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Delicious Polish Pierogi…

I recently made a mammoth batch of 180 pierogi for the recent Plate Lickers supper club

Pierogi are basically Polish ravioli and can have a variety of different fillings. They’re a little bit fiddly to make first time around but in my opinion are well worth the effort involved. After making 180 I was a total pro :). However, I’d recommend that you stick to a smaller number to begin with. The recipe below will make enough dough for about 60 pierogi.

Start by making your filling so that it has time to cool before you use it to make the pierogi. 

I found this website, which gave me loads of ideas for fillings. I decided to go for sauerkraut, carrot and sour cream to start with…

To make enough for 60 pierogi you need…

1 small onion, finely diced

300g sauerkraut (you can buy this in packets or jars at most Polish shops or large supermarkets)

3 carrots, grated

3 tbsp sour cream

Put a knob of butter in a frying pan and fry the onion until soft. Add the drained sauerkraut and carrot and cook on a low heat until the carrot is soft. Be careful not to have your pan too hot, you don’t want your sauerkraut to brown. Add salt and pepper to taste and remove from the heat. Stir in the sour cream and set aside to cool.

I also made my favourite mushroom filling, which is one I use every year to make uszka at Christmas time (blogged here)…

To make enough for 60 pierogi you need…

60g dried porcini mushrooms

Approx 10 chestnut mushroom, chopped finely

1 small onion, finely diced

1 egg

3 tbsp fresh breadcrumbs

Pour boiling water over the porcini mushrooms and leave to soak until they are soft. Remove them from the water being careful not to disturb any grit that may have settled at the bottom of the bowl, and chop finely.

Put a knob of butter in a frying pan and fry the onion until soft. Add the fresh and rehydrated porcini mushrooms and cook for a few minutes until soft. Add salt and pepper to taste. Remove from the heat and pour into a bowl to cool for a few minutes before adding the egg and breadcrumbs to make a thick gloopy filling. It looks pretty nasty but I guarantee, tastes delicious!

The final filling I tried was potato, cheese & caraway seed. To make it you need…

5 red potatoes

1 small onion, finely chopped

250g curd cheese (can be found in the Polish section of large supermarkets and has the texture of dried out cottage cheese)

2 tsp caraway seeds

Boil the potatoes in salted water until soft, drain and mash them well. Stir in the cheese, caraway seeds and salt and pepper to taste. Set aside to cool.

To make the pierogi dough you need…

3 cups plain flour

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 cup sour cream

1 egg 

1 cup water

Put the flour and salt in a large bowl and make a well in the centre. 

Beat the egg with the sour cream and pour into the well.

Roll up your sleeves and get messy, bring all of the ingredients together with your hands. Add a small splash of water at a time until all of the ingredients come together to make a dough thats soft but not sticky. If you overdo it with the water, just add a bit more flour until you achieve a good consistency.

Wrap the dough up in clingfilm until you are ready to use it so that it doesn’t dry out.

It’s quite a stretchy dough, which makes rolling it out a bit tricky. I recommend only working with half of the dough at a time. Dust your surface well with flour and roll out the dough to about 2mm thickness. Use a 3 inch (approx) pastry cutter to cut out as many discs as you can fit (save the off cuts to roll out again to make even more)…

Brush the discs with beaten egg and spoon a small amount of your chosen filling into the middle…

You’ll work out the optimum amount of filling through trial and error but try to avoid overfilling. A burst pierogi is a failed pierogi!

Pick the circle of pastry up and fold in half, pinching gently around the edge as if you were making a mini cornish pasty…

Place each perfect pierogi on a clingfilm lined baking tray but be careful not to let them touch each other, they have a nasty habit of sticking together before they’re cooked.

To cook them, bring a pan of salted water to the boil. Drop a few pierogi in at a time and wait for them to float to the surface, then simmer for 4-5 minutes…

Remove them gently with a slatted spoon. If you’re eating them straight away, have a hot frying pan at the ready, pop in a knob of butter and fry the pierogi for a few minutes on each side until they go a nice crispy golden brown…

Once you’ve boiled them you can leave them to cool and keep them for a couple of days in the fridge or pop them in the freezer to use another day. When you want to eat them just repeat the process of putting them in some simmering water until they float and fry in butter as above.

Enjoy!

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The inaugural Plate Lickers supper club…

Last night, Ivana (Miss Igs) and I hosted our first Plate Lickers supper club…the culmination of a lot of list writing, planning meetings down the pub, DM-ing, crockery buying, recipe testing and sleepless nights (we both suffered with supper club nightmares) but it was so worth it! 

Thanks to Becky & Rocco Balzano we had the perfect location for our supper in their gorgeous delicatessen/cafe and I got to put my vast collection of mismatching crockery to use at last…

The menu was a combination of Bosnian and Polish inspired dishes, a lot of them our personal favourites :)…

We’d done a lot of prep work, which meant that somehow we were ridiculously calm when the clock struck 7.30pm and our guests started to arrive…

We started off proceedings with a glass of fizz and Ivana’s Bosnian Pita, a delicious butternut squash and cheese filo pie…

Then it was time to settle down for the the next 5 courses. The buzz of conversation was instantaneous… 

We served chestnut and speck soup in my teacups…

and offered refills…

Next up were the pierogi with 3 different fillings (recipe coming soon)…

which we served with gherkins (no Eastern European meal is complete without them), homemade beetroot and apple chutney, inspired by an amazing recipe which I found here on a blog called ‘Frogs in my kitchen’ and which proved amazingly popular, cabbage salad and sour cream…

Then green apple sorbet topped with a splash of Zubrowka vodka…

The penultimate course was Polish cheesecake with a shortbread base (sernik na kruchym spodzie) with strawberries…

and cream…

With our guests fed and watered and chatting animatedly we took some time out to sample a very special gift that we received from 2 of our guests, Will and Lucy Lowe who are The Cambridge Distillery. We were unbelievably chuffed to be presented with our very own personalised and unique bottle of #Platelickers gin…

It tasted divinely fresh and felt like a very symbolic drink to celebrate the end of our first Plate Lickers supper club. I loved every single minute of the evening and would like to thank all of our lovely guests for making it such an enjoyable evening and Ivana for being an awesome co-host! 

We’ve definitely caught the supper club bug and are already planning the next one on a different theme…watch this space for details!

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Plate Lickers Anonymous…

For the last few weeks, myself and Ivana (Miss Igs) have been in cahoots, planning our very first Supper Club in Cambridge!

We’ve been dying to shout about it but have been holding back, that is, until now! We’re both extremely passionate about cooking and decided that there was no better way to indulge our passions than to invite a group of people who love food to join us for a 5 course meal in a secret location.

Our first event on Saturday 19th May will be an Eastern European feast, inspired by our Bosnian (Ivana) & Polish (Me) roots. So expect a hearty meal…

We’ve found a gorgeous location just a stones throw from the City Centre, which will be disclosed a couple of days beforehand.

A Supper Club is a very sociable event and you’ll all be sat together so it’s equally fine to come alone or with friends.

Places are limited, so if you’d like to join us drop us an email to PlateLickersAnonymous@gmail.com with your name and any dietary requirements (we’ll do our best to accommodate you although if you’re allergic to potatoes it might be tricky ;).

The evening will kick off at 7.30pm with a welcome drink and canapes. There is a suggested donation of £27 and we wholeheartedly encourage you to BYO and a healthy appetite! 

Further details along with the secret location will be sent out to you a couple of days beforehand but spaces are limited so don’t prevaricate, to secure your place please get in touch asap.

If at any point you need to cancel, please give us as much notice as possible so that we can offer your place to others and can make sure we don’t waste any food.

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My Polish inspired ‘Easter Eat Fest’…

I owe a lot of my passion and skill for baking to my Polish Granny, known as Babcia to us. At Easter, I think of Babcia a lot as it’s a time when my family get together to eat and celebrate our traditions. Some are more well known than others, we seem to have developed some of our own hybrid traditions which keep evolving over the years 🙂

I came across the photo below of me with my Babcia, taken at Easter many moons ago, smiling and happily clutching the fruits of our annual easter egg hunt. Memories like these make me smile 🙂

As per usual with my family’s traditions and get togethers, Easter revolves nearly entirely around food and eating. Good Friday kicks off early with…

My Mum rises early and makes batch upon batch of hot cross buns with a sticky sugar glaze…

They’re best straight out of the oven so we all loiter around eagerly, waiting for the beep of the timer. My Mum hardly has time to get the glaze onto them before they’re devoured…

Next up on this year’s eat fest we thought we’d give Polish doughnuts (paczki) a go for the very first time. This may be a little controversial as tradition has it that Paczki are made and eaten on ‘Fat Tuesday’, which falls on the same day as Shrove Tuesday. Babcia was the Queen of paczki and made them for us every year. Now, if you thought British doughnuts were unhealthy you ain’t seen nothing yet…

A Polish recipe surely wouldn’t be a Polish recipe without a good splash of Zubrowka Bison Grass Vodka…

First things first we let the fresh yeast work its magic…

Before mixing it up with the other ingredients, including a whopping 8 egg yolks and 2 whole eggs and the vodka of course…

It all looked pretty unassuming…

So I left it to rise in the boiler cupboard. After 45 minutes it was making a good attempt at escaping the bowl…

So I knocked it back and put it back in to rise for another 45 minutes…

It turns out that you should never leave paczki dough unattended for that long. I went to check on it and ‘THE BLOB’ had invaded my parent’s boiler cupboard! There was even dough dripping down the boiler onto the carpet (have no fear that bit went straight in the bin 🙂 Cue much hilarity and a major dough clear up operation!…

I decided it was wise to split the remaining dough into two bowls and to keep a very close eye on it for a last 45 minutes.

Then it was time to get shaping our paczki and filling them with jam, which also turned out to be an extremely messy, but fun, task…

Thank goodness my Dad was on hand to be jam monitor. He spooned a blob of sour Polish plum jam onto the dough for me… 

so that I could gently cover it over and shape the dough into a round doughnut ready for frying…

Now comes the really unhealthy bit…we melted 3 blocks of lard, yes, you heard correctly…lard…

Me and my Mum prepared a doughnut production line…

and then got cracking, frying 4 paczki at a time…

and turning them over when golden brown to cook the other side…

There was no denying that the kitchen had a particularly ’interesting’ lardy aroma but we hoped it’d all add to the end result (fingers crossed). As soon as I fished the cooked doughnuts out of the lard, my Mum got to work coating them in a glaze made from icing sugar, lemon juice, water and more vodka…

Then we left them to drain on a wire rack…

They didn’t remain there for very long, merely long enough for them to cool enough so as not to take the roofs of our mouths off! 

This, Ladies & Gentlemen, is paczki perfection…

They were the lightest, melt in the mouth-iest, most delicious doughnuts I’ve ever eaten. Krispy Kreme eat your heart out…Babcia would be proud!

Not bad for a days work…

However, we weren’t done yet…next up I made sernik na kruchym spodzie, which translates as cheesecake with a shortbread base. The shortbread pastry is so delicate and light. It’s filled with a decadent mixture of curd cheese, eggs, icing sugar, vanilla and raisins before being topped off with some shortbread latticework…

It’s baked for an hour and then left in the turned off oven until it’s fully cooled. It emerges looking like this…

I was dying to cut into it to reveal it’s true beauty…

I was really chuffed with my first solo attempt at sernik. Babcia obviously did a great job at passing on her skills…my Dad was extolling its virtues as ‘pure heaven’.

Another Polish Easter tradition is to prepare an Easter basket. When my grandparents were alive we would take it to church on Easter Saturday to be blessed (Swieconka). We always take great pride in our basket, filling it with traditional Easter items such as home-decorated eggs, kabanos, sernik, flowers, a lamb and a small bowl of salt, which all have symbolic meaning. My Sister prepared the basket for us this year…

This little beaut was my contribution…

After all of that cooking, preparation and very enjoyable hardwork, we sat down to do what we do best…eat!…

Happy Easter to all and your families! x

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Proper Polish plum dumplings (aka knedle)…

I went home to Cambridge last weekend and on arrival was greeted with the sight of my sister cooking up a batch of knedle. Now…knedle are proper Polish fayre…don’t be put off when I tell you that they’re actually plum dumplings made by wrapping whole plums in a dough made from pureed potato! They are then boiled, fried in butter and rolled in sugar! It may all sound a bit unconventional but as I’ve said before…don’t knock it until you’ve tried it…

It was a real treat to have the knedle made for me as I’m usually the one in the kitchen. But I got my sister to give me a blow by blow account of how they were made…and it goes a little something like this…

You need…

1kg potatoes

1.5 cups plain flour

1 tbsp potato flour (I’m reliably informed that you can buy this in Holland and Barrett)

1 egg

1 tbsp butter

salt

680g plums (approx)

extra butter for frying

sugar to sprinkle

sour cream to serve (optional)

Rinse the plums, cut them in half, remove the stones and pat them dry.

Peel, boil and drain the potatoes. Add a knob of butter and mash really well. If you’re lucky enough to have a potato ricer…use it!

Leave the mashed potato to cool slightly and then add the egg, salt, sifted flour (both varieties). Quickly knead into a smooth dough. Divide the dough into pieces, you will need a blob of dough per plum. Take each blob and pat it between floured hands. Take 2 halves of plum, reassemble it into a whole and wrap it in the dough to form a ball shape like this…

Knedle aren’t usually this big but the only ripe plums we could find at this time of year were huge yellow ones, which meant our dumplings were monsters!

Bring some salted water to the boil in a big saucepan and gently drop a few dumplings in at a time. When they rise to the surface remove them using a slotted spoon and leave them to drain.

Now…you could eat them at this point, drizzled with melted butter and sprinkled with sugar but we took it a step further just as my Polish Granny used to do.

Melt some butter in a frying pan and gently brown the dumplings on all sides…

When they have taken on a gorgeous colour, roll them in caster sugar…

Finally, serve them while they’re still warm with a generous dollop of soured cream…

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Polish Christmas in pictures…

I thought I would share with you what the Kruczynski Polish Christmas meal looks like. It isn’t the full 12 course Wigilia but these 5 courses have become our very own family tradition.

First up my lovingly homemade uszka in barszcz (beetroot soup)…

Then a cold course of two types of sledz (pickled herring) one cooked and one uncooked, red cabbage salad (note…may cause unsociable side effects…eat at your own peril), Polish rye bread and gherkins…

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I believe most Polish families cook a whole carp but it’s always been our family tradition to eat fishloaf made from cod instead, served with roast potatoes. We also have to have a tomato and a mushroom sauce because we love both and can’t choose between them. This is probably the most un-photogenic but tastiest course…

Then we move onto sweets and have a refreshing bowl of kompot (dried fruit salad), which is prepared by slowly rehydrating dried fruit in a mixture of orange juice and earl grey tea and then served cold…

and finally it’s time for cake!…

This year my Mum made her yummy makowiec (poppy seed roll)…

and a layered cake called Kulin, which is made with a bread like dough that sandwiches a variety of fillings such as dried fruit, walnut paste and plum jam…

I’m sure it must sound like strange old meal to many people but Christmas Eve just wouldn’t be Christmas Eve without it.

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Christmas comes but twice a year

My Polish Grandparents (Babcia and Dzadzio) came to England after the Second World War and settled in Cambridge, where my Dad was born. The rest, as they say, is history. I love being half Polish, especially when it means that I get two Christmases a year! We celebrate our Polish Christmas (Wigilia) on Christmas eve and then have a full traditional English Christmas on Christmas day…the best of both worlds! Wigilia is traditionally a 12 course meal but thankfully for our waistlines we only have 5, which is still more than enough. Babcia used to do most of the preparation and cooking for our special meal and make it look easy. She gradually handed over the pearls of her wisdom and we have learnt how to prepare the dishes ourselves. She sadly passed away a couple of years ago but we are very proud to be able to carry on the traditions as she would have wanted. The main dish that has become my responsibility is the uszka (which actually means ‘little ears’ in Polish). Uszka are mushroom filled dumplings a bit like tortellini or ravioli. We serve them in barszcz (beetroot soup) as the first course of our Wigilia feast. They are quite time consuming to make but freeze very well so can be made in advance and are definitely worth the effort. Uszka are very popular with my family and so I have to make a LOT! This year I’ve made about 50 and there are only 5 of us eating them!

To start with I make the filling so that it has time to cool…

80g (ish) of dried porcini mushrooms

1/2 packet fresh chestnut mushrooms (approx 10), chopped finely

1 small onion, chopped very finely

2 tbsp butter

2 tbsp fresh white breadcrumbs

1 egg, beaten

salt and pepper

My measurements may seem a bit vague but you can have a bit of artistic licence with the filling. Some people only use dried mushrooms, some use only fresh ones but I, maybe controversially, mix it up a bit and use both as I think they each add texture and taste to the filling.

Cover the dried mushrooms in boiling water and leave to soak until hydrated and pliable. When they’re ready carefully lift them out of water, so as not to disturb any grit that may have settled at the bottom. The liquid is great to use for the barszcz or a yummy mushroom risotto. Chop the mushrooms finely and set aside for the time being.

Melt the butter in a large frying pan and fry the onion until translucent, then add both the rehydrated and fresh mushrooms and cook for about 10 minutes until the fresh mushrooms have cooked down, any liquid has evaporated and the mixture has started to sizzle a bit.

Transfer the mushroom mixture to a bowl and add the breadcrumbs and egg to make a firm paste. Now’s the time to season your filling, add salt and pepper to your taste and leave to cool.

To make the dough…

2 cups plain flour

1/2 tsp salt

1 large egg, beaten

3 tbsp water (you might need more so add as necessary)

Put the flour in a large bowl with the salt. Make a well in the centre and add the liquid ingredients. Knead until a smooth dough forms, don’t panic if it doesn’t look like it’s going to come together just add more water and keep kneading…trust me, it will become smooth before long! Wrap the ball of dough in clingfilm and let it rest for 20 minutes.

Roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface until it’s very thin (1-2mm). Cut it into 2 inch squares and put a small pile of the filling in the middle of each one…

Using your finger or a small pastry brush, moisten two sides of each square with water and fold in half diagonally to make a triangle, pressing out any air from around the filling…

Dab one corner with water and loop around to overlap the other corner, then press them together like this…

Once you’ve mastered this, repeat over and over and over…you’ll soon be a pro…

Put a large saucepan of salted water to boil. Drop a few uszka at a time into the water and cook at a simmer for about 10 minutes or until the dough is tender (like al dente pasta). Drain them well… 

If you are making them in advance, let them cool before layering them up with greaseproof paper in a plastic container ready for freezing. 

On Christmas eve I’ll have defrosted my uszka, my Dad will have made his own secret recipe barszcz and I’ll just warm the uszka through by simmering them for a few minutes, until they float to the top of the pan and are warmed through. We serve about 10 uszka in each bowl of barszcz but that’s because we’re incorrigible gluttons 🙂 

It all may sound a bit weird and wonderful to those unaccustomed to Polish food but all I can say is…don’t knock it until you’ve tried it…

Writing this post has made me even more excited about Christmas now…I can’t wait!

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