Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Salad Arlésienne

Last Christmas, staying with my in-laws, I have discovered a big stash of old Italian cookery magazines, and was happily perusing them. I begged to borrow one of the magazines - La Cucina Italiana (October 1975), as there were a few recipes I wanted to try. This magazine is quite unusual, as it combines a lot of recipes with articles on art and culture and also knitting patterns and fashion advice, but mostly it is about food.

Among many recipes I found a recipe for a French salad Arlesienne. I haven't heard of it before, or maybe I did and forgot.
As my husband and I decided that this week we'd only eat salads and soups for dinner, I thought I would prepare the salad for dinner on Monday.

Salad Arlesienne  (serves 2)
200g baby new potatoes
endive leaves (about 5 "boats" per serving)
100g chargrilled artichokes (from the deli)
a handful of baby tomatoes
a handful of olives (about 50g)
6 anchovies
4 slices of lemon
2tbsp finely chopped flat leaf parsley
3tbsp olive oil
1tbsp lemon juice
1tbsp cyder vinegar
sea salt

Cook the baby potatoes in the salted boiling water. Arrange the endive leaves on a plate, scatter chargrilled artichokes (I got 100g from the deli, but the artichokes in oil from a glass jar would work as well). Slice the baby tomatoes in half, add to the plate. Add the olives and warm potatoes sliced in half. Add a few anchovies if you like them, lemon slices and finely chopped parsley. Make the dressing from the olive oil, lemon juice, vinegar and sea salt and pour over the salad. Eat while the potatoes are still warm, or serve cold.

Adding this recipe to Bloggers Around the World linky run by Chris from Cooking Around the World, as this month's country is France.

Monday, 29 June 2015

Pear, almond and cinnamon tart (#ReadCookEat)

I don't often read supernatural stories but do enjoy a good ghost tale. I was browsing in the library, when I came across This House is Haunted by John Boyne. I knew him as the author of The boy in striped pyjamas, but haven't read any other novel by him. The cover and the teaser looked promising, and I took it out. The novel is set in 1867.
Eliza Caine, a plain looking young woman from London is grieving the sudden death of her beloved father and takes up a position of a governess in a remote manor house in Norfolk, called Gaudlin Hall.
She is nearly killed at the train station, pushed by the invisible hands in the path of the train, being rescued by the vigilant doctor.
When Eliza arrives on a dark and chilling evening to the house, she is greeted by two children. The absence of parents or any other responsible adults is not explained by the children, Isabella and Eustace. That same night, as she goes to bed, the invisible pair of hands grabs her by the ankles and terrifies her. This malign presence in the house seems to follow every step she takes. But the children seem to be unperturbed by it.
I won't spoil the plot and tell you how it ends. I will only say that this is a true page turner and a gripping story. There are inevitable comparisons with The Turn of the Screw and even Jane Eyre, there are some stereotypes when it comes to the haunted desolate mansion's paraphernalia, but overall it is an entertaining creepy story with some unexpected twists.
I loved all the literary references to the 19c writers. Even Mr Dickens makes an appearance in the novel. The style of writing is intelligent and perceptive.
Eliza is an endearing character, with an insightful mind. If you enjoy old-fashioned Gothic stories, this is a well written tale.

Mid-way through the novel, Eliza is taking tea with a new found friend Mrs Toxley, who brings a small gift with her.
"I was touched by such an unexpected kindness and opened it. Immediately an explosion of powerful odours emerged from the box. Mrs Toxley had brought pear cakes infused with cinnamon, and I felt a weakness overtake me." The smell of cinnamon reminded Eliza of her father's favourite tobacco, flavoured with cinnamon.

I was planning to cook pear cakes with cinnamon, but couldn't find the small sized tart cake tins anywhere in the kitchen, so instead I baked one big pear, almond and cinnamon tart.

Pear, almond and cinnamon tart
1 pack of Jus-Rol shortcrust pastry
3 pears
2 medium eggs
125g caster sugar
100g ground almonds
1tsp ground cinnamon
1tsp vanilla essence

Oil the round pie baking dish with the cake release spray or just oil a bit. Roll out the pastry and cut the corners to make it fit the round dish.
Prepare the filling. Grate one pear on coarse, mix with the ground almonds, cinnamon, vanilla, caster sugar and eggs.
Slice two more pears (skin on) thinly.
Pour the filling into the pastry case (still uncooked). Then place the pear slices around the edges, leaving the middle open.
Place the dish in the oven preheated to 180C and cook for 25+ minutes until the pastry is golden brown.

This is a lovely tart, great with cream or ice cream if you eat it hot. It is not bad cold either.
You can make this cake with apples, in fact I have a recipe for Belgian Apple tart which I adapted for pears.

This week I've been reading One Summer in Venice by Nicky Pellegrino, and it is brimming with food references and delightful meals. I know what I am going to cook for the next #ReadCookEat challenge.

Sunday, 28 June 2015

Photo diary: week 26, 365

I've been writing the Photo Diary for half a year now. It has been a 50-50 experience for me. It was fun but also quite a task to take photos every day, even if you don't feel inspired, or nothing exciting is happening. Also being quite a commitment it has distracted me from taking part in the other blog linkies and challenges, so it might be the last one for a while... But never say never, I might feel different in a week's time.
Last Sunday was Father's day in the UK, and my boys baked a batch of Shaun the sheep cupcakes to present to Papa.

Plums in the garden are plentiful but still quite tiny. Just hoping the nasty squirrel will leave them alone. Last year it has bitten off a lot of plums, without eating them, just biting and dropping on the ground. This is a sweet pale pink variety, which name I don't know, as it was already in the garden when we moved to our house.

I bought this potted rose last autumn, and it has been struggling a bit. I hope it will perk up and give me more flowers to admire.

On Wednesday I have baked a pear, almond and cinnamon tart, which was inspired by the ghost story I just finished reading.

More of our garden: a white campanula in the evening.

Friday was my night out. I rarely go out in the evening, and almost missed the Midsummer Dinner at my husband's college because our usual childminder was going away. Thankfully, she has rescheduled and helped us out, staying with our boys. It was a rather glamorous event. I bought a very posh frock from John Lewis. As soon as I saw it online, I knew this was the right dress for the occasion. It was black, with the lacy top, quite Downton Abbey-esque. I wasn't sure if it would look good on me, but ordered it, using the vouchers I won last year with BritMums to cover most of the price. Oddly enough, they requested No stilettos, so as not to ruin their precious floor. Such a shame, as I bought new stiletto shoes specially for the occasion. I actually hate shoe-shopping, I must be an unnatural woman. I traipsed through 8-10 shops in town, and couldn't find anything suitable, it was all either stilettos, big platforms or flats which wouldn't have looked good with such a long dress. Thus I was wearing the shoes I wear every day for the school run.

I did take photos with my mobile yesterday, but I cannot seem to add them to the blog post without them turning on the side. I might have more will power tomorrow to try to do it the right way.

Will this be my last post for Project 365? Who knows.

Thursday, 25 June 2015

Downton Abbey-esque giveaway (c/d 25 July 2015)

As my little man and I walked to school this morning, we took the longer route through the fields and the bridge. The birds were singing so beautifully, the sky was clear and the day promised a warm weather. It was one of those perfect moments when you want to repeat after Faust "Stop time! thou art so beautiful".
Later I enjoyed my cup of tea in the garden, admiring the roses (and trying to ignore the weeds).
I've been also enjoying a new book "One summer in Venice" by Nicky Pellegrino which I recently won on Facebook.
My wins this year are pretty much non-existent. My younger son is doing much better winning prizes for sending his drawings to magazines. Just yesterday he received a surprise remote control car from Kraze magazine, which he absolutely loves. Since I'm not winning much, the next best thing is running a giveaway and making someone else smile, when I let them know they have won.

If you miss the doze of Downton Abbey, I have just the right little prize which might cheer you up. On the last visit to Cogges, I picked up a couple of Downton Abbey mugs. Cogges, a 13th century manor house appears in the TV drama as Yew Tree Farm, which played host to many farming scenes as a home to the Drew family. 
Here is your chance to win a mug as well as a box of my favourite Russian caravan tea from Whittards (a reference to Dowager Countess's love interest, the Russian Prince Kuragin). I couldn't quite tie in these Earl Grey flavoured almonds from M&S to Downton Abbey theme, but let's say, they are posh enough to go well with the tea.

If you'd like to be in with a chance of winning this little prize, please fill in the Rafflecopter form.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Only the first step is mandatory: all you need is answer the question by leaving a comment (if you login as Anonymous, please leave you Twitter name or Facebook name, so that I could identify you, I do not suggest leaving the email address in the comment)
All the other steps are optional, you don't have to do them all. All it takes to win is just one entry. 
Only one entry per person is allowed (however, you can tweet daily to increase your chances). 
The giveaway is open to the UK residents only. Once the Rafflecopter picks the winner, I will check if they have done what was requested. I will contact the winner, if they do not reply within 28 days, the prize will be allocated to another person. 
I will send the prize as signed for. 
If Royal Mail fails to deliver, I will fill in the Royal Mail form the size of War and Peace, but I wouldn't hold my breath that they would rush to do a refund.
I would also appreciate if the winner lets me know when the prize arrives, though of course, this is not a condition of entry.
This prize is not sponsored by any brands.
The giveaway ends on 25 July 2015 (midnight).

Good luck!

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Shaun the Sheep Marshmallow Cake Kit

Last Sunday my boys and I baked a batch of Shaun the sheep cupcakes for Father's day. I appreciate that our Papa might not be the biggest fan of Shaun the sheep, but it was Eddie's choice. And as it happened, Papa was mighty pleased with the cupcakes.
We found the Shaun the Sheep Marshmallow Cake Kit in one of the supermarkets. I suspect all of these themed cupcake mixes (Frozen, Minions, Peppa Pig etc) are exactly the same, apart from the rice paper transfers and the extra decorations. What did we  find in the kit?

This pack contains a Vanilla cake mix, icing mix, a bag of marshmallows and waferettes.
You need 1 medium egg plus  water.
To enrich the taste we used 2 medium eggs and cold milk, as well as zest of 1 lemon and lemon juice for the icing.
Whisk the cake mix with the eggs and cold milk, spoon the equal amounts into paper cupcake cases (about 2tbsp per casing).
Bake at 180C for 10-12 minites.
Mini-cupcakes turned out small but fluffy.

Then the fun part started. We mixed the icing sugar with the lemon juice until smooth.
Spread each cake with the icing, add a layer of marshmallows. Glue the waferette with the icing to the top of the "woolly" cupcake.
Enjoy your flock of sheep.
Even Sasha was interested in the process. I asked him if he wanted to join in with the decorating of the cupcakes, and he did three. Most of the cupcakes were decorated by Master Chef Eddie.

He told me I was doing it the wrong way, and insisted that the marshmallows should be standing rather than scattered randomly.

I said How about just dipping the iced cupcake in the bowl of marshmallows?

You can also cut out Bitzer the dog from the back of the box and set a scene.
One box makes 12 cakes.
The mix contains 100% natural colours and flavours. And by buying the pack you're helping with the fundraising - Green's cakes makes a donation to Wallace & Gromit's Children's Charity for every pack.
The cupcakes were a huge success with all three men of the house. I was pleased that Sasha joined in, as he recently avoids being in the company of his younger brother. And Papa was happy that his boys baked for him.

As you can see, Eddie was very proud of his culinary achievement.
I think we'll buy this kit again, as it's fun and so easy to use, especially with little people.

Monday, 22 June 2015

The cranes...

In the early hours of 22 June 1941 Germany invaded the Soviet Union. This was the largest military operation in history, codenamed Operation Barbarossa. Over 3 million Axis powers, 3500 tanks and 600-700,000 horses were employed in the operation along a 2,900 kilometre front. This was part of Hitler's master plan to extent the lebensraum or living space for his superior race and exterminate the sub-human Slavs, or turn them into slaves.
The Soviet Union was unprepared, as Stalin has refused to believe the warnings regarding the forthcoming invasion.
This huge operation has opened up the Eastern Front which would witness the most ferocious battles and most horrific atrocities, as well as turn into the biggest graveyard for both the German armed forces and the Soviet armed forces and civilians.
Thus the Great Patriotic War started. It would take four long years and enormous losses and suffering before the war ended on 9 May1945.
The atrocities against the civilians in the German-occupied areas are well known. Whole villages were massacred and civilian hostages were routinely killed. According to the data in Wikipedia, at least 20 million Soviet civilians were killed, with the largest number of civilian deaths being in Leningrad at 1.2 million citizens.

According to Geoffrey A. Hosking, "The full demographic loss to the Soviet peoples was even greater: since a high proportion of those killed were young men of child-begetting age, the postwar Soviet population was 45 to 50 million smaller than post-1939 projections would have led one to expect."The Eastern Front was the largest and bloodiest theatre of World War II. It is generally accepted as being the deadliest conflict in human history, with over 30 million killed as a result.[7] The German armed forces suffered 80% of its military deaths in the Eastern Front...
It was by far the deadliest single theatre of war in World War II, with over 10 million military deaths on the Soviet side (out of which 3.6 million died in German captivity
The combined damage consisted of complete or partial destruction of 1,710 cities and towns, 70,000 villages/hamlets, 2,508 church buildings, 31,850 industrial establishments, 40,000 miles of railroad, 4,100 railroad stations, 40,000 hospitals, 84,000 schools, and 43,000 public libraries; leaving 25 million homeless. 
(see Wikipeadia, Eastern Front)

There is hardly any family in the ex-Soviet Union which hasn't been affected by the war.
My paternal grandfather died fighting in the Great Patriotic War. My Mum's father was lost in the Kursk battle, and nobody knew what happened to him. My grandma's husband served in the Navy, and was wounded, when his ship was blown up by the Nazis. He survived holding onto a floating mine for more than 8 hours before he was rescued. He didn't like to talk about the war.
The villages were my parents were born don't exist any more. My Mum and Dad grew up without their fathers.
When I was growing up, the 9th of May has always been celebrated "with tears in eyes" (as the famous song goes). This is a day of remembrance of all the sacrifice and losses.

On the 9th of May this year Russia was celebrating the 70th anniversary of the capitulation of Nazi Germany. The Moscow Victory Day Parade took place in the Red Square.
Most Western leaders stayed away from the parade because of the Russian involvement in the civil war in the Ukraine.
I am not going to start a discussion on the Ukrainian situation, I will only mention that you shouldn't believe everything written in the Western media, as the amount of propaganda is staggering. I read both Russian and Ukrainian sites and forums for the news, I have relatives in both countries, and it saddens me how easily the Western media manipulates the facts. Russia is far from innocent, of course, but the Ukraine is killing its own citizens to the applause and support from the West. Just ask the question "Qui Prodest?"

By avoiding the parade, the Western leaders have also conveniently forgotten about the part of the Soviet Union in the II World War. By not attending they didn't boycott Putin, they boycotted the common people like my grandparents who were killed in the war and scorned millions of the military and civilian deaths.

Photo credit:Photo Credit: candleshoe via Compfight cc  

In the 1960s the Dagestani poet Rasul Gamsatov has written a haunting poem The Cranes. It was later translated into Russian and turned into a song in 1969. It has become one of the most popular and loved war ballads. I wanted to add a video of the song to my blog post, but wasn't sure regarding all the copyright issues, so if you would like to listen to this beautiful song, listen to Zhuravli on Youtube (version sung by Dmitri Khvorostovsky). It is such a beautiful tribute to all the fallen soldiers who saved the world from the Nazis.
This poignant song always leaves me in tears.

It seems to me at times that the soldiers
Who didn't come back from the bloodied fields,
Didn't get buried in the earth
But have turned instead into the white cranes.

From those distant times to this day
They have been flying and calling to us.
Isn't it because of that so often and with such sadness
We stop talking and gaze in the skies.

The weary herd of cranes is flying, flying in the sky
Flying in the mist as the day is ending.
There is a small gap in their ranks,
Could that be a place meant for me?

The day will come, and together with the herd of cranes
I'll float in the blue grey haze,
Calling from the sky, like a bird,
To all of you, whom I left behind on the earth.

It seems to me at times that the soldiers
Who didn't come back from the blooded fields,
Didn't get buried in the earth
But have turned instead into the white cranes.

Sunday, 21 June 2015

Photo diary: week 25, 365

Last week we spent a lot of time in the garden. I was either pottering in the greenhouse, or weeding. Eddie played with his toys or just ran around, singing and laughing. 
I've been also trying to see how far I can take photos with the zoom of my camera, and spotted these white roses over the stone wall, in the neighbours' garden. I couldn't just go nearer and take the photos for obvious reasons, so just snapped these roses from afar. 

On Monday Eddie brought back home a police teddy bear, a mascot which has been "visiting" each child's home for a day. He had to do a record of what they did together in the class book. The teddy bear, I think, enjoyed staying with us. As for Eddie, he was ecstatic.

 Popping the next two photos together. For some reason, since I killed off my laptop by pouring a cup of hot tea over it (don't ask. Totally mea culpa), I cannot add any vertical images to my blog posts. I have edited them, they show as vertical in the Photo folders on my laptop, but when I add them to the post, they turn into horizontal, unless I put them together in a collage. Soooo frustrating. It didn't happen on my old laptop.
This is Eddie's sunflower, which he's been growing from a seed. He wants to grow the biggest sunflower in school, bless him. It is already over a metre tall, and keeps growing.
A pale blue campanula is such a pretty delicate flower. I haven't planted them, and they keep coming year after year, along the path in the shade of the trees.

This week was so warm that he figs are getting bigger. I wonder if we'd get any ripe ones this summer. Last year we had lots of fruit but hardly any ripened.

Eddie's very fond of all the superheroes stuff. Here's his drawing of Captain America. When I was his age, I haven't even heard of Captain America.

Ninjago, Ninja turtles, Lego and Superheroes, what are little boys made of...

Friday, 19 June 2015

Baked okra in tomato and soured cream sauce

As my darling husband is off gallivanting tonight, i.e. going to the high table at his college, I fancied something vegetarian for dinner. I wasn't sure what I was going to cook and was just browsing the veggie aisles, when I spotted a couple of packs of okra which were reduced. I have recently torn a few pages of Yotam Ottolenghi's okra recipes from The Guardian's Weekend, and thought I'd cook something Ottolenghi-ish.
When I arrived back home, and looked at the recipe clippings, I realised I didn't have all the ingredients, but then again, who usually does?! So, all inspired by Yotam, I ended up with a dish that only is vaguely related to his delicious recipes. One day I will buy some fresh coconut and will try to cook the first recipe (go on and check the link above for the great okra recipes).

350g okra
200g sugarsnap tomatoes
3tbsp olive oil
about 7 cloves of garlic
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2tsp chilli paste
1/2tsp ground cumin
1tsp maple syrup
70g (1 serving) of double tomato concentrate
150ml soured cream

Chop the tough little ends off okra and place it whole in a big roasting tray or deep dish, well oiled. Slice the tomatoes in half and scatter over the okra. Add the garlic cloves. Season with sea salt. Place the tray in the oven preheated to 180C. Roast for 30+ minutes.
In a bowl mix the ground ginger, chilli paste, cumin, maple syrup, tomato concentrate and soured cream. Mid-way through cooking spoon the tomato-soured cream sauce over the okra and tomatoes and sort of spread it over with the spoon, as the sauce is quite thick. If you use a plain yogurt rather than soured cream, it might be runnier.

Serve hot with a nice chunk of bread.
A very tasty meal. And I have some left over for tomorrow's lunch too.

The colours are pretty amazing, and all the flavours work well together.
What do you usually do with okra?

Adding my okra recipe to Farmersgirl Kitchen linky #RecipeClippings for June.

Thursday, 18 June 2015

Sudocrem summer goodie bag giveaway (c/d 5 July 2015)

It feels like a real summer these days. If the weather stays like this over the weekend, we might do a BBQ or have a picnic in the garden. The food always tastes better in the fresh air. There are so many things to be done outdoors, playing with my guys, looking after the garden, having long walks, that I hardly have any spare time to enter competitions but I do try to keep an eye on the best comps and giveaways. I wanted to alert all you parents of young children that Sudocrem has launched their Summer Fete Facebook game.
The range of prizes is extensive. You could win such great prizes as Apple watches, Amazon Kindles and much more.
This competition is made up of 3 exciting games. The 1st Whack the Gremlin is available to play now.
But the other two games, Hoop toss and Hook a duck will appear later in the summer, so keep coming back to Sudocrem Facebook page.

As a Thank you for spreading the word about their competition, Sudocrem has offered two Summer goodie bags for my blog readers.

Each goodie bag includes
Sudocrem Care & Protect
Sudocrem Skin Care Cream
A Sudocrem pen
A Sudocrem car bumper sticker
A Sudocrem t-shirt (for infants)
A Sudocrem legionnaires cap (for infants)
A pair of Sudocrem sunglasses for infants

As I've recently run a similar giveaway alongside Sudocrem's spring competition, you know the drill.
To be in with a chance of winning, please fill in the Rafflecopter form.

Only one entry per person is allowed (however, you can tweet daily to increase your chances).
The giveaway is open to the UK residents only.
Once the Rafflecopter picks the winners, I will check if the winners have done what was requested. I will contact the winners, if they do not reply within 28 days, the prize will be allocated to another person.
Please don't forget to leave a comment, as it is the only mandatory step, I will make sure the winner selected by Rafflecopter has complied with T&Cs.

The giveaway will close on 5 July 2015 (at midnight)

Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Cultured milk drinks from Bio-tiful Dairy

There are moments, when you see something online and exclaim with joy "What a blast from the past!". I was reading how Natasha Bowes, the founder of Bio-tiful Dairy Ltd couldn't find any familiar Russian milk products in this country and decided to solve the problem by founding her own dairy business. Like Natasha, I grew up in Russia, and have been enjoying kefir and the other cultured milk products as a kid. Cultured dairy drinks are very popular in Russia and Eastern Europe, and are a part and parcel of a healthy lifestyle.
As a student, I remember popping into the shop to buy a loaf of rye bread and a bottle of kefir or riazhenka for my lunch. It costed pennies (or kopecks, to be precise) but was tasty, filling and healthy.
My grandma who used to keep her own cows, always made a variety of fermented milk products including prostokvasha (which is similar to the plain unsweetened yogurt drink).

Kefir has been almost unknown in the British supermarkets until recently, but with the arrival of a big wave of the Eastern Europeans, it is becoming popular. This is a refreshing drink which perks you up. It is fantastic for your digestion (especially if you needed to take the antibiotics) as it helps to maintain a healthy gut microbiota.

I was delighted to discover the Bio-tiful Dairy Ltd which uses authentic natural recipes to create an excellent range of organic cultured milk drinks.
I have tried the produce of Bio-tiful Dairy Ltd, and can say that it is superior. The quality of ingredients and sustainable production process speak for themselves.

Kefir has a very long history. The kefir grains which helped to ferment the milk into the refreshing drink, were kept as a family treasure, and the new brides would bring it to their new home as part of their dowry.
Full of essential vitamins and minerals, this drink is a great source of protein, and is also low in lactose naturally.
It has a distinct tart taste and a texture of a smooth yogurt drink.
Kefir and riazhenka bottles come in two sizes: 500ml for a sharing bottle, and a 250ml which is a full cup size.

Bio-tiful Dairy Ltd

Its typical values are: 58kcal per 100ml or 145kcal for 250ml bottle. It could be a great part of a diet, much better than those diet shakes which have a list of ingredients that reads like Mendeleev's table of elements and taste quite artificial. I say, go for kefir. Much tastier and healthier.
You can also use it in recipes, like, a Russian cold summer soup okroshka, which could be a vegetarian dish or might include meat.
I made a floral vegetarian version of okroshka back in April, when my garden was covered with a carpet of primroses and wild violets. I scattered a handful of flowers on my cold soup, and it looked pretty and tasted lovely too. The ingredients included a cooked carrot, potato, hard boiled eggs, wild garlic leaves and ca ucumber, plus kefir. I have also added a bit of water to get a slightly runnier consistency.

If you are not a vegetarian, you might enjoy a version of okroshka which includes cold ham (or chopped frankfurters). For a full recipe, please visit my older post Okroshka, Russian cold soup.
This is a perfect summer soup. I must pop into the local health shop to buy kefir for this soup, as the weather is just right for enjoying a light cold soup in the garden.

Or be super healthy with a kefir and spirulina smoothie. Just blitz together half a banana, a handful of blueberries, 1/2tsp of spirulina nibs and 2/3 of a standard sized glass of kefir.

Kefir and spirulina smoothie
While kefir is becoming well known on the British shores nowadays, riazhenka is more of a mystery product. As a kid, I absolutely loved it, probably more so than kefir, because it has a sweeter taste and a very distinct flavour.
I am so glad that Natasha decided to leave her high-flying corporate career and fulfill her dream by founding the Bio-tiful Dairy because as far as I know nobody else in the UK produces riazhenka (at least, I haven't come across it).
It's like going back to my childhood for the unforgettable taste of delicious cultured milk drinks.

The taste of riazhenka is acquired via a process of baking the milk before the special live culture of beneficial bacteria is added.
Typical values: 61kcal per 100ml or 153kcal per 250ml portion
Ingredients: organic pasteurised & homogenised whole cows' milk, fermented with live cultures including Bifido bacterium.
It is a delightful refreshing drink, perfect for breakfast, lunch or any time of the day really.

While checking  the nearest stockist, I was very happy to find out that one of the local health shops is stocking Bio-tiful Dairy's products. That is simply marvellous news. Can't wait to buy these excellent dairy drinks locally.
Have you tried Bio-tiful kefir or riazhenka?


Disclosure: I received a selection of dairy products for the purposes of testing and reviewing. All opinions are mine.

Vegetarian kefir-based cold soup okroshka

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

A curry night with Schwartz Authentic Indian Recipe Mix Range


“There are three things, and three things only, that can lift the pain of mortality and ease the ravages of life,” said Spider. “These things are wine, women and song"...
"Curry’s nice too" pointed out Fat Charlie” (Neil Gaiman, Anansi Boys)

We rarely have "proper" takeaways, as I prefer to cook our meals myself. But I do love my culinary shortcuts, especially on a week day. Grinding my own spices for a curry night might be very gratifying if you have lots of spare time. If you're a busy parent, a jar of a sauce or a packet will do nicely, especially if a recipe mix comes from such experts as Schwartz. I have reviewed Schwartz products many times on my blog (if you fancy reading any of my older reviews, just click on the label Schwartz on the left), and was pleased to extend my cooking repertoire with a new Schwartz Authentic Indian Recipe Mix Range.
Available in four rich and aromatic flavours, this range will appeal to curry lovers. Each recipe mix packet allows you to have a cooked meal in 25-30 minutes, and has 4 servings.
We have tried three out of four flavours: Korma, Balti and Biryani.

Korma is my favourite curry, and this was the first dish I have prepared, using a Schwartz Authentic Indian Mix Range. This is the mildest curry from the range. A 222g serving made according to the recipe printed on the packet, contains 223kcal (which was a surprise for me, as I expected a korma to have more calories).


This recipe mix is ideal with chicken or prawns. It so happened that all the curries I cooked with this range were with chicken. Korma is a creamy and mildly-spiced dish, made with coconut, cardamom and cumin. Looking at the list of ingredients, it includes sugar, onion powder, salt, cumin, garlic powder, ground coriander seed, chilli powder, ground ginger, cream powder, coconut milk powder, ground cinnamon, cardamom, paprika, turmeric etc.
I followed the recipe suggested on the packet. The list of ingredients is pretty short, you need 1tbsp of oil, 1 onion, finely chopped, about 450g diced boneless chicken and 300ml semi-skimmed milk. The milk keeps the sauce rather light, but of course, you can add some single cream for a richer version. I have also added a carrot to bulk up the curry and a handful of ground and flaked almonds. I served it with rice and a bit of chopped spring onions. It was a tasty korma, which both my husband and I enjoyed (my young men don't eat curries).


Balti is a medium-heat recipe mix. Ingredients include ground coriander seed, ground cumin, onion powder, garlic powder, sugar and salt, black onion seed, ground ginger, ground fenugreek, dried crushed chillies, ground cinnamon, turmeric, coriander leaf, rapeseed oil etc.

The recipe on the packet asks for oil, onion, chicken, tomato puree and a tin of chopped tomatoes, plus a sweet pepper. The Balti looked very colourful and bright. I found it a bit too spicy (and so did my husband). For those curry lovers who love to breathe fire, that might be not hot enough,  but we are weaklings when it comes to hot spicy food. 

chicken curry

Biryani is another medium hot curry from the range. This curry is bursting with flavours, and would work with both chicken or lamb. You will need an onion, butter, chicken, tinned chopped tomatoes and frozen peas. The main ingredients in this mix are dried onion, salt, ground coriander seed, ground cumin, brown mustard seed, ginger, dried garlic, ground fennel seed, bay leaves, turmeric, black pepper, dried crushed chillies, cinnamon and more.
From these three lovely curries Korma was our favourite, but all of them taste authentic. And if you make your own Indian "takeaway", it will definitely be less expensive, plus you will know what goes in your curry.


All of these spice mix flavours contain no hydrogenated fat, artificial colours or flavourings, added preservatives or MSG.

Disclosure: I received a selection of Schwartz products for the purposes of testing and reviewing. All opinions are mine.