Monday, 10 December 2012

Bigos : a famous old Polish hunter's stew .

When the winter enters the land and the nights grow long and cold, this famous old Polish hunting dish will be perfect to keep you going!
It's basically a hunter's stew of lots of white cabbage , sauerkraut, apples, some mushrooms, dried prunes , water , a little wine and plenty of pork or other leftovers of cooked meat.
You make this dish one day in advance, because it has to be cooled down and reheated before served.
Every reheating will make it more tasteful! ( so my Polish cookbook says )

These are most of the ingredients
(except for the white cabbage,  this picture shows about half the required amount of ingredients )

For 6 (really large) to 8 ( still quite large) portions of this hearty dish you'll need

A large cooking pot ( 4 to 5 litres )

1 kilo of white cabbage
1 kilo of sauerkraut ( 2 bags like the one in the picture)
2  nice stewing apples ( these are Belgian Boskoop apples)

a handful (10-15) of dried prunes ( pitted)

3 to 4 onions, red or white
a glass (0,15 l) of a hearty red wine ( dry , not a sweet one ! )

0,75 litres of boiling water
10 juniper berries , crushed ( if you can't find these don't worry you could substitute a teaspoon of gin , which get its flavour from juniper berries )

10 black pepper corns, whole
4 dried bay leaves
a handful or two of mushrooms , dried or fresh
a tablespoon of honey
500 grams of Polish sausage ( or another tasty sausage )
500 grams of cooked ham or stewed bacon
500 grams of braised pork
a tablespoon of oil or butter

( you can use other kinds of cooked meat, as long as they can be stewed ) 
Some recipes recommend dried sausage, but I've found that that becomes too hard and chewy when stewed.

Cut the cabbage in four and remove the stem.

Cut the cabbage into fine strips.

Put the cabbage in a sieve and slowly pour boiling water over it.

Peel the apples, remove the cores and dice them.

If the mushrooms are dried, put hot water on them till they're fully covered and let them soak for 15 minutes.
Then cook them for 30 minutes and keep the water they're cooked in.

Once when preparing this dish, I was so lucky to be able to buy this wonderful collection of fresh mushrooms : you clean them off with a soft brush and cook them slowly for 30 minutes in water. Keep the cooking water and slice the larger mushrooms into half before adding them.

I have also used these collected mushrooms which come pre cooked in glass jars. They taste quite nice too.
You just add water and use them like this, or slice up the larger ones.

Chop the onions not too finely and brown them in the pot in a tablespoon of butter or oil over a low heat, to keep them from burning.

I chop my onions by cutting them in half, slicing the halves

and while keeping the sliced halves together, cutting across the slices. There are other ways to do it, this is just the way I do it. With my razor-sharp Japanese knife , it's a fast way :)

Drain the sauerkraut  ( leave some of the juice on it ) and add it to the onions.
Add the cabbage strips, the diced apples, the whole pepper corns, the bay leaves, the prunes, the mushrooms and their cooking water and the 0,75 litres of boiling water.

Your cooking pot should be about half full by now.

Cover the pot with a lid and let everything simmer slowly for 1 hour.

In the meantime , cut the meat into cubes about as tick as your thumb and the sausage into slices , about as thick as your little finger.

After one hour of simmering,  pile the meat on top and  pour the wine and the spoon of honey over it.

Stir the meat and the cabbage well and let it simmer without the lid for another 40 minutes or so. Stir from time to time , pushing what's on top to the bottom, so all the meat gets stewed...
When done, the cabbage should be very nice and tender.
You'll have almost 4 kilos of stew ( that's why you needed a BIG pot )

Cover the pot and let everything cool off during a night in the fridge or like I do it : cool it off outside in the garden with the lid securely tied on,  if it's below 8 degrees and not  freezing outside.

Reheat the dish till it cooks and simmer for another 10 minutes : the cabbage will be wonderfully soft, slightly sour ( much less poignant than pure sauerkraut ) and the meat very tender.

Serve it with thick slices of brown bread ( to dip in the wonderful juices ) and a small glass of cold Polish vodka, which is supposed to let you digest it better. The vodka will also boost your confidence as a hunter and improve your aim immensely when you go hunting after eating :)

If you don't want to heat the entire pot , you can also reheat just the amount you want to eat by putting your serving in a soup plate , covered with a dinner plate and cooking it at half the strength of your microwave (350 watts for about 12 minutes or so), which heats it through and lets it simmer long enough to blend the tastes nicely.

Życzymy smacznego (Enjoy your meal) !

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Bird feeding

With snow starting to cover the land, I've started hanging balls of lard , a  bird feeder with seeds and one with peanuts out in my cherry and pear trees to help my feathered friends through the winter.
This sunny morning I saw quite a few of them come by.

While I was replacing the empty ones this morning, this robin started eating while I was still in the garden! He didn't even fly away when I came back outside with my camera :).
The great tit ( parus major ) is clearly recognizable by the black and white pattern on his head
and the yellow on his belly.

 Even a great spotted woodpecker (Dendrocopos major) coming to feed.

The goldfinches (Carduelis carduelis) eat only the seeds from these large weeds and nothing else. I try to sow some of these weeds each year, but I haven't found out which species they are.

 Blue finch (Cyanistes caeruleus) not the sharpest picture, but you can clearly see the blue cap )

 The sparrows always come in larger groups. This is a female.

While up in the tree , the robin is waiting for the sparrows to finish eating.
They are called 'red breast' in Dutch and 'robin red breast' in England (later shortened to robin).
Curiously the colour is clearly orange, but until the 16th century orange was unknown in English as a colour , event though the word was used for that fruit since the 13nd century.

This finch is waiting next to him.

Friday, 2 November 2012

Autumn 2012 Kimono de Jack NL at the Japanese Garden near The Hague.

Sunday October 21st the Kimono de Jack NL aka KDJ Holland visited the Japanese garden at the Clingendael park near The Hague.
The Japanese garden is only open to the public twice a year for a few short weeks and with autumn colouring the leaves , what better occasion for our members to wear their beloved kimonos ?

(as always , click on the pictures to see a larger version that opens in a separate window )

Despite the light rain and cloudy weather , many KDJ NL members showed up for the occasion : From left to right : Jody, Mei-Ing, Dalisha, Youandi, Ben , Stephanie and Yumiko.

While everyone was waiting for more members to arrive , I took the opportunity to take a few photos. On the left Dalisha , on the right Carolien.

Dalisha's musubi.

Dalisha's bird feather hair ornament.

Youandi , wearing a bright furisode.

A closer view of Youandi's musubi.

As soon as most members arrived , we made our way from the entrance to the garden
On the left, Linda. On the right, Yumiko.

The rain had made the paths through the park rather muddy : the higher your geta, the better for you !

 The bright autumn colours of the garden were just begging to be photographed :
Here is Youandi taking pictures from the bridge.

Of course the bridge is also a nice spot to pose on : Linda

and Jody.

Jody and Youandi posing together. I got them to open up the umbrella for me, because I liked the way the yellow matches the leaves behind it.

Arriving at the central tea house,

where everybody settles down for a pick-nick.

Maaike and Ben from Belgium.

Jody, Yumiko, Linda, Dalisha , Youandi and Carolien. In the background Stephanie and Mei-Ing.


Carolien taking a picture of me through the round window of the tea-house .

Amy ( in the red hakama ) and Jeffrey arriving quite fashionably late ^^.

Linda, Dalisha and Mei-Ing, posing behind the round window in the tea-house.

The red leaved tree behind them was a popular spot for posing.
The dark and red colours of Stephanie's kimono go very well with the colour of the autumn leaves and the darkness of the water.

Stephanie's musubi.

Yumiko showing us a trinket of hers.

Yumiko's musubi.

I used a bit of fill in flash for Carolien in her blue kimono here : it makes the background darker and puts more emphasis on the person herself. I think I'll use it more in future.

Carolien's musubi.

Dalisha wearing a purple kimono with wine leaf motif.

Ben and Maaike, who is wearing an orange furisode and green hakama.

Three shades of ochre and orange : Yumiko, Riga and Mei-Ing.

Youandi in her furisode.

Linda wearing a green kimono and posing with her stole :)

And Linda without her stole.

Mei-Ing , wearing an orange kimono and black haori.

Mei-Ings haori.

Amy with a red hakama.

Nice beret, Amy !

Just as I was moving around to get a nice background for Amy when she took her beret off, she flipped her hair out. Got it !

Our traditional KDJ NL tabi shot ( well ,mostly tabi :) 

Everybody posing for the group shot.

Group shot with showing of the sleeves.

Well, everybody posing for the group shot is what I thought , but we had to do it over : Jody and Amy were missing.

The whole group in the picture : the tree at the back was barely wide enough !

Showing off of the sleeves.

Showing of the musubi.

I nearly decided not go to this meeting because of a cold I'd caught, but I'm glad I did : I would have missed out on taking all these pictures. Till next time,everybody !