Placek with Chocolate, Nuts & Sultanas

I have been making this placek (low flat cake) for years but I cannot remember where I got the recipes from.

The cake varies every time I make it as I alter the type or amount of each chocolate used and I also alter the dried fruit and nuts.

It is not quite a Polish recipe as  Demerara sugar is used rather than granulated & this is not a typical Polish ingredient.

Sugar

Sugar is produced from either sugar cane (a perennial grass) or sugar beet (a tap root).  When sugar cane is refined you get lots of partially refined products such as: treacle, golden syrup, Demerara sugar & various other brown sugars.

Demerara sugar is so named after a region in Guyana where it was first produced.

When sugar beet is used to make sugar you do not get all these brown sugars.

In Poland the main sugar products on sale are granulated sugar and icing sugar, also you can find vanilla sugar, for baking, which is sold in little sachet which contain one tablespoon of sugar.

Ingredients

120g butter or block margarine

120g Demerara sugar

2 eggs

120g self raising flour

1/4 teaspoon of vanilla essence

100g chopped chocolate (can be a mixture of dark, milk & white)

100g chopped nuts

80g sultanas (or currants or raisins)

Note

I think dried cranberries might work well here  but have not tried these as yet.

Method

Grease and line a 21 x 26 cms baking tray.

Pre-heat the oven to GM4 – 180°C

Chop the nuts and the chocolate.

Mix the nuts, chocolate & sultanas together.

 

 

Cream together the butter and Demerera sugar.

Mix in the vanilla essence and the eggs.

Mix in the nut mixture.

Gently fold in the flour.

Put the mixture into a baking tray.

Bake for around 30 – 35 minutes.

 

 

Leave to cool in the tin.

Cut into squares to serve.

 

Served on Royal Grafton – Woodside – 1950s

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Walnut Tort

This is the same  recipe as the  Hazelnut tort only here ground walnuts  are used instead of hazelnuts.

I used the 6 egg recipe and made it in 2 x 18cm sponge cake tins.

A Little Note About Walnuts

Walnuts (Juglans regia) are native to south-east Europe and south-west China. They are the oldest tree food known dating back to 7,000 BC.

There are accounts of their cultivation in Babylon (now Iraq) in 2,000BC.

Juglans regia means means Jupiter’s royal nut.

They are the seed of a drupe (stone fruit) – not a true Botanical nut.

In Polish walnuts are orzechy włoskie –  nuts Italian – so named it is thought as they were brought to Poland by traders from Imperial Rome.

Black walnuts (Juglans nigra) are native to North America.

Ingredients

6 eggs

225g  caster sugar

225g ground walnuts

2 sponge fingers – crushed.

Optional – extra chopped walnuts for sprinkling on the butter cream or grated dark chocolate.

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Method

You will need to grind the walnuts and of course an electric grinder makes this very easy.

It is best to chop the walnuts into small pieces as this will make it easier and grind the walnuts in small batches so as not to over strain the motor.

Pre-heat the oven to GM5 – 190°C.

Grease and line 2 x 18cm in diameter tins.

Crush the sponge fingers and mix them with the ground walnuts.

 

Whisk together the eggs and sugar until they are pale and frothy.

Fold in the walnut mixture.

Divide the mixture between the two tins and bake in the oven for around 20 minutes.

Allow the cakes to cool .

Drizzle each cake with a poncz (sweetened punch). I used 50ml of weak black tea, 1 tablespoon of rum  and 1 tablespoon of  sugar.

 

Sandwich together with a butter cream & cover the top and sides also.

The following flavours are good with walnuts.

I used a rum butter cream made from 80g butter, 1 egg yolk  1 tablespoon of rum and  around 230g of icing sugar.

Cream the butter and the egg yolk and add the rum.  Mix in the icing sugar until you have the desired consistency.

More butter cream would have been better – I was trying to use the minimum this time!

I added chopped nuts to the top and sides (I used a cake stand with a small lip – a totally flat stand would have make it easier to add the nuts to the sides).

 

 

Served on – Tuscan China – Bird of Paradise – Hand Painted – 1930s

An Austrian Influence

A few weeks ago I bought an excellent Austrian cookery book in a charity shop.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I know that there is a lot of overlap & influence between Polish & Austrian Cookery  and have enjoyed looking at this book and comparing my recipes with ones here.

On the back cover it says

The culinary flavour of Austria is a gentle flavour. It knows of the fiery spices of Hungary and the elegance of French cuisine. It derives much of its strength from Moravia and much of its daring from Poland.”

For several of the cakes apricot or redcurrant jam is used to cover the top and sides of the cake before icing it.

For a walnut gateau, similar to my recipe, redcurrant jam is used.

I decided to do a variation of this with my walnut tort and to use raspberry jam.

The 2 cakes were made as above.

A poncz(sweet punch) was used made from 50ml of weak black tea and 1 tablespoon of sugar to drizzle the cakes.

The cakes were then sandwiched together with a raspberry butter cream using  60g Butter, 180g icing sugar & 2 tablespoons of raspberry jam which were creamed together.

 

Then the  top and sides were covered with raspberry jam, warmed slightly for ease of spreading and then this was allowed to dry.

I then made a lemon icing with the juice of 1 lemon and  icing sugar and used this to cover the top and sizes.

 

 

Served on Royal Grafton – Woodside  –  from the 1950s

However

This did not work too well – the icing I made was too stiff and I disturbed the jam underneath and got a mottled pink and white icing which  then  dripped down onto the base of the cake stand!!

However my friends thought the cake tasted wonderful and loved the combination of  flavours, so I decided to make the icing with the juice of 1 lemon, 1 tablespoon of raspberry jam & icing sugar and see how that worked.

Storage

Do not cover the cake completely or it will go very soggy – cover it with a net or similar which will let the air circulate but keep insects off.

 

Alternative Icing 1

I decided to test out the raspberry icing over a creamed sponge cake – I used 4 eggs and equal amounts of butter, caster sugar and self raising flour and baked them in 2 x 20 cm anodised baking tins.

I sandwiched the cakes together with a layer of jam and the raspberry butter cream as above.

 

I then made a thick icing using the juice of 1 lemon, 1 tablespoon of raspberry jam & icing sugar.

 

Served on Aynsley  –  Las Palmas – 1960s

Alternative Icing 2

This icing was not as tangy as on the original cake so I tested this again with a more pouring, dripping glaze – this time using the juice a lemon, 1 tablespoon of raspberry jam & enough icing sugar to make a more pouring glaze.

I made just one 22cm round walnut cake and cut it in half &  used a poncz(sweet punch) made from 50ml of weak black tea and 1 tablespoon of sugar to drizzle the cake.

 

 

A few thoughts!

With hindsight I would not use one cake again as it was hard to cut it through evenly & there were lots of crumbs – if I only wanted to use 4 eggs,  I would make 2 smaller cakes.

I still have not got the icing quite right – this time there was too much & it was a bit too runny – maybe just the juice of half a lemon would be enough – however the taste was very good.

The cake improved over the next few days as the icing seeped into the cake.

 

 

Served on Colclough – Stardust – from the 1960s.

Storage

As with the cakes above do not cover the cake completely or it will go very soggy – cover it with a net or similar which will let the air circulate but keep insects off.

 

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Red Cabbage Salads

I  was looking for some salad recipes for red cabbage and came across these three in my Polish recipe books.

Two different methods are used to prepare the cabbage and I was intrigued to see how they would turn out.  They were both a success and I will be using them again.

Red Cabbage Salad 1

This method is in between using raw and cooked cabbage.

Ingredients

1/2 head of red cabbage

1 large Bramley Apple

Juice of 2 lemons

1 small onion

2 tablespoons of olive oil

Salt & pepper to taste

1- 2 teaspoon of sugar.

Method

Using a sharp knife shred the cabbage into fine slices.

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Put the shredded cabbage into a pan and just cover with water, bring this to the boil and then let it simmer for 1 to 2 minutes – no more.

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Strain the cabbage from the water,  pour the juice of a lemon over the cabbage and mix it in, as well as taste, this will give the cabbage a lovely colour, and leave it to cool.

Chop the cabbage into small pieces.

Note – next time I will chop into much smaller pieces.

Peel and coarse grate the apple and add this to the cabbage.

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Chop the onion into fine pieces and add this to the cabbage.

Mix in the juice of another lemon and 2 tablespoons of olive oil.

Add salt & pepper  and sugar to taste.

This salad goes well with roast pork, goose or duck.

Red Cabbage Salad 2 & 3

For these the  cabbage is grated on a coarse grater – this was quite hard to do but well worth it.

It is the dressing which makes these two salad different – both are delicious.

Red Cabbage Salad 2

Ingredients

1/2 head of red cabbage

1 Bramley apple

Juice of a lemon

Dressing

3 tablespoons of mayonnaise

3 tablespoons of soured cream

1 tablespoon of made-up mustard Polish, French or German style

Juice of half a lemon

Salt & pepper & sugar to taste

Method

Grated the cabbaged using a coarse grater

Peel and grate the apple using a coarse grater

Mix the grated cabbage and apple together.

Mix up all the ingredients for the dressing.

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Add the dressing to the salad and thoroughly mix it all together.

Red Cabbage Salad 3

Ingredients

1/2 head of red cabbage

1 Bramley apple

50g of chopped walnuts

Dressing

3 to 4  tablespoons of olive oil

Juice of a lemon

1 tablespoon of runny honey

Salt & pepper to taste.

Method

Grated the cabbaged using a coarse grater

Peel and grate the apple using a coarse grater

Mix the grated cabbage and apple together.

Mix the ingredients for the dressing and pour this over the salad and mix it in.

Chop the walnuts into small pieces and mix them in before serving.

A Little Note About Walnuts

Walnuts (Juglans regia) are native to south-east Europe and south-west China. They are the oldest tree food known dating back to 7,000 BC.

There are accounts of their cultivation in Babylon (now Iraq) in 2,000BC.

Juglans regia means means Jupiter’s royal nut.

They are the seed of a drupe (stone fruit) – not a true Botanical nut.

In Polish walnuts are orzechy włoskie  nuts Italian – so named it is thought as they were brought to Poland by traders from Imperial Rome.

Black walnuts (Juglans nigra) are native to North America.

Seler – Celeriac – Celery

Today,  4 July 2016, is the first Anniversary of my blog!

What an interesting year it has been for me with all the reading & research, cooking & photographing  and the writing.

I do hope you are all enjoying reading my posts & God willing this is the start of another interesting year.

This will be my 58th post &  I am going to  write about  a  very popular vegetable in Poland.

Seler – Celeriac – Celery

The word seler in Polish is used for both celeriac and celery and in fact celeriac is a just a variety of celery (Apium graveolens).

Celeriac is mentioned in Homer’s Odyssey where it is called selinon.

Now for a little plant biology – in English the stems of the plant are known as celery and they  are long with leaves at the top.

Whereas in the variety known as celeriac – it is the hypocotyl – the swollen enlarged stem above the root and below the leaves  – which is eaten. The leaves come off the top of this swollen stem. (Celeriac is often classed as a root vegetable but it is not the root.)

Celeriac has not been around in the shops in England for that long and last week I bought one in Marks & Spencer’s and it had a label on it saying “NEW“.

Years ago when I looked at my Polish cookery book and it talked about grating seler – celery I used to think oh, how very odd – I wonder how that comes out – I now realise  that they  were referring to grating celeriac.

In Poland you are much more likely to be served celeriac than celery  and it is a very popular vegetable which can be eaten both raw and cooked and is used in a variety of salads.

I have been trying out some salads both with raw & cooked celeriac including some old favourites.  Celeriac has a delicate flavour and easily picks up the flavours of the other ingredients.

Dressings for the salads include mayonnaise, soured cream, natural thick yoghurt & my favourite grated horseradish (I use a bought sauce.)

I have given details of the dressing I have used in the following recipes but they are easily interchangeable.

Salads Using Raw Celeriac

For the following recipes you will need to peel the celeriac – use a peeler if you can as using a knife can take too much off. You then need to grate the celeriac.

Lemon juice is needed to prevent the grated celeriac discolouring.

Simple Celeriac Salad

Ingredients

Grated celeriac – around half of one

Juice of 1 lemon

2 small tart apples such as Granny Smith – grated

Mayonnaise

Soured cream

Method

Make the dressing by mixing mayonnaise and soured cream together, I tend to use equal amounts.

Mix the grated celeriac & grated apple together.

Pour the lemon juice over them.

Add the dressing bit by bit – you want to coat the ingredients but not have lots of excess dressing.

Celeriac with Raisins & Walnuts Salad

Grated celeriac – around half of one

Juice of 1 lemon

2 small tart apples such as Granny Smith – grated

Raisins – approx 1/2 a cup

Chopped walnuts – approx 1/2 a cup

Mayonnaise

Soured cream

Horseradish sauce

Method

Make the dressing by mixing mayonnaise and soured cream together – equal amounts – and then add 1 to 2 large tablespoonfuls of horseradish sauce.

Mix the grated celeriac & grated apple together.

Pour the lemon juice over them.

Add the raisins & the chopped walnuts

peanuts

Add the dressing bit by bit – you want to coat the ingredients but not have lots of excess dressing.

Celeriac & Orange Salad

Grated celeriac – around half of one

Juice of 1 lemon

2 small tart apples such as Granny Smith – grated

Raisins – approx  1/3 of  a cup

2 oranges

Thick yoghurt

Soured cream

Horseradish sauce

Method

Squeeze the juice from 1 orange & pour this over the raisins.

Leave this for a couple of hours so that the raisins plump up.

Make the dressing by mixing equal amounts of yoghurt and soured cream together and then add 1 or 2 large tablespoons of horseradish sauce.

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Mix the grated celeriac & grated apple together.

Pour the lemon juice over them.

Peel & then chop the other orange and mix this with the soaked raisins.

Add the dressing bit by bit – you want to coat the ingredients but not have lots of excess dressing.

Salads Using Cooked Celeriac

You can cook the celeriac by boiling it in water but I have found that it is much easier to steam it.

If there is still any soil on the celeriac then wash this away with water first.

If your celeriac is large you might want to cut it in half and just use half & use the other half for something else.

Steam the celeriac – it will need at least 20 minutes.

You can use a cake tester to see if it is cooked.

Leave it to cool – I leave mine in the steaming pan with the lid on.

When it is cold peel away the outer “skin”

Chop the celeriac into rough cubes or chunks.

These cooked cubes are then the basis of many different salads.

You can use the cooked celeriac in many salads instead of boiled potatoes as in the classic  Polish Potato Salad with peas & carrots in mayonnaise.

The potatoes in the above salad can be replaced with celeriac.

Celeriac & Gherkin Salad

Ingredients

Chopped cooked celeriac  –  around half of one

1  tart apple such as Granny Smith – grated

Lemon juice

1 chopped gherkin

1 chopped onion – red looks good.

Mayonnaise

Method

Mix the chopped cooked celeriac and the grated apple together and some lemon juice.

Add the chopped gherkin and onion.

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Add a couple of large tablespoons of mayonnaise and mix it all together.

Celeriac Salad with Hard Boiled Eggs

Ingredients

Chopped cooked celeriac  –  around half of one

1  tart apple such as Granny Smith – grated

Lemon juice

2 or 3 hard-boiled eggs chopped

Large handful of raisins or sultanas

1 chopped onion – red looks good.

Thick yoghurt

Horseradish sauce.

Method

Mix the chopped cooked celeriac and the grated apple together and some lemon juice.

Add the chopped onion.

Add the raisins (or sultanas)

Add  the chopped hard boiled eggs.

Mix a dressing using 2 to 3 tablespoons of thick plain yoghurt  and 1 or 2 tablespoons of horseradish sauces and mix the other ingredients.

Leave this for around half and hour so that the flavours can mingle.

 

NOTE

If you hard boil very fresh eggs they are very difficult to peel -it is easier to use older eggs.

Celery, Peanut & Sultana Salad

This recipe is one I got for one of my sisters many years ago and although this is not a traditional Polish salad it has become one of my trusty recipes as it is so easy and as it is best  to make it sometime ahead there is no last minute stress when making it.

Ingredients

4 long celery stalks

Around 1/3 cup of salted peanuts

Around 1/3 cup of sultanas

Mayonnaise

Method

Chop the celery into fine slices.

Mix with the peanut and sultanas.

Add 2 or 3 tablespoons of mayonnaise.

peanuts

Leave for at least  half an hour before serving – I usually make this several hours beforehand.

Now for a little science to explain why the dressing taste so sweet  and is more runny than when it started.

Osmosis is the movement of water across a semi-permeable membrane from an area of high water concentration to an area of low water concentration to try to equalise the concentrations on both sides.

Cells in the plant ingredients have semi-permeable membrane.

The salt on the peanuts causes water to leave the celery and go into the mayonnaise, this water then enters the sultanas causing them to plump up.

The above is true when you mix many salads but especially here with the salt on the peanuts and the dried fruit.