This week’s recipe is another great comfort food and snack item that originates in eastern Europe, and migrated from Russia, through Germany and travelled with the food traditions of German immigrants to North America. Variations are also known as Fleischkuche, Runza’s, Kraut Pirok and Cabbage Burger.
A soft, white bread dough is stuffed with a mixture of seasoned beef mince, onion and cabbage – and that’s it. You’re thinking it sounds a bit plain and dull? Yes, me too when I first read about these, but reading the reviews of these buns on recipe sites and blogs, you discover that these simple stuffed rolls have a huge fan base out there – so much so that they are made commercially in the US. The mix of meat, onions and cabbage is moist and savoury and comforting. Sometimes the most flavourful things come from the simplest of ingredients.
These rolls are best served warm, and served with salad they can be a simple and tasty lunch. Alternatively, they also freeze well – great for grab-and-go weekday lunches, they will have defrosted by lunchtime can be warmed up either in an oven or microwave.
Although the basic recipe is delicious, you can also add a little extra flavourings to your taste. The most popular variation includes a little sauerkraut with the cabbage: I personally wasn’t keen, but then I only had shop-bought sauerkraut to try it with. Home-made sauerkraut is probably much better. The second variation I tried was to add a little cheese. I went with some grated Grana Padano (a strong Italian cheese similar to Parmesan, but much cheaper) for maximum flavour without adding too much bulk to the filling. I really liked this little addition, but please do try the original mixture too – it really is delicious.
You can use any cabbage, but I like both the colour and texture of the Savoy cabbage – it holds its colour really well and makes the filling look fresh and juicy as well as taste that way.
Bierocks – Makes 12
500g strong white flour
1 sachet fast action yeast
1 large egg
1 tsp salt
1.5 tsp sugar
100ml whole milk
100ml boiling water
500g lean beef mince
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 small Savoy cabbage, finely shred
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
grated Grana Padano cheese (optional)
- Make the bread dough:
- Put the flour, yeast, egg, salt and sugar into a bowl.
- Add the boiling water to the milk and add gradually to the mixture until it comes together into a soft dough. You may need more liquid, depending on the moisture in the flour and egg.
- Knead the mixture for ten minutes, cover and set aside to rise for an hour.
- Make the filling.
- Heat a non-stick saucepan over a medium high heat and crumble in the meat. No need to have any oil, even lean mince has a certain amount of fat in it which will come out as the meat cooks.
- Stir the meat around until it is browned and shiny.
- Add the onion and continue stirring while the onion softens.
- Finally add in the cabbage and cook until the cabbage has softened – probably no more than 2-3 minutes.
- Stir in the salt and pepper, remove from the heat and set aside to cool.
- When the dough is risen, tip out and pat down.
- Divide dough into pieces weighing 75-80g.
- Roll dough out into a 15cm square.
- Put a measure of the cooled filling into the middle of the dough. I use an 80ml measuring cup.
- Add 1 teaspoon of the grated cheese, if using.
- Bring the corners of the dough together and pinch along the edges to seal in the filling. What you will end up with looks like the back of an envelope.
- Turn the buns over and place onto a parchment-lined baking sheet.
- Dust the buns with flour and set aside to rise for 15-20 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 180°C, 160°C Fan.
- Bake the buns for 15-20 minutes until lightly browned.
- Remove the buns from the oven and immediately cover the baking sheet with some tea-towels. This will trap the heat and create steam, which will soften the crust of the buns.
- Eat warm.
I love this recipe for lots of reasons: it’s Deja Food, it’s comfort food, is simple, cheap, quick to put together and it’s deliciously tasty.
I’ve included a couple of twists in this seemingly simple recipe that elevates it into something really special.
The pastry is a new version of shortcrust that I have adapted from a Victorian bakers’ book. It includes cornflour, which makes the pastry extra crispy, which isn’t always easy with an all-butter pastry, and it has a really smooth, dry feel which makes it very easy to handle. I’ve thrown in some rosemary to pump up the flavour in the pastry, and the filling is simplicity itself – just diced, cooked potatoes and cheese – but with a secret ingredient that makes these pies completely awesome.
I like chutney. I’ve always liked the sharpness from the vinegar, the spiciness, the touch of sweetness – and I’ve made my fair share of them too. The secret to a good chutney is time – leaving it for two to three months after it’s made so that the flavours can develop and the throat-catching harshness of the vinegar can mellow. Taste it too soon and everything is much too strong. Which brings me to the secret ingredient: Sainsbury’s Basics Tomato Chutney. Now, you know I love you, Sainsbury’s, but you’re just not aging your Basics chutney, are you? Pop that jar open and whoosh! The whiff of vinegar and spice is mighty powerful. However, if you bake a little of this chutney into these pies something magic happens: all the harshness of the vinegar disappears and just add a piquancy that breaks up the pastry/cheese/potato combo. Don’t worry if you don’t live near a Sainsbury’s – Basics Tomato Chutney seems to be a staple in most of the major supermarkets.
These pies are great for packed lunches and picnics or just a quick and comforting lunch at home.
Cheese and Potato Pies – makes 6-8 individual pies
225g plain flour
60g cornflour or rice flour
2 teaspoons dried rosemary
ice cold water
4-5 medium cold boiled potatoes
strong cheddar cheese – grated
Basics tomato chutney
1 large egg, whisked
Individual foil pie dishes
- Put the flours, rosemary and butter into the bowl of a food processor and blitz until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
- With the machine running, gradually add the cold water a tablespoon at a time until the mixture comes together in a ball.
- Tip the mixture onto a floured surface, knead smooth then wrap in clingfilm and chill for 30 minutes.
- Cut the potatoes into centimetre cubes and put into a bowl.
- Add grated cheese to your taste and season with salt and pepper.
- Preheat the oven to 200°C, 180ºC Fan.
- Remove the pastry from the fridge and cut off two thirds.
- Roll this piece out thinly to a thickness of 3-4mm and line your greased pie dishes, making sure there is enough pastry over the sides of the dishes to allow for joining the lid.
- Put a layer of cheese and potato into the bottom of each pie shell.
- Add 2-3 teaspoons of tomato chutney and spread into a thin layer.
- Fill the pies with the remaining cheese and potato mixture
- Roll out the pastry for the lids. Wet the undersides with a pastry brush dipped in waterand press them onto the tops of the pies firmly.
- Trim off the excess pastry with the back of a knife.
- Crimp the pastry edges by pressing into them with the tines of a fork.
- Wash over the tops of the pies with beaten egg and cut a small hole in the pastry lids to let out steam.
- Bake for 25-30 minutes, depending on the size and shape of your pies, until the pastry is crisp and golden.
- Cool on a wire rack.
Got a fab recipe for Christmas this week – for gifts, to scoff yourself, whatever takes your fancy – delish!
Bit like mincemeat, but without the suet – and can be enjoyed in a whole range of different ways – on scones, over ice-cream, Christmas tart (spoon into blind-baked cases) or spooned straight from the jar *guilty look* What? What???
Anyhoo – It’s also going to provide the opportunity to illustrate creativity, because the preserve I ended up with was not the one I intended to make, but is still absolutely delicious.
This recipe began life in the kitchen of Mme Christine Ferber, the undisputed QUEEN of preserves. She lives in Niedermorschwihr, the little Alsacian village of the borderlands with Germany and is the go-to woman for the likes of Paul Bocuse, Alain Ducasse, Pierre Herme and anyone else who demands nothing but the best. Her preserves are made from local, seasonal produce and she presides over every batch. Never working with more than 4kg of fruit at a time, she marries flavours and textures beautifully, and has created over 800 flavour combinations.
So I found this recipe on a French magazine website almost a year ago and have been dying to make it all year. When I managed to snag the last 4 quince at the local farm shop, I thought I was all set, but the further I got into the recipe, the more I found out that I lacked some of the ingredients, so I just had to improvise like a BOSS. Now don’t start flapping about not having quince, because I didn’t have enough either – so I improvised with apples. Then I couldn’t find any dried pears, so I used dried pineapple instead. And so it went on.
So what I have for you here, and in the picture above, is the recipe I made, rather than the recipe I followed. It makes about 8-9 jars – plenty for gifts and a couple to keep. For anyone who is interested, the original Christine Ferber recipe is here.
2 kg of fresh quince or Bramley apples or a mixture of both
2 litres of water
1 kg granulated sugar
200 g dried pineapple
200g dried figs
100 g dried prunes
200g dried apricots
100g raisins 
50 g candied lemon peel, cut into thin strips
50 g candied orange peel cut into thin strips
50 g dried cranberries
zest and juice of 1 orange
zest and juice of 1 lemon
150g walnuts pieces
150g whole blanched almonds, roughly chopped
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1/2 ground star anise
- Wipe the quince/apples with a cloth and rinse in cold water.
- Cut into quarters and place in a preserving pan and cover with 2 liters of water.
- Bring the pan to a boil, turn the heat down and let it simmer gently for one hour, stirring occasionally.
- Strain the juice through a colander and then strain it again through a piece of muslin to clear it of most of the pulp.
- Discard the fruit pulp.
- Measure out 1300ml of the hot liquid and pour over the dried pineapple. Leave it to soak for 3-4 hours. You can leave it longer – overnight if you like, but I was in the mood to make this jam NOW! Today! ;)
- Wash your jars and lids and put into the oven on a baking tray at 100°C, 80°C Fan. Always err on the side of caution and have more jars than you think you’ll need.
- Cut the figs, prunes and apricots into strips 3mm wide. NB DO NOT get the ‘ready to eat’ dried fruit – it’ll just break down into a mush. Make sure you get the old-fashioned ‘tough’ dried fruit.
- Slit the dates and remove pits. Slice into 3mm strips
- Pour the apple liquid and the pineapple into a preserving pan with the sugar, figs, dates, prunes, apricots, raisins, lemon and orange peel, cranberries, lemon zest and juice, orange zest and juice, and the spices.
- Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring constantly.
- Skim any scum from the surface.
- Keep cooking on high heat for five to ten minutes, stirring constantly.
- Skim again if necessary.
- When the temperature reaches 100°C, add the walnuts and almonds.
- Bring the mixture to 104°C and test that the setting point has been reached by spooning a little of the syrup onto a cold plate and placing in the freezer for 2 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat while you check. If the surface if the jelly wrinkles when you push your finger through it, then setting point has been reached. NB This is really just to double-check – if it reaches 104°C, you’re fine. This is not a solid-set jam, it’s more ‘fruit suspended in spiced apple jelly’.
- Ladle into the warm jars and seal whilst hot.
- Wipe jars and label when cooled.
 I used Sainsbury’s snack raisins, which is a mixture of golden, flame, crimson and green raisins. Beautiful!
Yes, Halloween is coming up, and so I thought I’d offer up a few ideas on decorating cakes with a Halloween theme.
Now, I’m no cake decorator myself – fingers too fat, too little patience – but even I managed the above (I’m loving that the ghost one is all fuzzy!) which is both immediately recognisable and almost completely lacking the need for any degree of skill whatsoever. If you can roll out royal icing and squeeze a tube of black gel icing, then these are the Halloween cakes for you!
Hiding modestly underneath all this spookiness is actually a really delicious chocolate cake, which is so easy to whip up, you don’t even need a mixer. The cake also has the advantage of actually improving if kept for a couple of days. You can either make two regular sized cakes, or as here, it will make 24 cupcakes.
Chocolate Sponge Cake
150ml vegetable oil
150ml natural yoghurt
60ml golden syrup
170g caster sugar
3 large eggs
225g self-raising flour
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
½ tsp salt
- Preheat the oven to 160°C, 140°C Fan.
- Line 2 12-hole bun tins with paper cases.
- Put oil, yoghurt, syrup, caster sugar and eggs in a bowl and whisk together until well mixed.
- Sift flour, cocoa, bicarbonate of soda and salt into the bowl. Mix well.
- Pour the mixture into the paper cases, filling them 2/3 full, leaving about 2cm of paper case visible.
- Bake in the oven for 18-20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the cakes comes out clean.
- Cool on a wire rack.
Apricot glaze, or apricot jam that has been warmed and sieved
Ready made Royal/Fondant icing
1 tube of black icing – mine is sparkly!
Icing sugar for rolling out the icing
- Brush the tops of the cupcakes with the apricot glaze/jam. This will help the icing stick.
- Break off a piece of icing, roll into a cylinder 3-4cm long and place it on the middle of the cupcake, standing on its end. This will give the ghost some height.
- Roll the icing out thinly and cut a 10cm square.
- Drape the square of icing over the cylinder and arrange the folds.
- Using the black icing, paint on two eyes and a spooky mouth.
- Roll the icing out thinly and cut a 10cm square.
- Drape the icing smoothly over the top of the cake.
- Press gently around the edge, and the stiffness of the paper case will cut through the icing, neatening the edges.
- Press the excess icing together and save for re-use.
- Using the black icing, draw 4 or 5 circles on top of the cake.
- Draw a toothpick through the wet icing from the centre of the cake to the rim, making the spider-web pattern.
- Roll the icing out thinly and cut strips 1cm wide.
- Arrange the ‘bandage’ strips in a random pattern over the top of the cake, leaving a gap for the eyes.
- When the cake is covered, use 2 M&Ms for eyes and add a black dot to each.
- Use a knife to trim and neaten the ends of the icing strips.
- Roll the icing out thinly and cut a circle the size of the top of the cake. Cut round a lid or a jar.
- Carefully put the circle of icing over the top of the cake.
- Cut a thin slice of Kiwi fruit and remove the skin.
- Put the slice of Kiwi fruit flat onto the top of the cake and use the tube of black icing to fill in the ‘pupil’.
- NB The fruit is juicy, and so will begin to ‘ooze’ after about an hour. You might want to bear this in mind when timing the decorating. Alternatively, this might be just the effect you’re after!
- You will need 2 marbles for each skull-shaped cupcake.
- As soon as the cakes are out of the oven, slide two marbles (one each side) down between the paper case and the tin, so that one side of the cake is squashed into the shape of the jaw. As the cake cools, it will then ‘set’ into the correct shape.
- Once the cakes are cool, cover with a thin layer of rolled icing and use the black icing to draw on the facial features.
Cost: £1.70 (cake only, October 2011)
 If you’re making skull-shaped cupcakes, leave the cakes in the tin and slide in the marbles.
Today is a bit of a two-for-one deal – there’s a lovely recipe for pulled pork and also an awesome serving suggestion.
Another pulled pork recipe I hear you cry? Yes, I know it’s barely a couple of weeks since the last one, but whilst the other recipe was almost elegant in its simplicity, this recipe shows how, with the addition of a few ordinary ingredients, you can create a dish of an altogether different character. Lets call the previous dish a Level 1 recipe. This one moves it on a bit to Level 2, with a dark, rich and spicy cooking liquid. Level 3 would bring even more intensity of flavour with the addition of a dry spice rub – we’ll get to that sometime later.
I grew up in the orchards of Herefordshire (not literally you understand – gimme a break here, I’m trying to be lyrical), and so to me, the link between apples and pork is a natural one. In the old days, pigs would be allowed into the orchards to eat up all the windfalls, and this would add flavour to the meat. The British custom of eating apple sauce with pork isn’t just an idle tradition – the acidity of the apples helps counteract the fattiness of the meat (see also vinegar with fish & chips, mint sauce with lamb, gooseberries with mackerel). Throw in some cider, cider vinegar and Bramley apples and this is a veritable pork-apple-festival on your tastebuds!
This is also another of my favourite types of recipe – set it and forget it in the slow cooker. The only downside of this low-maintenance style of cooking is having to endure for hours all the wonderful smells wafting through the house. If you don’t have a slow cooker, you could always use the oven on very low – for example 80-100°C – but it would require a little more effort (sealing the roasting tin with foil and basting every hour or so) to ensure the joint didn’t dry out.
Apple-Baked Pulled Pork – serves 10-12
2-3kg of pork shoulder joint(s) – boned and rolled if preferred, but bone-in is also fine. Whatever can fit in your slow cooker. I use 3 x 1kg joints.
2 medium onions
2 Bramley cooking apples
300g dark muscovado sugar
150ml apple juice
60ml Worcestershire sauce
60ml Dijon mustard
120ml cider vinegar
1/2 tsp ground ginger
- Peel and roughly chop the onions.
- Peel, core and chop the apples.
- Put half of the apples and half of the onions into the slow cooker.
- Arrange pork joint(s) on top and scatter the rest of the apples and onions over.
- Mix all of the remaining ingredients in a saucepan and warm over gentle heat, stirring until the sugar is dissolved.
- Pour liquid into slow cooker, cover and cook on low for 12 hours.
- Remove the meat and allow to drain in a sieve.
- When cool enough to handle, remove the skin and fat (the meat will just fall apart) and discard.
- Cover the meat with foil and keep warm.
- Strain the cooking liquid into a bowl and reserve the apple and onion pieces.
- Place the liquid in the fridge/freezer for 30 minutes to cool. As it cools, any fat will rise to the surface and solidify. It can then be easily removed.
- Lift the solidified fat from the cooking liquid with a slotted spoon and discard.
- Pour the cooking liquid into a pan and add the apple and onion pieces. Use an immersion blender (or alternatively a liquidiser) and puree to a smooth consistency. Bring to the boil and simmer until it has thickened to your liking.
- Pour over the prepared meat and serve.
Alternately, make some delicious Tiger Rolls and some Apple & Fennel Coleslaw and serve up the awesome sandwich in the picture above. Not only are the flavours amazing, they compliment each other perfectly. Make the sandwich with the undressed meat and then drizzle with gravy to your liking. The contrast in texture between the cool crunch of the coleslaw, the hot, piquant, melt-in-the-mouth pork and the ‘crispy on the outside yet soft on the inside’ Tiger Bread make these sandwiches a cut above the rest.
Cost £1.20 per person (August 2011, Pork £4 a kilo)
If you’re going to bake your own bread, you could do worse than start with this one – it doesn’t require kneading, it only needs a very short, single rise, and you can have a batch of three loaves cooling on a rack in an hour and a half! The recipe has been around for almost 70 years – read on to find out more about it and its creator!
Heroines of Cooking: Doris Grant (1905-2003)
Tireless campaigner for healthy eating and the promotion of unadulterated foods, Doris Grant was a champion of fresh, natural ingredients and the minimal processing of food, and she maintained a running battle with major food companies in the UK for more than 60 years.
Almost crippled with arthritis in her youth, Doris found relief from her symptoms by following the food-combining diet of Dr. William Hay. With her health restored, Dr. Hay encouraged Doris to write her own book for the UK market, and thus began her publishing career. Alongside her many best-selling books, she is immortalised as the creator of The Grant Loaf.
Originally, The Grant Loaf was a mistake. While teaching herself to bake in the 1930s, it was several months before Doris realised she had not been kneading her bread dough. It didn’t seem to have made much of a difference to the loaves, and was a great deal easier and quicker than the traditional method, so she included her ‘mistake’ in her 1944 book Your Daily Bread. Here, with only a few adjustments, is that original recipe.
The dough ends up a lot wetter than traditional dough – so wet in fact, that kneading would be impossible if it weren’t already unnecessary. The bread itself is firm without being brick-like, and has a wonderfully nutty flavour as well as making great toast. I bake it in our house as our everyday bread, including sandwiches and packed lunches.
This recipe makes three loaves for two reasons:
1. It uses a whole bag of flour at once – no messy half-bags to clutter up your cupboards and spill over everything.
2. It makes sense, as well as efficient use of the oven, to cook more than one loaf at a time and the additional loaves can easily be frozen for use later.
The Grant Loaf
1.5 kg (1 bag) stone-ground wholemeal bread flour
2 sachets rapid-rise yeast
1 litre + 300ml warm water
25g muscovado sugar (or any brown sugar, or honey)
3 loaf tins (25cm x 10cm x 7.5cm)
- Put the flour into a large bowl and place in a gentle oven to warm. It doesn’t much matter if you don’t warm it, but it does speed up the rising.
- Put the sugar and salt into a large jug and add half the water. Stir to dissolve.
- Grease the bread tins using cooking spray or oil.
- Mix the yeast into the warmed flour and pour in the sugar/salt mixture, then add the rest of the water.
- Stir until the flour is fully mixed in. This is probably easiest to do using your hands, but using a utensil works well, also. Personally, I use a large two-pronged wooden fork from an otherwise unused set of salad servers, because the prongs move easily through the wet mix. I regularly manage to whip up a batch of this bread without touching the mix with my hands at all! Remember: you’re only mixing, not kneading – so as soon as all the flour is incorporated, stop. The dough will be much more moist than traditional bread dough – more like a fruit cake mix or thick, badly-made porridge.
- Spoon the dough into the bread tins, making sure it’s evenly divided – each tin should be approximately ¾ full. If you want to measure by weight, it’s approximately 950g per tin.
- Set the tins on a baking sheet somewhere warm to rise by about 1/3, until the dough is just above the top of the tins and nicely rounded. It should take no more than 30 minutes. If, like me, you’re lucky enough to have a double oven, then put the baking sheet onto the shelf in the top oven while the main oven heats up. NB Don’t put the tins onto the floor of the top oven – even if they’re on a baking sheet – it will get too hot. Otherwise, anywhere warm and draft-free will do.
- Preheat the oven to 200C, 180C Fan.
- Bake for 30 minutes, then turn the baking sheet 180° and bake for a further 20 minutes for a total of 50 minutes.
- Remove the tins from the oven and tip out the bread. Arrange the loaves on a wire rack.
- Put the loaves back into the oven for 5 minutes to crisp up the crust.
- Cool on the wire rack.
Variations: This method can also be used with brown bread flour, for a slightly lighter loaf.
Cost: £1.50 (July 2011) – 50p per loaf