New Forest Walk & Aubergine Rolls

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What sort of thing do you think about when walking through a beautiful  rolling wilderness with its vibrant moss carpet, rolling green hills, burnt colour trails and different hues of purple? Call me crazy, but a recent walk we took through the New Forest brought only one thing to my mind – my Dad’s Aubergine Rolls. I think the same colour pallet gave me a hint, or I was just hungry…

 

AUBERGINE ROLLS WITH COTTAGE CHEESE STUFFING

Ingredients:

2 aubergines, sliced length ways

400 cottage cheese

3 cloves garlic, crushed

150g walnuts, finely chopped

salt/pepper to taste

olive oil for frying

handful of basil leaves

Method:

1. Cut the aubergines length ways, brush it with olive oil on both sides and fry on a pan until cooked through and pale golden. Set aside on a paper tower to absorb excess of the oil.

2. In a bowl mix together cottage cheese, crushed garlic, finely chopped walnuts, salt and pepper.

3. Take an aubergine slice, place the scoop of the cottage filling closer to one side and carefully roll up. Continue the same process with the rest of the aubergines and filling. Place the rolls on a plate, decorate with the basil leaves.

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‘Vinegret’, which is not a salad dressing

Please do not confuse with the word ‘vinaigrette’! Vinegret is one of the Russian/Latvian vegetable salads and there are different versions why it’s called so. It can be just because the word was brought from French language (like many other words!) and ‘Russianfied’ or it can be used as a metaphoric description of miss-mash things.

This salad was particularly popular during Soviet times when it was hard to come across fresh fruits and veg, so people used more tinned produce being easier to find and stayed fresh longer. However, although you can easily get fresh vegetables now, don’t consider to swap with fresh peas, use the tined garden peas for an authentic taste.

As well as usual boiled potatoes, carrots, beets, garden peas and gherkins, some variations of vinegret contain sauerkraut. Personally, I like it this way but if you don’t or simply can’t get hold of sauerkraut, you can leave it out. Traditionally salad is served with rye bread and some sort of meat or fish, like cold cuts, sausages or herring.

You can double the ingredients for bigger crowd. Also, this salad is great to cook in advance, not only it can save you time, the taste will only improve if you leave it over night.

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VINEGRET

Ingredients:

1 pack of cooked beetroot (but NOT in vinegar)

3 potatoes

3 carrots

1 tin garden peas

1 cup drained sauerkraut

3-4 pickled gherkins

1/2 onion finely diced

2-3 tablespoons sunflower (or vegetable) oil

salt/peper to taste

handful of fresh cranberries (optional, but good addition, specially during Christmas season)

Method:

1. Wash, but do not peel the potatoes and carrots, place them in a pot of cold water, bring it to the boil, reduce the heat and continue cooking them for about 30 minutes or until the knife goes smoothly through the vegetables. Let it cool completely before peeling the skin off and dice them.

2. Meanwhile diced in roughly equal size cubes of the beets, mix them with a spoon of the oil before adding the rest of the ingredients (this way beetroot colour won’t get on other ingredients as much),then add diced gherkins, onion, place in a bowl along with drained peas. When potatoes and carrots are cool completely, peel the skin off, dice them same way, in cubes and add to the bowl, followed by sauerkraut.

3. Mix it all carefully with the rest of the oil, salt and pepper. At this stage you can always add more gherkins or sauerkraut, if you wish. Adjust seasoning and garnish with handful of fresh cranberries for an extra kick. 🙂

Not Quite Usual Banana Cake

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I had an urge for Banana Cake but didn’t want to make the usual Banana Bread (although I love it), then I remember seeing on a blog, Banana Tray Cake and I really liked how it looked. However, I didn’t have all the ingredients and I decided to improvise. The result was better then I expected – the texture of the cake was grainy, nutty and moist at the same time.

BANANA TRAY BAKE

(adapted from Jude Blereau)

Ingredients:

2 bananas, sliced

1 cup plain flour

1/2 cup polenta

1/2 cup ground almond

1/2 cup sugar (plus some to sprinkle on top)

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 baking powder

1/2 bicarbonate soda

pinch of salt

125g softened butter

2 eggs

3/4 cup buttermilk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 180C. Butter and line up with parchment paper 20×20 baking tray.

2. Mix all dry ingredients in one bowl and set aside. In another bowl beat soft butter, eggs & vanilla extract until creamy and pale, add buttermilk and beat a little more until just combined.

3. Add dry ingredients onto the wet and mix until incorporated evenly (do not over beat). Tip the mixture into the prepared tin, smooth the top with spatula and arrange the sliced bananas on a top. (The trick is to place the banana slices carefully on top, without ‘dunking’ them into the cake. In this case, when the cake will rise during the baking it should cover them gently, sort of half way and you won’t have soggy bananas in the middle but nicely decorated cake top and better flavour instead).

4. Sprinkle with the sugar on top and place, place in the oven and bake about 35 minutes or until golden brown.

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Day out in Aglona (Part 1)

During our time at home we went for a day trip to Aglona, it is a small but very beautiful village by the lake and it is most famous or its impressive baroque style Basilica, decorated with two 60 meters towers. Every year on 15th of August pilgrims from around the world are gathering on a site of Basilica to celebrate the day of Assumption of Virgin Mary into Heaven. This is one of the best known sacred site in the world which holds thousands of people every year on that date, but we were there couple days before, so we had an opportunity to view the area in its natural state.

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Not far from to the Basilica’s site there is another spiritual place called The Hill of the King. It is unique sort of garden in which local enthusiasts carved whole Biblical series in large wooden sculptures (one of the largest sculpture is 14 meters).

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Latvian Pancakes with Fresh Apricot Compote

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Back home it is very common to have pancakes for breakfast (and you don’t need to wait till the Shrove Tuesday!). And the reason why people are not getting bored of having the pancakes quite often it is because the variations of the pancakes are endless, you can literally find BOOKS on pancakes only! However, for now, I am not going to go into details, simply because one blog post is not enough to describe them all 🙂

I am just going to tell you about the pancakes my Mum made for one of the breakfast we had at home. And the difference in these pancake is that they are based on a … soured milk, or what we call it prostokvasha. If you can’t get hold of it, do not panic, you can use buttermilk instead. These pancakes are best eaten straight from the pan and they are so tender and delicious you won’t be able to leave anything for later anyway 🙂

 

LATVIAN PANCAKES (Option 1)

Ingredients:

2.5 cups prostokvasha (or buttermilk)

2 eggs

2.5 cups flour

3-4 tablespoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 baking powder

vegetable oil for frying

For the apricot compote:

500g fresh apricots

1/4 water

sugar to taste

1 cinnamon stick and vanilla (optional)

Method:

1. To make a compote, cut the apricots into halves, remove the stones, place them in a pan, add the water, sugar and cinnamon (if you like), bring to boil, reduce the heat and let it cooking for 10-15 minutes.

2. For the pancakes, mix prostokvasha (buttermilk) with sugar, salt, add flour and baking powder, stir well until the mixture is even.

3. Heat up the frying pan with a little oil on eat and spoon the pancakes mixture (about 4-5 pancakes in one go, depends on a size of your pan). Let it fry about 1 minute on each side or until golden brown and puffed up.

4. Serve pancakes hot with hot or cold compote.

P.S. Please note the compote were made entirely from apricots despite the peaches are appearing on picture too.

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My summer holiday & hopping between the countries

Hello Everybody, here I am back again! 🙂

I was away for a while, back in Latvia, for our annual summer break. Although, it wasn’t quite a relaxing trip, it was wonderful, as always, – seeing everybody, meeting new friends, long summer nights, good time and, of course, FOOD. Unfortunately, time has gone so quickly, Im back to work now and struggling to find time to tell you all about the food we ate at home and other things I’d like to share with you. I’m going to ‘dish it out’ for you in small portions.

I’ll begin it with our trip to Lithuania, to be precise to Zarasai, which is so close to my home town that you can easily drive there for lunch, exactly what we did, as well as nice walk around the lake and stroll through the town.

As per food, Lithuanian cuisine it is very similar to Latvian one, because of their common heritage and it mainly features produce such as potatoes, cabbage, pork, barley, mushrooms, beets, berries and a lot of dairy based products. Of course, one of the first traditional dishes springs to mind it is Cepelinai, which is potato based dumplings, stuffed with minced meet (some times with mushrooms) and served with sour cream and bacon. It is almost a staple dish of the country. Unfortunately for us, the day we visited Lithuania must be very popular with the tourist and all Cepelinai were eaten way before we arrived. However, other dishes didn’t disapont us either, especially exceptional was the Beef tongue served under horseradish sauce and the fish and vegetable bake. We also tried a new drink (we never had before), called Suktinis, which is basically Honey Mead, quite strong but packed with flavours and is perfect for colder days. And Mark tried Pigs Ears for the first time and was pleasantly surprised because it is not as gross as it sounds at all! 🙂

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Pigs Ears, Locan Cheese and Garlicky Rye Bread snacks

Pigs Ears, Local Cheese and Garlicky Rye Bread snacks

Tangue with horseradish sauce

Tangue with horseradish sauce

Baked fish & vegetables

Baked fish & vegetables

Local cheese, which I love eating simply on a rye bread, smeared with honey

Local cheese, which I love eating simply on a rye bread, smeared with honey

Lithuanian traditional drink - honey mead.  Please note, it wasn't consume there, it was brought back with us as a present.

Lithuanian traditional drink – honey mead.
Please note, it wasn’t consume there, it was brought back with us as a present 🙂

Saffron Chicken, Chickpeas & Fennel Casserole

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Even though it is summer, I do crave for some comfort food but a lighter version. This one is comforting but yet refreshing and zingy at the same time! It is not the prettiest looking dish but you’ll forget the look when you will taste it 🙂 Ideally, use a large heavy bottom/cast iron pan with a lid for it.

SAFFRON CHICKEN ,  CHICKPEA  & FENNEL CASSEROLE

(Adopted from Belinda Jeffery)

Ingredients:

2 large onions, diced

3 garlic cloves, chopped

1 bulb fennel, sliced

3 celery sticks, chopped

1 fresh chilli pepper, finely chopped

3 bay leaves

2 pinches saffron threads

1-2 cinnamon sticks (you can skip this if you don’t like or not sure about the taste)

6-8 chicken pieces (thighs, legs, on a bone)

1 can (400ml) chopped tomatoes

1 can (400 ml) chickpeas

green olives handful

Juice & zest of 1 lemon

salt, pepper to season

Olive oil

Method:

1. On a medium heat in a large heavy bottom pan warm up the olive oil and sauté the chopped onions for about 7 minutes. Add garlic and chilli, cook for another 2 minute. Then add chopped fennel and celery and continue cooking for 8 minutes. Crush gently the saffron  between your fingers to release extra flavour and add to the vegetables followed by cinnamon sticks (if you are using it). Stir and cook for 2-3 minutes.

2. Push the vegetable to the side of the pan and place the chicken pieces in a pan, let them brown a little, then cover them with the vegetables, pour the chopped tomatoes on a top, then fill up the can from tomatoes half full with cold water and add to the pan, followed by drained chickpeas (everything should be just covered with water).  Season with salt and pepper, bring to the boil, then reduce the heat, cover with the lid and let everything gently bubble for 25 minutes.

3. After 25 minutes, take off the lid, turn the chicken pieces around and continue cooking for another 15-20 minutes without the lid. Close to the end of cooking add the olives and lemon juice and zest of the lemon. Adjust the seasoning.

Serve with steamed rice, couscous, naan bread or anything else you like 🙂

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