Monthly Archives: May 2013

You can’t buy sausages in Poland

You can’t buy sausages in Poland

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That has to be one of the stupidest things we’ve ever said – but what are the Polish choices?

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Wieners abound, cheap and cheerful hot dogs sell by the million – we get a pack of 12 every week, for quick meals and to add to soup (yes, we know, but sausage DOES go in soup in Poland!).

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And then there’s a vast choice of Kielbasa – white, brown, black, smoked, not smoked but cooked, blood sausage … it’s all on the Polish menu.

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But when you want a sausage butty, or sausage eggs and chips, what do you do? Make your own, of course!

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Needless to say, we don’t have access to sheep stomachs or a sausage filling machine, but we always loved McDonald’s sausage and egg muffins and the Big Breakfast, so how about sausage patties?

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Easy sausage patty recipe:

500g pork or mixed mince (pork and beef)

A handful of breadcrumbs or shredded stale bread

An onion, finely chopped

Some flour for dusting a surface

Cooking paper to keep them from sticking together if you’re gonna freeze them

Your choice of spice(s) *

1tsp salt

I tsp ground black peppers

*Experiment!

Dump the mince, breadcrumbs, chopped onion, spice, salt and pepper into a big mixing bowl. Get your hand in and mix them thoroughly. It’s grim, but hey – the result is worth it.

One you’ve got the ingredients thoroughly mixed and sticking together nicely, dust a board with flour and start making patties. Think a quarter-pound burger for size and thickness. The flour keeps them mobile while you shape them, and helps keep them from sticking together if you store them in the fridge for tomorrow. Makes 6 or so.

You can let them rest in the fridge for 30 minutes if you want to cook and eat them now. For longer – like until tomorrow or tonight’s barbecue, leave them in the fridge, covered. To freeze them, cut cooking paper into 3-4 inch strips and use it to separately stack the patties, then put them in a box and into the freezer.

They fry or grill in less than ten minutes – delicious with:

–       Fried eggs

–       A mock full English (we can’t buy bacon in Poland, either!)

–       Sausage butties

–       Mash an onion gravy

–       In a honey and mustard coating

–       “Chicken-fried”

Chicken-fried sausage patties (and steak, and pork strips and fish cakes)

This was something John tried when Rajmund brought home some thin pork strips – what to do with them? Easy, as it turned out.

Make a mix of one cup of plain flour, salt, pepper, paprika and cayenne. Put a on a coating plate and mix two eggs and put them on a dipping plate.

Coat each patty, slice of meat or fishcake in the egg by dipping it in the egg, then coat both sides in the flour-mix. Repeat. It takes two goes to get a worthwhile coating.

Now fry – for fishcakes, patties and pork strips, 3-5 minutes each side will be long enough.

Muffins

If you must, make your own. Otherwise, just buy them – and remember, it’s English muffins you want … American muffins are cakes … they only call theirs  muffins because even Americans won’t admit to eating cake for breakfast!

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Cakes!

Or make biscuits

American “biscuits” – John’s bread-type life saver!

2 cups self-raising flour

1 cup milk

1/4 cup fat (butter, margerine or lard)

Rub the fat into the flour till you get the proverbial breadcrumb-look.

Add and mix in the milk, till you have a gloop.

Flour a surface and plop the gloop onto it. dust with more four and fold. Flatten and fold 8-10 times. By this point you’ll find the dough swells each time.

Flatten your dough one last time and cut it into about 4-6 pieces. Arrange on a dusted baking tray and bake at 220 degrees for ten minutes.

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Add a cup of grated cheddar to your dough for cheesy biscuits, or sugar and dried fruit (split and buttered, delicious at tea time).

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Cats up a tree

Cats up a tree

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There’s no excuse for this post – we just thought you might be amused by some photographs of the boys taken last autumn, climbing one of our trees.

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It’s usually Jasper who starts things off – he’s the more adventurous one. But Edward is quick to follow, and turned out to be the more acrobatic of the two!

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At least the dog stays on the ground … usually. TeaPot!

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TeaPot – what’re you doing to Daddy?

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TeaPot and Jasper playing the “pretend mirror” game

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Jasper Catsper in a hilarious “holding the tree up” pose

Access All- Access infirmation for disabled travellers

Access All- Access infirmation for disabled travellers

Access All followed an on-line conversation John had with our friend Deepa Krishnan – head of the Magic Tours group of personal tour companies in India and a Trip Adviser Destination Expert.

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Rajasthan 2011 – potter – step just the right height to rest

Deepa had been asked by the Times of India for some information and commentary on access issues facing disabled visitors to India … well, to quote what John said afterwards:

My friend, Deepa, asked me how I’d respond when asked about disabled access in India and my immediate response was to say how good I’d found Amber Palace. Not perfect, but the Palace was built with ramps to allow  .. well, let me put it this way. I commented on the ramps to our guide who responded that “even hundreds of years ago, people were injured in battle, born or became disabled or grew old”.

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It’s sad that, hundreds of years later, architects, building owners and the guardians of historic places still have not come to terms with the fact that failing to provide access denies their business, their property, their historic place to anyone with problems.

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Humayun’s Tomb, Delhi – almost accessible

What could be done to improve things? Deepa asked.

There are three keys to access: ramps, rails and information

Ramps, because a wheelchair can’t climb stairs

Rails, because a handrail is so very, very helpful for anyone who struggles with stairs

And information, because without clear information about access people planning to visit India will be discouraged or else turn up and be sorely disappointed. How many people have cried tears of frustration and shame at the Taj Mahal when they found they could not climb the narrow, un-railed stairs to the platform? I was lucky, I could just manage to climb the stairs, then rested before entering the tomb, then afterwards before descending – but, again, who knew there are places where you can rest and recover?

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Narrow, polished stairs, lots of people, handrail too low, too close to the wall to be grasped and way too delicate!

That prompted John to write a long post on the India and Disabled forums of Trip Advisor about the conversation and about our own experiences in India. Some places are either inherently accessible or have been well adapted, some places – and, tragically that includes the Taj Mahal – have not.

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Many visitors to the Taj Mahal cannot access the most famous building in the world

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With a struggle, we made it. The stairs are steep, narrow, un-railed and crowded, but once you get to the top there are places – like this – to rest

Reaction to John’s TA posts and some more thought led John to set up Access All- Access infirmation for disabled travellers as a group on Facebook. A group to discuss and share information about the challenges disabled travellers face around the world and the success stories of some guardians of famous places. It’s an open group, so anyone can join or post and we hope it will be a place people will share information about access to places they visit and other travellers may want to go.

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John’s Diana moment – alone (amost) on Lake Pichola, Udaipur

You do not have to be disabled to see when access is good or missing – any parent travellimg with children will experience it, and you just have to travel with your eyes open. Anyone who wants to join the group and share their knowledge will find the group here http://www.facebook.com/groups/651478171544602/

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Mother monkies need access too

The full essay John wrote about India is in a file called, big surprise, “India” and we’ll add and edit files as we go – starting on the basis of one file per destination. We’ve also posted a load of photographs from our trip in 2011, to show you what someone who has disabled issues can still see and do in Incredible India.

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Bullocks! A bullock-driven well, snapped from the car

This could be useful to a lot of disabled people who dream of travelling but are discouraged by a lack of information. It may be, as one of John’s old bosses said, “a damp squid”. (John let him say this for years before finally (when he’d decided to resign) telling him that squid are supposed to be damp – it’s squibs (small explosive devices or fireworks) that aren’t!)

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What sort of birds are they John? Dickie Birdies! Ranthambore

Wódka, wódka, everywhere …

Wódka, wódka, everywhere …

Before Xmas we made some apple liqueur, using apples from our tree, wódka and brandy. Just after Xmas we started some raspberry wódka. Last week we started samplers of three more – black peppercorn, chilli and cranberry.

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But have we drunk any? No, actually, not beyond little samples at the filtering stage. It needs a little time to mature (lol) and to be honest we’re aiming for long drinks for summer, not winter shots – those, of course, may come as the year progresses.

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So, how did we make our liqueur? Not difficult – you need a big jar and a load of apples, plus the patience to clean, chop and core a stack of apples. Peeling is optional – we left ours on, as we reckoned it would add more flavour.

apples  Peeled for chutney and applesauce, left the cleaned-up skin on for the liqueur

Our jar is sold by the local Tesco and Real supermarkets as a juice container and has a wide neck (vital) and a tap. In practice the tap was not much help, as it was easier come time to simply ladle out the liqueur.

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So, take a lot of apples. Clean, chop and core them (peeling optional, but get rid of the skanky bits). Fill your jar up as much as you want to – we half-filled it, which took a surprising number of apples.

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Next, get equal quantities of wódka and brandy. We used two decent brands this time, left over and unopened duty-free, but next time we’re going to give spiritus a try – it’s too strong to drink (seriously, we’re talking going blind here) but you can either use it to make jugs of punch-type drinks, or to add flavour to wódka. The technique here is important, Open your bottles and pour the contents over the apples. The technique part is staying on your feet as the fumes hit you!

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We left our apples soaking for a month before boiling up two cups of sugar with one cup of water, then adding that to the mix.

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Another two months went by and the apples soaked quietly in our summer bedroom – summer because it’s unsealed so it’s lovely and cool in the summer but like an icebox in the winter!

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Then came strain and sample day. The tap was, well, ok at the early stages as we drained off and filtered our liqueur. Later, we just used a ladle to scoop out apples and liquid. We used a coffee filter to strain the bits out and were left with two and a half bottles of crystal clear liqueur, which we capped and put away. Like we said, there was a little sampling, which suggests the finished product is going to be delicious.

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Raspberry wódka followed the same principle – soak (frozen) raspberries in wódka for three months, adding syrup after one month, then strain and store the lovely red wódka. (Sampled, lovely!)

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The others? We’ll try them out for strength as they infuse, but simply put some peppercorns, chilies or cranberries into a jar and pour over wódka. The idea is to use the first two for Bloody Marys and the cranberry wódka … well, we’ll find a use for it!

Quick update

We wrote the post a short while ago but delayed posting until we had pics. Today we sampled and filtered. Wow In brief :

– cranberry is nice and we’ll sweeten it a bit

– black pepper is hot and delicious

– chilli – well, numb tongues and a slight case of watering eye!

Rose petal jam

Rose petal jam

This was truly an unexpected treat.

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John bought a beautiful book called Rose Petal Jam by Beata Zatorska and Simon Target. It tells the story of a woman’s return to her childhood home and haunts in Poland, and shares recipes for personal and regional favourites.

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Before John started reading the book, Rajmund brought home some pączki – doughnuts filled with rose petal jam. First taste and we agreed we needed more of these doughnuts and lots more of the jam. It’s delicious. Of course, it’s very sweet too.

This is the recipe for the jam.

Take 3-4 handfuls of wild rose petals, picked in the morning, and 0.5kg of sugar.

Put the petals in a mortar and while slowly pouring in the sugar, crush the petals.

You’ll be left with a deep red paste, which will keep up to two years in sterilised jars.

We’d certainly recommend the book as a coffee table book (the photographs are stunning), for recipes and for the story of Poland in the 60s and 70s and today.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Rose-Petal-Jam-Recipes-Stories/dp/0956699200/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1368826424&sr=1-1&keywords=rose+petal+jam

Winter’s last icy blast

Winter’s last icy blast

Here in Poland, the 12th to 14th of May mark the Ice Saints.

The Saints – St Pancras, St Servatus and St Boniface of Tarsus – are collectively the cold gardeners, or zimni ogrodnicy. Their days coincide, more often than not, with a brief spell of colder weather and the last night-time frosts. 15th May is the day of St Sophia, cold Sophia, or zimna Zośka.

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In the Czech Republic, just 20 miles south of us (though a bit further, as the road wanders) they go by the rather snappier titles of ice-men and ice-woman.

And it surely was a last gasp for winter.

We had, since the middle of April, seen temperatures climb, – lovely warm sunny days and we’d even packed away the winter quilts (it’s a heck of a lot easier to get the summer quilts into the covers!). Even John had started wearing shorts and short sleeves.

 

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TeaPot enjoying the afternoon sun before the ice-men came

Then came the 12th and we were plunged into a chilly mist that did not clear for four days. We lost sight of the bottom of not only the hills but also the bottom of the garden. A thick, wet mist that condensed on the porch roof and drip dripped of . Yeugh!

Thankfully, St Sophia did her stuff and the 15th saw clear blue skies and lovely warm weather return. John was back sitting on the porch with his CAR magazine, keeping an eye on TeaPot and listening to music played through the window – without the music and the odd car, the only sounds are the buzzing of the insects, the singing of the birds and the occasional rustle of the leaves when the breeze gets stronger.

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But, though at one time we had planned to start on some gardening this year, the garden remains undisturbed – we may have seen the last frost, we may have warm weather going forward, but the gardeners days will have to wait for next year – this year we’ll be keeping it to building a chicken house, composting, some modifications (there’s a bed of flowers and shrubs that gets in the way) and a few flowers to brighten the front up. And, of course, Rajmund will be regularly weed-whacking the grass.

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John? He’s working on the baking – latest treat was boiled fruit cake … yup, boiled fruit. It’s delicious:

  • 200g dried fruit
  • 250ml milk
  • 200g sugar
  • 125g margarine
  • 250g flour*
  • 1 egg

*In Poland, flour packs in the supermarket normally carry a picture of what they’re intended for  – bread, cakes, donuts, bagels – but that’s just the fine-ness. All flour sold here is “plain”. So to this recipe we add baking powder.

Step 1 – preheat your oven to 160 degrees.

Step 2 – put the fruit, milk, margarine and sugar in a pan, bring it to the boil stirring all the time, then turn the hob off and set the pan aside to cool for ten minutes.

Step 3 – fold in the flour and mix well, then add the egg and mix again.

Step 4 – Pour the mixture into a loaf tin and pop it into your pre-heated oven for 1 hour. (Do the knife trick to make sure it’s cooked).

We like this with a handful of chopped nuts sprinkled over the top before it goes in the oven – it’s almost like a variation on a dundee cake, but the boiled fruit is so much moister.

There’s also a “soaked” fruit cake John wants to try – starting with soaking the fruit overnight in tea then using the remainig liquid in your cake next day – we’ll report on that one later!

Home cooking?

Home cooking?

In our case, it took a while. You’ll know we moved into the loghouse in May 2012, but it took us several months to stretch our home-cooking wings.

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It probably started when Rajmund went up to north-east Poland to do some work and came home with half a pig. Literally. Butchered, some of it made into sausages. Half a pig’s worth. It went straight into the freezer, and we ignored it for a month.

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During that month we began experimenting. Actually, we ran out of bread one day and Rajmund did not want to go to the shop, so he dug out a recipe for milk-bread – a great success, but one John has neither been able to replicate nor persuade Rajmund to repeat. However, John has mastered American-style biscuits and manages, with rather less success, Irish soda bread.

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“Biscuits”

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Cheesy bicsuits are even better

Polish supermarket-bought bread, for the record, is pretty rubbish!

Autumn evenings meant a crop of apples off our tree and idle hands, so we checked out the recipes on line for an apple liqueur – chop apples, seep in equal quantity of wódka and brandy, sweeten after two months, remove and press apples, filter, leave to mature. Just coming ready as we write!

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Apples also meant we could have a go at making apple chutney – the initial samples were delicious and the matured jars are ready to open – and apple sauce.

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We had one test run, then for Xmas we made three meat dishes – a slow-roast pork joint in a tagine, beef stew, cooked on the log stove, and a big shepherd’s pie topped with strong cheddar.

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Also for Xmas, we tried to get as close as we could to the cakes we’d bought in London – Dundee cake from Dunn’s in Crouch End. Their cakes linger in our memories, but OUR apple Dundee cake was pretty good, and HAS been successfully repeated.

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And Rajmund made these, which were as delicious as they look.

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Those goodies lasted a few days, except for the little biscuit-things Rajmund made, which we shared with the neighbours and were consumed in one night.

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But is that the limit of our culinary horizons, or is there more to come? Only time, and the blog, will tell!

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There’s a piece of pork under there – it was delicious after a few hours of slow roasting

Website:

Dunn’s Bakery, one of the best bakers in London http://www.dunns-bakery.co.uk/