Slow-Cooked Chickpea Curry

I haven’t written anything for a long time. Academic commitments, family life and other matters have been given priority for the last few months with little time left to cook something more decent, leave alone sharing the recipes. However, I have to stress that I enjoyed really tasty food over the Christmas period spent in Poland, such as baked sturgeon served with pickled saffron milk caps (yum!) or oyster mushroom soup. The New Year 2016, on the other hand, began with some important changes in my kitchen. First, I decided to try a genuine plant-based (but still sensible) diet. Thus, the majority of my meals are now vegan, but they are still simple, colourful and tasty.  Second, I have begun this journey equipped with two new, very useful culinary gadgets, namely: a spiralizer and a slow cooker, which are now frequently used to prepare stir-fries, curries or soups.

Since the Irish weather in March can be still quite miserable – cold, windy and (obviously) rainy, it is important to keep ourselves happy. For me happy equals warm, and, therefore, today I propose a very simple yet satisfying, spicy chickpea curry, which was originally invented by our family friend. In short, perfect comfort food for the (imperfect) climate!

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Halloween Soup

Although this year’s Halloween is now a thing of the past, the memories of a fabulous party that we hosted on Halloween night are still fresh and vivid. During the party, amongst other things, we experienced the Minions’ sugar rush (a result of consuming too many glow-in-the-dark lollies); we also witnessed an exploding casserole dish and welcomed some interesting visitors, including the neighbours’ dog dressed as a ghost! After an exhausting trick-or-treating session, we enjoyed some delicious soup, made of a pumpkin miraculously purchased by my husband in spite of a serious pumpkin crisis (best regards to Terry from our local Friday market). Since the soup might not only be a ‘Halloween thing’, but it can also become an attractive dinner option at this time of the year – try the recipe below and, hopefully, enjoy a bowl (or two)!

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The Apple of My Eye Pie

The recipe for this pie is a personal treasure, as it was handed to me by a very precious Polish friend. We actually baked it together for the first time seven years ago during her first visit in Ireland. I still remember how the beautiful dessert consisting of layers of delicate biscuit pastry, tangy stewed apples and sweet meringue lifted up our spirits on a cold and rainy October day. Since then we have both immersed in professional and family life and it became much harder to keep in touch. But I often think about her and look forward to the day when we can do some baking together.

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Smoked Coley in Apple and Cider Sauce

Due to an unexpected but much welcomed invasion of our family and friends, I was suddenly faced with a challenge of preparing a quick and tasty meal for six adults and four Minions. In the fridge I found some smoked coley and a forgotten can of cider. Next to the fridge, I came across a basket filled with home-grown organic apples – a gift from my father-in-law. Pairing fish with fruit on one plate might seem like a madman’s nightmare. Nonetheless, there must be method in the madness, as all the guests’ plates returned clean and we happily proceeded to coffee and blueberry pavlova.

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Apple, Dark Chocolate and Ginger Mini Muffins

Around this time of the year, when evenings gradually become longer and colder, baking can turn into a regular and, indeed, therapeutic pastime. This somehow unusual combination of sweet and sour apples, bitter dark chocolate and spicy ginger inspired me to create this fuss-free, fragrant dessert. So, whenever you feel a bit under the (Irish) weather, make these tiny, tasty muffins. Not only will they cheer you up big style on a miserable day but they also might become a regular companion of your favourite cup of tea.

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It Was Apple, Apple, Apple…

…sang one of my most favourite artists, Duke Special, while describing qualities of one particular apple beverage. It is true to say that since Biblical times a humble apple has enjoyed a reputation of a mysterious and magical fruit, while inspiring painters, sculptors, poets, musicians and – quite obviously – also chefs.  Whether you prefer crispy Coxes, tangy Bramleys, sweet Pink Ladies, or, like me, those unidentified, yet bizarrely delicious creations from our family orchard – have an apple, while the apple season lasts.

In conclusion, I hereby proclaim October as an Apple Month on the Hake and Cake blog!

Fried Herrings Marinated in Vinegar

The season for fresh herrings has begun and so I managed to purchase a dozen of the finest fish from our favourite local fishmonger. As we had invited our lovely neighbours to a little party on Sunday evening, I decided to impress them with fried herrings marinated in vinegar – a Polish speciality and another of my precious childhood memories. Happily, our visitors enjoyed the dish very much and even requested second helpings, while the Minions – ignorant to the art of fine dining – were devouring homemade pancakes, smothered in ridiculous amounts of the famous hazelnut spread. The herring sandwiches, accompanied with some background jazz music and quite a lot of laughter, turned out to be a perfect remedy for the autumn, the chill and the rain.

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Broad Bean and Roasted Beetroot Hummus

I can’t believe the summer is nearly over…I am back in Ireland and, since the older Minion has just started school, I am constantly looking for inspiration to create quick and relatively healthy lunchtime snacks. Last Friday, for example, I spotted a spectacular pile of fresh broad beans at our local little market. Quite immediately, I decided to go ahead with bean spread, resembling the classic hummus, while adding some roasted beetroot for colour and sweetness. Serve it to your Minions with toasted pita bread fingers or a few carrot (celery) sticks and watch it disappear in seconds!

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Cold Beetroot Soup (Chłodnik)

This traditional Polish dish, referred to as ‘chłodnik’, is also regarded as a perfect choice for particularly hot weather. It brings back some happy childhood memories of holidays full of sun, spent at my grandparents’ place. Best served straight from the fridge with plenty of chopped dill!

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