Let’s pretend how dull would be the foodies pallet if there were no autumn in the world. No roots, no pumpkins, no plums, no marrows, no apples, no late autumn honey, no mulled wine from thermos… Autumn is a great time to celebrate comfort and flavour. So I have a quick bucket list of things to do this fall if you are a food lover.
- Bake an apple pie. Absolutely a must. No autumn should pass without a pie. May I offer you a recipe to try? This one with apple roses tastes good and looks delicious. Or why not to try an apple cake instead?
- Mulled wine! Who said mulled wine is for Christmas? I promise you that it’s spicy warmness suits autumn beautifully. Make some mulled wine and spend a gloomy evening in the park or garden, drinking it. Maybe watching the stars, or maybe reading some poetry.
- Go chocolate hunting. Research what shops in your city have the best variety of chocolate and spend some time reading labels, taking photos and tasting (if available). Buy couple, or three, or five (no more than ten)… And spend a half an hour comparing different bars with tea or coffee.
- Buy a pumpkin. Actually, buy two. Waste one on all that pumpkin dishes you save on Pinterest. Pumpkin curry, pumpkin risotto, pumpkin soups and pies are among those really nice things to try. (May I also suggest you these really nice pumpkin cupcakes?) Make a “nature morte” with the other one. Place it on the dinning table as a centrepiece or on a mantel (if you have one) as an object of art.
- When it’s time, gut it, carve it, make the scariest lantern on your street. Or the cutest if you like it better. Do not discard the seeds. You are a foodie or what? Extract the seeds, wash them, dry them, then bake at 50 degrees C for 30 minutes to make the best pumpkin seeds for salads, granola or bread… You made it yourself!
- Apple chips. No more words. Just slice and bake!
- Go adventurous and choose seasonal menu in your favourite restaurant. How often do you come to your fav place and order the same fav plate? To be honest, I do that all the time. I have several dishes I love the most in several restaurants I like. And tend to order them all the time. But autumn is so generous on fruits and veggies that we can’t ignore it. Viva celeriac! Viva parsnips!
- Herbs and spice tea can be a great remedy for all that colds and flues waiting around the corner. But it also can be a pleasant way to calm down after a stressful day at work. Fill you teapots with mint, cinnamon, star anise, cardamom, cloves, orange peel, cranberry and raspberry leaves and steep for 5-7 minutes, add some honey and dive into you relaxed evening. It can as well be linden, camomile and lavander for a goodnight sleep.
- Preserve! Whatever you like. My own stars of the shelf are pumpkin confiture, raspberry jam, black currants jelly and minced marrows.
- Apples are very rich in pectin wich makes them really good for making jam. It sets quickly and has a nice consistency once set. But it’s also great for making jellies and zefir (Russian marshmallows). Give it a try.
- Pack a hamper for a picnic. There’s no other such joy in the world as autumn picnics. Herb tea, hot chocolate, apple tarts, plum jams, cheeses and wines – oh, don’t start me on this. Get some inspiration here. Have a look at how we made our big Lavender picnic in Hyde Park.
- Cook! Autumn is a nesting time, you spend more and more time at home and cook more and more comfort foods. Use all the help you need from books, magazines and blogs – find the recipies you dare to try and come on, turn the stove on!
The end of summer is a pleasant time for all types of foodies. All kinds of tasty things reach their perfect ripeness. Fruits and veggies, of course, some berries, honey, nuts and – kings of foraging – mushrooms.
Girolles are my personal favourite among mushrooms. They are dense, clean, a little sweet and look very vivid and colourful on the plate. When I happen to get a bag of girolles, my first desire is to make Russian style fried potatoes with mushrooms. But after that I allow my fantasy to rush. So how do you feel about girolle for breakfast?
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It’s your turn to cook lunch, I say to my older son every once in a while, when I’m not in mood to take over the hob. Ilya is 10 years old and he tells me he wants to be a chef since he was 4. He cooks a lot. Not only he can fry an egg, but also make pasta, bake some biscuits, mix some delish salads, and compose scrumptious pizzas. It all started with some fried veggies – he cut everything he could find, including cucumbers for example, and just fried everything in a pan. It was horrible to be honest. But I look at him and his dishes now and see what a true passion can do.
So we discussed it and decided that he can have his column in my blog. Ta-dam! We are now presenting the new category “Kids’ turn to cook” where Ilya is sharing simple and easy recipes every kid can make on his own or with little help from adults.
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Who in the world would miss roasted lamb in spring? Not me. Though I’m not a big fan of lamb, season is season.
I won’t lie that I cooked that, my husband did. He is way to stronger with meat than I am. Especially with lamb. He can make it nicely brown and full of flavour. And he can make that meat fall apart under the fork.
So what we are cooking today is the slow roast lamb leg with bulgar wheat, shalots and white wine. Continue reading →
In Russia we call them “sochni”. It’s probably an easy one after the Olympiad in Sochi. Nearly the same word. ‘Sotch-nee’. Basically it means they are juicy. Oh, I can tell you they are.
To make it right I strongly advise you to visit your nearest Polish food store and get half a kilo of “twarog”. It’s a very special kind of soft cheese which tastes between Ricotta and cottage cheese. You add some salt and sugar to it and it starts “crying” – give out some water. Then you add some egg – so all that moist filling holds together nicely when you bake it and doesn’t try to escape after the first bite.
I don’t know why no one in my family ever made sochni. They are easy and really delish. But still it is a kind of childhood memory for me, ’cause my mom used to buy them every time we went out shopping. Sochni was a typical Russian street food a quarter of century ago.
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Hot cross buns, hot cross buns
One a penny, two a penny hot cross buns.
As a huge fan of all yeast dough goodies I couldn’t miss the opportunity to make these for Easter. That’s interesting how in different cultures Christians have the same understanding of what makes bread festive. Greek Tzureki, Italian Pannetone, Russian Kulich, British Hot Cross Buns – all have it in common. Spices. And orange zest. And raisins.
I cooked Kulich dozens of times, and Tzureki, and Pannetone as well, but it’s my first time with British Easter bread. I always wondered how the crosses on top are made. Is it white chocolate? Do they bake the buns first and add the crosses at the end? Ha ha, now I know how it’s done. And I was surprised how easy the method is.
Even though I’m not an experienced hot cross bun baker I couldn’t have settled with some classic taste and recipe. So here are my Easter buns with chocolate and prunes.
(makes 9 tall buns, prep and cooking time 40 minutes, proving and rising – about 2 hours) Continue reading →
What do you usually think when you read the words “gluten free, dairy free, raw, vegan” in the name of a recipe. “How’s that stuff gonna be tasty?” – is my first thought. To swap real smooth rich creamy butter for an avocado? Am I crazy or what? No, that’s not for me. I don’t want to offend anyone, I assume I just like the classic cakes too much.
But as a homebaker sometimes I do gf, df, vegan and raw cakes for my clients. And sometimes I have a little leftovers of my cakes and bakes which I try to be sure that the cake is fairly good. And this is exactly how I discovered this avocado based vegan chocolate mousse.
I was making chocolate cake for a meet-up of some group, half of the members of which were vegans and the other half was about to become ones. I found couple of recipes, combined them and made some delicious mousse. My son is not a fan of chocolate, but my 4yo daughter ate 3 portions of that. It is as rich chocolate as a proper brownie and as smooth and creamy as classic ganache. Can you believe that? Try yourself!
(makes 15 shots, cooking time 20 minutes) Continue reading →
How do you start your Easter Sunday? Is it a trail for kids or a basket full of eggs set up on the breakfast table? My Easter bunny loves playing hide-n-seek with kids. He leaves some foot prints here and there to lead my youngsters to their chocolate treat.
Then we continue with some Russian traditional foods like Easter bread (I’ll post the recipe a little later before the Orthodox Easter which is 1 May this year). And I also make some special deserts that will look interesting for children. I can tell you, it’s so easy here in UK, where there are very clear and pretty symbols connected to Easter, comparing to Russia, where the only symbol will be the Holly Cross. I love those bunnies, chicks, sheep and pastel colours and flowers and eggs and birdies. So this year we made some nest with chocolate eggs – so bright and shiny!
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In the morning slanting sun rays penetrate into the dining room through the thin netting. They carefully grope window-sill, table and a white doily lying on it. The warm touches slide on the white chair backs, flutter from one side to another, quivering from every curtain movement and each wiggle of trees outside. Sun rays softly stroke sleepy eyelashes and sweet rose lips of kids, who are waiting for their breakfast. The kids, a boy and a girl, idly stretch their pyjamas, continue watching their last fairy dreams right at the table. It’s Sunday. No need to hurry.
No need to push your sleepy legs to find the right side of the trousers. No need to rush your sleepy jaws to chew… Quiet sunny slumber reigns in the dining room, until mum puts a plate full of pancakes on the table. And when the kids find out there’s chocolate filling in the centre, the last traces of sleep disappear and a funny-talking-laughing family breakfast begins.
(yields 12-15, serves 4-5, cooking time 25 minutes)
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I could never really resist old or vintage recipes. Any recipe marked as “Granny’s” or “Traditional Family” buys me at once. How do you think I felt when I found this MEDIEVAL recipe on ReallyNiceRecipes.com. I lost my breath and immediately filled my shopping basket (I do shop online, yes) with pheasants and venison.
Cooking process is a killer, honestly. It’s unbelievably long. The only thing that makes it bearable is that of those 30 hours you spend only about 2 hours hands on… Still – that’s definitely not the things you want to starts when guests knock at the door.
(serves 20, cooking time 1 h 20 mins for the pie, 2 h for the stock) Continue reading →