Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Special time

I am sure for many of you Friday or Saturday will be quite important day. Whether you celebrate Christmas as a purely religious thing or just follow the festive feeling as a laic. For me it is a special moment tonight. It is winter solstice and this is magical time.

As Pole I do not celebrate as most Catholics do. It may surprise you but for me pre-Christian tradition is more important. I follow a natural rhythm of season and solstice itself is a special moment of the annual cycle of the year. It is time when light wins over the darkness, the days are getting longer. It is time for change. Old cycle is dying, new one is being born.

For me it is time of reflection and also making plans for a future. When the days are getting longer, for me it is almost like being reborn physically.

We will have a decorated tree (purely pagan thing!), I will prepare tasty food, we will have presents, wishing ourselves health and happiness, and we will welcome any guest with a joy. We hope to remain in this mood until new year perhaps until Spring.

Whatever way you celebrate I wish you happy holiday and all the best for New Year.

I will take a short brake and come back after 1 January 2011. Have a lovely time!

Monday, 20 December 2010

Potato & leek gratin (+ ham version) & review

Thanks to CSN Stores I had the opportunity to test KitchenCraft Master Class Stainless Steel Mandolin Set. It came in a full gift/storage box. Seven interchangeable stainless steel blades - for various slicing, shredding are included. Also it has large safety guard to protect fingers - quite handy for me, as I tend to cut fingers when slicing. Ideal for slicing, chopping and grating and perfect for making quick and easy garnishes, especially for someone who like me does not have a variety of fine or coarse slicing or grating blade within a food processor. With this one I decide how thick the slices should be. The instructions make it clear how to set the blades up and there is a scale on the side of the main unit (in inches and mm) to allow you to set the slice thickness. All the blades come in their own box, quite handy for storage and due to the safety reasons - they are sharp.

Some of the blades you have to use together and unfortunately there are no instructions on how some of the blades must be used together otherwise they won't do the job. However, I believe it is not difficult thing to work out.

It is very stable, has non slip holders, so there is no way it will move on the worktop.

So far I used it to slice potatoes and it work very well, however I have seen some reviews saying that it is not working with softer stuff like tomatoes - instead it squishes them. Quite honestly - my main idea of using mandolin was slicing root veg (mainly for gratins, so the vegetables cook evenly) and so far I am happy with it.

Certainly not as good as the professional, worth ₤200 (or more) but will do the job in a household, I think keen cooks should be delighted. The 25 year guarantee is a bonus. Definitely good value for money.

So today I decided to show you my favourite potato and leek gratin, that can be easily converted to meaty one by adding few slices of ham. Gratins were the main reason of buying this mandolin, as my food processor has a coarse slicing blade which is too thick and it takes ages to cook gratin. I am not a qualified skilled chef therefore I am not able to slice vegetables by hand into even slices. This mandolin came really handy.

Serves 2

5-6 medium potatoes, peeled and sliced
1 large leek, finely sliced (I use white and light green part)
little bit butter
2 bay leaves
freshly ground black pepper
150ml double cream
150ml milk
100ml vegetable stock
2 garlic cloves, peeled and halved
2 slices of cooked ham (optional)
2 handfuls of grated mature Cheddar (or your favourite cheese)

Preheat the oven to 170 C.
Butter two ovenproof dishes and place potato, leek and ham (skip for veggie option) in even layers, starting with potatoes and finish off with potatoes too. Sprinkle each layer of potatoes with pinch of salt and pepper. Tuck the bay leaf to each dish.

Prepare the sauce. Pour the stock, cream and milk into a small saucepan, add the garlic and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 2 minutes. Remove the garlic and pour the sauce over layered potatoes.

Place the dishes on a baking tray lined with baking paper to catch any spills (mixture bubbles and tend to runs out the dish whilst baking). Cover loosely with kitchen foil and place in the oven for about 40 minutes. Then uncover and bake for another 25 minutes. After this time sprinkle with cheese and bake for another 15 minutes.

Serve warm and remember to remove the bay leaves from the dishes before serving. Very good on its own but it can also complement some meat, as a side dish.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

French? English? Onion soup

It was one of these days when I needed to eat hot, comforting soup. It was Sunday, so there was no way I could go to the shop and get some extra ingredients. Due to… Sunday, distance to the nearest shop and Sunday (lets call it this way) laziness.

I checked my freezer and found some real beef stock that I’ve made especially for classic French onion soup. Suddenly I felt this overwhelming feeling – I had to eat this soup. I have checked the list of ingredients: onions, butter, white wine (from a box, but what a hell!), piece of two days old baguette, some fresh thyme. Cheese… No Gruyere in a fridge… There is plenty of… Cheddar, typical English cheese. Ooops!

Everyone who knows little bit about the history realises what for centuries were the mutual feelings between English and French people. However not many people knows that English people have their own way to disrespect others - lets compare it to the American obscene gesture performed by showing the back of the hand, extending the middle finger. English one looks little bit different and is performed by showing back of the hand and extending two fingers – an index and middle one. Did you ever think where it comes from? In the earlier part of the millennium, when England and France were frequently at battle, the French would cut-off the English archers’ (taken as prisoners) fingers necessary for shooting an arrow. After this became known to the English archers, they would flash this gesture to the French in the battlefield, showing them that they still had their fingers and could still cause lot damage in the battle.

In my kitchen – I decided – there will not be such quarrels! I will make this classic French soup and finish it off with a crouton with most famous English cheese.

Serves 2

25g butter
about 500g white onion, peeled
tbsp fresh thyme leaves
1/4 tsp sugar
about 125ml dry white wine
about 600ml beef stock
2 slices of baguette
few drops of olive oil
garlic clove
some grated cheddar
freshly ground black pepper

Heat the butter in a large pan and gently cook the onion, sugar and thyme until the onion is softened but not browned - about 25 minutes. Increase the heat and cook until the onion becomes dark golden, sticky and caramelised, stirring now and again to stop it catching. Add the wine and simmer for a minute or so, until most of the wine evaporates, then add the stock and bring to the boil. Season with salt and pepper, cover and simmer for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, drizzle the bread with some olive oil and place under hot grill. When one side is golden, remove from the oven, rub each with peeled garlic, turn up side down and sprinkle with the cheese. Grill until golden and chesse is melted.

Serve the soup with the cheese croutons on top and you can garnish with some fresh thyme.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Rosemary & mint salt - Christmas gifts vol. 5

I have gone crazy. I have made another flavoured salt. I simply could not resist especially when I smelled fresh rosemary the other day. Also because I knew there is some leftover fresh mint in my fridge, which I bought for a dinner (this pasta). Therefore next day I prepared another flavoured salt which in my opinion will go very well with lamb. I had the opportunity to taste it last weekend and it is perfect with roast potatoes. It smells lovely and look at this colour!

about 8 tbsp rock sea salt (or flaky)
about 2 tbsp fresh rosemary, leaves picked
about 2 tbsp fresh mint, leaves picked

Place all of the ingredients in the food processor and grind until herbs are finely grinded but salt still remains bit coarse. You can make a fine salt if you like.

It happens that I had oven reheated to 175C because I just finished to bake a cake, so I turned the oven off and placed salt sprinkled over a baking tray lined with paper inside. Shake it every 10 minutes , two or three times so the salt dries out evenly. Leave it to cool down in the oven. Then place in clean, sterilised jar.

It might be my last flavoured salt, but perhaps something will inspire me again... Who knows?

Monday, 13 December 2010

My first interview in English is now on!

I am extremly happy to annouce that last week I had my first interview in English and today it is on. I am glad that English speaking readers can get to know me better, as my previous interview was published in Polish only.

To read it please follow this link.

I hope you will enjoy it!

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Cranberry & orange jam with vanilla and cardamom - Christmas gifts vol. 4

I have just finished my lazy Sunday breakfast and still in my mouth I have this lovely taste of the best jam I have ever made. It is not too sweet, but kind sour-bitter with this lovely hint of cardamom. I think the orange marmalade lovers would like this jam because it has this nice bitterness coming from the orange peel.

When fresh cranberries still in season I will have to make more of this lovely jam because those jars I prepared yesterday will have to be a part of my Christmas hampers for my colleagues. Cranberries again? I simply cannot resist them in the winter season and they are so Christmassy, aren't they? Besides I am so proud of this jam that I have to share it my some other people!

Makes 5 x 190ml jars

500g fresh cranberries
1 large orange
500g sugar
beans of one vanilla pod (or tsp of natural vanilla extract)
3 cardamoms
juice of half lemon
125ml pectin (optional - if you do not use it the jam will be more runny, I preferred it more jelly like; alternatively you can use jam sugar with added pectin)

Pell the orange with veg peeler, thinly and then cut into thin strips.

Remove the cardamom seeds from their skins and smash into a powder using pestle and mortar,

Place cranberries, sugar, orange peel and whole orange juice, lemon juice, cardamom and vanilla in a big pan. Bring to the boiling point, turn the heat down and simmer until most of the cranberries burst. (I love the sound they make!).

Remove form the oven and stir in the pectin (if using) and place hot jam in warm, sterilised jars. Seal, turn up side down and let them to cool down completely.

To be quite honest I don't know how long it will last in a dark cool place, but I think at least 3 months. However I do not think it will last that long - it is so delicious that it disappears quickly ...

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Szechuan pepper, lemon, chilli & fennel salt - Christmas gifts vol. 3

My first Christmas gifts post turned out to be quite popular, so I decided to make another flavoured salt. I did not realise how easy is it and it is only your own imagination that limits you, and obviously the herbs and spices in your cupboard.

So if you liked my thyme and lemon salt I hope you will like this one, which perhaps is more interesting for people who like more intense flavours and aroma of spices rather than herbs. Also it makes nice set together with a previous salt. This one should go nicely with pork, fish and vegetable dishes. It has a bit of a kick.

I hope you will enjoy making your own salts. Certainly his is not my last one, but I am not sure if I will manage to show another one before Christmas, so use your imagination and create your own and have fun at the same time.

about 10 tbsp of rock sea salt (or flaky)
rind of one lemon (try to peel it quite thin, the white bit could e bitter)
1 whole dried chilli
2 tbsp Szechuan (or Sichuan) pepper
2 tbsp fennel seeds

Preheat the oven to about 100 C.

Cut the lemon peel into small squares and place onto a baking tray. Place in the oven, set the temperature to about 100 C and bake for about 15 minutes. Turn the oven off and leave the lemon rind closed in the oven until completely cold.

Roughly chop the lemon rind and all the spices in mini chopper or using pestle and mortar. Next add salt and grind - again roughly or finely. I decided to make fine salt so all the flavours mix together and the salt is ready to use.

Place in dry, clean ,airtight jars.

Monday, 6 December 2010

Cranberry & apple chutney - Christmas gifts vol. 2

Today another Christmas gift idea as the time is running like mad and there is less than three weeks left now! I have seen similar recipe in "Good Food" magazine, December 2010 issue, but I have made something similar in the past which I did not place in the jars but used immediately with some roast meat. Inspired by magazine I decided to place this chutney in a jars and leave it to matire for few weeks before Christmas.

Click here for lemon & thyme salt - another exciting Christmas gift idea.

Makes about 4 x 200ml jars

3 large, cooking apples
1 firm pear
1 large, white onion
350g fresh cranberries
piece of fresh ginger, walnut size
about 150g sugar
about 100ml cider of white wine vinegar
few whole black peppercorns

Peel and core the apples and pear, then dice it into small pieces. Peel the onion, cut in half and into slices. Peel and finely chop the ginger.

Place all ingredients except cranberries in a heavy-based pan, then gently heat, stirring, until the sugar dissolves. Bring to the boil, then reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, stirring regularly until the apples and onions are tender and there is no watery juice remains.

Then add the cranberries and stir gently. Keep on the heat for another 10 minutes until cranberries are softened but not all of them are burst.

Spoon the hot chutney into sterilised jars, seal and store in a cool dark place. It will keep up to 6 months. It taste the best after 2-3 weeks of maturing.

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Lemon & thyme salt - Christmas gifts vol. 1

Few weeks ago I was bit concerned with the fact that I probably will not be able to show you some exciting Christmas recipes this year. First of all I do not have much spare time to cook complicated and time consuming dishes and in addition I probably would not be able to buy some of the ingredients required to cook some Polish festive recipes. Also, when I am away from home and dishes that my Mum cooks the best, I am not bothered about cooking any special dishes for Christmas, especially there will only be two of us, so there is no point going crazy with the amount of food.

However I didn't want to disappoint you, My Dear Readers so I managed to prepare two things so far, that can be lovely Christmas presents for food lovers. In my opinion most people appreciate handmade gifts. What better could you wish for foodie?

Bad weather certainly helped me - since Tuesday I finish work earlier and fitness centre cancelled classes and closes much earlier, so I spend more time and home.

Do you wonder where I have found an inspiration for this? Few weeks ago I have found a salt grinder by Jamie Oliver on a sale. It was thyme and lemon salt and I went absolutely crazy about it. I add it almost to everything - meat, fish soups, vegetables. I am not sure if I can manage to get some more so I decided to make my own. This is how it turned out:

Nice, isn't it? And so tasty! So place this lovely salt in a fancy jar and you have pretty Christmas gif. Perhaps you will manage to buy nice grinder and make a lovely set? I think somebody will appreciate your work and hand made gift. This is all you need:

about 10 tbsp of rock sea salt (or flaky)
about 30g fresh thyme (or lemon thyme)
1 bay leaf
rind of one lemon (try to peel it quite thin, the white bit could e bitter)

Preheat the oven to about 100 C.

Cut the lemon peel into small squares and place onto a baking tray lined with baking paper together with bay leaf and thyme. Place in the oven and bake until the thyme is completely dry, turning once or twice.

Remove thyme and bay leaf from the tray, return the lemon to the oven and turn the oven off. Leave it closed in the oven until completely cold.

Shake the leaves off the thyme springs. Crush bay leaf into a salt and mix with thyme.

Remove the lemon peel from the oven and mix with the rest of ingredients.

You can obviously grind your salt in a grinder or food processor and you will end up with fine flavoured salt.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Fennel & squash tart Tatin & review

Thanks to CSN Stores I had the opportunity to test Le Creuset tart Tatin dish. I do not think there is need to tell you how good this range is, so I will keep my review short.

This 25cm, 4cm deep cast iron, heavy based dish came with a booklet informing that it is suitable to use on the hobs, gas ovens, electric, fan etc. Also it contains few interesting recipes, not for Tatin tarts only and use and care instruction in six different languages.

What I love about this dish (except from stunning look - I love "volcanic" line) is the position of the handles. They are set lower than the top pf the dish so it is much easier to turn the dish upside down and flip the contents over. It was not that comforting when using an ordinary pan for making tart Tatin.

After use it is easy to clean, dishwasher safe. I am sure you can use it for other dishes and I am certainly going to do it in the future (roasting potatoes? making gratin? you name it!). Worth it's price, will last for ages. Definite must have for all tart Tatin lovers.

Today I am going to show you another tart Tatin, but again - not a classic one. Again it is going to be veg Tatin and this is my absolutely number one when butternut squash in season. It is quite controversial - people either love it or hate it. It is vegetable although quite sweet and it has this specific star anise flavour thanks to a fennel. I have to admit I couldn't stand the stuff till I was in my twenties and I "blame" the fennel for loving or heating this tart. I love it.

Recipe inspired by "Vegetarian Christmas" by Good Food magazine, December 2008 issue.

Makes one 25cm tart

piece of butternut squash, cut into few long strips (it is important to cut them so they can fit into dish, arranged into a flower like shape)
fennel bulb, sliced
2 garlic cloves, unpeeled
tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
small handful of dried cranberries
ready rolled puff pastry, big enough to cover the dish
salt (I used thyme & lemon peel salt)
black pepper
tbsp freshly grated parmesan
fresh thyme to decorate would be ideal I forgot to buy it, so used fresh mint instead

Heat the oven to 180C.

Place the squash, fennel and garlic on a baking tray lined with some baking paper, drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and pepper and roast for about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile place the tart dish on the hob and add sugar with about 30ml of water. Leave it to boil, do not stir. When it starts to bubble and changes the colour to golden remove from the hob add vinegar and stir thoroughly.

Remove the veg from the oven and turn the temperature up to 200C.

Arrange alternately the fennel and squash into flower like shape. Squeeze the garlic out of its skins and chop roughly. Arrange onto the veg. Place some cranberries in the spaces between veg. Sprinkle with parmesan and cover with the puff pastry. Gently push the edges down to the dish. Prick the top of the pastry with a fork few times so the steam can easily go out.

Place in the oven and bake for about 20 minutes until golden. Remove from the oven and leave it to rest for few minutes. Place a big plate on the dish and turn up side down. Do not worry if anything stocks to the dish, as the caramel is quite sticky. Gently remove it from the dish and place on the tart.

Decorate with few fresh thyme springs (instead there is a mint on my picture). Serve hot or cold.

Interested in up side down tarts? Click here for my other Tatin recipe.

Monday, 29 November 2010

Christmas cake

I missed last Sunday - the stir-up Sunday, because I was still in Poland. I honestly doubt if I would have made traditional Christmas pudding, however I was really keen to make my own Christmas cake this year. There are hundreds of recipes in internet, cookery books and websites but I decided to use a recipe from "How to be a Domestic Goddess" by Nigella Lawson. I used the basic idea but I have changed the quantities of dried fruits. Click here , for the original recipe. I have made two cakes - one in round 20 cm tin and other in bread tin, based on the third column of quantities.

Today I am going to show baked cake that you have to store in airtight container and feed with brandy every 2-3 days. Traditionally it would be covered with some apricot jam, marzipan and icing just before Christmas, but I am not a big fan of icing so I think I will leave it on its own. Perhaps I will make some icing and decoration for one of them if I decide to give it away. Click here for the decoration ideas.

This cake goes amazingly well with some Real Wensleydale cheese.

500g raisins
600g sultanas
250g mixed peel
200g glace cherries
250g dried cranberries
5-6 pieces of stem ginger, chopped
200ml brandy (or sherry)
300g butter
250g brown sugar
zest of one orange
zest of one lemon
6 big eggs
3 tbsp orange marmalade (I used one with ginger by Tiptree)
500g plain flour
1 1/2 tsp mixed spice
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp almond extract
1/4 tsp salt
more brandy to feed the cake over next few weeks

Place all of the fruit in a large bowl and add the brandy. Leave to soak overnight.

Next day preheat the oven to 150C and line baking tin with brown paper.

Cream the butter and sugar, then beat in the orange and lemon zest. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each one and then add the marmalade and almond extract.

Sift the dry ingredients together.

Then mix the fruit alternately with the dry ingredients into the creamed mixture.

Put the cake mix into the prepared tin and bake for about 2 hours.

When the cake is cooked, brush with a couple of tablespoons of extra brandy. Cover immediately in a tin foil – this will trap the heat and form steam, which in turn will keep the cake soft on top. Remove the cake from the tin when it is completety cold. Wrap in a paper, secure with some elastic and if needed and store in airtight container, for at least 3 weeks. Remember to feed it with some more brandy every 2-3 days.

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Winter in Dales

Winter has come on last Wednesday. Today we just managed to come back from a walk before it started to snow again. Welcome to Semerwater lake and Aysgarth waterfalls.

(click the photos to enlarge)

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Pancotto - Italian bread soup

Probably every nation have their own way to use a stale bread. In Poland the region I come from have it's own - a soup made with bread cubes, garlic, some lard and hot water. It is very poor and not my favourite unless it is made in more expensive version - with stock and croutons fried in butter.

However my mate who spends quite a lot time in her house in Italy (in Sabina) gave me this recipe for bread soup that I fell in love immediately. It is fantastic as you can use different cheese each time and end up with completely different taste. Also it is up to you if you want to add more bread crumbs to make it thicker.

It is great for autumn and winter, served hot, this amount of garlic, chilli and fresh parsley will keep any colds away from you, but it tastes great when tepid when the temperature outside is little bit higher.

Makes 2-3

piece of stale, good quality bread (I used sourdough baguette, it is important to have good quality bread otherwise it will become mash like when cooked), about 6-8 1cm slices
generous splash of good quality olive oil (bread should be easily covered with it)
4 large garlic cloves, peeled
big handful of fresh parsley
1 finger length red chilli
2-3 tbsp grated parmesan, grana padano or pecorino cheese
about 1l vegetable stock

Heat the oil in a pan.

Process the bread until you have coarse bread crumbs.

Finely chop the garlic, chilli and most of the parsley.

In the pan fry the bread crumbs for few minutes, stirring then add garlic, chilli and parsley and fry for another 2 minutes. Bread crumbs should be golden and crispy.

Add hot stock and simmer over a low heat for about 5 minutes.

Serve in the bowls sprinkled with some cheese and the remaining chopped parsley.

P.S. Thank you for your patience - I have come back from my short break in Poland and hope to publish on more regular basis now.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Upcoming review!

Another exciting opportunity with CSN Stores where you can find everything from unique lighting, to modern bedroom furniture, or great cookware (i.e. great Le Creuset range!). Stay tuned as I will be testing some more kitchen equipment soon.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Squash & turnip crumble

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall has an excellent kitchen with AGA oven, huge fireplace and obviously lovely wooden dining table. I have a big wooden dinning table myself but I am little bit jealous of his kitchen. And his lifestyle. I wish I could have this nice upper class country lifestyle, have lots of time to maintain my own veg garden, fruit trees and go fishing. Unfortunately I have to work 8 hours a day, I don’t have my own cottage or even a greenhouse. So one thing that I can do similar to Hugh is cooking lovely stuff inspired by his recipes. At least the jealousy can mobilise to make good things sometimes…

When I first time saw root veg crumble on his TV show I could not stop thinking about it. I thought that I make my own inspired by his recipe. Squash was quite natural choice because it is in season now. So I made the most beautiful crumble I ever had, and because roasted veg are quite sweet I cannot tell that it was 100% savoury. Very interesting! You have to try it.

Serves 2

half medium butternut squash, peeled, deseeded and cut into bite size chunks
medium turnip, peeled and cut into bite size chunks
large carrot, peeled and cut in four lengthwise and then into about inch pieces
medium onion, peeled, halved and sliced
garlic clove, peeled and roughly chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
half tsp honey
half tsp wholegrain mustard
few springs of fresh thyme, leaves picked
salt (I used
sea salt with lemon peel and thyme
freshly ground black pepper

For the topping

piece of stale bread (I used piece of ciabatta about one bread roll size), roughly diced
50g walnuts
handful of oats (I used Scottish porridge oats)
tbsp freshly grated parmesan

Heat the oven to 180 C.

Mix the olive, garlic, honey, thyme and mustard together.

In an ovenproof dish arrange all vegetables and pour the olive mixture over them. Season with salt and pepper, mix well with a spoon, cover with piece of tin foil and place in the oven, for about 20 minutes.

Process the bread and walnuts in a food processor until coarsely chopped. Mix with the oats and parmesan.

Uncover the vegetables and increase the temperature to 200 C. Roast for about 8-10 minutes, then cover with topping and roast until golden and crispy.

Perfect on its own, but also I am going to serve it with roast lamb in the future.

Monday, 8 November 2010

Harissa baked salmon & oven chips with capers

I hate when people are looking for the excuses for not cooking meals at home. The most frequent one is lack of time. They try to convince me that buying take-aways is much quicker. Well if you fancy unhealthy meal I can’t see any problem – at the end of the day it is your body not mine, but do not try to tell me that cooking a proper dinner takes more than 30-40 minutes (this is how long it takes me to drive to take-away and back home). You simply cannot admit that you either can’t cook or don’t like to cook, because cooking a meal is a matter of little over half hour.

The key is an attitude I suppose, and multitasking. Think in advance, reheat the oven and pan in the same time, chop the vegetables and boil the kettle so you will have hot water in the pan ready for cooking. This is how meals in restaurants are being prepared.

Today I had chosen a fish, because it only needs about 15-17 minutes in the oven. And there is one more thing that I would like to say – I only prepared one meal in about 35 minutes. Jamie Oliver in his new series makes 3 course dinners in less than 30 minutes.

Serves 2

2 salmon steaks, skinless, boneless
2 level tsp harissa
3 large potatoes (I used Maris Piper)
3 tbsp olive oil
handful salted capers
2 handfuls of fresh baby spinach
garlic clove
2 lemon slices
some small tomatoes on the vine

Right. Shall we start a timer? Here we go!

I came back from work about 5.45pm on Friday night, dropped coat and shoes and immediately put the oven on, at about 220 C. Also I put the kettle on, and I added about 1 cm of cold water into a pan and put it on a hob so it boiled in a good time.

From my shopping bag I took the salmon, potatoes, tomatoes and spinach out. From the fridge – jar of harissa and one with salted capers.

I peeled the potatoes quickly and chopped each into about 6-8 fat, chunky chips. The water in the kettle has boiled, to I topped the pan on the hob with some hot water and added a sprinkle of salt and boiled the chips for about 8 minutes. (Set the timer – it helps)

I placed handful of capers in a sieve and left it in a sink under running cold water, at the same time I lined two baking trays with some baking paper. I turned the water off and left capers to drain a bit. I put the pan on the hob and reheat it.

On one of the baking trays I have placed the salmon fillets and covered each one with some harissa. The oven was hot already, so I placed the salmon on the lower shelf and I have checked the pan with chips.

I have drained the chips and placed them on the second baking tray, drizzled with 2 tbsp of olive oil and added capers and two slices of lemon. I used very little salt, as capers are quite salty. I have placed the tray over the salmon and set the timer for about 15 minutes.

After 10 minutes I added tomatoes on the vine to the tray with the chips and turned on the grill.

Pan on the hob was really hot already so I added rest of the oil together with unpeeled crushed garlic clove. I fried it for about 1 minute until the garlic infused the oil and then removed from the pan and put it in the bin. Next I added the spinach to the pan with pinch of salt and lept it over a low heat until was lightly wilted and then removed from a hob and covered.

I placed two plates into a microwave and heat them for about 1 minute. Timer went off so I have removed the fish from the oven. Chips were nice and golden too, so I removed them from the oven and turned it off.

I have arranged some spinach on each plate and placed piece of fish onto each. Next I added some chips with capers and slice of lemon and roasted tomatoes. My partner set out the table, lighted the candles, and prepared the wine. I took few photos of our dinner and we sat at the table. It was around 6.20pm. What more would you like (except from dessert)?

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Wholemeal penne with squash & salted capers (+bacon version)

I love recipes that I can easily convert into vegetarian or to meaty cooking both versions at the same time. I am not a big meat lover and I could eat it 3 times a week, but my partner is a big man, he is working physically and however he appreciates vegetarian food he is able to have two veggie dinners a week, otherwise he needs to eat meat or fish.

Therefore I figured out how to convert many of favourite recipes so I can cook two dinners at the same time and keep ourselves happy and well fed.

This is one of those. I have found this recipe on one of Polish forums and have changed it slightly (also by adding bacon) had it in favourites for two years until I was able to buy salted capers from a local delicatessen. It was worth waiting.

Serves 2

200g wholemeal penne
small butternut squash, deseeded, peeled and cut into 2 cm dice
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp salted capers
1 tbsp butter
1 garlic clove, peeled and finely chopped
handful of fresh parsley, chopped
some grated Grana Padano
3 rashers unsmoked bacon, sliced in strips
freshly ground black pepper

Heat the oven to 200 C. Boil a big pan of salted water for pasta.

Rinse the capers carefully and leave to dry.

In an ovenproof pan heat the oil and fry the squash. After few minutes place the pan in the oven. Roast the squash for about 10 minutes, adding the butter, capers and garlic for last 2 minutes.

Boil the pasta al dente and in the dry pan fry the bacon strips.

Drain the pasta and mix with the roasted squash and add bacon to one half. Serve on the bowls sprinkled with some Grana Padano and chopped parsley.

Monday, 1 November 2010

Dark chocolate chips & cranberries shortbread

I have made those shortbreads because I was short of chocolate chips and shop is too far away to go for one missing ingredient. I had all of the ingredients for a dough measured in a bowl when I realised that I have not enough chocolate chips in my cupboard. Although I have found some dried cranberries and decided to add them along the chips. The outcome was fantastic and these will replace my lavender shortbread for a long time, Autumn and Winter for sure.

375g plain flour, sieved
250g unsalted butter, diced
125g caster sugar
handful dark chocolate chips
handful dried cranberries

In a bowl mix the flour with sugar and add diced butter. Work with your fingers (or use food processor) to bring the dough together. At the end add chocolate chips and cranberries.

Form the dough into a rolling pin shape (or huge sausage), wrap in cling film and place in a fridge.

Heat the oven to 140C and line a baking tray with some baking paper. Cut the dough into about 7mm thick cookies and place them on the tray, not too tightly. (I bake them in two batches). Bake for about 15 minutes.

Remove from the oven and gently transfer onto a cooling rack. These are quite soft when warm so you have to be careful as you can easily break them. Cool down on a wire rack and store up to one week in airtight container.

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Smoked mackerel páté

I was not so keen to try any fish páté since I had trauma from my childhood when somebody fed me with fish pate on a summer camp. It was made from... I do not know and I prefer not to. Sometimes ignorance is bliss. However some time ago I saw smoked mackerel and I had to buy it. I did not know what I am going to make, but it was one of those moments that I could not resist the feeling of buying something.

I found a lovely recipe from Jamie Oliver on Daily Mail website, but I am unable to find it at the moment, I think it was removed. It was a Christmas party crowd pleaser and he made a huge amount of it, so I decided to make half of it. Few days later I rushed to the local market to get some more smoked fish. It was the best mackerel páté I have ever tried.

I have to admit I hesitated for a moment with a horseradish, so I added half of it but after I tasted it I decided to go for the whole amount because it was the horseradish that gives it a special kick.

I used the following quantities, but if you planning a party, do not hesitate to double it.

400g smoked mackerel
190ml soured cream
3 tsp horseradish
zest and juice of one lemon
big handful of fresh parsley, chopped
freshly ground black pepper

Remove skin from the mackerel and mash the flesh with a fork. Add cream, horseradish, pepper, most of the lemon zest, whole lemon juice and most of the chopped parsley. Mix it all together.

Serve on slices of grilled read, topped with some parsley and lemon zest.

Monday, 25 October 2010

Moroccan style chicken & sweet potato mash

Following my recent recipe for harissa I am going to show you a whole dish that you can cook for dinner using this hot chilli sauce. My choice was quite obvious and natural - a dish inspired by North African cuisine.

When we went to Morocco last year we were delighted with everything we tried. The food is fantastic, mouth watering, aromatic and spicy - I don't mean hot, but it has a lovely aroma and flavour coming from different herbs and spices. Sometimes we did not have to do anything but close our eyes and breathe this lovely aromas in. It was enough to get close to the culinary ecstasy.

I would recommend Moroccan cuisine to any food lover, but it is better to try dishes from small restaurants or meals made on streets or markets as it taste better than safe menu prepared for an average European tourist in hotels. This is how you get a true local taste.

I haven't got a traditional tagin dish but I have prepared something inspired by North Africa cuisine with some Moroccan influences. I like when aroma of the spices fills up our cottage, especially when it is cold outside. It brings the warmth to our hearts and stomachs.

I have found a recipe in "Good Food", October 2010 issue, but I have changed it, so this is how I made it:

serves 2

2 chicken breasts, skinless, boneless(you can use any chicken pieces with bones, but it will take longer to cook it)
1 level tsp harissa
2 tbsp neutral olive oil
1 onion, peeled, halved and sliced
1 garlic clove, peeled and finely chopped
1 large tomato, peeled, deseeded and roughly chopped
about 200ml vegetable or chicken stock
8 whole dried apricots
handful whole, black olives
tsp honey
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
freshly ground black pepper

some chopped parsley or coriander to garnish

Spread the harissa over the chicken and leave it in a fridge to marinate for whole day or at least for two hours before cooking.

In a pan heat 1 tbsp olive oil and fry the chicken on both sides until seared. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Heat the remaining oil in the pan and fry the onions for about 3 minutes, until slightly softened and add garlic. Fry for another minute or so, next add tomato, stock, honey, cinnamon and return the meat into the pan. Add apricots, season with some salt and pepper, cover and simmer for about 15 minutes. Next add the olives and simmer for another 5 minutes.

Serve sliced with some sauce and

Sweet potato mash

serves 2

2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and diced roughly
pinch of freshly ground nutmeg
1 tbsp neutral olive oil

Boil the potatoes in a pan of salted water until soft. Drain well, return to the pan with oil and nutmeg and mash until smooth.

I served it sprinkled with some chopped parsley but I think some fresh chopped coriander would be even better.

If you are looking for something else inspired by Moroccan cuisine click here.

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Upcomming review!

CSN Stores has over 200 online stores where you can find everything from wardrobes to fantastic fitness equipment to cookware. Stay tuned to find out what was my recent choice and how I am going to use it. It will be good looking, tasty, comforting and seasonal. Wicked - believe me!

Thursday, 21 October 2010


Few years back when I use to read about standards required in Michelin stars restaurants I was bit shocked. But then after few years I totally understand why all of those standards are so high. I use to think that chopping vegetables into equal pieces or spending time on making your own pastry is a bit of a waste of time and called it quite obsessive.

Professional Michelin inspectors anonymously visit restaurants evaluate them on a range of criteria. If they are impressed by a restaurant, they visit the establishment again. And again. Quite an obsessive research, isn’t it? This actually makes the Michelin stars restaurants such a reliable place to eat. No matter what the occasion, time of the year you will always find the best food in those places. Also, I believe that you will remember this meal for long…

It is not only the prestige of the place that comes with Michelin stars but also a big money – the restaurants can be fully booked months in advance.

Now after few years of cooking at home, learning new skills, tasting menus from different chefs I know exactly that those small things make a huge difference. These things are taking dishes to the new exciting level.

I know that sometimes it is difficult to find time to make your own puff pastry, pesto or real stock and we use some bought, ready – made. It is OK, but it certainly brings the taste down. No matter how expensive the stuff from the shops is, the homemade one is always better.

Call me snob, or obsessed but I prefer to make my own pesto, pastry or stock. This is what makes my guests think “WOW” when they try my dishes. Perhaps this is something that you cannot name, you are not sure what it is, but you can tell that it makes big difference to the taste. It is important for me, because I eat not only to satisfy a hunger…

Taking all the above into a consideration I stopped buying ready made harissa and made my own, that was much better than any from a jar that I tried before. This hot chilli sauce is commonly eaten in North Africa and Middle East. It is great with any meat dish, if you like hot dishes, excellent with veg too – especially with lentils or beans dishes.

From “Good Food”, September 2010 issue

Makes about 5 tablespoons

10 fresh red finger length chillies
1 ½tsp coriander seeds
½ tsp cumin seeds
½ tsp caraway seeds
3 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
½ sea salt, preferably flaked
2 tsp tomato puree
2½ tsp lemon juice
1 tbsp olive oil (mild, not extra virgin, as it will overpower the taste of other ingredients)
7 drops rose water (optional, but highly recommended!)

Place frying pan over a medium heat and char the chillies turning them now and then until fairly blackened and covered in “blisters”. Remove from a pan, place in a plastic bad, seal it and leave it to cool down slightly, for about 10 minutes.

In the same frying pan over a low heat gently toast the cumin, caraway and coriander seeds, for about 2 minutes, tossing them, until fragrant. Place in a mortar and smash with pestle.

Peel away the skins from chillies and deseed them. I recommend you use a latex gloves or wash your hands with oil and then with water and soap to avoid any nasty consequences (especially man – do not be tempted to do this job and go to the toilet without washing your hands carefully). Capsaicin from chillies is hydrophobic, so you cannot wash it away using water, but you can do so using alcohol or oils. This is why you should rub some oil into your hands before washing them with water and soap.

With a pestle and mortar pound the chillies, spices, garlic and salt together until as fine as possible. Stir in tomato puree, lemon juice and rose water and allow flavours to combine for at least one hour before using.

Unfortunately the magazine did not tell us how long we can keep this refrigerated. I am keeping mine for 2 weeks now and everything looks and tastes OK. I would think it will last long if covered with layer of oil. I would try to freeze it in ice container, to make small cubes – each for single use.

If harissa is to hot for you make it milder by adding more olive.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Butternut squash ravioli with sage butter

If you are already bored with the squash this is not the best post for you, as today I am going to show another recipe using this lovely vegetable. For last few years this queen of October veg was tempting me to make lovely filling and use it to make the homemade ravioli. Squash filling? No problem. Homemade ravioli? Not exactly that exiting. (I thought)

I was not really keen to make my own ravioli until I have made my own first pasta and fought my culinary demon not long time ago. I have pasta maker. I have the butternut squash. I certainly haven’t got homemade pasta demon anymore. What shall I do? Squash ravioli perhaps?

The outcome was delicious. Even if my kitchen looked like after the Armageddon and my big toe hurts because when rolling the dough somehow (I still do not know how though…) I managed to pull out the handle and drop it straight onto my toe. Anyway, ravioli were worth it…

Serves 4


220g pasta flour, '00' type
2 whole eggs in room temperature
1 egg yolk
pinch of salt

Sieve the flour into a bowl, then turn into a mound onto a clean surface and make a well in the middle. Sprinkle the salt into a well and then crack in the eggs and egg yolk.

You can have a bowl of water on the side, so you can wet your hands to help bring the dough together if it getting too difficult towards the end of kneading.

To begin brake the egg yolks with your fingertips and then begin to move your fingers in a circular motion, gradually incorporating the flour until you have worked in enough to start bringing in together in a ball. The you start to work the ball of dough by pushing it with the heel of your hand, then folding the top back to itself, repeating again and again.

To make the dough you have to spend a good 10 minutes on kneading, the dough should come together and feel quite stiff. However it is no good to overdo the dough. You need to leave it in damp cloth for about 1 hour to rest and it will become softer.


half medium butternut squash, deseeded and left in skin
tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp freshly grated parmesan
2 tbsp bread crumbs
about 30g walnuts
1 egg yolk
pinch of freshly gated nutmeg
half tsp of fennel seeds, crushed in a mortar
salt freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 180C. Place the butternut squash on a roasting tray, drizzle with olive oil and roast until the flesh is soft. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool down. When cooled down remove the flesh from the skin with spoon.

Place the walnuts, all spices and pumpkin in a food processor and mix until smooth. Next ad bread crumbs, parmesan, egg yolk and adjust the seasoning. Place in a fridge and roll the dough.

Divide the dough into 4 pieces, and roll one at time using a rolling pin first so it is not too thick when rolling in the machine, about 1 cm thick is enough. Put the machine of the thickest setting and start rolling. You have to support the rolled dough with you hand so it will not fold or stick. Change to next setting and roll again. Repeat another 2-3 times taking the setting down every time.

Next fold the pasta onto itself, put the machine into first setting and put the pasta through. Repeat 2-3 times, changing the setting to thinner. If you feel the dough is too sticky dust with very little flour.

When you have two sheets of pasta ready place one of them on a floured surface and place a tablespoon of the filling in equal intervals, about 2.5cm from the edges. I used an ordinary freezing bag – I placed some filling in the bag, fold it and cut one of the corners so it looked like an icing bag – it is easier to squeeze the filling onto the pasta rather than placing by spoon. Then brush the pasta with little water around the filling.

Fold over the top half of the dough and, working from the centre of the line outwards, press firmly around each pile of filling with your fingers to push out any trapped air and seal in the filling.

Trim off the edges with sharp knife or pastry cutter or fluted pasta wheel. Repeat with the remaining pieces of dough.

Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil. Place ravioli in the pan, about 8 at once and let it boil for about 4-5 minutes. Drain with slotted spoon and place on the plates.

Melt some butter in a large frying pan until foaming, add the sage and fry for a few seconds. Remove from the heat and add few drops of lemon juice. Pour the butter over a ravioli, season with salt and pepper and sprinkle with some parmesan. Serve immediately.

Friday, 15 October 2010

Squash, rosemary & goats' cheese pizza

When the asparagus was in season I showed you the only right May pizza. I like to top my pizza with seasonal ingredients so this month I have to show you something which is typically October thing – butternut squash. In the summer I like to have a decent tomato sauce, herbs and mozzarella nothing else, but when it is getting colder and darker I need bit of sunshine on my plate and something more filling.

Therefore this is recipe which I love in autumn. I have found similar in Good Food magazine years ago, but this is different. I made it my own by putting some extra ingredients and effort by making my own rosemary pizza base. You cannot beat it when is dark and miserable outside. This is what I call the comfort food.

Makes 2 medium pizzas

For the base

400g white strong bread flour
7g dried yeast
1 level tsp salt
half tsp sugar
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp finely chopped fresh rosemary
200-250ml lukewarm water

Place all of the above in bread maker and use the program “dough” or “pizza”. If you do not have one, place flour in a bowl and mix with other ingredients then make the dough using your hands until you have a ball. Leave it covered in the bowl until doubles in size. This dough is great to keep in a fridge, it will rise slowly and be even better, so you can prepare it day ahead or in the morning and only remove it from the fridge to bring to the room temperature – about 1 hour before baking.

For the sauce

200ml tinned tomatoes, liquidised with hand blender until smooth
tbsp olive oil
clove of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
small onion, peeled and finely chopped
a splash of dry red wine
pinch of sugar
freshly ground black pepper

In a pan fry the onions with some salt and sugar in the olive oil over a low heat until soft. Add garlic and fry for one minute, next add the wine and leave it to evaporate slightly. Add tomatoes, season with salt and pepper and reduce over a low heat until thick. Set aside and prepare


half medium butternut squash, peeled, deseeded and diced into 1-1.5cm pieces
tbsp olive oil
pinch cayenne
2 tbsp finely chopped fresh rosemary
100g hard goats’ cheese, coarsely grated
3-4 tbsp pine nuts

Preheat the oven to 180C and you can place a pizza stone in it already – of you are using one.

Place the butternut squash onto a baking tray lined with baking paper, drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt, pepper and cayenne. Roast until al dente. Remove from the oven and turn the temperature up to 250C.

Divide the dough into 2, place on lightly floured surface and shape each round. Leave it to rest for about 10 minutes.

Spread the sauce onto each pizza base, top with roasted squash, sprinkle with cheese, rosemary and pine nuts and place onto hot pizza stone. Bake until risen, golden and cheese is nicely melted.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Sausage & veg casserole

Recently I did not have a time to cook complicated dinners everyday. Therefore I was flicking through my old magazines cut-outs and cookery books in search of recipes for one pot easy to make and suitable to reheat dishes. I was really exited to try this one (from some ancient Good Food magazine), but I have changed it slightly. I reduced the amount of stock, and added the butternut squash that is in season now and one of my favourite veg - it was very good idea indeed.

Serves 2

4 pork sausages (I used Italian style garlic & herb sausages)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 yellow pepper , deseeded and sliced into wide strips
1 red onion , cut into 8 wedges
half butternut squash, peeled, deseeded and cut into bite size bits
400g can chopped tomatoes
100ml vegetable stock
handful fresh basil
freshly ground black pepper

Heat oven to 200C.

Put the sausages, pepper, butternut squash and onion into a roasting tin, drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Then roast for 20 minutes.

Then tip tomatoes and stock over the sausages. Add most of the basil (save some for garnishing) and stir well. Roast for another 20 mins.

I served it with some sourdough bread drizzled with little olive oil and sprinkled with coarse sea salt and then grilled in the oven for few minutes whilst the casserole was getting ready.

Saturday, 9 October 2010

I don't like cheese... Not even Wensleydale?!

Today I am going to take you for another journey in Yorkshire Dales. It was a gorgeous, warm, sunny autumn morning so I decided to set off to the local cheese factory in Hawes, called Wensleydale Creamery situated in the heart of the National Park.

The Wensleydale is the valley (dale) of the River Ure on the east side of the Pennines in North Yorkshire. It is the only dale not named after a river, such as Nidderdale (river Nid), Coverdale (river Cover) or Swaledale (river Swale), but from a village called Wensley. However the older name, "Yoredale", can still be seen on some maps. The river Ure goes over our village and beautiful Aysgarth Falls (nice enough to feature in “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves”) and obviously passes through the city of York.

If you are interested in history there are few spots you have to visit in Wensleydale. One of them is Castle Bolton, with its most famous event to have taken place in the castle's history - the imprisonment of Mary, Queen of Scots after her defeat in Scotland at the Battle of Langside in 1568. Also if you are looking for Richard III connections you have to visit Middleham - the smallest township in England (where we use to live for two years) with its remaining of castle, where king was brought up. Also it is interesting place if you are race horse lover - every year 14 local racing stables are open to public. Everyday you can see many horses on the streets going to get a daily training on the gallops just outside the town.

I have to mention a lovely meadows, hills and specific climate that brings tourist to this place. Also milk from local farms where the cows graze the sweet limestone meadows that are rich in wild flowers, herbs and grasses has a unique flavour. It is this herbage that gives the milk, and hence the cheese, its special dales flavour.

There is over a 700 different types of cheese in UK and they can tell a lot about history of this country or specific region they were made in. My local cheese has a unique and long history, as old as some of the mentioned castles.

The art of cheese making was introduced to Wensleydale in XII century by French Cistercian monks, who then moved from earlier monastery established at nearby Fors, where the land was poor to Jervaulx. You can visit their abbey that remains in the area to the present day. Then the recipe was passed down to local farmers’ wives who continued to produce the cheese in their own farmhouses. In 1897 a local merchant of Hawes began to purchase milk from surrounding farms to use it for the manufacture of Wensleydale cheese on a large scale.

Back in the 1930’s the economical depression made trading conditions difficult, leaving the creamery in significant debt to farmers and the dairy faced closure. In 1935 local businessman manage to get a support from local farmers, raising enough money to rescue the dairy. In 1966 he sold his well established business to the government agency established that controlled milk production and distribution in the United Kingdom (Milk Marketing Board). Unfortunately the factory faced some problems in 1992 and it was closed down with the loss of 59 jobs.

Half a year later, following many offers to help the creamery, four former managers together with a local businessman managed to buy the dairy and with help of some ex-workers they produced some more cheese just before Christmas.

Over the following years the Wensleydale Creamery has been developing, winning many awards, and is now employing over 200 people and has many contracts for supplying major supermarkets with their cheese.

This is a brief history, how about the cheese? The Wensleydale Creamery ensures that they produce cheeses using traditional recipes that have been handed down through the generations. There is a wide selection of cheeses to choose from, made either with cows’ or ewes’ milk. Creamy white Real Yorkshire Wensleydale cheese has a mild, fresh, clean flavour with a honeyed aftertaste and a crumbly, flaky texture. It is the most neural of those produced in creamery.

Creamy white Oak Smoked Yorkshire Wensleydale cheese is smoked naturally using oak chips to produce smoked flavour. The body of the cheese maintains the typical characteristics of Real Yorkshire Wensleydale; fresh, bright, slightly crumbly and flaky. The rind of the Oak Smoked Yorkshire Wensleydale cheese adopts an attractive golden beech colour and is slightly firmer due to the natural smoking process.

Also there is one of my favorite cheeses called Jervaulx Blue (formerly known as Blue yorkshire Wensleydale but often causing confusion - many customers expected a typically white crumbly cheese instead of smooth, creamy blue cheese).

If you do not fancy blue cheese do not worry – there is still more to choose from. For example there is a wide selection of blended cheese. You can choose from cranberry, apricot, pineapple and one of my favorites – ginger one.

Although if you are not a big fan of cheese with fruits you can still find something nice for you: cheese with balsamic onions, caramelised onions, chives or cracked black pepper.

The Wensleydale Creamery offers a trip that starts in their small museum, where you can watch a film about its history and see old cheese making equipment such as 300 years old cheese stone press, or kitchen from 1920’s. Next you can go further to the creamery itself and continue the viewing in the sort of gallery overlooking the creamery itself.

From there you are able to visualise cheese making in dairy today. It is actually very busy! After delivering from the milk from the local farms and before the milk may be used making the cheese it is pasteurized. The milk is then cooled and pumped into vats for cheese making.

Next stage is adding the ‘starter’ which is a special blend of bacteria which occur naturally in milk and makes the milk become “soured”. Next the rennet is stirred into the milk which is then allowed to ‘set’ until it coagulates to form a semi-solid junket.

The semi solid coagulum is cut into small pieces by rotating knives and stirrers to release ‘curds’ and ‘whey’. The cutting process continues until the curds have reached the correct size. When a certain level of acidity has been reached, stirring ceases, allowing the curd to settle in the bottom of the vat. The mass of curd is cut into large blocks and moved to the sides of the vat making sure the whey to run out freely.

Next the salt is added by hand from big buckets. The salted curd is allowed to ‘mellow’ for 5-10 minutes before being put through the cheese ‘mill’ and shredded into small pieces.

The freshly milled curds have a very springy texture but soon start to knit together in the cooler. They are packed by hand into stainless steel moulds which are weighed and loaded onto boards ready for lifting into the press. Wensleydale cheese is only pressed lightly. Pressure shapes the cheese and expels any remaining whey. It is quite important to press the cheese into moulds by hand as the machine could be too ‘aggressive’. If you look at the Wensleydale cheese packaging it proudly says “handcrafted”.

Traditional Real Yorkshire Wensleydale cheeses are bandaged in muslin as soon as they are removed from their moulds. They are then taken to the drying room where they are turned over daily for 4-5 days to ensure even drying and the best flavour. When the surface of the cheese is dry a natural rind forms. Then it may be bagged, labeled and taken to the store room for dispatch, or it may be sent to the maturing room.

The traditional cheeses are stored in a cool, dark store for 4-6 months and checked regularly by the cheese grader. I wish I could have his job…

When you already visited museum and creamery itself it is time to do some shopping in their specialist cheese shop. It is very nice and gives the opportunity to sample all of cheeses before you buy, so there is no room for mistakes – you know exactly what you are buying.

If you are looking to buy a nice gift for somebody you will be delighted by a range of cheese truckles finished in colourful wax. It is eye catching and underneath this nice finish you will still find a lovely cheese. What a great gift idea!

Also you can select from a range of fruit cakes (they go nicely with Real Wensleydale!), chutneys or local ales. Why not wash you mouth with some tasty ale after a cheese feast?

Next I would recommend stopping at their tea room. The Visitors Centre is now being modernised so some of the spots are still not open, although the tea room and toilets I have found very modern and functional. I would not be me if I had not try something from their menu. Stopping by in a nice, spacious tea room I had the opportunity to watch lovely views and try the most delicious cheesecake. It was rich, creamy and sweet with very interesting ginger flavour. Also I was pleasantly surprised by tea – they serve my favourite tea produced in Harrogate (North Yorkshire, about 30 miles away from where I live). I have to admit I was quite sad when on my plate there were only some crumbs left but in few minutes my stomach sent me a message that it is already full – of course, I was sampling the cheeses in the shop earlier on!

Just to finish I have to mention one scene from Wallace and Gromit film when Gwendolyn admits that she would not have a cheese because it gives her a rash and she cannot stand the stuff. Wallace gulping hardy says "not even Wensleydale?" (by the way I have read an interview with the director of Wallace and Gromit and he said that he chosen Wensleydale because it is a funny cheese to say!). I could see a pain on Wallace’s face and I understand him more than anybody else. I mean: how can you not like the Wensleydale cheese?

(Please note: all the historical and the technical information about producing the cheese comes from the Wensleydale Creamery official website)