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Nigella’s Incredibly Easy Chocolate Fruit Cake

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My sister used to hate Christmas. Because the only family tradition we had was a game invented by my mother called ‘what can I possibly do this time to screw that period even more’. She was marvelous at it. Top notch. Never failed.

I briefly remember spending Christmas Eve with her family when I was 5. If my sister hadn’t had cooked, no one would have been bothered about dinner.  There was no family gathering, everyone was minding their own business – someone was watching TV, the other was listening to the radio, someone else disappeared, etc. After few hours (there was also a minor row involved when we were accused of being intellectuals) we left, and that involved walking home through the forest for 5 km in the middle of winter. Polish winter. So when I think about that day I can sort of understand why my mother never cherished Christmas, but I still can’t understand why she always had to screw it for us.

I used to love Christmas (especially after leaving home at 20). Not anymore. I am disillusioned. Bah humbug!

So for the last time I decorated the house and made food. I also made Nigella’s Incredibly Easy Chocolate Fruit cake. It was a really nice fruit cake with the hint of chocolate. Of course when I was making it I had to listened to many Boyfriend’s jokes and references to flour not being flour, and ‘are you sure the white powder is the baking powder?’ comments. But I am on Nigella’s team and I am not taking  jokes like that from anyone. And again, as I said here before, if you are successful, beautiful woman, you have to deal with a lot of bad press, probably caused by jealousy. What I don’t understand is why women take part in this. And also, no one has actually seen Nigella taking cocaine but everyone seems to judge her and wish her the end of her career. And when Kate Moss was actually photographed while taking cocaine, people seemed to forget about it straight away, and she’s back to be a British treasure. Is it because she is not as pretty, eloquent, sexy and wealthy as Nigella? I don’t get it.

Anyway, back to the cake. Make it and enjoy it. It is as gorgeous as its inventor…

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DSC05778

 

My sister used to hate Christmas. Because the only family tradition we had was a game invented by my mother called ‘what can I possibly do this time to screw that period even more’. She was marvelous at it. Top notch. Never failed.

I briefly remember spending Christmas Eve with her family when I was 5. If my sister hadn’t had cooked, no one would have been bothered about dinner.  There was no family gathering, everyone was minding their own business – someone was watching TV, the other was listening to the radio, someone else disappeared, etc. After few hours (there was also a minor row involved when we were accused of being intellectuals) we left, and that involved walking home through the forest for 5 km in the middle of winter. Polish winter. So when I think about that day I can sort of understand why my mother never cherished Christmas, but I still can’t understand why she always had to screw it for us.

I used to love Christmas (especially after leaving home at 20). Not anymore. I am disillusioned. Bah humbug!

So for the last time I decorated the house and made food. I also made Nigella’s Incredibly Easy Chocolate Fruit cake. It was a really nice fruit cake with the hint of chocolate. Of course when I was making it I had to listened to many Boyfriend’s jokes and references to flour not being flour, and ‘are you sure the white powder is the baking powder?’ comments. But I am on Nigella’s team and I am not taking  jokes like that from anyone. And again, as I said here before, if you are successful, beautiful woman, you have to deal with a lot of bad press, probably caused by jealousy. What I don’t understand is why women take part in this. And also, no one has actually seen Nigella taking cocaine but everyone seems to judge her and wish her the end of her career. And when Kate Moss was actually photographed while taking cocaine, people seemed to forget about it straight away, and she’s back to be a British treasure. Is it because she is not as pretty, eloquent, sexy and wealthy as Nigella? I don’t get it.

Anyway, back to the cake. Make it and enjoy it. It is as gorgeous as its inventor.

Nigella’s Incredibly Easy Chocolate Fruit Cake

350 g chopped prunes

250g raisins

175g currants

175g butter

175g dark muscovado sugar

225g honey

125ml Tia Maria, juice and finely grated zest of 2 oranges

1 tbsp mixed spice

2 tbsp cocoa powder

3 eggs beaten

150g flour

75g ground almonds

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp soda

1. Preheat the oven to 150C. grease round, loose -bottomed cake tin, line it with baking parchment.

2. Put the fruits, butter, sugar, honey, Tia Maria, orange juice and zest, spice and cocoa powder into large saucepan and gently bring to a boil, stirring as the butter melts.

3.Simmer for 10 min, take off the heat, cool.

4. When it cooled, add eggs, flour, ground almonds, baking powder and soda, stir to combine.

5. Pour the fruit cake mixture into the prepared cake tin. Bake in the oven for 1 1/2 – 2 hrs.

6. Decorate with all the glitter and bling you can handle.

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Easter

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Easter is not much fun when you have to work or you are ill. This year I managed to do both. First working, then spending most of the time in bed feeling sorry for myself. Before I fell ill and before I was working (actually it was before Easter as well) I arranged to have Easter dinner with Boyfriend’s family, pretending it was Easter. It’s just a date after all and it moves every year anyway, so you don’t have to stick to it.

I made carrot and corriander soup, asparagus quiche and chocolate cake (with dark chocolate ganache, milk chocolate nest, white chocolate shavings, chocolate eggs and a chocolate bunny).Yum.

carrot and coriander soup

carrot and coriander soup

easter chocolate cake

easter chocolate cake

easter chocolate cake

easter chocolate cake

And the Oscar goes to….

The night has come….Bitching, bitter comments, laughing at some dress choices and some speeches, shouting at tv ‘get over yourself, it’s only an award’ when receiver gets too emotional…Oh, wait…is it only me doing it???

Anyway, this time I’m working so I’m not going to watch it on the day, just Red Carpet (best fuel to the critisism).

So no cooking or baking, simple snacks and lots of alcohol, after all, most of the speeches you can’t listen to without being slightly sedated…

Oh, how I love watching the room feeled with anticipation and botox! Let’s the joy commence!

Oscar

Birthday…

A long, long time ago, almost in a galaxy far, far away (let’s call it Poland) I used to work as a freelance journalist. I was mostly interviewing film makers and because I was independent, I only interviewed the ones whose work I found interesting. One day I said to my friends: ‘In 6 months I’m going to interview Mike Leigh’ and their response was ‘ Yeah, right, as if’. I’m not sure if you know this, but the urban myth is, Mike Leigh doesn’t like the press and interviews. Well, after 6 months I proved my friends wrong. After pulling all the contacts and possible strings I was on the way to London to a scheduled meeting with the man himself.  And I don’t know if it’s only an urban myth, but Mike Leigh was the nicest person ever. I was shitting myself anyway, because you don’t very often meet someone so intelligent, knowledgeable, accomplished and totally intimidating.  He was very patient with me and after we were done with the interview, we went for a little walk around Soho to have some portraits taken. It was February and it was my birthday. I knew his birthday was just a few days away, so I mentionned it. I also said that it was the best birthday I had ever had and he asked why. I said it was because I met him and got the interview. And that’s when he said to me ‘ Girl, you must have had really crappy birthdays then, if meeting me is the highlight’.

And boy, oh boy, was he right…I mean, about crappy birthdays, I still think meeting him was a highlight…

Anyway, birthdays. My mother never made a big issue of anyone’s birthdays.  I never had a hoopla. There was never a wild party or even a party come to think of it. When me and my sister were a little bit older she always used to make a birthday cake for me, so she was the only one making a bit of a fuss.

Because of the way we were brought up I never payed attention to my birthdays and I never know how to act when someone mentions it.

So this year I decided to treat myself to a bit of a me time. Boyfriend went away with the band to record a new album and I could indulge myself the way I wanted without him trying to upstage my efforts to do so.

Forget about Breakfast at Tiffany, Breakfast on Pluto or even Breakfast Club. It was all about Breakfast in Bed. Not just breakfast in bed. The whole day in bed. My plan was to stay in bed all day, watch films and eat and drink whatever I felt like. And don’t assume I stayed in bed in my dressing gown. Oh no…I decided it was time to glam up, dress up and doll up.

For breakfast I made myself croissants, and the recipe you can find in the blog under dessert section. The only difference was, they were plain ones and bigger than the ricotta ones.

breakfast in bed

breakfast in bed

breakfast in bed

breakfast in bed

breakfast in bed

breakfast in bed

And then I had lunch in bed and dinner and a little dessert. I made raspberry cupcakes with white chocolate icing.

Raspberry cupcakes with white chocolate icing

Ok, I know people say in baking you have to measure everything correctly…Well, I wasn’t in the mood for measuring so I combined let’s say 60g butter with 60g sugar, added 2 eggs and about 120g of flour, and a spoon of baking powder. Then I added a splash of vanilla and a few spoons of almond milk. After that I folded in the batter 200g (?) raspberries. Oh yeah, and I prebaked oven in the meantime to 180C. After all the mixing I spooned the mixture into paper cases and baked the cupcakes for about 20 min. I let them cool and then melted white chocolate (100g) in about 150g heavy cream over simmering water. When it cooled, I piped it onto my cupcakes. And funnily enough, it worked, they were yummy. Oh, and I forgot to mention, I added a bit of red colouring to the icing to make it pinkish. Just because I felt like it.

raspberry and white chocolate cupcake

raspberry and white chocolate cupcake

And you know what…? I had the best day ever!!

Valentine's Day

To quotate my favourite film:

‘-Sometimes I’m thinking, is love actually possible in life? Does it actually exists?

-Love?

-Yes, love. Is it actually possible to happen?

– Well, they show love quite often on TV…Like some people are in love or talk…

– Yes, I’m thinking in real life it’s actually not possible…’

Don’t try to remember which film is it from. If you are not Polish, you wouldn’t know. You can see the clip here though.

I don’t have a single romantic bone in my body. I was lucky to be brought up during communism where people didn’t believe in frills like that. Parents also didn’t hug you or told you they loved you (hold on, surely not just my parents??)…

And Valentine’s Day…what is it all about that on one day you have to go over the top, roses are overpriced and you have only the right to celebrate it if you are in a relationship.

I say, it should be an occasion for single people to party wild and celebrate being with someone who understands them the most – themselves.

So, although I’m not a romantic, I love parties and gatherings of people I like, or love even…

And for that reason only, this year I’m baking and cooking for them.

valentine's day decorations

valentine's day decorations

The menu:

Asparagus and pea risotto

Chocolate cheescake

Tiramisu

asparagus and pea risotto

asparagus and pea risotto

The recipe for tiramisu you can find in dessert section in this blog, the only difference this time was that I made individual tiramisu for everyone.

tiramisu

tiramisu

tiramisu

tiramisu

The recipe for chocolate cheescake was adapted  from Cook Vegetarian.

Chocolate cheescake

For the base:

175g digestive biscuits

1 tbsp muscovado sugar

1 tbsp cocoa powder

75g butter melted

For the filling:

100g dark chocolate

50g butter

1 tbsp cocoa powder

1 tbsp dark rum (I use honey vodka)

3 medium free-range eggs

40g moscovado sugar

1tbsp flour

1/2 tbsp vanilla extract

250g vegetarian mascarpone cheese

fresh raspberries

1. Preheat oven to 180C. Crush the biscuits, sugar and cocoa powder in a food processor. Add melted butter and mix well. Press into the bottom of spring-form cake tin. Set aside.

2.To make the filling, place chocolate, butter, cocoa powder and rum into a bowl set over simmering water until everything has melted together and is smooth. Remove from the heat and cool slightly.

3. Meanwhile beat the eggs and sugar until smooth and brown. It might take 10 minutes.

4. Add the flour, vanilla and mascarpone and whisk briefly until incorporated. Add the chocolate mixture and blend to combine. Pour into the cake tin and bake for 40- 45 minutes. Cool and serve with raspberries.

chocolate cheescake

chocolate cheescake

Happy Valentine’s Day all single people!

chocolate cheescake

Golden Globes

When I was at the university me and my friends used to make a big night of watching any film awards, especially the Oscars.

We used to dress up like we were going to walk the red carpet, make some food and drinks (we couldn’t really afford champagne back then, so usually we settled for sparkling wine). And we used to watch the awards all night till early hours. We had so much fun doing that every year. Usually we were talking over it most of the time but I treasure moments of making fun of some of the speaches, coming up with the phrases we used later over and over again (‘Andrew, how lovely to see you from so far away’ – Oscars 2000)…Me falling of the chair when I heard the Award went to someone who in my opinion didn’t deserve it….Aaah, memories…

When I moved to UK we tried to keep up with the tradition and in my first year I watched it with a group of new friends and commenting on the whole thing with my friends in Poland via Skype or text messages. But then it all changed. It just wasn’t the same, we were all working so we couldn’t really stay up all Sunday night.

So this year I decided to bring tradition back and make the night out of the Gloden Globes (especially that I didn’t have to go to work next day).

Drinks were flowing, snacks were prepared – crostinis, popcorn, roasted nuts, macaroons and creme de la creme – orange cupcakes with chocolate and orange icing.

popcorn

popcorn bags

table setting - gold theme

table setting - gold theme

setting the scene

setting the scene

macaroons

macaroons

house decorations

house decorations

table setting

crostini

crostini

orange and chocolate cupcakes

orange and chocolate cupcakes

Orange and chocolate cupcakes

  • 150 grams  unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 5 extra-large eggs at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons orange extract
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons orange zest
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk

For the frosting:

200 grams of dark chocolate, 200 of double cream, 1 tablespoon of orange extract

Preheat the oven to 180 C

Using mixer, cream the butter and sugar on high speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. With the mixer on low speed, add the eggs, 1 at a time, scraping down the bowl after each addition. Add the orange extracts and zest and mix well.

In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In 3 parts, alternately add the dry ingredients and the buttermilk to the batter, beginning and ending with the dry. Mix until just combined.

Line a muffin pan with paper liners. Fill each liner with batter. Bake for 25 to 35 minutes, until the tops are brown and a toothpick comes out clean. Allow to cool in the pan for 15 minutes. Remove to cool completely.

For the icing, temper chocolate, mix with cream and orange extract, cool slightly and when it starts setting, pipe onto your cupcakes or using palette knife spread on your cupcakes.

Christmas party – menu

I said recipes were coming soon, but who truly can define ‘soon’.

In other words I was just being lazy, doing what you should over Christmas – do nothing, eat, drink, and be merry…

But here it comes, christmas party menu:

Beetroot soup with mushroom parcels

For the beetroot soup you need:

2-3 beetroots (fresh)

1 carrot

1 parsnip

1 onion

3 pints of water

salt

pepper

dried marjoram

oregano

lemon juice from 1 lemon

1 spoon of olive oil

 

1. Boil water in a pan. Add olive oil.

2. Peel all the vegetables , cut them into big chunks (onion in half) and add to boiling water.

3. Add salt and pepper.

4. After few minutes add lemon juice. Boil for 15-20 minutes, taste and add more seasoning or lemon juice if you need to.

5. You can take all the vegetables out of your pot (we need clear beetroot soup) and add herbs and a dash of an olive oil.

I’m not going to lie, you can make yourself mushroom parcels (like tortellinis with porchini mushrooms). My sister does. But I bought them frozen from a Polish shop (one can only do a few things at a time).

mushroom parcels

mushroom parcels

 

beetroot soup with mushroom parcels

beetroot soup with mushroom parcels

Next thing on the menu were Beet and Goat Cheese Terrine with Rocket and Roasted Butternut Squash Salad

beetroot and goat cheese terrine

beetroot and goat cheese terrine

 

beetroot and goat cheese terrine

beetroot and goat cheese terrine

You can find the recipe in ‘Fresh’ by Anna Olson

I served it with Rocket and Roasted Butternut Squash Salad, Ina Garten aka Barefoot Contessa’s recipe:

You can find it in her book ‘Back to Basics’

or on the Food Network website here.

For the main we had Spanakopita (Spinach and Feta in Filo Pastry). I tried different variations of  this Greek dish but my favourite recipe which I used over and over again is Jamie Oliver’s from his ’30 Minute Meals’  book

There were two deserts. One of them was mince pies in filo pastry, dead easy. You need to cut filo pastry into squares, brush with melted butter and arrange in a muffin tin. If you feel artistic and have time arrange them with corners making a star. Fill them with vegetarian good mince meat, zest of lemon and fresh cranberries, bake till golden and sprinkle with icing sugar and maybe little sugar snowflakes…?

mince pies in filo pastry

mince pies in filo pastry

And there were also Gingerbread Cupcakes.

Christmas gingerbread cupcakes

Christmas gingerbread cupcakes

Christmas gingerbread cupcakes

Christmas gingerbread cupcakes

And the recipe you can also find on the Food Network website here.