Saturday, 14 September 2013

homemade pierogi ruskie from scratch

I love pierogi. Not a particularly shocking statement from a woman with a fiercely patriotic Polish grandmother, but true nonetheless. For me the best pierogi have to be the classic 'ruskie' version filled with mashed potato, golden fried onions and cheese. Other pierogi such as sauerkraut and mushroom or meat fillings are perfectly lovely but nothing beats a well made pierogi ruskie gently cooked in butter or lard until it is golden and crispy on the outside and topped with a generous scattering of crispy onions in butter or small pieces of crispy bacon. This is definitely not health food but it's sometimes the only thing that will make you feel better about life or help to cure your homesickness. As children we'd normally have them for dinner with some baked beans or a big splodge of tomato ketchup - I guess this is a symptom of being raised in an anglo-polish family. It's not so easy to get hold of the right cheese, twarog or farmers cheese, for pierogi ruskie in Bangkok so I decided to make my own rather than substitute. It's very easy to get twarog back in the UK now, just take a look in the chilled cabinet in any big supermarket and it'll be alongside all the other 'ethnic' goods along with some half decent kielbasa. It's not at all difficult to make twarog though so why not give it a go if you have the time. For my home made twarog I follow the method described perfectly by the ever creative Chip Butties and Noodle Soup.

The Dough (This recipe is based on Beata Zatorska's which can be found here.)
To make the pastry for about 120 pierogi

1kg plain flour
125g unsalted butter at room temperature
500ml warm water

  1. Put the flour on to a big open work surface and rub in the butter then mix in the water little by little until you have a soft, pliable dough. 
  2. Place in a bowl and cover over to avoid it drying out while you prepare the filling.

Pierogi Ruskie Filling
1kg approx cooked mashed potato
500g twarog (Polish Farmer's Cheese)
1 large onion, finely diced
2 tbsp of butter
salt and pepper to taste
  1. Cook the onion with the butter until soft and golden brown.
  2. Mix the mashed potato, onion, cheese, salt and pepper together until thoroughly combined. 

Putting it all together
  1. Roll out a piece of the dough on a floured surface to about 3mm thick then using a cutter or up-turned glass cut out circles of about 8cm diameter.
  2. Fill each disc with a teaspoon of the potato and cheese mixture then fold the disc over and crimp the edges together with your thumb and forefinger. 
  3. Once you've made a few you can either cook them immediately in boiling salted water. This should only take a few minutes, they're done when they float back up to the surface. Alternatively you can freeze them then cook when you want them. If you choose to freeze them, put them in the freezer in a single layer on baking parchment. Once they're frozen put them in a zip lock bag for easier storage. You can cook them directly from the freezer.
  4. One of my favourite ways to serve pierogi is to fry them in a little butter after they've been boiled. Cook them until they're crispy and top with crispy cooked onions or bacon bits. 
NOTE: I recently tried a different cooking method for preparing the pierogi from frozen, similar to that used when you cook frozen gyoza. I heat a little oil in a non-stick pan and put a single layer of pierogi in the pan then cook them for 2-3 minutes or until they just begin to colour. Next add recently boiled water from the kettle so that the pierogi are 2/3 covered in water. Cover the pan and cook on a medium heat for 10 minutes. If at the end of this time the water hasn't completely evapourated remove the lid and allow to cook until the water has completely disappeared and the pierogi have crispy bottoms.

I've added these awesome pierogi to Made with Love Mondays over at Javelin Warrior's site.

Made with Love Mondays, hosted by Javelin Warrior

I've also contributed to the Four Seasons Food: Autumn

Four Seasons Food
Four Seasons Food hosted by Delicieux and Eat Your Veg

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

chocolate banana bread

Before I arrived in Thailand I was often thinking about what food I might miss from home with cheese, proper fish and chips and good quality baked goods always pretty high on my list. What I wasn’t prepared for was the abundance of excellent and delicious baked cakes, breads and pastries that seem to be available everywhere. This sweet, enriched bread recipe is inspired by Thai flavours and ingredients and happens to be almost entirely vegan if you used a vegan chocolate. It is essentially an enriched dough with the egg replaced by banana and the coconut oil and milk replacing dairy butter and milk. This chocolate banana bread makes a delicious treat breakfast or is good with a cup of tea of coffee any time of day.

2 medium bananas (approx. 1 cups mashed banana)
200ml coconut milk
55ml coconut oil
380g/3 cups bread flour
2 tsp fast action yeast
200g dark chocolate cut into rough chunks
generous pinch of salt
50g palm sugar (or brown sugar)

  1. Mash together the bananas and stir in the coconut oil then place into a large mixing bowl along with all the other ingredients apart from the chocolate and bring together into a rough dough. 
  2. Turn out onto an oiled surface and kneed for a few minutes then place into an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap then leave in a warm place to rise for around 2 hours. You may need to adjust the flour or moisture level at this stage but do this with care adding a spoon of flour or water as needed. 
  3. After the first rise add in the chocolate chunks and gently fold the dough over them creating before turning out on to a baking tray lined with parchment or a loaf tin. I quite like the free form style with this bread but feel free to shape as you wish. Sometimes I mix the chocolate chunks through the dough making sure it is evenly spread or, as I have done in this version I have kept most of the chocolate contained in the centre of the dough so you have yummy almost solid chocolate centre to bite into. I was going for the kind of bite you get with a good pain au chocolat. 
  4. Cover with plastic wrap and leave for another hour or so until it has risen to almost double the original size. 
  5. Pre-heat the oven to 230C then place a roasting pan filled with some water in the bottom of the oven to create some steam during the baking process. 
  6. Place the bread in the oven, reduce the heat down to 200C and bake for about 30-40 minutes or until you have a golden crust. 

Sunday, 1 September 2013

Pad See Ew - Thai rice noodles with pork and soy sauce

As you probably know, we've recently moved to Bangkok for my work. Having found an apartment to live in that has a proper kitchen with gas stove and oven, a rarity in Bangkok, it means we have the luxury of being able to cook many things from scratch at home. Setting up home in Bangkok has been a fun experience and a main focus for my husband and I since we got here. You can read about our adventures here. Once we had our own wok, one of the first dishes I wanted to try out was Pad See Ew. This has been one of my favourite Thai dishes since we visited Thailand last Christmas. I first learned to make this dish on a cookery course at SITCA along with chicken Penang curry and an awesome fried prawn salad. I'll post my versions of those recipes in coming weeks and I can thoroughly recommend the SITCA cooking courses if you ever find yourself in Thailand. They're a good enough reason to visit Koh Samui on their own.

One of the things I love about living in a new country is the variety of ingredients and produce you can buy in the markets and grocery stores. Being able to buy real fresh wide rice noodles is wonderful and so much nicer than having to use reconstituted dried rice noodles. Don't get me wrong, dried rice noodles, just like dried pasta, have their place but for some recipes such as this Pad See Ew, fresh noodles really are the best thing to use if you can get them. If you are struggling to find fresh rice noodles where you live, buy the widest dried ones you can find and soak them for a couple for hours in cold water before using. This is something I only learned in recent years and it has hugely improved my success with noodle cookery. Also, before you fire up your wok you will need to get everything prepared - things will move fast once you start cooking.

rice noodles in sweet dark soy
Ingredients for about 2 servings
about 200g dried rice noodles soaked in cold water for at least an hour
400-500g packet of fresh, wide rice noodles
1 pork loin chop or similar
2 eggs
handful of baby sweetcorn, cut widthwise in to small pieces
bundle of tender stem broccoli, chinese cabbage or other green veg of your choice
1 large carrot, peeled, halved and cut on the diagonal into bite size pieces
1 tbsp dark, sweet soy
1 tbsp oyster sauce
1 tsp fish sauce
1 tsp regular soy
1/2 tsp ground white pepper
1 tsp palm sugar
1 tbsp cornflour or baking soda
1 cup chicken stock (you may use all or none of this depending on the moistness of your noodles)
3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
2 tbsp vegetable oil
Lime wedges, sliced spring onions and chilli flakes for serving
stir fry sauce

  1. In a large bowl separate the rice noodles if needed and add in the dark sweet soy and mix so that the noodles have a thorough coating. 
  2. Beat the eggs together in a small bowl.
  3. Thinly slice the pork, place in a bowl with the corn flour and massage it together with your hands until the powder is completely covering the meat. Place the finely chopped garlic on top then set to one side.
  4. Mix together the oyster sauce, white pepper, fish sauce, palm sugar and regular soy. This will be your stir fry sauce. 
  5. With all your ingredients prepare and ready to go heat your wok so that it is very very hot. This is the key to your success with this recipe. 
  6. Once your wok is super hot add the oil and ensure you have an even coating over the base of your wok, then add the beaten egg and cook through. Next add the pork and garlic and kepp moving until it is cooked through.
  7. Next chuck in the prepared veggies and stir for about a minute. 
  8. Now you need to add the rice noodles. Try to keep everything move but don't worry too much if there is a bit of sticking on the bottom of the wok - this is all extra flavour, just make sure you scrape it up with your wok paddle. 
  9. Pour in the stir fry sauce and give everything a good mix. You may need to add a little of the stock at this stage. Add it a little at a time while keeping everything else moving until your noodles are cooked through and have absorbed enough liquid. You don't want the finished dish to be gloopy but you want  the noodles to be properly cooked. This stage will probably take 3-5 minutes.
  10. Turn out into your serving dishes and add the spring onions, chilli flakes and lime juice to your taste.

egg and pork

adding the veggies

now the noodles

add the stir fry sauce and keep it moving

add the stock as needed until everything is cooked through


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