Saturday, May 24, 2014

Recipe: Cheese bake

This is a warm and hearty dish that's well suited to using up leftovers and is a real favourite with children.

Chicken and Broccoli Bake

1 cup chicken stock
1 cup almond milk
1/2 cup half and half
2 cups shredded cheese
120g (4 oz) sharp aged cheddar
2 cups steamed broccoli
1 brown onion
125g (1 stick) butter
2 tbspn flour


Cut the vegetables into florets and steam until just cooked, drain and set asside. Prepare all your other ingredients.

Dice the onion and add to a large saucepan over low to medium heat. Add the stick of butter cut into cubes and stir until the butter is melted. Sweat the onions in the butter until clear, then add the chicken. Fry until the chicken is cooked on a low heat, being careful not to burn the butter. 

If you choose you can use leftover pre-cooked poultry instead of fresh chicken; this is a great recipe for using leftover Turkey after holidays. 

Prepare your liquid ingredients and set asside near the pan, you will need these quickly after adding the flour. Add 2 tablespoons of flour to the pot and stir, the flour and vegetable mix will quickly tun into a roux and then solidify. Use almond or other low carb/gluten free flour if desired but it will change the texture. I advise using wheat flour and watching your carb count. 

Quickly before the flour mix browns begin adding your liquids. Alternate between almond milk and stock, adding about half a cup at a time. Stir thoroughly and make sure all liquid is incorporated before you add the next half cup of liquid. You should end up with a thick sauce with the consistency of glue - don't be tempted to taste it at this point since it contains no seasoning or flavour. Once all the almond milk and stock are added add the half and half to add a creamy richer texture.

You can substitute the almond milk & half and half with 1.5 cups of cow milk if preferred. Using almond milk and half and half gives the best texture - creamy without being heavy.

Set asside 1/4 of a cup of shredded cheese, as we will use this for a crust at the end. 

Using only around 60g (2oz) of cheese at a time add this to the sauce and then mix to melt. Once the cheese is melted into the sauce add the next batch of cheese. My recipe calls for half shredded cheese half sharp cheese to give a balance between taste and texture but you can use whatever cheese you have in the house, including soft cheeses. Once all the cheese is is melted into the sauce it should have a slight stringy texture to it when you lift the spoon and a reflective fatty look to it.

This is when you should taste the sauce and season to your preference, then fold in the cooked vegetables. It is also the time to add variations of your choosing such as:
  • Broccoli and seeded mustard (as shown)
  • Fried bacon and sweet corn
  • Spinach and feta
  • Herbs and asparagus

Pour the prepared mixture into a glass baking dish; sprinkle with the cheese set asside earlier and then brown under the grill (broiler) for 5 mins. 

Remember that this dish is very rich; 6 serves are still quite high calorie. Macros below are for the full tray, per serve are Calories - 446, Carbs 11g (Net 8.6g), Fat 34.8g, Protein 24.5g

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Snapshot: Lajkonik Bakery, Krakow

When travelling a good breakfast joint is a great find; finding somewhere cheap and cheerful to eat a real meal before work or tourism makes all the difference to your day. There also becomes a point in Poland where you can't face another meal of pork and cabbage. Craving salad and fibre I was glad to come across the Lajkonik Bakery. 

There are a couple of these around the Old Town; one near the Barbican and one near the Rynek Glowny both conveniently situated to stop before site seeing. 

Dominikański kurczak - Chicken fillet, pesto rosso, dried tomatoes and rucola in a wheat and rye roll. Combo meal with Coffee 12PLN

Stopping for breakfast means great combo deals (this costs a wopping $4USD). Good quality ingredients are heated to order and served with strong European style coffee. The bread is the real star of the show here; heavy sour dough and rye breads are baked fresh each morning. You can take away full loaves and rolls, pastries and croissants but I needed something green!

Lekki krakowiak - Cream cheese and tomato in a rustic roll 8PLN

Caprese on a heavy rye bread roll. Fresh or toasted this is the perfect morning meal to recover from pork dumplings and cutlet the night before.

You can eat in the restaurant or take away. Eating in affords hot fresh coffee and efficient service or take away to eat while enjoying the view or on your site seeing activities for the day. Lajkonik is a combined retail shop and cafe so expect plastic chairs and hustling service; you will have to bus your own tray once you are finished. 

Lajkonik Bakery

Bakery shop and cafe
Casual fresh snacks and breakfast

Review: Restauracja Wesele, Krakow

Wesele is another of the Michelin starred restaurants owned by the same group as Mod Molina and Marmolada. Meaning "The Wedding" and named for the Stanisław Wyspiański play this restaurant is aimed squarely at offering a Polish family style cuisine and dining experience to tourists in Krakow.

Situated directly on the Old Square you can of course take in the gorgeous views of the Rynek Glowny and the Artisan Hall from the outside seating.

We however were dining on a busy tourist day and the crowds on the square were of little interest so instead we decided to take in the quaint traditional setting inside the restaurant. The entire restaurant is decked out in country style Polish furniture with wait staff in traditional clothing; it's every bit as magical as the square itself.

Chripiaca grillowana kaszanska z cebulka serwowana z kapustka zasmazana (Grilled black pudding with onion served with fried cabbage) 17PLN

Black pudding is hard to come by in the US where I currently live so it was time to indulge in a local version. This is a rough chopped version with bulgar wheat, more akin to a haggis than Irish or French style blood sausage. The pudding is spiced perfectly and served with the ubiquitous cabbage and sweet onions to compliment the savoury meat 

Polska specjalnosc: kotlet schabowy z kostka panierowany z kapustka zasmazana i ziemniaczkami zasmazanyrni z kpoerkiem (Polish specialty: pork chop with fried cabbage and fried potatoes with dill) 36PLN

Heart warming and familiar this Milanese/Vienna Schnitzel style breaded cutlet is a good example of a traditional dish. Served with creamy buttered cabbage and country style home fries this is a great hearty dish after trekking up and down hills in Old Krakow. Down it with a local Żywiec lager and have a little Germanic influenced treat Polish style.

Buraczki zasmazane (Fried Beetroot) 8PLN 

Finding vegetables in Poland that are not purely starch can be difficult; one of the best options is usually beets. Bright and tart they cut through the heavy pork and cabbage dishes well. This preparation of fried grated beetroot became my favourite side dish on this trip. 

The restaurant is what you expect of  one of this quality - service is attentive, a full service bar is available and the atmosphere is cosy and pleasant. As with many restaurants on the square in the Old Town the prices are high for locals but very affordable for tourists. I stopped here for a drink in the evening but found it quiet and a little stilted; I would definitely recommend stopping for lunch and enjoying the bustle of the square during the day

Restauracja Wesele

High end family style Polish food

Friday, May 2, 2014

Snapshot: Krakowska Manafaktura Czekolady

Krakow makes wonderful sweets; sticky sweet drinks, perfect parfaits, warming spiced cakes and fruit specialties abound. You can easily lose count of the number of chocolate makers around the Old Town but this chocolate store and cafe was a real highlight for me and a great place to pick up souvenirs.

Upstairs is a gorgeous coffee shop with quaint doilies and personalised crockery. The staff speak minimal English but do offer an English menu. 

They serve amazing hot chocolates and coffees.

Or if you prefer they'll serve you an entire cup of melted chocolate straight from their kitchens.

Downstairs is a veritable wonderland of chocolate purchases. Many of these are just novelty formations of pure chocolate in white, milk and dark. Adult items could be found for buck's and hen's nights, touristy formations of Krakow Dragons and Castles or Christian symbols for Easter. 

If you're looking for a reasonably priced gift in Krakow they offer a number of pure chocolate tablets gift boxed with the Krakow Castle on them. 

For a more upscale gift consider getting a box of handmade chocolates. Krakowska Manafaktura Czekolady make gorgeous marzipans from a variety of nuts, cream truffles and liqueur fruits. They offer gift boxing that is designed to endure a flight home. 

Krakowska Manafaktura Czekolady

Upscale chocolate store and cafe