Look out for my interview in Waitrose Weekend today (16th Dec) where I share my ideas for the perfect festive bash with a lemon, rose and poppy seed baked cheesecake, Polish-style open turkey sandwiches and festive vodka cocktails #HomeForChristmas
Plus, new for 2017 – recipe videos!
This year, I am most looking forward to staying home for Christmas. Literally, doing a food shop, closing the door and not going anywhere. Things have been a little bit crazy on the home front. Fourteen months of home renovations and writing a cook book were the two biggies this year, against the general backdrop of mum-of-threedom. Aside from these events, 2016 will also be marked with us all having to process various political earthquakes and aftermaths and generally seeing the world change in dramatic ways. I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who feels a little bit exhausted and in fact, lots of people I know are also staying home or are planning to take things a little bit easier over the festive period too. A big re-charge is needed before we get ready to welcome with open arms a brighter, more peaceful, tolerant and optimistic 2017. There is much to repair.
A Polish Grandad, Buster the Boxer and a Christmas Robin
What do a Polish Grandad, Buster the Boxer and a Waitrose Christmas Robin have in common? Answer: they all provide a good dose of festive warmth and fuzziness. Just as my home-renovating thoughts started to fade and a little room was made for Christmas plans, the annual sprinkle of warm and uplifting Christmas TV ads began – a welcome antidote to some of the heavier stuff floating around of late.
My favourites (taking joint second place) included an endearing Polish grandad, who orders some books from Polish auction site Allegro.pl, and then teaches himself how to speak a few words of English so that he can communicate with his grandchild living in England. Journalist Jakub Krupa for The Guardian hailed the ad, English for Beginners, “a heart-breaking gift” as the video triumphantly, if unexpectedly, took the web by storm. As a child born here in the UK to migrant parents from Poland, I loved this Christmas message from Poland.
Also bringing a tear to my eye this year was Buster the Boxer and friends, bouncing away on their trampoline – a big tick in the box for John Lewis for providing some Christmas glee. We don’t have a dog, but if we did, he’d definitely be called Buster.
However, it was the little courageous Robin in the ad Coming Home by Waitrose who most captured my heart (taking first place) summing up so beautifully what so many of us are craving after an eventful year – a little quiet time at home, surrounded by family, enjoying some simple, yet good food and a mince pie or two…
In the spirit of coming #HomeForChristmas I was interviewed by Waitrose this week to share some of my festive tips and to talk about what I’ll be doing this year. In an earlier copy, Waitrose Weekend had highlighted myself and a handful of others as ‘Britain’s Brightest Bloggers’ – a title I very much hope I can live up to!
Have yourself a Merry Little Christmas Bash
As I’ve mentioned here on the blog previously, we begin by celebrating Christmas the Polish way on Christmas Eve, with a 12-course meal called Wigilia or the Vigil Meal. We set the table with an empty place for the unexpected guest, lay a little hay under the cloth to represent the manger and wait for the first start to appear before wishing each other well with opłatek, a blessed wafer-thin bread. We then begin a meal made up of plenty of fish dishes, as well as beetroot soup, or barszcz, then pierogi (Polish dumplings) followed by desserts such as cheesecakes and poppy seed rolls. There is no meat at all on Christmas Eve and traditionally no alcohol as we then sing carols and head off to midnight mass. I’m particularly looking forward to the seafood starters (prawns, salmon and herrings on rye bread), the baked fish (seabass with a dill butter sauce as I’m not so keen on carp), followed by homemade pierogi (read how to make them here) filled with cream cheese. Lots of these recipes will be featured in my first book due to be published in September 2017 by Pavilion Books and I really can’t wait to share them. For dessert, I’ll be baking my lemon, rose and poppy seed cheesecake, made with a combination of curd cheese (available at the deli section of the larger Waitrose stores) and ricotta for extra lightness. You can find my cheesecake recipe below and on Waitrose.com – the cheesecake is lovely and light and the flavoured sugar adds a wonderful boost of flavour.
Christmas Day is celebrated with traditional British gusto – I’ll be hosting lunch for 11 this year for the first time, putting my new ovens to the test so I’m keeping finger’s crossed everything works as it should! I’m looking forward to roasting a locally reared turkey, a Christmas ham with spiced cranberry and plum chutney, roast potatoes and lots of sides, such as slow cooked red cabbage, roasted carrots and parsnips with honey and star anise and Brussels sprouts with bacon and chestnuts.
Then finally, Boxing Day will be a relaxed affair with more family and friends, our neighbours, open turkey sandwiches on rye, whatever is left of the lemon, rose and poppy seed cheesecake and a good selection of vodka cocktails. Waitrose Weekend have crowned me the ‘Cocktail Queen’ – a title I’ll happily take!
Pop back later in the week to see my brand new recipe videos of the open sandwiches and festive drinks with a Polish twist which I shot this week with Michelle Becker of Pink Soul Pictures – you may remember we filmed Cake Creation together in December 2012!
Lemon, Rose and Poppy Seed Baked Cheesecake
A baked cheesecake, flavoured with lemon zest, rose, cardamom and vanilla, dotted with poppy seeds.
For the flavoured sugar:
- 200g caster sugar
- 1 tsp dried rose petals
- 2 whole cardamom pods
- 2 tbsp lemon zest
- 1 whole vanilla pod, optional
For the cheesecake:
- 200g unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 200g flavoured sugar (as above) or use caster sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla bean extract or the seeds from one pod
- 6 eggs, separated
- 500g curd cheese (or Polish white cheese, Twaróg)
- 500g ricotta cheese
- 3 tsp cornflour or potato flour
- 25g poppy seeds
- To make the flavoured sugar, mix the caster sugar with the rose petals, cardamom pods and lemon zest. Tip it out onto a tray lined with baking to allow the lemon zest to dry out. Leave for a couple of hours at room temperature and then transfer to a sealed container. You can also add a whole vanilla pod. This can be made up to a week in advance. Remove the two whole cardamom pods and vanilla pod before using.
- Pre-heat the oven to bake the cheesecake to 180C.
- Using an electric beater or a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, beat the butter for five minutes until it is pale and creamy. Remove the cardamom and vanilla pods from the flavoured sugar and slowly add the sugar to the butter, beating until incorporated. Add the vanilla bean seeds from the pod, or one teaspoon vanilla extract and beat again.
- Add in the egg yolks, one by one and mix until incorporated.
- Add the curd cheese and ricotta cheese. Beat well until smooth.
- In a separate clean bowl, whisk the egg whites to stiff peak stage. Once stiff, using a metal spoon, gently fold the egg whites into the creamy cheese mixture. Stir in the cornflour or potato flour and the poppy seeds.
- Take a 20cm round spring-form cake tin, grease the bottom and sides and line the bottom with a circle of baking paper. Pour the cheesecake mixture into the tin. Wrap tin foil around the outside and bottom of the tin to protect any water from seeping in when baking in a bain-marie.
- Take a large roasting tin and half fill it with water to create a bain-marie. Gently lower the foil wrapped tin into the water and bake for one hour. The top should be golden and the centre a little wobbly but not too much. Leave the cheesecake to cool completely before releasing it from the tin and chill in the refrigerator, preferably overnight before cutting and serving.
Keep any leftovers covered in the fridge for up to 3 days.
Cuisine Polish Inspired
If you’re looking for vegetarian inspiration for Christmas, then look no further than Kellie’s post and recipes for Waitrose Weekend (Kellie was featured last week but her stunning recipes are here on Food to Glow) – I adore her Creamy Wild Mushroom Skillet Pie and will be making that for my vegetarian sister-in-law on Christmas Day as an alternative to a nut roast.
What are you most looking forward to this Christmas and are you #HomeforChristmas?
With thanks to Waitrose for the feature and interview and for this commission.