Monthly Archives: August 2013

Polish Summer Cake

IMAG0882As I got feedback about our recent recipe for Yeast Cake, some of you found it great but making it a bit too complicated.

Here’s another take on fruit cake, Polish way, I believe you’ll find it simpler to bake. I came across this one on a Polish site when I was short of time and needed something quick for dessert for our guests. The end result was superb; the cake was moist, fruity with scrumptious aroma filling the FTF kitchen.

Well, here we go: combine dry ingredients together in a bowl. Then beat the soft butter until is pale and fluffy, start adding sugar, a pinch of salt and keep on beating the butter mix. Next add eggs one by one, beating after each adding. Afterwards, add dry ingredients and combine with a spatula.

Line a medium size pan with parchment paper and transfer the dough to the pan and even it out with a spatula. For the crumble: chop the ingredients together and quickly work it with your fingers. If the crumble mixture becomes too wet just add a little more of flour. Now arrange the fruits on the top of it and scatter the crumble. Bake it in the oven in 175C for about 45 minutes, until the skewer comes out dry.

This cake preserves very well and tastes fresh the following day too. A quick fix for unexpected visitors or still hungry offspring. Celebrate the summer!

Ingredients:

For cake dough:

  • 200g spelt flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 40g potato flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 160g sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 200g butter

For crumble topping:

  • 150g spelt flour (almond meal would work here too)
  • 50g sugar
  • 10g cold butter

600g fruits (halved, pitted – when using plums for example)

  • Medium cake pan
  • Parchment paper
  • Wooden skewer

Resources:

Sugar – http://www.totalsweet.co.uk/

Skewer – http://goo.gl/8BbMjs

Spelt flour – http://goo.gl/IWwCgb

Travel: Trinidad

20130826 FTF TrinidadIs there anywhere in the world that is not beautiful?! If I can count spending more than six months in one place as living there, I’ve lived in about five different countries so far and I will be hard pressed to choose a favourite.

It seems though that the places I cherish more are those that I made the effort to get out and explore. Trinidad was my first home into my late teens and while I was expertly familiar with my home town, most of the island was still unknown to me.

I learnt the most about Trinidad when I took up road cycling. I started training along the base of the northern range of mountains and as I got fitter moved into the mountains and then later on, rode all over the island which measures roughly 50×50 miles.

The Northern Range is a dense verdant grouping of steep hills and deep gullies that runs from north east to the north west tip of the island. From the plains, this wall showcases the two major seasons of the year.

In the Dry season which runs from January to May, the hills turn brown, throw up sporadic fires and absorb the sunlight, in turn giving the top half of the island a parched listless atmosphere.  The deciduous Poui blossoms during this time and the bright yellows and pinks are scattered along the slopes.

When the rains come, everything changes in a flash! It’s an explosion of green as if brown was the colour of pregnancy just waiting for the waters to burst and out comes all the leaves, grasses, rivers, animals and the tons of dry debris hurtling down the river beds after the first big rains. The smell of the land shifts from a light, dry, ashen whiff to a heavy, humid, fruity draft.

At Christmas when the sun is in the south, the Northern Range is at its best. It reflects a seasoned greenery as it basks in the bright sunshine and with the cooler temperatures, you can take for granted the geologists’ account that the island was once a high altitude mountain range attached to South America.

To be continued…

Polish Yeast Cake

20130821 FTF Polish Yeast Cake01Fruits are in season now. An abundance of them. All these goodies made me crave for an old timer: Yeast Fruit Cake, ultimate Polish treat during summer.

It’s not too sweet, fruity (you can actually use any fruit you have) topped with crunchy crumble and have this lightly yeasty aroma that I guess only once you smell, you know you’re at home. Well yes, it’s made of flour – I use spelt only – but I give us absolution in that particular instance! LOL

Yeast Cake could be a tricky one to make (I admit I was defeated by it few times) but do not shy away from it – this recipe is easy and always works and with the help of a bread machine it’s nearly effortless.

You’ll need bread flour – I use spelt only and it worked very well. Put it into the bread machine along with dried yeast. Then add unrefined sugar (I use Total Sweet), beaten egg and buttermilk.  In a pan, melt butter and pour into the mixture. Set the machine for a dough setting and let it do the work.

Once the dough is smooth and elastic, transfer it into a bowl, cover with a tea towel and leave to rise in a warm place for about 1.5 hours. In the meantime, make yourself a cuppa and then prepare the fruits: plums (pitted) or strawberries, other summer berries, peaches, nectarines – try out your favourites.

And don’t forget to prepare a crumble for a topping as well. You’ll need spelt flour (or try almond meal), sugar (or Total Sweet) and melted butter. Work it with your fingers until it resembles breadcrumbs.

The dough needs to double its size and when it’s ready, knead it again and transfer to a big cake pan lined with parchment paper. Top the dough with fruits, scatter crumble over them and pop into the hot oven (180C) for about 40 minutes. Check it with a wooden skewer if it’s baked (skewer should come out dry).

You can serve the Yeast Cake sliced with topping of ice cream, but it is delicious without any companion too.

Mr FTF loves it for being buttery and not too sweet. Think of panettone (less sweet though) but with fresh fruits and crumble. Simple irresistible. I don’t know how I managed to safeguard some for the next day’s after dinner treat. Smacznego!

20130821 FTF Polish Yeast Cake02

Ingredients:

For cake dough:

  • 3 cups spelt flour
  • 14g dry yeast
  • 100g sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 170ml buttermilk
  • 80g butter
  • 1kg fruits

For crumble topping:

  • 200g spelt flour (almond meal would work here too)
  • 100g sugar
  • 120g melted butter

Equipment:

  • Large cake pan
  • Parchment paper
  • Wooden skewer
  • Bread machine (optional but very handy)

Resources:

Sugar – http://www.totalsweet.co.uk/

Skewer – http://goo.gl/8BbMjs

Spelt flour – http://goo.gl/IWwCgb

Ice Cream – http://www.mackies.co.uk/produce/traditional.html

Paleo Resume

20130816 FTF Paleo ResumeAs a family we’ve been focusing on food for over ten years now.

When Mrs F and I first got together I was still a full time student with a part time job. She moved from Warsaw to the UK and the plan was to start a family and divide the responsibilities. I will earn the money, she will manage the home.

Food for us then was a matter of ‘eat what you can afford’. We shopped at the cheaper supermarkets and most times bought their named brands. Even back then it was apparent that there is a difference in something as simple as good spaghetti and bad spaghetti. I think salt might be the only product you will find hard to differentiate.

We ate a lot of homemade food during those years but I remember taking to work the packaged snacks that were considered healthy. My first job was at a business park out in the sticks for a small company with no canteen. I ate at local pubs occasionally but the closest was half a mile from the office so it was not often with English weather and what I could afford.

We were conscious about food in as far as we were trying to stretch our budget and figured home cooking was a smart way to do this. If you audited our kitchen then it was mostly the standard ingredients for conventional meals. We still included sodas, juices and grain products, like breads and pasta, on the shopping list. We were never big into confectionery.

As my career grew so did our shopping list. By 2008, we were eating more packaged foods and the take away bill both at home and during lunch at work was growing. The store brand days were behind us but it was the same group of products. The medical niggles were also stepping to the fore.

At my first job, the one out in a field, I had a one hour drive each way, every day. I started to experience bouts of anxiety while on the road. Once I remember being stuck in a traffic jam and hunched over the steering wheel, cold sweating and feeling my heart in my mouth, dreading it was the end of me. I braved through that period but the threat of a blackout was always close.

My next job was in London. More money, more food. The blackouts were just one of a growing number of ailments that doctors consoled me as evidence of age. I accepted that and the medication that came with it. I can count about five major problems, some of which I hope to write about in other posts, which were plaguing me at the time.

In 2008 things came to a head when I was sent home from work after blacking out and being too ill to continue. At that point I decided I had to make some changes to my diet. This idea did not come out of nowhere but it was as a result of information I was getting online that started at an information security blog by Chris Hoff who mentioned Art DeVany and his randomness theories.

Then I read Nasim Taleb’s Fooled by Randomness and was a regular visitor to Mark’s Daily Apple and Free the Animal by this time. So the idea was to stop all the grains, although recommended by the doctors, and cut the sugars to a minimum. I also did regular fasting. I found it an easy step and Mrs F was very supportive although to this day, Pancakes on Sunday mornings remains a family tradition no one is willing to shed.

As all converts, we were very strict in the start and the recipe books were a needed guide. As time passed and the more I read and the more we practised on the subject of Paleo, the more of a mile high view we took of nutrition. Now we focus on real food but still with the proscriptions on wheat products, packaged foods and drinks.

The medical ailments have mostly disappeared. I take no medication now, no supplements and I’ve reduced visits to the doctor to an almost annual event.

We do not use Paleo recipe books but draw on our Trinidad and Polish backgrounds to put together meals made of local and imported ingredients. The macro nutrients we get can be listed as below:

Protein – eggs from a local farm, meats bred in the UK, Polish meats and sausages, fish (tinned like wild Alaskan salmon, sardines, cod livers), smoked mackerels, fresh fish, roasted nuts and almonds, coconut milk

Carbohydrates – dasheen, eddoes, potatoes, cassava, plantains, fruits, organic spelt flour (for pancakes and occasional cakes), plantains flour, gari, millets

Fats – coconut oil, butter, palm oil, animal fats, olive oil

This list is not exhaustive but it is close to what our cupboards stock on a regular basis and from this we make every effort to create new and exciting meals for the entire family. There is no weekly rota of dishes and each evening on returning home it is pretty much a guessing game of “What’s for dinner?”

Our eating is a continuous journey of taking responsibility for our health. We engage the children in the making of the shopping lists, the shopping, the gardening, the cooking and the rituals we’ve built around family meals.

The next level for us is to have more produce from our garden that we are starting this year. We bought the house with raspberry, gooseberry and apples and added strawberries and tomatoes so far. In the Autumn we want to set up some beds for produce in 2014.

There is also a plan to get a freezer now that we have more space and source our meats locally. The idea is to have a closer relationship with the food we eat in order to develop the reverence necessary to maintain our health and vitality and to better appreciate the interconnectivity of all life.

Resources:

Chris Hoff – http://www.rationalsurvivability.com/blog/

Art DeVany – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arthur_De_Vany

Nasim Taleb – http://www.fooledbyrandomness.com/

Mark’s Daily Apple – http://www.marksdailyapple.com

Free the Animal – http://freetheanimal.com/

Eggs En Cocotte

20130813 FTF Egg En CocotteHere’s a simple way to spice up the boring scrambled/sunny side/hardboiled/omelette eggs breakfast staple. We do eggs for brekkie often as they are very yummy, nutritious and quick. My 10yr old can put them together with cheddar cheese and chives.

But some mornings though, you want something with a twist, but really not willing to slave over a stove too much. Well, one lazy Sunday morning I cooked my version of egg en cocotte (or no crust quiche I called it too) inspired by the Rachel Khoo Paris kitchen. By the way, oeufs en cocottes are delicious too.

First turn on your oven, then scour through you fridge for any sausage, cooked meat or ham, chop it roughly. You may use bacon as well, if you lucky to find one. Now, toss it on a warm pan for few minutes and after share evenly into ramekins – you may daub them with a bit of butter beforehand.

While meats in the pan, chop some onions, chives, pepper, tomatoes, olives, zucchini and I can go on – you just experiment or go with your liking. It really is dish to make use of leftovers as much as you fancy. Replace meat with fish (smoked or cooked) if that is what you have in the fridge.

You can also braise the veggies with the meats if you prefer them to be softer –or divide them straight away into the ramekins to have a bit of a crunch.

In a bowl break one egg per ramekin, mix them with grated cheddar and pour that mixture over meat/veggies. Salt and pepper to taste. A bit of fresh herbs are lovely in it too. Of course, the number of eggs is for a guidance only 🙂

If you like and have it in your fridge, please add a dollop of crème fraiche (full fat please!) to the egg and cheese mixture. Now put ramekins inside of a hot oven (gas 6) for about 10 – 15 min. They should come out with a nice golden crust when ready.

Voila! Now dig in. Enjoy it!

Ingredients:

  • Ramekins
  • 1 egg for each ramekin
  • Cheese
  • Meats
  • Vegetables
  • Creme Fraiche
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Resources:

Rachel Khoo – http://goo.gl/eaxVAm

Ramekins – http://goo.gl/a3QBNe

 

Our trip to London

Last week Mrs FTF took her mother, who’s visiting from Poland and the three children to London to do the tour bus.

They took the train to Blackfriars and caught the Original London Tour bus at St Paul’s. The family ended up on the greens outside the Major’s office.

Before leaving the capital that day, they went to Borough Market and enjoyed Bratwurst hotdogs and honey roasted nuts.

Charlie Mingus on the day:

Today we went to London to go on a tour. We got there by 12 o’clock.  First we started looking for the original tour bus station next to St Paul’s Cathedral.

Jan Photos London 007

Soon after St Paul’s Cathedral, we saw blue trees which are pretty amazing and there were a lot of them.

Jan Photos London 009

Then the guide on our bus tour started telling us about The Great Fire of London. Soon after we came up to a tower that was in memory of the fire and its name was Monument and in legend, if it fell down it would point to where the fire began, which is Pudding Lane.

Jan Photos London 020

A couple minutes later we were crossing London Bridge and I made a photo of the view from it and we saw HMS Belfast.

Jan Photos London 023

While on our way to crossing Tower Bridge we came by London’s first fire brigade station which was until last year and is now a restaurant.

Jan Photos London 027

Finally we got to Tower Bridge and it was a nice experience crossing it.

Jan Photos London 033

Later on we went to Trafalgar Square and there were a lot of people and there was a statue of a blue chicken.

Jan Photos London 074

Jan Photos London 078

Outside of Trafalgar Square we came past the Reform Club where Phileas Fogg would have made his bet to go around the world in 80 days.

Jan Photos London 096

Later we got off the tour and went on a walk and I made a picture of the whole tower bridge.

Jan Photos London 226

 

Resources:

Bus Tour – http://www.theoriginaltour.com/

Borough Market – http://www.boroughmarket.org.uk/

It Starts With Children, Yes!

20130805 FTF ChildlessIs being childless selfish?? I recently came across such an article. I guess written to encourage readers to put their pennies into a bag and discover that in our western society opinions are divided and there’s no obvious winner in that debate. Below is my personal rant:

I’m a Pole, living in the UK now, and I may say I had a traditional upbringing. Though, things are changing enormously in PL too and family is not a core of society as it used to be. Still, I always find my family exceptionally supportive, close and present in our life even though they live a thousand km away. On the other hand, seeing and observing the western way of the family relations makes me sombre and sorry at times.

So is being childless selfish? Well, I think it has more to do with being self-centred than selfish. In our society we are pushed and moulded into taking such a model of life that we are here to enjoy ourselves and live a life to our pleasure/convenience. Responsibilities, inconveniences, compromises, putting others needs before your own is becoming increasingly viewed as passé or oppression. Well, in that view a woman must be truly a silly mare because she’s unable to notice being oppressed. She’s unable to spot being reduced down to mere child and husband minder. And she thinks she enjoys it! Obviously she’s doing nothing for herself, sacrificing herself on the altar of keeping the family, frequently answering questions: “What about your career?”

So, one should live a self-centred life (and ditch a daddy when he doesn’t fit in). Yes, now it is about you and yourself!

So when you decide to have a child you’ll be pitied by some, may make others feel awkward (maybe because they want one too but are afraid that it is not going to fit well  into the “Sex in the City” kind of a model that so many girls want to emulate).

Increasingly, I am being vexed that because medicine gave us birth control tools, we decided to use them to eradicate the crucial ingredient of our society – the family. The family is so disintegrated in our society that parents, grandparents and children are shoved into live separate lives, like acquaintances, nearly needing an invitation to see one another. Do not dare to tell/ask too personal questions, poke your nose into your mother’s business or tell your kid an unpleasant truth…

Kids are inconvenient, noisy, smelly, make you pull you hair out, give up those precious moments of peace, have demands (usually in the most untimely of moments) – and mostly kids are selfish about their own needs.

So we decide to save a planet, humanity and Earth’s precious resources and not to have a child. Life’s not a breeze, but it’s more pleasant now. It’s convenient like a corner store on a Sunday evening. Can run to get that pint of milk, but I don’t have to go and buy nappies which run out.

Thanks to that blessed medicine achievements, we live now well into our 80s and how our older days are going to look like? Is there going to be anyone to rely on for support, help or simply an uplifting chat? Is there going to be anyone to call on the phone to check on us? Pop into for a cuppa?

I’ve seen and read how paid care for the old and sick has fared for them and it’s a really chilling prospect for some. No love in there, and it would be unbearably sad to come to the end of such a magnificent journey to discover you arrived there alone. Not a loving soul to hold your hand, give you a sip of water maybe… well the care worker was supposed to arrive at noon to cook for you, change you and give you a medication. No shower today, maybe he’s sick? Anyway, no consolation for you as you lay there in your bed like a bum, sure no one is going to check on you.

I can only hope our sprogs will be there for us when and if we need them – we are here for them now and making our best to bring them up in the understanding that your family is what really matters. Career, jobs, material stuff come and go. Childless could be mindless?