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Sweet Saturdays – Traditional Icelandic Cake

As I get a little older, (I am clearly a little in denial!), I have to watch the waistline a bit more than previously and thus look forward to the weekends to indulge in baking and eating some sweet treats, and sticking more to rabbit food rations, through the working week. This week I was reminded of the wonderful ‘Hjonabandsaela’ or Blessing of the Marriage cake at a lunch!  It is not only light and delicious, it is traditional comfort food at its best, and it originates from Iceland!20161011_101255

Fridays are the traditional wedding day in Iceland. The pagan Icelanders believed the day was dedicated to Frigga, who just happened to be the goddess of marriage! Engagements sometimes last for 3 -4 years, so after waiting that long,  it is little wonder that cake features prominently in the celebrations!

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At the wedding feast itself, a ‘Kransekake’ or traditional Scandinavian wedding cake, is eaten. This the wonderfully Scandinavian stack of crispy, concentric almond-based pastry rings, decorated with icing and flags, which looks and tastes incredible.

Another Icelandic tradition is for a groom to send presents to bride’s family, on the morning after the wedding.  Whilst the ancient tradition is by and large, forgotten in modern times, it is still customary for a bride and groom to exchange personal “bed gifts and cake.” The traditional religious ritual, the ‘Blessing of the Marriage’ is undertaken by the priest, after the wedding couple leave the wedding feast, when the bride and groom are finally alone! This is the cake for such an occasion!!!

This weekend’s sweet treat!

Hjonabandsæla -Blessing of the Marriage

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Ingredients:

1 cup rolled oats

1  cup plain flour

1 cup dark brown sugar

150 gram butter

1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda/baking powder

1/2 teaspoon cardamon (optional)

Rhubarb jam or other not very sweet jam such as cranberry.

Mix  thoroughly softened  (not melted) butter with the sugar. Add flour, bicarbonate of soda and oats

Press 3/4 of dough into greased tin. Spread jam on top, sprinkle the rest of the dough on top.

Bake in medium hot oven approx  30 -40 minutes.

To Make your own Jam

Bring to boil:

2 cups chopped rhubarb

juice of 1 orange

1/2 cup strawberry or cranberry (lingonberry) jam

2 tablespoon sugar

Cook 10  minutes and allow to cool. You can add more sugar if you think it is too tart.

NB Tips:

  • If mixing by hand, use quick cook rolled oats, instead of whole oats.
  • Instead of rhubarb jam, you can try cranberry, blackberry or plum jam.

Something to Ponder About

 

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Polish food
Community

Bigos – A Polish Hunter’s Meal

Polish food
Bigos

Do you live in the Northern half of the world? If so, I am thinking you might be preparing for the onslaught of cooler weather. Me, I’ve just finished with all that for a while; in the southern hemisphere it is all about getting the pool toys out of storage and readying the garden for the long, hot summer. It was during our short winter season that I recreated a taste that I had brought back home with me, when I returned from Poland: the Polish national dish, called “Bigos.”

Bigos is a meal based on the Polish sausage, Kielbasa, but any kind of cooked sausage works well if you make your own version. It might be nice to try Chorizo sausage, but I actually used Bratwurst, as that is what I had to hand. It is still a traditional Bigos no matter what meal you use, as Wikipedia states:

“The variety of meats is considered essential for good bigos; its preparation may be a good occasion to clean out one’s freezer and use up leftovers from other meat dishes.”

Making Bigos is a great use of leftovers, especially sausage and cabbage, because unless you like curried sausages, which my other half most decidedly doesn’t, you aren’t left with too many other options with using up leftover bratwurst.

But Bigos IS an option you do have. And what’s more, it’s a very forgiving dish. Being a traditional dish of not only Poland, but also Belarus and Lithuania, it is said that there are as many recipes for Bigos, as there are cooks in Poland!

Traditionally, Bigos would be served at large family gatherings, like Christmas or Easter, but centuries ago, it was more common to cook Bigos in a simply pot over a camp fire, whilst out, “hunting,” hence the term, “Hunter’s Stew.”

Source: Wikipedia
Source: Wikipedia

Like many stews or casseroles, it has a flavour that improves with subsequent reheating and refrigeration. One can vary the amount of sauerkraut/fresh cabbage and meat ratios used and thicken it with several ingredients such as flour, crumbled rye bread, or even grated raw potato. In Silesian Poland, they add a potato dumpling to thicken the stew prior to serving. [Note to self: I must try that next time!]

This very forgiving flexible, hearty dish is just the ticket for an upcoming cool Autumn/Winter night. It could also be easily made in the slow cooker, ready and waiting for when one arrives home from work, in the evening!

Originally, this recipe came from Allrecipes.com, but I have varied it a great deal and so have reproduced it here.

POLISH BIGOS

Ingredients

  • 2 thick slices hickory-smoked bacon
  • 1 large cooked bratwurst, kielbasa other Polish sausage, sliced
  • 250g cubed pork/ham
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, diced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 sticks celery, sliced
  • 2 carrots, diced  or other hard vegetables
  • 1 cups sliced fresh mushrooms
  • 2 cups thinly sliced cabbage – any variety is fine
  • 250g sauerkraut, rinsed and well drained
  • 1/4 cup (60ml) dry red wine- I didn’t have any so I left this out
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon dried marjoram
  • 2 teaspoon paprika
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 pinch caraway seed, crushed
  • 1 pinch cayenne pepper
  • 50g mushrooms,  diced
  • 1 dash hot chilli sauce (optional)
  • 1 dash Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 cups beef/chicken stock
  • 1 tablespoons tinned tomato paste
  • 2/3 cup tinned diced tomatoes

Method

  1.  Add the bacon and kielbasa/bratwurst sausage to a large saucepan on medium heat. Cook and stir until the bacon, sausage, pork or ham is lightly browned.
  2. Add the garlic, onion, celery, and saute for several minutes.
  3. Add carrots, mushrooms, cabbage and sauerkraut. Reduce heat to medium, then cook and stir until the carrots are soft; about 10 minutes. Do not let the vegetables brown.
  4. Add the red wine and heat, stirring to loosen all of the bits that are stuck to the bottom. I used a little stock as I had no wine!
  5. Season with the bay leaf, the herbs, paprika, salt, pepper, caraway seeds and cayenne pepper; cook for 1 minute.
  6. Mix in the mushrooms, chili sauce if you wish, Worcestershire sauce, remaining chicken or beef stock, tomato paste and tomatoes. Heat through just until boiling. Cover with a lid.
  7. Simmer on the stove for 1 1/2 hours or Bake in the preheated oven for 2 1/2 to 3 hours or on low/auto in a slow cooker.
  8. I omitted the use of flour, but if the Bigos has not condensed down to the consistency of a casserole, add 1 -2 tablespoon of cornflour mixed in a little cold water and mix in. Cook for 5- 10 minutes till thickened.

Easy to cook, traditional meals are really worth pondering about during winter.

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