What’s the dirtiest page in my copy of Nigel Slater’s Kitchen Diaries II? Page 7, because it has the recipe for bacon and celeriac soup, a dish that couldn’t be any more delicious or wintery. I did try to fiddle with the recipe by adding apple and marjoram to the list of ingredients. The apple didn’t change much, although the marjoram complimented the bacon nicely. Alas, I’ve decided to share an unaltered version of this recipe.
This is a nice and easy dish, perfect a cold day when you need comfort food but don’t want the stodginess of it. I have deep admiration for chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, and I’m obsessed with onion squash. I tend to blitz the peppers in a blender straight after bringing them home and store the purée in a glass container in the fridge. If you can’t get hold of chipotle peppers, replace them with an additional teaspoon of smoked paprika, half a teaspoon of cayenne pepper or chilli flakes, and a diced tomato.
Roasted onion squash is the food of gods; it tastes like perfectly seasoned roast chicken, and I can’t get enough of it. You don’t have to peel the squash but if you do, use a regular vegetable peeler.
Feta cheese can be replaced by gherkins in brine – try to find them in the Polish chilled food section at any major supermarket, or at health stores.
As the weather gets colder, I naturally drift towards heavier, headier flavours and aromas, leaving my beloved Mediterranean cuisine behind along with my tan and my hair smelling of sea water. I do like a hearty soup, especially if it’s warming and fragrant. This lentil and tomato soup not only ticks these boxes, but also tastes like something from an Indian kitchen, just much lighter and requiring far less effort. It’s at its best on the second, or even third day. The recipe is a slightly modified version of one by Whiteplate.
I remember going to the bakery early on a Saturday morning as a child. I’d usually queue in a long line of customers, waiting for the next batch of loaves to be ready for sale. I walked home with a loaf of warm wheat sourdough; its crispy, shiny crust and tangy, fragrant flesh would tantalise me to bite off a bit. Sometimes only ¾ of the loaf would actually make it home as the temptation was too great. Commercial dough has taken over even in Poland, although the push-back gets stronger and stronger. What you buy in a supermarket in the UK is a 1952 invention – an industrial process designed to manufacture a lot of a product, quickly. “Real” bread has only four basic ingredients: flour, water, yeast, and salt; take any loaf off the shelf in Sainsbo’s and see how many ingredients you can count. There’s also no shortcut to make a good loaf, and time is needed to allow proper fermentation, which then helps to break down the gluten. I always say that those who think they are allergic to gluten should throw away their supermarket monster and try proper sourdough bread. Cheesy it might be, but good bread is like love – it requires time, patience, and good quality ingredients. It can’t be rushed, and the quickly available, cheap stuff will never taste the same. It might feed the hungry, but it won’t leave them satisfied for long.
I’m not sure if it’s me, or if pasta actually has a real stigma as something that’s difficult to make. My story with making fresh pasta is the same as when I was learning to bake sourdough bread – it seemed difficult, so I avoided it for a really long time. Unnecessarily!
Since we’re in peak tomato season it would be silly not to take the full advantage. Tomatoes in any shape or form are one of the staples in my kitchen. I have only two tumbling varieties this year, producing small fruit, so there was no point in oven-drying them as I’d end up with something resembling an oversized raisin. This tomato soup seemed the best choice to use the surplus. If you haven’t got enough fresh tomatoes, you can use canned whole or chopped instead – but obviously don’t roast them! Roasting makes fresh tomatoes sweeter and gives soups and sauces that lovely muted orange colour, otherwise achieved by a slow-and-low cooking process. It also increases the levels of cancer-preventing lycopene!
This dish originally comes from Strawberries From Poland, a blog by Ania Włodarczyk, the very first food blog I’ve ever visited. Ania is from Gdańsk (my hometown), and the borough where she lives is a stone’s throw away from where I lived. I used to visit her blog far more often than I do these days, because the beautiful photos she takes of her surroundings pull on my heartstrings. I’d never go back to living in Poland, but the beauty of Gdańsk Oliwa makes me very nostalgic.
This dish is a perfect example of me freestyling in the kitchen. Full of Mediterranean flavours, light and deeply satisfying at the same time. Chorizo is one of my favourite things in the world, and the one brand that I always keep a stash of is Los Berones (available at Waitrose). It’s delicious, smoky, spicy, nitrate-free, and made with 4 ingredients.