Pierogi with Green Lentils and Coriander

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Name and pronunciation: pierogi [pee-yeh-ro-ghi] – there is no need for the “s” at the end so often used in English. “Pierogi” is already a plural form.
Description: dumplings
Type of cuisine: Polish

I absolutely love pierogi with green lentils. They are flavourful and have a great texture, actually resembling meat, so even the most dedicated carnivores are guaranteed to enjoy them. I add fresh coriander, so it is not strictly traditional Polish filling, but it is a real staple in our house and we eat tonnes of them!

Approximately 40 servings • Preparation time: about 60 minutes • Resting time: 30 minutes (optional) • Cooking time: 1-2 minutes

Tips:

01
With fresh pierogi, you have a choice between serving them just cooked, or frying them. After cooling or freezing, you should fry them.

02
Both fresh and fried pierogi are perfect when served with fried onions or sour cream.

03
Because you need to add two layers of dough to each bite, make sure that the filling is slightly saltier and a little bit spicer than you need it. This way it will be perfectly balanced when cooked.

Ingredients:

Dough:
one portion of pierogi dough

Green lentil filling:
 200 g dry green lentils
 1 large onion
 fresh coriander (to taste, I like quite a lot)
 salt (to taste)
 pepper (to taste)

Method:

01
Make a portion of dough and set it aside for 30 minutes.

02
Cook the lentils until soft all the way through, but not mushy. The filling is much better when it retains the natural texture of perfectly cooked lentils. You will need about twice as much water as you are using lentils. 

03
Chop the onion and fry it until brown, but not crispy.

04
Drain cooked lentils. It is best to give them good few minutes to make sure all water is drained well and the filling is not too runny.

05
Mix cooked lentils, fried onion and chopped coriander while gently breaking the lentils with a fork, to achieve a consistency resembling cooked minced meat. Season with salt and pepper. 

06
Make pierogi following these instructions.

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Enjoy!

Classic Marble Babka


NAME AND PRONUNCIATION: babka [bah-b-kah]
DESCRIPTION: marble cake
TYPE OF CUISINE: Eastern European

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In Poland, we usually bake babka for Easter, but it is so quick, easy to prepare and everyone loves it, so it is great for any party or just as a weekend’s treat. There are many different recipes for babka, but I really like this one, since the cake is nice and moist inside, and stays fresh for good few days.


Depending on your form, about 12-16 servings • Preparation time: about 90 minutes • Baking time: about 60 minutes


INGREDIENTS:


250 g all-purpose flour
220 g sugar
150 g unsalted butter
5 eggs
 5 tablespoons oil
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
1 tablespoon potato flour
1½ teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla powder

METHOD:


01
Melt the butter in a saucepan.

02
Sift both flours together with the baking powder to make sure they are thoroughly mixed.

03
In a separate bowl, beat the eggs and sugar until they are shiny, silky smooth, and almost white.

04
Once the eggs are ready, add the oil and butter. It is best to keep mixing while slowly trickling the butter in. This way the butter will get mixed into the eggs immediately and not sink to the bottom of your bowl.

05
Split the eggs into two equal parts to make them into two different flavours. You will also need to split the flour. Now, add vanilla powder and a half of the flour to one of the bowls with beaten. Blend until all ingredients are perfectly mixed. This is will be your vanilla batter.

06
Then, take out two tablespoons from the other half of the flour and replace them with two tablespoons of cocoa. Mix the cocoa into the flour with a whisk, before adding them to the second bowl with beaten eggs. Blend until perfectly combined. This way your chocolate batter is ready as well.

07
Grease the form with oil and get the oven hot to about 180ºC. Pour both flavours of batter into the form in patches alternating the flavours. After you have finished, take something thin and long, such as a chopstick or a kitting needle, and gently drag it around the form. Do not mix the batters, just stir them a little for a nice marble effect.

08
The way of baking a babka is very important. It needs to raise equally on all sides and not burn. Start from about 180ºC for about 30 minutes, then bake for another half an hours at about 160ºC. Check on your cake from time to time during baking (through the glass, opening the oven will lower the temperature) and if you notice it is rising more on one of the sides, you can turn the form and reduce the temperature a little. It may crack a bit, do not worry about it. Getting it absolutely perfect may take one or two goes, since it differs from one oven to another.

09
Babka needs to have a nice, golden crust. When you see it, take it out and check the inside. In order to do that, use a thin, metal probe, such as a knitting needle, and pierce the cake all the way through. Any liquid batter will stick to the needle and make it dirty. It is a sign your babka is not ready yet. Bake it until the probe is perfectly clean.

10
When ready, take it out of the oven and cool before flipping onto a plate and gently removing the form. Dust with powder sugar, or finish with caramel or lemon glaze.

Enjoy!


Iraqi Biryani

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Name and pronunciation: البرياني [biryani]
Description: our favourite vegetarian version of Iraqi biryani
Type of cuisine: Arabic

Iraqi biryani is the first dish my husband cooked for me and it is sill one of my favourite tastes. It differs from the original, Indian version. It has much more rich and complex flavours and textures. There are many different ways to make biryani and we make it vegetarian, but you can opt to add some meat as well.

Approximately 4-6 people • Cooking time: about 60 minutes

Tips:

01
All ingredients are quick and easy, but need to be prepared separately, so it is better to be organised and have everything ready in advance

02
Feel free to use the same oil to fry all the ingredients. You will need a little more oil than usually. It is not exactly deep-frying, but you need about ½ good quality olive oil. Use a draining spoon to remove one type of ingredient, before adding another one.

Ingredients:

medium potato
1-2 medium carrots
1 medium onion
½ cauliflower
2 cups rice (best to use basmati variety)
cup vermicelli
2 cups frozen green peas
1-2 handfuls raisins
1-2 handfuls almonds or other nuts
2 tablespoons cinnamon
1½ tablespoons cardamom
1½ tablespoons sumac
1 tablespoon salt (to taste)
1 teaspoon black pepper

Method:

01
Cut the cauliflower into very small pieces and cook until a little soft. Drain and set aside.

02
Peel and chop the potato, carrot and onions into cubes. Heat up the oil and fry them separately until slightly brown and delicately crispy on the outside. Drain excessive oil using kitchen paper and set aside in one dish.

03
Now, it is time to toast the nuts and raisins. Nuts only need a minute until they are golden and very aromatic. Raisins may need a little longer, but be careful not to fry them for too long as they become hard. When first raisins get pumped and start looking like grapes again, it is time to stop. Drain and set aside.

04
Thew the green peas with boiling water. You do not have to cook it, it is enough to let it sit in hot water for about 10 minutes and drain.

05
Meanwhile, in a large pot, heat up a generous portion of good olive oil, add dry vermicelli and all the spices. Fry until the pasta turns slightly golden, for approximately a minute or two. Add dry rice, and fry everything together for another 5 minutes.

06
Bring about 5 cups of water to boil in a kettle and pour over fried vermicelli and rice. Cover it (not completely) and simmer until the rice is soft and almost all water is gone. It should take about 10 minutes. Then turn off the heat, cover completely and let sit for about 5 more minutes, until the rice is perfect.

07
Stir the rice with vermicelli and add all vegetables, raisins and nuts. Stir everything thoroughly and serve with thick natural yogurt.

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Enjoy!

Rich Chocolate Cake

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This is by far my son’s favourite cake. He asks me to make it for him for his birthday every single year, without a fail. It has a rich chocolatey taste, but it is not too sweet and has a very soft, brownie-like consistency and texture. It is also so easy to make!

Preparation time: about 30 minutes • Baking time: 35-40 minutes

Ingredients:

Cake:
1 cup flour
¾ cup sugar
½ cup milk
 100 g baking chocolate
 80 g butter
2 eggs
✽ 1 baking powder
✽ pinch of salt
✽ topping of fresh fruit and/or orange, lemon or lime zest (optional)

Ganache:
100 g dark chocolate
100 g butter (could be a little less)

Lime whipped cream:
 250 g mascarpone
 250 ml crème fraîche
 1 lime

Method:

01

In a small saucepan, melt the butter. Be careful not to burn it, so as soon as it has melted take it off heat and add the chocolate. Keep stirring and hot butter will melt the chocolate safely and turn it into a silky, shiny ganache.

02
Add milk and mix thoroughly.

03
Beat eggs with sugar until they are fluffy, shiny and almost white.

04
Sift the flour with baking powder, add wet ingredients and gently fold in the two together, but only until they are combined.

05
Line a round baking form with parchment paper and bake in 175ºC for around 35-40 minutes, depending on your oven. The best way to check wether it is done is to pierce it in the middle with a metal skewer (my mum always used a metal knitting needle). Raw cake sticks onto the metal. It needs to be perfectly clear.

06
Cool down and once the cake is cold, make chocolate ganache. Heat up the butter and once melted, but not browned, take off the heat and add chocolate. Keep stirring, until perfectly combined, shiny and silky. Cool down a little to thicken your ganache, then gently pour over the cake. Use a spatula or a cake scraper to delicately smooth out if needed. Decorate with fruit while the ganache is still soft, but not too hot.

07
I like serving it with lime whipped cream. First whip crème fraîche, then add mascarpone and keep whipping until it thickens. Finish by adding fresh lime juice. After plating, sprinkle with freshly grated lime peel for added citrusy depth.

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Enjoy!

Delicious Pierogi with Cottage Cheese

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Name and pronunciation: pierogi z serem [pee-yeh-ro-ghi z seh-rem] – there is no need for the “s” at the end so often used in English. “Pierogi” is already a plural form.
Description: dumplings with dry cottage cheese
Type of cuisine: Polish

This is a true taste of my childhood. My late maternal grandmother made the best pierogi with cheese. This recipe is based on how she made them.

Approximately 40 pieces • Preparation time: about 60 minutes • Resting time: 30 minutes (optional) • Cooking time: 1-2 minutes

Tips:

01
With fresh pierogi, you have a choice between serving them just cooked, or frying them. After cooling or freezing, you should fry them.

02
Both fresh and fried pierogi with cottage cheese are perfect when served with fried onions or sour cream.

Ingredients:

Dough:
one portion of pierogi dough

Cottage cheese filling:
 250 g Polish dry cottage cheese 
 250 g potatoes
 1 large onion
 1 teaspoon salt (to taste)
 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper (to taste)
 2 teaspoons black seed (Nigella Sativa, to taste)

Method:

01
Make a portion of dough and set it aside for 30 minutes.

02
Cook the potatoes until very soft. Cool them and mash them thoroughly.

03
Chop the onion and fry it until brown, but not crispy yet. Mix all the ingredients together.

04
Make pierogi following instructions.

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Enjoy!

Pierogi Dough and Making Technique

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Name and pronunciation: pierogi [pee-yeh-roh-ghi] – there is no need for the “s” at the end so often used in English. “Pierogi” is already a plural form.
Description: dumplings
Type of cuisine: Eastern European

It is a very basic recipe, but it works every time. I like this dough for its elasticity. It makes making pierogi easier, it does not tear and they do not stick to each other during cooking.

Approximately 40 servings • Preparation time: about 15 minutes • Resting time: 30 minutes (optional) • Cooking time: 1-2 minutes

Tips:

01
Perfect pierogi need a specific filling to dough ratio. This means the dough cannot be too thick. Make sure you roll the dough enough and if it is still too thick, stretch it out a little in your hands before adding the filling.

02
Do not forget to add oil to water, it will prevent pierogi from sticking to each other. In fact, when you are placing them in water, try aiming at oil patches.

03
Pierogi can be eaten straight after cooking or fried. In my family, we always fry them and this is how I prefer them, but with freshly cooked pierogi you have a choice. After cooling them down, or freezing them, you will need to fry them until brown and crispy.

04
Fry them in olive oil on small heat, so they have time to get hot inside. If the heat is too high they will brown nicely on the outside, but the filling will remain cold.

Ingredients:

300 g all-purpose flour
 125 ml boiling water
20 g butter
1 egg
pinch of salt

Method:

01
Melt the butter in boiling water and add it to the flour and salt. Mix briefly, then add the egg.

02
Mix everything thoroughly and knead for at least 5 minutes, until the dough is perfectly smooth and springy.

03
Cover with beeswax wraps and set aside for about 30 minutes.

04
Take the dough out of the fridge and split it in 4 equal parts. Lightly dust the worktop with flour and roll the dough until it is about 2-3 mm thick.

05
Using a round cutter or a glass, cut circles in the dough.

06
Take a circle and stretch it a little bit in your hands. Be careful not to get flour on inner edges, since they need to stick to each other. The outer side can be dusted with flour, so they don’t stick to the surface, while they are waiting to be cooked.

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07
Put about a teaspoon of filling in the middle.

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08
Fold in half and press the filling a little to shape your pieróg.

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09
Squeeze the edges together, so they stick to each other.

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10
To make the edges look nicer and make them more secure, pinch the dough around.

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11
Set aside your fresh pierogi on flour dusted tray or plate. You can cover them with a tea towel to prevent them from drying.

12
Boil at least 3 litres of water in a large pot, add about 2 tablespoons of oil and a pinch or two of water. Gently, one by one, put about 15 pierogi to cook. Once they float, cook for about 2 minutes and gently take them out with a draining spoon.

13
Eat directly, or set aside to cool.

Enjoy!

Polish Cottage Cheese

Name and pronunciation: twaróg [t-fah-rook]
Description: cottage cheese
Type of cuisine: Eastern European

Twaróg is dry variety of quark very popular across various Eastern European cuisines. In Polish, another name for this kind of cheese is simply “white cheese” ser biały [seh-r biah-we]. It is delicate, crumbly and slightly sour. Unfortunately, it has to easy replacement in local shops, but you can get in any Polish shop. It is worth the trip!

Uses:

Pierogi, pierogi leniwe (lazy pierogi), sernik, traditional Polish pancakes, pasta, cheese spreads.

Tips:

01
There are few types of cottage cheese. You can choose between full-fat 10%, semi-skimmed 5% and skimmed 0,5%. I always choose full-fat option. It is creamy and it is truly best for cooking and baking.

02
If you are planning to bake a traditional Polish cheese cake, look for an option that is pre-ground cheese available in 1 kg buckets. Otherwise, you will have to do it yourself three times!

Enjoy!

Easy to Make Beeswax Food Covers

I cook and bake a lot, so our fridge is usually full of food and fresh ingredients waiting to be used. I do my absolute best to make our kitchen as environmentally friendly as possible, so I choose not to use tin foil or cling film (plastic wrap) to keep it all fresh, but beeswax covers. They are handy, versatile, last very long and you can make them as beautiful as you want. I have tested store-bought covers, but I find them quite pricey, so I decided to make my own. It is much easier than you might think!

Tips:

01
Generally, every health store beeswax is suitable for making your beeswax covers, but the finer it is, the easier it will be to spread it evenly. From my experience, the whiter sort which has been pre-exposed to air and light beforehand, is more flexible and sticky afterwards. If you can find white, very fine wax, it is definitely the best for this.

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02
Yellow beeswax in a lentil shape will also be fine, it just a little more difficult to work. First of all, it takes more time to spread it evenly and the covers made with it are slightly stiffer. Also, if you opt for this sort of wax, you may want to avoid fabrics without white elements, because they will get yellowish.

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03
Wrapping in a beeswax cover is a little different than using more traditional (and disposable) materials. First of all, wrap slowly. The warmth of your hands will make the wax sticky. Also, remember that the covers will not stick to the dish, but to itself, so wrapping around dishes requires folding it around the edges of the dish to fashion a tight lid from it. Pieces of food, such as block of cheese, wrap as if you were using a piece of paper.

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04
When the covers get dirty, simply wipe them or rinse them with lukewarm water and dry. Be careful so the water is not too hot, or it will rinse off some of the wax.

05
Whether you buy or make your covers, after few uses, you will notice that the wax gets whitish and a little crumbly. Do not fret at all, they are still good! It is enough to warm them up a little and refresh the wax layer. The best way is to put them in your oven as per instructions below. There is usually no need to add more wax, the one already used will return to its original state. You can even put them in the sun in summer and on a hot radiator in winter, instead using the oven.

06
If you think the layer of wax has become a little too thin (it may rub off little when you use the covers often), simply add a little wax on top (not too much, there is already a lot inside of the fabric) and repeat the making steps.

07
Finally, store your beautiful beeswax covers neatly folded in a reusable, ziplock bag.

You will need:

few pieces of thin, 100% cotton fabric cut to sizes you need
 natural beeswax
 parchment paper

Method:

01
Cut few pieces of fabric in shapes and sizes you need. I prefer square pieces, each in different size. Think of dishes you cover the most and adjust the size to them.

02
Heat the oven to about 50-60ºC. Do not make it too hot, it will burn the wax instead of melting it.

03
Line your baking tray with parchment paper, neatly place the fabric on it and sprinkle it very evenly with wax. Make space for melted wax, so if you are using larger pieces of wax, you will need to use less of it. After few minutes, when all the wax has melted, take the fabric out and see if there are any unwaxed spots left. Turn the fabric and, if needed, sprinkle some more wax where it is missing. Make sure the whole piece is covered throughly and evenly. It is best to use as little wax as possible to cover the whole fabric including all edges.

04
Do it few times until you see that the fabric is thoroughly covered with wax. When it is ready, lift it up to set and cool down. It will only take few seconds. If you are not happy with it after it has cooled down (too much, too little, or the wax is not even), it is enough to put it back into the oven, rectify it and cool it down again. It can be repeated as many times as needed. After you are happy with the result, cool it down again and set it aside.

05
Take the second piece and first put it on parchment paper with remaining wax on it. Once it absorbs the leftover wax, add some more and repeat all necessary steps.

06
Repeat until all the pieces are ready.

Enjoy!

Polish Sour Cream

Name and pronunciation: śmietana [sh-me-eh-tah-nah]
Description: sour cream
Typo of cuisine: Eastern European

In Polish cuisine, sour cream is so important. It is not often used as an actual ingredient, but it is not a mere garnish either! There are some dishes that are just not finished without sour cream. In fact, if you ask for “cream” in Poland, you will get sour cream as a default.

Uses:

Different sorts of dumplings (pierogi, leniwe, kopytka, etc.), potatoes (young, boiled potatoes, potato pancakes, etc.), soups, sauces and salads instead of greek yoghurt.

Tips:

01
In Polish, śmietana means sour cream, but by śmietanka (“little cream”) we mean crème fraîche.

02
Buy Polish sour cream if you can. I always look for local replacements when it comes to cooking abroad, but Polish sour cream really is different. First of all, we have a choice of fat content, but the most popular ones are 12% and 18%, which is rather uncommon in Luxembourg. Also, it is slightly more sour and creamier than the Luxembourgish counterpart.

03
If you do not have an access to a Polish shop, do not fret. Try to source a local version of sour cream and adjust it. In Luxembourg, you can buy a version with 30% fat content, so you will need to dilute it with yoghurt (“Fjord” is the absolute best since it already has a consistency and flavour similar to Polish sour cream) or a dash of milk, until it has a consistency of very smooth, thick greek yoghurt. If it feels a little too sweet, you can add few drops of lemon juice.

Enjoy!

Simple Chocolate Crackle Cookies

My family loves these simple cookies. They are chocolatey, but not too sweet. You need to plan them a little in advance, since the dough has to harden in a fridge for at least few hours.

Approximately 30 cookies • Preparation time: about 30 minutes • Cooling time: at least 2 hours, could be overnight • Baking time: 12 minutes

Tips:

01
If you can prepare the dough the day before, do. It can be chilled in a fridge overnight, no problem. If the dough is not cold enough, icing sugar will melt into the cookie and you will lose the nice crackle effect.

02
If cannot chill them for more than 2 hours, do not worry. It should be enough, just split the dough in few pieces, this way it will chill more quickly.

Ingredients:

225 g baking chocolate
 110 g butter
✽ 1⅔ cups flour
⅔ cup sugar
✽ 3 eggs
✽ 2 teaspoons vanilla
½ teaspoon baking powder
✽ pinch of salt
✽ powdered sugar for rolling

Method:

01
Melt the butter and chocolate in a small pot. Use my tip to melt them easily and safely. Leave the pot to cool in a fridge.

02
Take the eggs and separate whites and yolks. First beat the whites until perfectly stiff and then add sugar (in 4 parts with few seconds of blending in between adding each part), and then yolks (one by one) and vanilla.

03
Now mix both the beaten eggs and the chocolate. You can keep gently blending, or you can do it by hand. If you prefer to mix by hand, make sure you are using a wide, wooden spoon and fold the chocolate in with the eggs.

04
Mix flour with salt and baking powder thoroughly, then mix them in with the wet ingredients. Form a ball from the dough, wrap to prevent from drying (I use beeswax covers, not to use plastic cling film) and chill until cold and hard.

05
After few hours (or a night), prepare the oven to baking (165ºC, line the tray with baking paper) and use a tablespoon to portion the dough. I use a measuring tablespoon, it has sharper edges and makes the process easier. From each portion make a small ball, roll it in icing sugar evenly and place on the tray to bake. No need to keep spaces too big, the cookies will get larger, but will keep their shape.

06
Bake for about 12 minutes (I love watching them crack) and cool.

Enjoy!