open the view to the adjacent park. Nik Schweiger, the lighting designer, has constructed bespoke oversized ceiling-sculptures which provide soft lighting.  A highlight of the space is the open kitchen where guests can watch Ottmar Pohl create his innovative aroma cuisine dishes, including ‘Brook trout, rhubarb pepper vegetables and sweet cicely’ and ‘Baltic Sea wild salmon with popcorn and carrot-anise dumplings’. The 34-year-old chef has previously worked for the three-Michelin star hotel restaurant ‘Traube Tonbach’ in southern Germany and at the renowned restaurant ‘La Societé’ in Cologne.

Passionate about ethical sourcing and minimising the carbon footprint of his kitchen, Pohl shops locally and regularly visits spice alchemist Ingo Holland, owner of the Old Spice Office in Bavaria. He has also studied philosophy, is a self-confessed ‘nature freak’ and is a modern literature fan.

The COSMO Hotel Berlin Mitte is characterised by an individual and urban style. Located in the heart of Mitte between Alexanderplatz and Friedrichstraße, the hotel provides an attentive and yet relaxed service experience. Employees serve as an advisor, guide and door opener to the hippest shops, bars and clubs of the city. Rooms feature unspoilt views of Berlin and minimalistic design. Soft spice colours vary in tone from room to room and create a feeling of comfort, whilst a changeable lighting system and sleek furniture reflect pure sophistication. The contrast between relaxed and refined, light and dark, opaque and solid, soft curves and defined lines, makes the COSMO Hotel Berlin Mitte and Ottmar Pohl’s restaurant one of the top addresses in the city.

To make a reservation visit www.designhotels.com/cosmo

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East European Bloggers

As a blogger and someone who works in social media I’m often asked what blogs I have saved in my bookmarks.  I thought I’d share a few of my favourite East European blogs with you all.

1: Edward Lucas

You can’t talk about Eastern Europe and not mention the Economist’s East European reporter, Edward Lucas.  Lucas recently published a book called the New Cold War, and while I don’t necessarily agree with all his analysis, it is worth a read.  His blog will keep you updated with the political and economic situation across the region.  Lucas is also promoting his brother’s plight for international recognition and commemoration of  Wojtek the Soldier Bear.

2: Dr Sean’s Diary

Dr Sean’s Diary is certainly worth a look if you want to read a bit more in-depth analysis, particularly about the political and economic situation, both past and present, in the Czech Republic.  Dr Hanley, a lecturer at SSEES, started the blog in 2006.  For anything remotely academic, visit his blog.

3: East European Food Guide

Barbara Rolek runs this food guide with everything you could ever want to know about East European food with plenty of recipes and videos.  Check it out (just make sure you aren’t too hungry!) for inspiration.

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Traditional Hungarian Turkey Recipe

Traditional Hungarian Turkey
Traditional Hungarian Turkey

Think of Hungary and goulash probably springs to mind.  However, the Hungarians are famed for much more than one traditional soup.  Hungary is arguably the home of mushrooms after Italy and Russia.  Moreover, its blessed with the sweet, soft chestnut and many of its sweet and savoury dishes benefit from its presence.

This Christmas, the Jones’ household decided to opt for a traditional Hungarian chestnut-stuffed turkey.  Serve with roast potatoes, your favourite vegetables and lashings of gravy for a favourite family feast.

Ingredients

For the stuffing

200g unsmoked bacon lardons or pancetta

100g butter

250g breadcrumbs

200g chestnuts, cooked and chopped

Plenty of thyme and parsley, finely chopped, fresh is best

For the turkey

Turkey whatever weight you need to satisfy your hungry family

Roughly (depends on size of turkey) 50g butter

About (again depends on size of turkey) 6 rashers of streaky bacon

Parsley and thyme

Instructions

Dry fry bacon lardons in frying pan unti most of their fat is released

Traditional Hungarian Turkey

Add butter to pan and melt

Add breadcrumbs and mix

Add chopped chestnuts

Traditional Hungarian Turkey

Season with salt and pepper

Add the herbs

Stir

Traditional Hungarian Turkey

Remove from pan and allow to cool

When cool to handle roll into a ball

Stuff the neck of the turkey with the stuffing ball

(Excess stuffing can be used to make extra stuffing balls or a dish of stuffing which can be cooked separately. Alternatively, freeze a large ball of stuffing to use the next time you want to make a roast dinner.  Ensure you defrost thoroughly before cooking.)

Fill cavity of turkey with thyme and parsley

Coat the turkey with butter and top with the bacon rashers

Traditional Hungarian Turkey

Cover the turkey with foil

Cook on 180 degrees Celsius (lower for a fan oven) according to weight (instructions on packaging) but allow extra time for stuffing

Remove foil 30 minutes before end time

When cooked (juices will run clear) allow to stand for 30 minutes before carving

Traditional Hungarian Turkey
Traditional Hungarian Turkey

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Harcho – Georgian Lamb Soup Recipe

This is a great hearty dish, perfect for a big party of people and ideal served with chunky fresh bread.  The best bit about the dish is it is easily adaptable to cooking in a slow cooker so when you come home from work, your home smells great and you can sit down to a home-cooked meal even when you’ve had a hard day at work!

Ingredients

600g lamb chunks

1.5l lamb stock

3 large white onions chopped finely

5 garlic cloves crushed

3 tomatoes cut into quarters

5 tbsp rapeseed oil

1 tbsp tomato puree

5 tbsp long grain rice

5 tbsp chopped fresh parsley

3 tbsp coriander for garnish

Instructions

Heat the oil in a pan and seal the lamb chunks

georgianlambsoup-2

Place the lamb chunks into a slow cooker with the stock and garlic

Fry the onion in the rest of the oil for 5 minutes

geogianlambsoup3

Add the puree and tomatoes for 1 minute

georgianlambsoup4

Stir and add to the lamb and stock

Add the chili and parsley and cook for 4 to 5 hours

georgianlambsoup5

The rice can be added initially to the slow cooker, but if you are at home add 30 minutes before you want to serve

To serve, distribute the lamb between dishes (serves 4) and add equal quantities of liquid and rice mixture to each one

Garnish with chopped coriander and serve with chunky bread

Harcho - Georgian Lamb Soup

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Czech Baked Salmon

This recipe is perfect for a quick but super healthy meal and requires just seven ingredients (and that’s counting salt and pepper as two!)  If you don’t want to use salmon, trout is a reasonable alternative, or mackerel could be used but I would imagine that could produce quite a different taste.

Czech Baked Salmon
Czech Baked Salmon

Read more…

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Russian Lepeshki Recipe

Russian Lepeshki Biscuits
Russian Lepeshki Biscuits

Baking is something of a guilty/secret pleasure.  I love baking.  I love baking bread.  I absolutely adore baking biscuits.  I seem to manage to surround myself with people who also love baking, those who are able to produce baking perfection.  Why is baking such a guilty pleasure for me?  I’m normally one of those people who likes to throw everything in a pot, stir, serve and eat.  You can’t really do that with baking.  It takes precision.  So don’t tell anyone that I actually quite enjoy the technicality of baking!  It’s just between you and me!

When I came across a recipe for Lepeshki, a Russian biscuit which uses sour cream instead of butter and just knew I had to give the recipe a go.

Ingredients (for about 24 biscuits)

275g self-raising flour

Pinch of salt

90g caster sugar (vanilla sugar if you have it)

1 egg separated

1 egg whisked

120ml sour cream

2 tsp vanilla and almond extract

(You can use less, you can use more, I just really love vanilla and almonds)

1 tbsp milk

50g flaked almonds

Instructions

Preheat oven to 200 degrees Celsius/ 400 degrees Fahrenheit / Gas Mark 6

Sift the flour, salt and sugar into a mixing bowl

Make a well in the centre

lepeshki-2

Whisk one of the eggs and mix with the sour cream, vanilla and almond extracts and milk

lepeshki-3

Add to the dry ingredients to form a soft dough

(I feel I should divulge some information regarding flour at this point.  The original recipes was for 225g of flour, but this made a dough which was so runny there was absolutely no way I was going to be able to roll it out.  I added more by eye and think you probably need 275g of flour instead but as each flour varies, you will have to give it a go and if it becomes too dry you may need to add some extra wet ingredients.  I think the recipe I had was just a bit wrong, but still, use your instinct rather than relying on numbers!)

lepeshki-4

Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface until about 8mm/ 1/3in thick

(It may be preferable to cool the dough in the fridge before rolling as it becomes warm very quickly and it may be good to roll out sections at a time and keep the remaining in the fridge until you are ready to cut more)

lepeshki-5

Cut the biscuits into rounds with a 7.5cm/3in cutter

Transfer the circles to a lightly oiled baking sheet on a baking tray

Separate the other egg

Brush the biscuits with the egg white

Sprinkle with flaked almonds

lepeshki-6

Bake for 8 to 10 minutes until light golden brown

Transfer to a wire rack to cool

Serve!
Serve!

Store in an airtight container (unless you are feeling particularly piggy and want to devour the lot!)

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