Leśny mech – Forest moss

 

A Polish Heritage Day was held in the Leeds Polish Centre on the first Saturday after 3rd May in 2017 & 2018.

The 3rd will take place on Saturday, 4 May 2019.

May 3rd  is Polish Constitution Day – a National Holiday in Poland to celebrate – Konstytucja 3 maja 1791.

This was the first  written constitution in Europe and the second in the World with the American constitution in 1789 being the first. It was very progressive for its time.

There was a hugh table with Polish cakes for sale – I contributed the iced poppy seed cake – makowiec on a glass stand in the middle of the photograph.

One of the ladies brought a cake I had never seen before which she told me was called Leśny mech – which means Forest Moss and it looked amazing as it was bright green!

Others certainly knew this cake and it very quickly disappeared!

I was amazed to find that the cake is made with spinach!

I have tried to find the origins of the cake as it is certainly not one my mother ever mentionned – all that I have found is that it is based on a Turkish cake – called  Ispanakli Kek (Spinach Cake).

Short History of Spinach

Spinacia oleracea is spinach & the plant originated in Persia (modern Iran), ispanakh in Persian &  ispanak in Turkish and szpinak in Polish.

Spinach was found in China by the early years of AD, where it is called Persian vegetable.

There are records of spinach in Spain by the 12th century.

Spinach came to England in the 14th century and was popular because it grew in the spring and helped to break the monotony of the Lenten diet.

Catherine de Medici who was from Florence in the 16th century married into the French royal family. She loved spinach  and the term which is used till this day – à la Florentine, which is used to signify a dish with spinach, was coined in her honour.

Leśny mech

Forest Moss – this cake with its amazing colours is meant to look like the forest floor with red berries growing.

I made this cake with 250g of  baby leaf spinach which gives a light green colour. I have read that if you use full leaf older spinach this gives a darker colour and has more flavour – I have not tried this yet.

I also know that you can use frozen spinach -400g of frozen – squeezed out and patted dry – but I have not tried this.

I used frozen raspberries for the berries – when it is later in the year I will use fresh raspberries or alpine strawberries from the garden or whinberries(bilberries) from the woods. Many people use pomegranate seeds when making this in the winter months.

Ingredients

  • 250g baby leaf spinach
  • 240g of  granulated sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 185 ml sunflower oil (3/4 of  a 250ml cup)
  • 400g plain flour
  • 3 teaspoons of baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla essence

Method

Pre-heat the oven to GM4 – 180°C.

Grease and line the bottom of a loose-bottomed (or spring formed) cake tin – 26cm in diameter.

  • Use a mini-chopper/blender to whizz up the spinach – most likely in batches to get it all done.
  • Mix the flour and baking powder together.
  • Place the eggs, sugar and vanilla essence into a large bowl and use an electric whisk to whisk them together for 4 to 6 minutes till it is pale and fluffy.
  • Gently stir in the spinach.
  • Fold in the flour mixture.
  • Pour the batter into the prepared tin.
  • Bake on a lower shelf of the oven for 40 – 50 minutes.
  • Leave to cool in the tin.

 

  • Lightly shave off any golden brown edges of the cake with a sharp knfe or fine grater.
  • Cut off the top third of the cake and crumble it by hand into a bowl.

Place the bottom piece of the cake onto the serving plate or cake stand.

Optional

A sweet poncz (sweet punch for moistening the cake) can be used on the bottom layer.  You can make one from 60ml of cold weak black tea, the juice of 1 lemon and 1 – 2 tablespoons of icing sugar. Mix the ingredients together and use a pastry brush to spread it on the cake.

Now add a white filling!

Some recipes use whipped double cream, sweetened with icing sugar and set with gelatine. Other recipes make a filling with mascarpone.

I used my own yoghurt cheese – you can use cream cheese.

Filling Ingredients

Approximate amounts

  • 500g yoghurt cheese
  • 2 tablespoons of icing sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla essence or fine grated rind of a lemon
  • optional – a couple of tablespoons of soured cream – depending on the cheese and how soft you want the filling

Method

Mix the ingredients together – adjusting the sweetness and consistency to taste.

Assembling the cake.

  • Place bottom layer on a plate or cake stand.
  • Brush on the poncz – optional
  • Spread on the white filling
  • Sprinkle the cake crumbs over the top of the cake to cover filling
  • scatter red berries over the top (do this later if not serving straight away)

To decorate – red colours – raspberries, whinberries (bilberries) alpine strawberries, pomegranate seeds

 

Making this cake gave me a chance to use the beautiful Lead Crystal Cake Stand, which was a present from my cousin in Lanchester. It was just right for this large cake.

Made by Nachtmann in Germany  – Tortenplatte (tort/gateau plate/ stand) – style name – Venus.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Plates used are La Prune by Jet for Ter Steege in The Netherlands.

Cotton napkin with a design of rhubarb was bought from the Hepworth Gallery shop in Wakefield (Sadly – No longer in stock – as I wanted to buy some more!).

Not Quite a Cheesecake

For this recipe you can  use twaróg, curd cheese, cream cheese or yoghurt cheese but it is quite a bit different from my usual Polish baked cheesecake.

It is a more a ground almond cake with strawberries on top.

I used the last pickings of strawberries from my garden this summer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I used my own yoghurt cheese and squeezed it out in a cloth to get rid of as much excess liquid (whey) as possible.

Ingredients

  • 115g Butter
  • 115g Caster sugar
  • 3 eggs separated
  • 2 tablespoons of cornflour or potato flour
  • 175g Ground almonds
  • 200g Twaróg , Curd cheese or Yoghurt Cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla essence
  • Pinch of salt
  • Topping
  • Strawberries & 1/2 tablespoon of caster sugar
  • Optional – Icing sugar to dust

Method

  • Line a 20cm in diameter loose bottomed cake tin with a bought paper cake liner.

 

 

 

 

 

  • Pre-heat the oven to GM5 190°C
  • Cream the butter and sugar until they are soft and fluffy.
  • Add the egg yolks one by one until you have a smooth mixture.
  • Add the vanilla essence and the salt and mix in.
  • Add the cornflour, ground almonds and the yoghurt cheese and mix together thoroughly.
  • Whisk the egg whites until they are stiff.
  • Fold in the egg whites into the cake mixture.
  • Put the cake mixture into the lined tin.
  • Slice the strawberries and place these on the top and sprinkle them with the sugar.
  • Bake in the oven for 35 minutes.
  • Turn the oven down to GM2 – 150°C and bake for around another 30 minutes.
  • Switch off the oven but leave the cake in there until it is cool.

 

 

  • Keep the cake in the refrigerator but bring to room temperature for serving.

 

 

  • Served here on tea plates – Las Palmas by Aynsley from the 1960s.

Variations

  • More strawberries on to top would have been okay.
  • Other red summer fruits such as raspberries, blackberries or whinberries (bilberries) would also work well.

Sernik Base with Peanut Butter

My mother often used this base when she made her sernik (baked cheesecake)  – it is a recipe she used in later years as the use of peanut butter is not at all traditionally Polish!

Ingredients

110g butter or block margarine

90g caster sugar

175g plain flour

1 egg yolk

1 tablespoon of peanut butter (I prefer to use crunchy)

Grated rind of 1 lemon

Method

In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugar.

Add the lemon rind, egg yolk  and peanut butter and cream again.

Mix in the flour with a wooden spoon and then using your hand bring this all together to form a soft dough.

Place the dough in a fridge for several hours.

 

 

 

Pre-heat the over to GM5 – 190°C

Use a loose bottom tin (or spring-form tin)  22cm or 20 cm in diameter.

Grease the base and sides of the tin.

Press the dough onto the base of the tin.

Prick the surface of the dough with a fork.

Bake for around 15 – 20 minutes until the top is golden.

Let the base cool completely before using it.

 

 

 

 

Using The Base

The base must be thoroughly cooled before use.

The base can be stored on the tin base for later use if needed – wrapped in foil or in an airtight container.

Sernik

Make your sernik (cheesecake) mixture and pour this onto the base and bake as per your recipe.

I used around 450 – 500g of yoghurt cheese with the addition of  mixed peel as in my another cheesecake recipe.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Great cake lifter from Lakeland Plastics.

 

 

 

Cake is on a Lead Crystal cake stand

Cake forks are Crazy Daisy by Portmeirion designed by Sophie Conran in 2009.

Tea plates are Enchantment by Colclough from the mid 1950s – 1960s.

 

Carrot Pancakes

Daucus carota – the carrot – was cultivated from wild carrots in the countries we now know as Afghanistan & Iran and are mentioned there in the 10th century and by the 12th century they were mentioned in Europe.

These tap roots were originally white, yellow or purple in colour.

The orange colour that we recognise today was breed by growers in Europe in the 17th century especially in the Netherlands.  It is thought that this was in honour of Prince William of Orange-Nassau (Willem van Oranje) who had an orange stripe on his flag. Nowadays orange is thought of as the national colour for the Netherlands.

These pancakes made with carrots in Polish are called racuszki z marchwi.

They are small round pancakes like American pancakes or dropped scones and are served with sugar or sweetened soured cream.

Ingredients

450g carrots, peeled and finely grated

140g twaróg/cream cheese or yoghurt cheese

2 eggs separated

3 tablespoons of plain flour

1/2  teaspoon of baking powder

Sunflower oil for frying

To Serve

Caster sugar or soured cream sweetened with icing sugar.

Method

Whisk the whites until they are stiff.

In a small dish mix the baking powder with the flour.

In a large bowl mix together well the finely grated carrots, the cream (or yoghurt) cheese and the egg yolks.

Add the flour mixture.

Fold in the stiff egg whites.

Heat some sunflower oil in a cast iron frying pan or griddle.

Use 2 tablespoonfuls of the mixture for each pancake, cook on one side and then turn them over and cook on the other side.

Sprinkle with caster sugar or with a dollop of sweetened soured cream.

 

 

Served here on Wedgwood – Hathaway Rose – 1959 -1987.

Note

I have also tried them with maple syrup poured on them & these were also delicious.

IMG_20160729_161009545

 

Beetroot & Chocolate Cake

I had a request from the 93 year old mother of one of my friends to make her a cake that included beetroot in the ingredients – maybe a red velvet cake.

Now I had never seen one of these cakes and certainly never made one and I did have doubts about it.

I did some research and found lots of recipes for red velvet cakes but nearly all of them used just red food colouring.

I then found a recipe for a cake using beetroot and tested it out and surprisingly it came out very, very well. The recipe uses sunflower oil and is an easy to make batter cake.

This is not a traditional Polish recipe at all but it does contain a favourite Polish vegetable – namely – beetroot.

Ingredients

250g cooked beetroots (I used ready cooked vacuum packed beetroots  – 1 pack is more than enough)

1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract

300g caster sugar

250ml sunflower oil

3 eggs

225g plain flour

1 & 1/2 teaspoons of bicarbonate of soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

6 tablespoons cocoa powder

Method

Grease and line a  21 x 31 cm baking tin.

Preheat the oven to Gas mark 4 – 180ºC

Drain the beetroots from the water and place in a sieve for a while to ensure they are dry – you can dry them with some kitchen roll as well.

Purée the beetroots – using a food chopper or blender

In a large bowl combine the puréed beetroots, eggs, vanilla essence, oil and sugar.

In a separate bowl mix together the flour, bicarbonate of soda, salt and cocoa.

20170219_113354

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Add the dry ingredients to the other bowl and beat well together.

20170219_114510

Pour the batter mixture into the prepared tin.

20170219_115514

Bake for 45 to 50 minutes.

Test if done with a cake tester or wooden skewer.

Leave to cool in the tin.

20170219_125037

The cake is delicious and moist – it has a slightly red tinge to the very dark nearly black colour.

Here I have just served it plain.

Served on Royal Doulton, Counterpoint, 1973 – 1987.

You can dust the top  with icing sugar if desired.

The cake is delicious on its own but many versions have a topping of some description.

I made one using butter, cream cheese ( or yoghurt cheese), icing sugar and lemon.

Ingredients for Topping

50g butter

100g of full fat cream cheese, twaróg or yoghurt cheese

Finely grated rind of 1 lemon

1 teaspoon of lemon juice

250 – 300g icing sugar

Method

The butter needs to be at room temperature.

Cream the butter, lemon rind, lemon juice and the cream cheese and 2 tablespoons of the icing sugar until the mixture is smooth and well combined.

Slowly add the icing sugar and mix well in until it is smooth and firm enough to use as a topping.

You can make the topping ahead of time and keep it in a container in the fridge – topping the cake later when needed.

Take care not to get too many brown cake crumbs in the icing when spreading it on the cake.

Served on Colclough, Enchantment, tea plates from the 1960s

with Portmeirion, Crazy Daisy, pastry forks.

The cake was voted delicious!

Racuszki – A Kind of Pancake

A racuch – according  to my dictionary is  a kind of pancake.

Racuszki or racuchy are plural words for them- used much more as you never have just one!  They are small thick pancakes similar to dropped scones, Scotch pancakes or American style pancakes.

In my old Polish recipe book, the recipe uses soured milk, but as I do not have this, I use my own thick yoghurt instead.

Racuszki

1 egg

250ml yoghurt

200g plain flour

1/2 teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda

large pinch salt.

Method

In a large bowl mix the flour, pinch of salt, the egg and some of the yoghurt, mix it with a wooden spoon. I found my new one with a hole in it which I bought in The Netherlands very good for this.

DSC03217 DSC03216

Keep adding the yoghurt (and some water if needed) and mix till you get a batter which is thick and then beat it more till it is smooth and glossy.

Then add the bicarbonate of soda and give this a final mix.

Use a griddle or thick cast iron frying pan and use oil to grease it lightly and heat it up.

You need to try and keep a low to medium heat so as not to burn the pancakes.

Place tablespoonfuls of the batter on the frying pan and cook until the base is set and golden then turn them over and cook the other side.

IMG_20160810_081605547_HDR

 

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_20160810_081601717_HDR

 

 

 

 

 

 

They are traditionally served warm with jam or thick fruit syrup – caster sugar also goes well.

IMG_20160810_081731104_HDR
With Sour Cherry Jam

Yoghurt Cheese Pancakes

I have recently been to The Netherlands to stay with my friend and was looking at the local newspaper and saw a recipe for pancakes using qwark  (I can manage enough Dutch words to  figure out some recipes – especially if there is  a photograph!)

I thought they sounded very much like racuszki, so I jotted the recipe down and when I came home I adapted it slightly by using self raising flour, adding a little vanilla essence and used my own yoghurt cheese instead of qwark.

In the original recipe they served them warm with yoghurt & honey, I also tried them with melted butter & sugar, and with maple syrup – from the large bottle I got from my friend who lives in Canada.

 

 

They were super and ones I had left could be easily reheated and were still soft and not rubbery – I will be using this recipe lots from now on.

Ingredients

2 eggs separated

2 tablespoons sugar

250g yoghurt cheese

200ml milk (you might not need it all)

125g self raising flour

Pinch salt

2-3 drops of vanilla essence

Method

Whisk the egg whites until they are stiff – I tend to do this first so you can use the beaters for the rest of the recipe – without having to wash them to remove the grease.

In a large bowl mix the egg yolks, sugar, yoghurt cheese, flour, pinch of salt, vanilla essence and around half the milk.

Keep adding more milk and mix well until you have a thick batter – like double cream.

With a metal spoon fold in the stiff egg whites.

IMG_20160801_170033150

IMG_20160801_170051228

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Use a griddle or thick cast iron frying pan and use oil to grease it lightly and heat it up.

You need to try and keep a low to medium heat so as not to burn the pancakes.

Place tablespoonfuls of the batter on the frying pan and cook until the base is set and golden then turn them over and cook the other side.

 

Ciocia* Pola’s Apple Racuszki 

*Aunty

Many years ago I went to stay with my one of mother’s sisters (Apolonia) who lived in the area called mazury – the Masurian Lake District in North East Poland.

With apples from the garden she made  racuszki – using a thick yeast risen batter and roughly chopped apples – a cross between a pancake and a fritter. They were delicious.

I have made them here many times using her recipe. Whilst researching and checking other  variations I saw that several recipes used grated apples – these came out stodgy  with little taste of the apple – you need to keep the pieces fairly large.

Ingredients

125 ml of milk (full or semi-skimmed)

25g caster sugar and 1 teaspoon

10g  fresh yeast or 5g  dried yeast

25g  butter

1 egg

125g plain flour

pinch of salt

2 Bramley apples

Icing sugar, caster sugar or cinnamon  sugar to dust.

Method

Warm half the milk and add a teaspoon of caster sugar and the yeast and mix it all together and leave it to froth up.

DSC03220

Melt the butter and leave it to cool.

Whisk the egg with the sugar until it is thick and creamy.

Put the flour and salt into a large bowl.

Use a wooden spoon (one with a hole works really well) and beat in the yeast mixture, the egg & sugar mixture and then the melted butter.

DSC03221 DSC03223

Slowly add the rest of the milk, mixing until the mixture has the consistency of double cream.

Cover the bowl with a cloth and leave this to rise.

Peel, core and quarter the apples and cut them into small chunks or slices cut in half.

DSC03227

 

 

 

 

 

Add the apples to the risen batter and mix them well in to coat them.

DSC03228

 

 

 

 

 

Use a griddle or thick cast iron frying pan and use oil to grease it lightly and heat it up.

You need to try and keep a low to medium heat so as not to burn the pancakes.

Place large tablespoons of apple and batter onto the pan and cook them so that they are golden brown on both sides.

 

Remove them from the pan and dust them with icing sugar, caster sugar or cinnamon sugar.

DSC03240 DSC03241

 

DSC03242

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eat them whilst they are hot & as they say in Poland – Smacznego! (may they be delicious!)

Another Cheesecake!

I had not planned to write about cheesecakes again so soon but recently I had made lots of yoghurt cheese and I decided to make a baked cheesecake for my visitors.

There are so many variations you can make of baked cheesecakes – here is one with a chocolate and an orangey twist.

sernik3

 

 

 

 

 

I had a packet of milk chocolate digestive biscuits already opened and  I thought I would try  a variation on my usual recipe.

Ingredients for the base

100- 150g of chocolate digestive digestive biscuits (milk or dark)

50 – 75g of butter

A few chunks of dark chocolate

Method

Grease a spring-form or loose bottomed tin with melted butter. (You can use a 7.5cm, 8cm or 8.5cm tin – adjust the amounts of the base ingredients to suit.)

Crush the biscuits in a bowl.

Melt the butter in a pan over a low heat then add the chocolate and let it melt.

Add the butter & chocolate mix to the biscuits and mix them all together.

Press the mixture into the base of the tin and leave it to cool completely.

Once cool you can put it the tin into the fridge whilst you make the yoghurt cheese mixture.

Ingredients for yoghurt cheese mixture

Around 450g of yoghurt cheese (or use cream cheese)

3 eggs separated

80g of caster sugar

60g of chopped mixed peel (I use the peel from Marks & Spencer)

2 tablespoons of custard powder

Custard 1

 

 

 

 

The custard powder helps as the yoghurt cheese is often quite “wet” – this is a tip I got from the book   Eat Well  The Yochee Way   by Nikki & David Goldbeck.

IMG_20160723_173617216(1)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Method

Pre-heat the oven to GM 3 – 160ºC.

Whisk the egg yolks and the sugar till they are pale and fluffy.

Lightly whisk in the yoghurt cheese and the custard powder till it is all well combined.

Mix in the mixed peel.

Whisk the egg whites until they are stiff and then fold them into the mixture with a metal spoon.

Pour the mixture onto on the biscuit base.

 

 

Bake in the oven for  50 minutes.

When the cake is ready switch off the oven and leave it in there for at least 40 minutes.

Take out the cake to cool.

Once it is cold – take the cake out of the tin by loosening the outer ring or placing the cake tin with the loose bottom on a tin can and sliding the cake tin down.

Dust the cake with icing sugar before serving.

I think this cake is best made the day before you want to serve it – so it is well cooled and set.

 

The blue & white table cloth is a new 100% cotton one from Ikea.

The tea plate is Las Palmas by Aynsley from the 1960s.