Friday, 2 July 2010

Honey cake and the Well Good Show

 And so it's here, my first proper mostly food oriented post. Was a while in coming as frankly it's been a busy couple of weeks and the closest to cooking I have come was the massive 6 litre pot of spaghetti sauce. I think however before I get on with it and give you some of the things taken for granted at ours, I want like to take you on a personal voyage of culinary discovery that now has me making, dishes I used to only order in restaurants or waited for an Aunt, Babcia or family friend to make. such as a of cabbage rolls or a honey cake. Barring these lovely ladies, we needed to shlep all the way to a Polish bakery or Jewish quarter to get a fix of our favourite food. During my first marriage, my wife did the bulk of the cooking, not because I wasn't any good, I had a few recipes and hadn't poisoned anybody, no she just thought she was the only person who knew how to do anything just so, perfect. You know the type, I preferred to just step back and let her have at it. Nothing  was I was going to do was ever going to be as good as hers. And to be fair,, she was a dab hand at cooking,  even picked up other cultures cookery well and quickly. The problem arose when I wanted to try something different or I wanted to keep the spices I used more often up front. It was symptomatic of the relationship that even our spices didn't get along. 

It was about this time that Jamie Oliver came into the picture and revolutionized my cooking. Notwithstanding what certain people may think of Jamie, he did something for men that hadn't been done before, he simplified the cooking process and explained it in such a way any man would get it the first time. He also espoused fresh herbs, veg meat and poultry, all things that had till then been the secret purview of only the select few. Suddenly, markets were carrying the ingredient of the week, countries that had not known what crème fresh was, had to have it and hitherto taboo puddings were a dawdle. In the beginning ... God made the mountains and the seas,  no seriously, in the beginning Jamie Oliver was the can opener on the lid of cookery secrets, we learned techniques ranging from whisking to a simple fish in a pan . Over time, much that was needed to be known was shown one tip at a time, the mortar and pestle became a common tool and no longer a  decoration, the revolution was on. To his credit, he soon dropped the Naked Chef tag and just became Jamie, a wise decision as I'm not sure he could have continued the cooler than cool trendy chef routine. Spurred on by personal cooking success, I sought to rediscover my own cookery culture and found that while it may not have been apparent at first, I had in fact picked up lorry loads of information from my Babcia as a boy. It first manifested itself in sense memory. Taste, smell, texture, that let me know something was just so. like my grandmothers and Aunts had made it. With experimentation, I even began to rediscover precisely how to get those flavours myself.  Now the problem with perception  is that skill often is achieved faster than it is recognized by others, so I had to wait till I was on my own again to get  the recognition I deserved, which of course only made me try harder. Today I have only a few Everests left to climb. What is an Everest you ask? It's a recipe you so fear , that so intimidates you, you are afraid to try it.  I'm doing my own sauces, puddings roasts, pies ( sweet and savoury), curies , I can even do a New York Deli Cheesecake so good , some people thought we stopped by some place to buy it and kept saying it must have cost a fortune....well no it didn't , except for the £7 of shmeer that went into it. That's a lot of cheese mate,  but so much fun to make, this was one of my Everests by the way. My wife is the baker in the family and usually handles cakes, but she was flat on her back and dying of whatever. We ( yes me) had promised a cheesecake, and I was not going to disappoint. Ended up with a deli sized mountain of cheese cake that was reduced to a single slice in the space of an hour. Not bad for a pudding with the atomic weight of  a black hole. I think the list of what I'm afraid to try is reduced to sushi, smoking my own beef and wine making. We have become those people. But it's ok, most people before the advent of the pre-packaged, easy to heat up  microwaved meal were those people.We had to know how to cook or we were stuck eating expensive food or inexpensive rubbish like turkey twizlers. I'd like to take a minute here to say, health secretary, Andrew Lansley can go back under the rock from whence he came. Healthy meals are saving lives and the budget of the NHS, Tories will not get a majority next time on the junk food vote, they'll be to busy burning Cameron in effigy for cutting the budget with a machete.  .

I need you to know that while you must never think that what I do doesn't require skill and care, you need to know it's not hard to do. None of it, just pay attention to what you're doing, and you too will be cooking like a chef. Now there is a small drawback, once you've learned to cook like this, your once a year romantic meal will now be taken for granted and to the next level, the grand gesture will need the rarest and most expensive ingredients. Which of course is ok if you don't mind cooking and being called a genius. The other drawback is that unless you can't cook it yourself, you'll never again be able to enjoy a meal , even a good one in a restaurant.You know how much it costs, how easy it is to make and the price tag will make you choke. This may be the reason I still haven't learned how to make sushi, it may destroy my last excuse to get out of the house and let somebody else cook for a change.  

 So maybe now a recipe or two, both are dead easy, both will make you a legend with you friends. First the Honey cake, a traditional Polish recipe served at Easter and Rosh hashana depending on what day you keep holy. This version is the best and most accurate english text I can give you, my wife adds extra raisins and  walnuts inside and sliced almonds on top it to make it perfect.

Piernik or Polish Honey Cake


  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup honey
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup raisins (optional)
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)


  1. In a large bowl, mix the sugar, cinnamon, cloves, allspice, and eggs. Stir in the milk and oil, and mix in the baking soda. Place honey in a small pot, and bring to a boil. Stir honey into the bowl. Mix flour into the bowl. Fold in the raisins and walnuts. Stir by hand with a sturdy spoon for 10 minutes. Allow the dough to sit 1 hour.
  2. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C). Lightly grease four 8x4 inch loaf pans.
  3. Fill each loaf pan with about 2 inches of the batter. Bake 1 hour 15 minutes in the preheated oven, until a toothpick inserted in the centre of a loaf comes out clean. Bread will be brown in colour and will crack on top.

Another treat is the home made skor bar, or as it was before it was disguised as a candy bar,  the perfect way to make guests happy before or after a meal ..

Chocolate covered matza

  • 4-6 unsalted matzohs
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter or unsalted Passover margarine
  • 1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup coarsely chopped chocolate 60% cocoa or higher


-Preheat the oven to 375°F. 
-Line a large (or two smaller) cookie sheet completely with foil. Cover the bottom of the sheet with baking parchment — on top of the foil. This is very important since the mixture becomes sticky during baking.
-Line the bottom of the cookie sheet evenly with the matzohs, cutting extra pieces, as required, to fit any spaces.
-In a 3-quart, heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine the butter or margarine and the brown sugar. 
-Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture comes to a boil (about 2 to 4 minutes). Boil for 3 minutes, stirring constantly. 
-Remove from the heat and pour over the matzoh, covering completely.
Place the baking sheet in the oven and immediately reduce the heat to 350°. 
-Bake for 15 minutes, checking every few minutes to make sure the mixture is not burning (if it seems to be browning too quickly, remove the pan from the oven, lower the heat to 325°, and replace the pan).
-Remove from the oven and sprinkle immediately with the chopped chocolate or chips. 
-Let stand for 5 minutes, then spread the melted chocolate over the matzoh. 
-While still warm, break into squares or odd shapes. 
-Chill, still in the pan, in the freezer until set.
This makes a good gift.
You can also use coarsely chopped white chocolate (or a combination of white and dark), and chopped or slivered toasted almonds (sprinkled on top as the chocolate sets). You can also omit the chocolate for a caramel-alone buttercrunch.

I didn't forget your need to know if maybe you been missing something, so I decided to be brave, I was going to finally take a chance on the BBC's "Lee Nelson's Well good show". I resisted for 4 weeks you know, but curiosity got the better of me. I'm not sure what it's about, but I do know that it made James Corden look sincere. That said, I didn't last more than five minute. By the time Lee got to his sad opening monologue, I knew several things.He isn't a charv, just poser, he isn't funny, he's not well good. not even close and this turkey will fold after one series, or at least it should. My intestines haven't wanted to rear up and kill me if I didn't press mute right away since a certain pile of dreck about ad execs in London. It was Vogon poetry bad, we've got a  game, my wife and I, each of us gets a small bell, if we want to stop watching a new programme, we ring he bell. This shambolic lie of a show lasted less time than Big Top. I bemoan the fate of modern comedy at the BBC. I suspect even charvs can be funny, but this was just painful. Whoever green lit this needs a vacation to recharge the batteries while a competent person scours through the rejects to see if there is any gold in the pile of turds. I cannot believe the writers of fresh new comedy are as bereft of ideas as this appears to indicate.  Seems we'll have to depend as usual, on Parliament English football  for fresh comedy.

Time for some sleep, football today !!!!!

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