Ukrainian desserts – you cannot go past them. Among a slew of cheesecake recipes sits this little beauty, not a cheesecake by any means but easily capable of sitting alongside its better known cousins. A very sticky semolina, bread and milk combo creates a dense and delicious base to host a good swag of cherries. When prepared, it just as tasty warm with cream or yogurt as it is cold and served in a slice (for a dip in your coffee).
Semolina Pudding with Cherries
- 2 cups milk
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 30 gr almonds, ground
- 1 teaspoon butter
- 125 gr sugar
- 125gr semolina
- 150 gr white bread
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 200 gr pitted cherries
- Preheat oven to 180C. Grease and line a 22cm spring form cake tin. Heat milk over medium heat until almost at a boil. Add salt, ground almonds, sugar, butter and semolina and cook, stirring, until thickened. Remove from heat to cool slightly.
- Remove any crusts from bread and blend into crumbs. Combine breadcrumbs, eggs and vanilla with semolina mix.
- Add half the cherries to the semolina mix and stir through. Transfer to tin and scatter remaining cherries over the top, pressing each into the surface.
- Transfer to oven and bake for 30 minutes, or until top is golden. Remove from the oven and transfer to a cooling rack.
Poland / Belarus
Babka is one of those nifty shared recipes, calling a number of countries home with Poland generally the most likely to tout the potato dish as a native. There are many variations that tend to use the same ingredients in different ways, with the occasional filling added to the mix. I’ve opted for a mushroom spin on the otherwise classic mixture of potato, onion and bacon.
Ingredients (Serves 6)
- 1 tablespoon canola oil
- 4 rashers of bacon, diced
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 1 kg potatoes, washed and peeled
- 1 egg
- 2 tablespoons sour cream
- 300 gr mushrooms, sliced
- Cheese, grated, to top (optional)
- Preheat oven to 180C. Grease a 25 cm x 25cm baking dish. Heat oil in a frypan over medium-high heat. Add bacon and onion and cook for 8-10 minutes, or until golden. Set aside.
- Grate the potatoes the smallest you can while retaining a firm texture (too fine and it will turn to mush). Place grated potato in a colander and let drain for 10 minutes, pressing a little to speed up the process.
- Combine the potato, egg, sour cream, bacon and onion in a bowl. Season well. Transfer half of the potato mix to the baking dish. Top potato layer with mushrooms. Transfer remaining half of potato mix to top the mushrooms. Sprinkle with cheese, if using.
- Transfer to oven and bake for 25 – 30 minutes, or until golden on top. Slice and serve with vegetables or salad.
Cauliflower soup is a serious dark horse, especially when the ingredients for the soup are limited. The flavour of this Swedish soup is developed in the oven as you roast your cauliflower. The more golden brown you can get it, the better, so take it to the limit! The soup alone is flavoursome, yet basic, so to jazz things up I served it with a Mediterranean-inspired pull apart that SBS assure me is popular in Stockholm bakeries. It’s a sweet meets savoury bread that complements the creamy cauliflower perfectly.
Ingredients (Serves 4)
- 6 dried juniper berries
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 head of cauliflower, leaves removed and chopped roughly
- 2 tablespoons canola oil
- 1 leek, sliced finely
- 4 cups chicken stock
- 1 tablespoon butter
- ¼ cup sour cream or natural yogurt
- Preheat oven to 180C. In a mortar and pestle, grind the juniper berries and salt together. Scatter over cauliflower pieces and coat with 1 tablespoon oil. Roast cauliflower for 30 minutes, or until nicely golden brown.
- Heat remaining tablespoon of oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook leek for 10 minutes, or until soft. Add roasted cauliflower and stir. Pour over chicken stock, bring to the boil and remove from heat. Using a stick blender, pulse the saucepan contents until almost smooth. Add butter and sour cream and season, then blend again until smooth.
Fig and fennel pull-apart loaf
- ½ cup natural yoghurt
- 1 egg at room temperature
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 teaspoons dried instant yeast
- 1 ½ cups plain flour, plus extra for dusting
- 1 ½ cups wholemeal flour
- 1 tablespoon raw sugar
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 185 gr dried figs, chopped
- 30 gr butter, melted
- 100 gr fennel, very thinly sliced
- 1 teaspoon crushed fennel seeds
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 2 tablespoon brown sugar
- Combine the yoghurt, egg and olive oil in a bowl with ⅔ cup of lukewarm water until well combined. Stir in the instant yeast to dissolve. Set aside for 5 minutes.
- Add the flours, sugar and salt and stir to combine. Knead dough on a floured surface for 5 minutes until smooth. Transfer dough to a lightly greased bowl, cover with a clean tea towel and leave to rise for 30 minutes.
- For the filling, combine all the ingredients in a bowl.
- Preheat oven to 180C. Grease and flour a 25 cm x 12 cm loaf tin. When dough has risen, transfer to the work surface and form a 60 cm log. Fold the log in half, without pressing the halves together. In between each half, line the dough with the filling mixture. Press the dough together and twist it all the way along. Fold the dough in half and twist again. Press any filling that falls out back into the dough. Transfer dough to loaf tin and set aside for 15 minutes to rise again.
- Transfer the loaf tin to the oven and bake for approximately 40 minutes, or until the loaf is lightly golden. Turn out and carefully tear loaf apart for serving.
Spaetzle are Germany’s contribution to the European dumpling table. They’re little herbed droppings that make a great accompaniment to all sorts of dishes with sauce. In this recipe, butter, wine and sour cream scream German in the thickened chicken stew, complemented with wilted kale and appropriately soaking from freshly boiled spaetzle. This is nice and straightforward, but altogether very reminiscent of real German fare.
Braised chicken thighs with kale and herbed spaetzle
Ingredients (Serves 4)
- 500 gr chicken thigh fillets, cut into 5cm pieces
- Plain flour, for coating
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 20 gr butter
- 1 red onion, thickly sliced
- 4 garlic cloves, sliced
- ½ cup dry white wine
- 1 ¾ cups chicken stock
- ½ cup sour cream
- ½ bunch green kale, stemmed, roughly chopped
- 2 cups plain flour
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
- 3 eggs
- 1 cup chicken stock
- Season the chicken thighs and coat them in the flour, shaking off any excess. Heat a large heavy pot over medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon of the oil, 10 gr of the butter and half of the chicken. Cook, turning as needed, for 5 mins or until golden brown. Transfer the chicken to a plate and set aside.
- Add the remaining oil and butter, onion and garlic and cook, stirring, for 3 minutes or until the onion is tender and golden. Add the wine, bring to a boil and cook for 2 minutes or until the wine has reduced slightly. Return the chicken to the pot. Add the chicken stock and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low, cover and cook, stirring occasionally, for 30-35 mins or until chicken is tender and sauce has thickened.
- To make the spaetzli, whisk the flour, chives, parsley, 3 teaspoons salt and ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper in a bowl. In a small bowl, whisk the eggs and stock until blended. Gradually whisk the egg mixture into the flour mixture. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat, and then reduce the heat so the water is at a simmer.
- Using a silicone spatula, press half the batter through the 5mm-wide holes of a colander into the simmering water. Boil spaetzle for about 10 seconds or until tender. Using a slotted spoon, remove the spaetzle, drain and place on a baking tray. Repeat with remaining batter. Keep the cooked spaetzle warm until ready to serve.
- Return the chicken braise to a simmer over medium heat. Add the sour cream and kale and stir to blend the sauce and wilt the kale. Divide the warm spaetzle among 4 shallow bowls. Spoon the chicken braise over the spaetzle and serve.