Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Andorran Trinxat (More to it than Cabbage & Potato)!

Cabbage and potato.  Potato and cabbage.  Not a new combination but one that has been in existence for centuries in many countries world wide, famously in Ireland and many Slavic nations. 

I came across this little gem whilst doing some recipe trawling through the internet and found that Andorra too has a liking for this combo.

Trinxat is a dish from the Catalonia/Andorran regions and the name originates from the Catalan word Trinxar, which translated means "to slice".  This potato and cabbage dish's origins derive from the fact that these items were the only real fresh produce that could survive and be harvested in the mountainous grounds of Andorra.

The original recipe contains pork and/or bacon, so to ensure it is veggie friendly, I use vegetarian bacon.  Now; vegetarian bacon does get its proverbial leg pulled, namely because pork bacon has such a strong taste and texture that it's difficult for soya alternatives to emulate it exactly, compared to other mock-meat variations such as chicken or turkey which resemble their meat counterpart more accurately.  But, if you do your own taste-testing and try different brands, they're all slightly different, you'll find one that you like and that you can use accordingly.

I make this as a main course for myself or it can be made as a side dish.  Of course the beauty of this, is that if you are making this for vegetarians and meat-eaters, you will only need to use one extra saucepan.  Measure out all the other ingredients, split into two, with one saucepan having the veggie bacon version and the other one with the pork bacon.  The seasoning featured in my recipe is tailored towards my taste, so feel free to increase/decrease the measures as you feel and most importantly, enjoy! 

Andorran Trinxat
(1 very hearty Portion or serves 2 as a main course - more if served as a side dish).

150g Shredded Cabbage (I use sliced spring greens)
100g Potatoes
3 Slices of Vegetarian Bacon
1 Large Clove of Garlic
1½ tsp Ground Paprika
Sea Salt (amount dependent on taste)
1 tsp Dried Mixed Herbs
Olive Oil
Vegetarian Stock Cube

* Cut the potatoes into small cubes.
* Place the cubed potatoes and cabbage into a saucepan and cover with boiling water and crumble in the vegetable stock cube.  Boil until all items have been cooked through.
* In the meantime, grill your veggie bacon slices and also the garlic clove.
* Drain the potatoes and cabbage and return them back to the saucepan.  
* Pour some olive oil over the vegetables and gently fry.
* Chop up the veggie bacon into cubes and add to the saucepan with the garlic, paprika and sea salt.
* Keep frying gently and mix together thoroughly.
* Serve whilst warm!
NB: If you want to do what the Andorrans do, then on the final stage of the process, you can place the Trinxat into a large greased frying pan, flatten it out to make a thick 'pancake' of sorts and fry gently.  Then cut into 'slices' (like you would cut a cake) and serve.



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Saturday, 21 April 2012

Road-side Eggs from Happy Hens!

As much as big organisations/corporates play their part in this world, I love championing small local enterprises who offer a personal touch and something different.

One such enterprise is Ormen House (located next to Woods Farm) in Shirley, Solihull.  Although 2 separate businesses, Woods Farm (http://www.woodsfarm.co.uk/) is very well known in the Shirley/Solihull area as hundreds of people (from all around the region and beyond) descend there before Christmas to purchase their real Christmas trees, logs for wood burning fires and to meet the resident reindeer.  Woods Farm have over the past couple of years donated trees and holly wreaths to both the Prime Minister's home at 10 Downing Street and also to the Chancellor's residence at 11 Downing Street!  An honour I'm sure you'll agree!

Driving past there, there is a lovely sign outside Ormen House inviting you to buy free-range eggs, laid by their onsite hens - ½ dozen eggs for £1.00. 



It must be emphasised that it’s located next to Woods Farm, but Ormen House is a separate business with its own range of goods.  Although not an official farm shop, as well as eggs there is also the opportunity to buy locally made fresh bread plus fruit and vegetables which are from the family plot when in season and are otherwise from the wholesale market.



As well as all the delicious produce, Ormen House have live free-range chickens for sale for those wishing to partake in domestic chicken keeping.  I've heard that having your own supply of golden yolked eggs is a fantastic and rewarding thing!  The difference here is that Ormen House rescue hens that haven’t been treated accordingly, nurse them back to health and then they live a full free-range life either at Ormen House or with their new owners.  Once healthy, the chickens return back to having plush feathers, bright red headcombs and wattles and are totally relaxed and contented.  This factor I believe contributes to a better quality of eggs.  The proceeds from egg sales go towards recuperation costs for the chickens, so as well as receiving gorgeous eggs, you're helping a great project too.

So next time you're driving down Bills Lane (B90 2PP), or wish to make a special de-tour, stop to buy your eggs and veggies and help a great cause. 

PS:  Ending on a lovely note, Ormen House tell me that Woods Farm's reindeer is due to have a baby reindeer calf any day now - awww! 

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

How to Comment on Here (Plus Facebook & Twitter Links)

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Best wishes - Anna x

Monday, 16 April 2012

A Portion of Aubergine with a Side Order of National Stilton Week

The great thing about 'National' Weeks is that they help to bring different foods to the forefront and perhaps offer you the opportunity to try something you haven't had for a long time or perhaps even encourage you to try something for the first time.

This week is 'National Stilton Week' here in the UK and there is much promotion for the quintessentially English cheese which is Stilton.  There are many facts that determine whether or not you can call a cheese Stilton, the main one being it must be produced in one of these English counties - Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire or Leicestershire.  See www.stiltoncheese.com for more information.

This delicious blue cheese really does divide the masses and some people find it a little too strong but I think it's deliciously sharp and can really enhance a meal (as well as being my number one choice for an after-dinner cheeseboard).

As mentioned in my previous blogspot, 'Farmers Market Delights', I wrote about using blue cheese in an aubergine parmigiana recipe and Stilton lends itself perfectly for this.  This recipe serves 1-2 people as a main course and was inspired by Sophie Dahl's recipe featured in her 'Miss Dahl's Voluptuous Delights' cookbook which I have adapted using my own ingredients and incorporating my own taste.

If you're looking to acquaint yourself with Stilton for 'National Stilton Week' this recipe is a great way of doing so, as well as perhaps incorporating it with the increasingly popular campaign of  'Meat Free Mondays'  (www.meatfreemondays.co.uk)!  Whatever your reason for making this, I hope you enjoy it!


Aubergine Parmigiana with Stilton Cheese
1 Large Aubergine, 1 400g Tinned Chopped Tomatoes (good quality), Himalayan Pink Salt, Stilton Cheese (veggie friendly), sprinkle of dried herbs, paprika and brown sugar.
  • Cut the aubergine lengthways, sprinkle with Himalayan Pink Salt and fry in oil until both sides are brown and soft. 
  • In a separate saucepan, heat the tinned tomatoes and add the brown sugar, paprika and herbs.  Mix well.
  • In a greased loaf tin (or any suitable baking tin), make one layer of aubergine slices and then pour a little of the tomato sauce over it.
  • Repeat until all the aubergine slices and tomato sauce have been used up.
  • Crumble some Stilton cheese on the top and then bake in the oven (Gas Mark 4) for about 15-20 minutes or until the Stilton cheese has melted.
  • Serve with crusty bread!
  • NB:  Can be served when tepid or cool and is just as delicious!

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Ukrainian Easter Breakfast


Most people say I'm lucky when I explain that I have 2 Easters because of my religion.  Being Ukrainian Catholic, our religion celebrate festivals as per the Orthodox calendar.  So, most years our Easter is always after English/Western Easter but once every 4 years Easter falls on the same day.  This year, it falls on 15th April.

But yes, I am lucky as I get to celebrate twice and that of course means another feast with a delicious array of foods.  The celebration centres around breakfast which for those who observe the long fast prior to Easter Sunday, is the first meal.  The ritual commences either the evening before or very early Easter morning with a special church service, blessing the Easter breakfast food which people bring to church in baskets. 


Basket prepared for Church.  Embroidered cover with the traditional
greeting of  'Xpucmoc Bockpec'  - 'Christ Has Risen'



Back at home, the table is laid out with flowers and also 'pysanky' which are coloured/patterned eggs.  The centre piece of breakfast is 'Paska' which is a special Easter bread (although more like a cake-bread) typically made from milk, butter, eggs, flour and sugar and glazed using a mixture of egg and water (recipes available on the internet).  The rest of the breakfast menu typically consists of hard boiled eggs, cold meats, salads, cheeses, bread, fresh horseradish and 'Khryn/Tsvikla' (beetroot & horseradish sauce).  Eggs are consumed first and are usually shared out by the head of the family and they symbolise new hope and happiness.


Table set for Ukrainian Easter Breakfast

It is in effect, the ultimate continental-style breakfast with a heavy slant on meat as is commonplace not only in the Ukraine but across most of Eastern Europe.  So I make my Easter breakfast veggie friendly.  

I substitute the cold meats with Quorn or Linda McCartney sausages and The Redwood Co (Ready to Eat) Sage & Marjoram Sausages and ensure all the cheeses are veggie friendly.  As much as I love a good staple Cheddar, I use Easter Breakfast as a chance to create a varied cheese board which includes Double Gloucester with Chives, Hereford Hop, White Stilton with Apricots etc.  

For hard boiled eggs (with optional sprinkling of spring onions on top), I always, always use free-range, but at Easter I treat myself to top range ones and this year I have come across 'Posh Birds' (www.posh-birds.com) which can be purchased from Tesco.  They are laid by Blue Baroness hens and the egg shells are pale blue with a promise of dense creamy yolks.  It is stated that the 'Posh Birds' (hens) enjoy fine al fresco dining beneath the trees which I believe contributes to their freedom and welfare and ultimately great tasting eggs!

For Khryn ("h-ren") sauce, I place ready-made creamed horseradish sauce (from a jar), a couple of slices of pickled beetroot and a large clove of garlic in a food processor and it creates a sauce that becomes a lush pink colour with an almighty kick! 

Hard Boiled Eggs with Khryn


A slice of paska always concludes breakfast and is traditionally smothered in butter and/or jam.  Also, as I always do, I save one of my chocolate Easter eggs and have it after breakfast which is my Western twist on  an Eastern style breakfast!  Also, if you still have room for more Ukrainian goodies, check out some Easter lunch ideas from Veselka, a Ukrainian eatery in New York.  Their cook book provides heaps of veggie ideas for occasions all year round.  http://www.veselka.com/cookbook/

 A Whole Paska

A Slice of Paska with Jam

So as I go to prepare my Easter basket, I'll leave you with the customary Ukrainian Easter greeting - "Hrystos Voskres" - "Христос Воскрес".  (Christ has risen) - Happy Easter!



Monday, 9 April 2012

Farmers Market Delights

As much as I like meandering around supermarkets and acquainting myself with new products, there is something quite satisfying about visiting farmers markets and checking out what's in your local area.


Solihull's Farmers Market this weekend gave me the opportunity to meet some great local traders with tasty  veggie offerings which included these great finds......


I'm a great fan of garlic and it's used heartily in Eastern European cooking so with my Slavic roots, my family's house (and now mine) always has at least one bulb of garlic in, ready to use.  Its benefits are fantastic but its reputation sadly doesn't follow suit.  This little member of the Onion family can be unfortunately left out of recipes purely because the after-effects are so strong.  However, good news is on hand, as I found some odour-less garlic at the farmers market which contain all the good qualities that garlic possesses and yet isn't a passion-killer if you're having a romantic meal! 'The Snoggable Garlic Company' (SGC) based in Shropshire (http://www.snoggablegarlic.com/) sell pearls of odour-less garlic which allows you to eat it and still have a cheeky (garlic-less) snog afterwards!  In addition to their smoochy-friendly goodies, they offer home-made nut roast, marinated olives and dolmades (stuffed vine leaves).  Usually, shop-bought dolmades are stored in brine to preserve them which can leave them a little bitter but SGC's versions are stored in olive oil which gives them a gentler and more authentic taste.  Check out their contact details on their website to find stockists.


Being a Warwickshire girl and proud of this picturesque county, it's been hard to think of food or dishes that are synonymous with it, whereas other counties have established food links such as Devon (Cream Teas), Lancashire (Hot Pot), Somerset (Cider) etc.  So I was delighted when I saw Fowlers of Earlswood (http://www.fowlerscheesemakers.co.uk/) and their array of vegetarian friendly Warwickshire Cheeses.  These handcrafted, traditionally-made cheeses contain no animal rennet making them wholly veggie.  With so many to choose from, I decided upon sampling 'Fowlers Warwickshire with Real Ale & Mustard', which was a lovely textured cheese using ale from another growing popular Warwickshire enterprise, Purity Brewery (http://www.puritybrewing.com/).  Also, seeing as I can never resist blue cheese, I just had to have some 'Fowlers Forest Blue'.  A creamy yet mild blue cheese, I bought some to use for an adaptation of Sophie Dahl's Aubergine Parmigiana recipe which in fact worked very well.  Fowlers cheeses are available from deli's, independent stockists and are present at local Midlands farmers markets.


Walking through the market I was led from the tastes of Warwickshire to the Middle East courtesy of KusKus Foods. Described as holistic vegetarian and vegan food, there was a variety of tabbouleh salads, spiced sweet potato and falafel wraps on offer.  The difference between standard falafel and KusKus's were that theirs is wheat-free, making it suitable for those with a gluten allergy and as such they tasted lighter which allowed the other flavours to come through more.  In between food fayres and farmers markets, KusKus Foods also offer vegetarian cooking lessons in the Birmingham and West Midlands region.  Lessons focus on Middle Eastern cuisine with choices including 'An Introduction to Lebanese Food' and 'Host Your Own Moroccan Dinner Party'.  For class details and list of where you can see KusKus Foods exhibiting see: http://www.kuskusfoods.co.uk/


As for me, I was in Solihull to buy a gift for a friend's wedding and I came away with my lunch sorted (a falafel wrap plus dolmades) and with one of my dinner ingredients (blue cheese) ready to use.  Proving that Farmers Markets are a cornucopia of hidden culinary gems that allow you to try all sorts of things you won't find in the hypermarkets.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Veggie Easter Day Roast Lunch

I once heard radio & TV presenter Johnny Vaughan describe Christmas Day Lunch as being the "Grand Prix of Sunday Roasts" and I have to say, I agree!  But when it comes to Easter Day Lunch, although it's observed, it seems without the same gusto as Christmas.  However, Easter has its own seasonal charm and it's a great excuse to get into the kitchen and get cooking! 

As is customary for Easter, lamb meat is usually the centre-piece of the roast.  Whilst for me as a veggie, I could make a nut roast, a veggie wellington parcel or some other alternative, but where possible, I try and have the same kind of meal as everyone else to share in the experience.  So, as luncheon pals tuck into their lamb shanks, my Easter Day Roast Lunch will consist of Quorn's Lamb-Style Grills in a mint & rosemary glaze.  These extremely tasty grills offer a delicious meat-free alternative and make a great roast accompaniment.  The veg I like to have on Easter Sunday are miniature new potatoes roasted in oil, with spring onions and dried tarragon and also a root veg mix of carrots, celeriac and parsnips which I sprinkle with sea salt and splash with balsamic vinegar before roasting.

As for dessert, my thoughts turn to Easter Egg Nest Cake (taken from Nigella Lawson's 'Feast' book).  It's a dense, rich and fabulously indulgent chocolate cake, sprinkled with Mini Eggs, which works beautifully with ice cream.

For those with room left for an Easter Afternoon Tea - check out my blog post for 'Easter Afternoon Tea' which also includes the Easter Egg Nest Cake mentioned above.

So get your table ready with some bunny pictured napkins, a vase full of daffodils and perhaps even some Easter Crackers (yes, you can get them!), put your Quorn Lamb Style grills in the oven and celebrate the start of Spring!

Monday, 2 April 2012

Easter Afternoon Tea

With the extended Easter Bank Holiday weekend approaching, it's the perfect time to sit back and have a leisurely afternoon tea with friends and family.  Adding to the usual delights of finger sandwiches and scones, synonymous with afternoon tea, I love the extra dimension that Easter specialities can bring to the table.  Taking inspiration from past and present Easter Menus from quintessentially English Afternoon Tea institutions such as The Ritz London and Claridge's, adding hot cross buns (especially if home-made) is a must-do.  

My Easter Tea will of course have hot cross buns (Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Waitrose etc have flavoured varieties to try), as well as a hearty portion of Simnel Cake.  There are some interesting historical facts behind Simnel Cake although some of it is conflicting.  Some say that this light fruit, marzipan covered cake was baked traditionally on Mother's Day by young servant girls who would have the day off to visit their mothers and bake one to take with them.  Other stories are that the marzipan balls featured on top of the cake, represent 11 apostles (minus Judas - obvious reasons!) and is therefore really an Easter cake.  Whatever the history/ies may be, I think of Simnel Cake as Easter's version of Christmas Cake and an essential part of the spread.  Celebrity cooks such as Nigella, Mary Berry, Jamie Oliver et al all have Simnel Cake recipes if you fancy baking this Easter, but supermarkets have great alternative options too.  As well as the round cake version, you can also buy a long 'cake bar' size and Mr Kipling do individually wrapped Simnel Slices which are ideal, not only for Tea, but for lunch packs or picnics. 

Simnel Cake Bar


Over the years I have also become quite attached to Nigella's recipe for 'Easter Egg Nest Cake' which is featured in her book 'Feast'.  It's pure cream and chocolate indulgence with the added seasonal sweetness of Mini Eggs.  I like to place it in the fridge once cooked and assembled as it 'fudges' up making it even more delicious.  I also make this as an Easter Day Lunch dessert which always goes down a treat! 

Nigella's Easter Egg Nest Cake

I could go on forever with cake ideas but my final offering is 'Damp Apple and Almond Cake', also from Nigella's 'Feast' book.  Although this has been categorised as a cake made for the Jewish festival of Passover, but as Passover falls very near to Easter I think that the recipe can be shared for both occasions.  The use of ground almonds in lieu of flour in this recipe observes the use of un-leaven goods as is customary for Passover, but forming part of a Tea selection, this cake offers a fruity, gluten-free alternative to chocolate. 

So whether you're baking or buying, the choices for Easter are endless and if you've given up chocolate or sweet goodies for Lent, an Easter Tea packed with cakes will be the perfect occasion to re-acquaint yourself with the forbidden fruit (cake)!