Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Slow cooked pork

So I like to buy things on sale. There could be worse things in life.

This week, pork shoulder (no skin no bone) was on sale at Tesco, ($1.70 a pound) so I just had to buy and try. I looked up a lot of (American) recipes, and most use a barbeque or a smoker, and also use bone in skin on pork. Suffice to say, after reading most of these recipes it became pretty apparent that slow cooking was the way to go. I bought the pork on a friday to prepare, and things just fell into place after that. I love the idea of cooking something (especially meat) for so long that it falls apart and becomes amazingly butter tender. When you see the piece of meat hopping gently around in simmering cooking liquid, it looks so resilient and steadfast. After having cooked long enough though, a poke with a wooden spoon will send delicious ribbons off the previously impermeable meat.
Now, I looked up the nutritional content of pork shoulder, and it's not the healthiest piece of meat, but you can ask for (and also do it yourself) a defatted/lean piece.
Even though I've lived in Prague for over two years and have been eating Czech food since the age of 1, I never pretend to admit I know how to cook Czech food (except maybe Gulas, but mine is never as good as the restaurants. *sigh*) Anyway, I went with a very very eastern European flavor scheme here. I especially wanted to use these juniper berries I had recently bought at Marks & Spencers. I have GOT to find more recipes with juniper berries, what a lovely little taste they have. So as for the finished result, I wasn't a HUGE fan, but my boyfriend loved it. After a day though, I actually liked it myself a hell of a lot better.

Slow cooked pork
900 g boneless skinless pork shoulder
7-8 cloves garlic

6-7 juniper berries, crushed and minced finely

3 all spice, crushed and minced

1 tbs cumin

1 tbs dried rosemary

1 tbs dried thyme

1 tbs dried sage

generous pinch salt and pepper

1/4 cup pickle juice or 1/8 cup vinegar diluted with 1/8 cup water

2 medium onions roughly sliced

1 large parsnip sliced

Flour for dredging

Water or stock for cooking

Make a paste of the garlic, and next 7 ingredients

Cut slits in the pork shoulder and stuff the mixture in
Rub any remaining paste over the shoulder

Pour the pickle juice or vinegar over the shoulder and turn to coat

Let marinate over night

Dredge the shoulder in flour

Heat a sturdy pot over a burner

Sear the shoulder on all sides

Now, I didn't caremelize the onions, but suppose I should have. I think it would have added delicious flavor. So carmelize your onions and parsnips, my friends.

Deglaze with water, stock, or even a bit o' wine

Put the shoulder back in the pan, and almost cover with stock/water

Cover and simmer on med low heat for about 6-8 hours, or until poking with a spoon makes some of the meat start to slip off itself in shreds. While it's cooking, if you want less liquid, un cover the meat and let some of it evaporate off. If you keep it covered the whole time, it actually ends up being more like a soup/stew. Also, turn the meat occasionally or at least baste the uncovered parts.

Turn off heat
Let sit over night

Reheat on medium low heat

Serve with potatoes or dumplings and sauerkraut

By the way, I think next time, I'd rather cook it in a tomato-y sauce or maybe a mustardy sauce and not do anything to the pork itself. I think it's delicious on it's own, but it's texture lends it more to a thicker clingy sauce.

Thursday, 26 March 2009

Haven't written in a while, made amazing mexican last night with a friend. If you're a foodie, and a bit bored, this is an awesome site for kitchen gadgets: http://www.cnet.com/8300-13553_1-32-1.html?tag=mncol

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Greek Night

I had leftover chicken that I had roasted a couple of nights ago, and decided to go a little GREEK. I had also visited the Greek store that I blogged about a while back, and had picked up some yogurt, olives, and feta, so thought it would be nice to have a Greek themed night!

I had made stock from the chicken bones/wings that was very fragrant (hint: throw scallion/spring onion scraps in your broth!) So I warmed some of that, (about 250 ml) and then threw in the leftover chicken (also about 250 g), a generous tablespoon of oregano and gyros seasoning, and about 3 small sundried tomates, chopped. I let it simmer gently until most of the broth evaporated while I prepared everything else. If you do this with leftover chicken, it regains it's softness and you can shred it as well (which is what I did). Tastes just like new. The rest of the menu is as follows:

250 ml yogurt (preferably greek)
1 large clove garlic chopped and smashed to a paste with a large pinch of salt
1/2 of a small onion diced (and by small I mean very small)
about 3/4 cup (180 g) diced cucumber
2 tbs chopped cilantro (coriander) leaves and stems
Pinch pepper
1 tsp lemon juice

Mix all ingredients together.

I also made these flatbreads, which are REALLY convenient if you're pressed for time and someone in your house wants bread.

1 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
Enough water to hold it together

When you have a ball of dough, pinch off pieces and roll them into balls. Then flatten out into circles with your hands (if you want thicker-ish ones) or roll them out into thin circles with a rolling pin.
"Fry" in a non-stick pan on high heat for the thin ones, turning once when bubbles form, or on medium heat for the thicker ones, again turning once. Keep them warm in the oven while you do the rest.

So we had a delicious dinner of the chicken, flatbreads, tzatziki, and chopped tomatoes, lettuce, and feta. We ate it so fast I had no time to take pictures. Sorry :-(

Wednesday, 11 March 2009


I've been in a really bad/depressed mood recently. I think it's because of the changing seasons and my cat stepping in my plants constantly (asshole)

My friend posted this really funny article though about Walkers Crisps, and the dry humor of it is excellent. My favorite line?

They taste precisely like a tiny cat piping hot farts through a pot-pourri pouch into your mouth."

If that doesn't put a smile on your face, I don't know what will.

Monday, 9 March 2009

Shepherds Pie

No chestnuts this weekend BUT I did make a shepherds pie. I made the butternut squash and parsnip soup again, which was yummmm and is now sitting in my fridge. I didn't have an open can of corn, so I opened frozen veggies (peas, carrots, and corn) and picked out the corn from it. Threw in a couple of peas and carrots as well, but mostly corn. I know it sounds weird, but I was having a really stressful day and the picking of the corn was actually quite soothing and ate up lots of my time. On another note, I've planted my salad greens and onions, and my peas and spinach. The cat has stepped in the peas and spinach though, so I'm hoping they didn't get too messed up or flattened. :-( My herbs have sprouted! I couldn't believe it happened so quickly! The basil is definitely the most agressive but the coriander and sage have made appearances as well! However, the oregano that I bought from Tesco has died a very sad death. I think the cat killed it. *tear*

I did make banana cookies again. I used about 1/8 of a cup of soy milk instead of butter and more flour (didn't measure, sorry) It did work though. I had a very stiff dough (again) so they didn't spread, and they're very sticky/chewy, a bit like banana bread. I also put a pinch of nutmeg in them this time which I think really enhances the flavor of the banana.

Anyway, I had the leftover carrots and peas, and had some frozen ground turkey, and potatoes, so I figured I'd make a shepherd's pie! I've never done one before but they are SO yummy. Now, I threw in a bunch of spices/flavors, but I'll mention which ones I don't think made a big effect.

Shepherd's Pie

500 g Ground turkey meat
1-2 tbs chopped sausage
300 g frozen veggies (peas, corn, carrots)
handful of chopped mushrooms (totally optional)
2 medium onions
2 cloves garlic
1 beef bullion cube (Don't know if this was absolutely necessary...probably not)
1 tbs grill seasoning (not too sure if it made a difference because it was really old...)
1 tbs onion powder
1 tsp dried thyme or 1 tbs fresh
1 tsp dried or fresh rosemary
1 and 1/2 tbs Worcestershire sauce
Generous 4 fingered pinch of salt
several cracks of black pepper
300 g water

2 large potatoes
100 g milk
60 to 80 grams of shredded cheese (I used hunters cheese [lovecky syr] and a bit of stilton)

Put the potatoes in a pot to boil

Heat some bacon fat or oil in a large pan and sautee the onions until they have browned and caramelised
Add in the turkey, sausage, and bullion cube and brown the turkey
Add everything else
Let simmer for about 15 minutes to combine flavors and let some of the water evaporate off. If you want a bit more sauce, add some more water
Adjust seasonings as desired

pour into a baking pan (about 8x8), spread evenly, and smush down a bit

Whip the potatoes with the milk, add a pinch of salt and pepper
Spoon the potatoes over the meat mixture and sprinkle the cheese on top
Bake at 170 C (350 F) for about 10-15 minutes, until cheese and potatoes brown slightly


PS, this picture makes it look like there were a lot more potatoes than filling, but that was not the case. The potatoes just sank a bit and the filling runneth-ed over when we spooned it on our plates :-)

Friday, 6 March 2009

Weekend plans...

I'm going to be really boring this weekend.

I've already bought butternut squash and parsnips, and I am TOTALLY making my chowder. By the way, research has found that a chowder is a chowder if it incorporates seafood. So mine is technically not a chowder. I bet a couple of pieces of mild white fish would be DELICIOUS in it though...

I'm also going to make banana cookies again. Maybe with a chocolate chip in each one or something...Oooo maybe I can squeeze some peanut butter in the middle somehow...Must think this through...

I will also make brussels sprouts. Maybe with some chestnuts. Winter is almost over and I want to make sure I eat the chestnuts before they are lost to me until next winter!! I actually just did some research on chestnuts and apparently one can freeze them. I will definitely be doing that this weekend...

I've been cooking a lot more for myself than for my boyfriend, so there is a chance I will make something for us on Saturday. I was thinking of a slow roasted chicken. There's a sale on chicken thigh pieces at my grocery, so I was thinking of mashing up loads of garlic with rosemary and thyme (my two new potted herb additions!!) spreading it over the chicken, and covering and roasting on low heat for a loooooooong time. The boyfriend's brother's family made an excellent dish like this that also have pieces of caramelised onion. I'm thinking and debating how to incorporate this into my chicken. Maybe caramalise the onions and spread it over the chicken after the garlic/herb mixture...hmmm. I like. I will sit and plot more, and fill you all in on the results.

This leads me to another weird thing that happened on Monday. He said to me, "Maybe we should invite my brother and his family over for dinner on Saturday and I can make spinach". Now, for some reason, this absolutely positively infuriated me. Both him and his brother have made this spinach before (it's actually just about the ONLY thing my boyfriend knows how to cook). It's good, but people have HAD IT before. I was so furious and indignant that HE was the one who would get to cook and NOT ME. What bothers me the most about this is that I think it's not a normal reaction. I felt hurt, wounded, pissed off, and sad. I think it's because the message that I got was "Your cooking isn't good enough for company, only mine is". Now that I've sat and written this, it helps, but I wonder why I was/am so uptight about it. I think it's great that he occaisionally cooks, but he only does the same thing. I wish I could encourage him to try other things. Then again, I know that not everyone is like that. My sister has a pretty steady repertoire that she sticks with (mostly stuff my mom made for us when we were little) I, on the other hand, pretty much rejected everything my mom ever cooked. I ate it when I was little, and liked it, but I wouldn't dream of making any of her standards (Spanakopita, lasagna, bolonaise, svickova, etc.) now. It's actually quite unpleasant for me to even THINK about doing that. But, I know that some people have their comfort zone with recipes and just stick with the same stuff. I don't think I could ever do that though. I like experimenting way too much!!!

PS, My basil started sprouting!!! I had a HUGE sigh of relief after my haphazard planting of it. There are teeny tiny little green shoots that make me so happy and proud.

I'm planting some other things this weekend and am QUITE nervous. I will also update on how that went. I may be in tears of frustration by Monday, just a warning...

Thursday, 5 March 2009


As successful as I (usually) am in the kitchen, I'm afraid it doesn't apply 100% to gardening. My gardening skills are shabby, at best. I've always been of the camp that thinks, "Throw the seeds in some dirt, cover it up with some more dirt, water, and voila!" I actually recently did this in an attempt to plant herbs (Not supposed to cover them with as much dirt as I did, also not supposed to directly water - as I did) so I'm crossing my fingers that the herbs will come out ok.

Not the best mentality. Now that I finally own my own place, I can actually "commit" to having plants; helped even more by the fact that I live on the ground floor of an apartment building and my flat looks out into the (currently) cold, stone courtyard. My neighbors have planted things as well, but as I bought the place in November, I haven't seen anything yet. I've just seen empty pots with twigs and dirt that look quite forlorn indeed.

I took the plunge and decided to plan a container garden. And actually PLAN and RESEARCH, not any of this half-assed seed throwing. What did I decide to plant? What else, but food! I picked my choices based on what plants are hardy to cold weather, what plants don't need too much sun, and finally, foods that I like but are usually too pricey or unavailable. I also wanted (hopefully) some color in my garden; not just green green green. This left me with:

Spring onion (not pricey and always available, but it's hardy and I bought a winter variety. I also inevitably never use the whole bunch)
Brussels sprouts
(LOVE the taste and would kill to have them all day every day in the fall and forever. Plus, the plant looks really frikin cool)


Spinach, Watercress, and Rucola
(I've never found watercress here, and am constantly annoyed at the price being charged for the other two in supermarkets. It's just leaves!!!)
(I love beets. And you can use the greens too. SO multi purpose!!)
Broadbeans and purple greenbeans
(Broad beans are hard to find here and I bought a mottled red pod which I think will look very cool. The purple green beans are edible and turn green when cooked. Thought good to add color to the garden)
(I don't like buying whole heads because I never make it through them. Also very hardy to cold weather)
Sugar snap peas
(Annoyed at unavailability and price of these. Imagine my shock when finding out they're one of the easiest plants to grow)

So thats my list. I've found this site INCREDIBLY helpful on planning. I love how each blurb also tells you what are good companion plants. I've already decided to sow my peas and spinach and/or peas and beets together. I've realised that I should not start my brussels sprouts and broadbeans until midsummer. I've been googling container gardening and coming up with some positive results. I've also looked up if you can use cat poop as a fertilizer (you cannot)

Now I just need to buy some nice big pots and some soil for all my new babies. This led me to another wonderful discovery. I thought that I'd have to go out to one of the big gardening stores in Prague that are an annoying metro (plus bus) ride away. This is understandable, seeing as how I live smack dab in the center of the city. I remembered though that my aunt mentioned a gardening store by bila labut I went there, and it's absolutely amazing. They have seeds for EVERYTHING! (Almost: I wanted rainbow chard and red beets but they didn't have them, so I settled for black beets and no chard) But still, how convenient! Little shop but huge assortment. And so cheap too. I got 10 seed packets for only 128 ($5.75 USD) For those who may be interested, here's a map.

I also found a GREAT place that has every single kind of plant container you could ever want. It's on Dlazdena, and here is a map. They even have the degradable little seed cups for your starter plantings. I ALMOST bought some pots, but want to check out Tesco prices first before I commit. They have a lovely wide but more shallow pot that I'm imagining my greens and my onions in. Oooo this is just so much fun. I'm so glad that I have the time and space for it now. I even happily found out that the wall my windows (and plants) are on is south-facing. So hopefully, what little sun reaches the courtyard will direct hit my babies.

I think the hardest part for me with the plants and herbs will be thinning. I just can't bear to tear up little plants and THROW THEM AWAY. It just seems unnecessarily cruel to me. I think I'll need a couple of glasses of vino before I can bring myself to do it with the new garden. At least with beet thinnings, you can eat them (What CAN'T you do with beets?!? Amazing things...)

I'll keep updating and hopefully post pictures and recipes from my new little garden in the upcoming months...

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Mashed Parsnips

So I bought some more parsnips this weekend (on sale again) for myself. I don't know what I'll do when parsnips go out of season and won't be on sale. *sigh*

So I went home for lunch and wanted to use my parsnips for something quick and delicious. This is what I ended up creating:

Mashed Parsnips with Cheese and Mushrooms

2 large parsnips cut into 1 cm pieces
knob (about a tablespoon) of runny cheese such as Camembert
1 large shitake mushroom, de-stemmed and sliced into small pieces
tbs or two chiffonade of green part of leek
Pinch of salt and a few cracks of pepper

Boil water in a small pot
Put in parsnip cubes
While cubes are boiling, cut up cheese into small pieces and prepare shitakes and leek
after about 10 minutes, drain most of the water, but leave a bit in the pot
Blend the parsnips and water with an immersion blender
Stir in the cheese, salt and pepper until the cheese melts
When cheese melts, stir in mushroom and leek


I actually had this right out of the pot. It was great because the only utensils I dirtied were the cutting board, knife, immersion blender, and spoon. Very quick, healthy, and easy and warming on a chilly day.

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Petr's Spinach mess

So I usually do the cooking in my home. Every now and then though, my boyfriend will make this dish (sometimes he subs peas for spinach, but I am not a huge fan of peas, so I always ask for spinach...)

It's quite good and quite cheap. I just don't usually like how much oil he puts in to start. You can also double the recipe. I call it "mess" because it's not the most attractive dish. However, like many unattractive things, it has a hidden quality: tastes delicious!!!

Petr's Spinach Mess

1 package frozen spinach
1 small can tomato paste
1-2 debrecinske parky (flavored hot dogs) sliced into rounds
1 large onion
2 garlic cloves
assorted spices
1 egg

Defrost the spinach in a bowl in a microwave.
pour enough oil in a pan to cover the bottom
saute onion and garlic
throw in the hot dogs, cook for a bit
Then throw in the spinach (with any leftover water) and the tomato paste. Pour in about 1 cup (250 g) of water too.
Let it simmer for about 5-7 minutes til it thickens. While simmering, throw in any spices you want. There should definitely be about 1 tbsp of salt or podravka in it along with some pepper. We've thrown in garlic and onion powder, chipotle chile powder, Old bay, and he threw in some "mexicka gril" too. (literally, ALL of it. Trust me)
Personally, I think that some thyme, sage, garlic and onion powder would be good, and also any other poultry or fish seasoning

while the spinach is simmering, make a sunny side up egg.
Serve the spinach with the egg, and houskovy knedliky (or bread) Top with a dollop of plain yogurt.
I know the egg sounds weird, but it TOTALLY makes it so much better.