Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Calling all technologically inept

Anyone who knows me knows I love to cook, almost as much as I love to feed people. So, as with any proper blog written by yours truly, I will dedicate part of this blog to my culinary adventures. Yes Julie, the butterscotch pancake recipe will appear. But for now, some trouble shooting…

Finally, a month into my move, I have managed to figure out my stove top. I love my new kitchen. It is far superior to kitchens that belonged to me in the past. The one problem with my lovely new Krakow kitchen, a problem that makes me see past the abundant counter space (for apt standards) and ample cupboards, is how finicky my new gas stovetop is. Don’t get me wrong, I am extremely excited to be switching from electric to gas, as it lets me control the temperature more accurately. Unfortunately, my stovetop has one thing that isn’t going for it, the elements turn on fine, but getting them to stay on is one-half skillful, steady hand, and one-half answered prayer: “Please God, don’t make me make dinner on one small burner, again!” Luckily, one month in, I seem to be perfecting my skill, which requires a weird hand movement that very carefully regulates the pressure when releasing the knob.

I can’t say so much about my oven. The oven in a European gas stove boggles the mind. I’m not sure what it is, but suddenly I’m feeling like I don’t do so well with appliances. I remember our first day in our apartment in Krakow. I walked into the bathroom, took one look at the laundry machine with its dozens of settings, buttons, knobs and lights, and said to my husband “So, you’re doing the laundry.” I have managed to do the laundry since, but I have to read the manual every time. So far nothing has gone horribly awry, except for one ill-fated cream towel, which I turned light blue. That’s the first time something like that has happened to me in 15 years of doing laundry. At this point, I didn’t even think it COULD happen to me.

So yes, my oven. First of all of the temperature settings are in Celsius. As sad as its sounds, despite being Canadian and apparently “using” the metric system, I’m accustomed to using Fahrenheit in all my baking. So I’m stuck converting all my recipes. Annoyance aside, I’m sure that I’ll be able to get used to it. The bigger complication is that gas ovens in Poland come in two types: z thermobiegem and bez thermobiegem. This basically means they either have a heating plate on the top and bottom, or they only have a heating plate on the bottom. All polish recipes are written for the latter type, as dual plate ovens are recent inventions. Here’s the thing, I’ve read the manual in Polish and in English and it still does not work how it’s supposed to, regardless of the thermobieg. Ovens are notoriously finicky pieces of machinery. Did you know that baking temperature varies according to climate and position of the oven in reference to sea level? How am I supposed to account for these variations if I can’t even turn the thing on properly?! And needless to say with certain events coming up soon, like my husband’s birthday, I’d better figure out how to work the thing.

In the meantime, I leave you all with a oven-free, stove top safe (provided it turns and stays on) recipe.

Super Simple Quick Polish Tomato Soup

I love this soup. I could eat it every day. I make it whenever I need a taste of home. Actually, this soup was the frist thing I cooked for my husband when we arrived in Kraków. This recipe adapted from my mom’s recipe, which seems to be a classic Polish recipe.


  • Włoszczyzna (if you don’t live in Poland this roughly amounts to 2 carrots, 1 small leek (a small to medium cooking onion will also do), 1 celery stalk (or a piece of celery root, if you can find it), 1 piece of Italian cabbage and 1 parsnip (this is optional, but my mom adds it, and therefore, so do I)
  • 1-2 chicken or beef bouillon cubes
  • 1-2 litres of water
  • 200-300 grams of 30% tomato paste
  • Small soup noodles
  • Smietana do zupy ( if outside of Poland you can either use sour cream or whipping cream)
  • A handful of parsley or dill

How to:

Place the vegetables in a large pot and cover with water. Don’t worry if some of the vegetables start to float, just make sure there is enough water that all the vegetables are covered when forced to the bottom of the pot.

Place the pot on the stove on medium-low heat and bring to a boil. Boil covered until vegetables are soft (a fork slides through the centre without resistance). At this point you can remove the vegetables from the stock. I like to keep them in until I’m done cooking. I remove them, chop them into bite size pieces and put them back in the soup. Some people, however, prefer this soup without the vegetables.

In another pot, cook pasta until al dente, strain, rinse with cold water, strain again and save for later.

Add 1 bouillon cube and half of the tomato paste to the vegetable stock. The amount of tomato paste will vary depending on the amount of vegetable stock in the pot. You will want to add the rest slowly, tasting the soup as you go, to make sure that it has a distinct tomato flavor. If you find that after adding all the paste, that the tomato flavor isn’t strong enough, add another bouillon cube, this usually does the trick. Keep adding boullion until you get the desired taste, but be careful, bouillon cubes have a lot of sodium, so the more you add the saltier the soup will get. This is why I don’t add salt to this soup.

Put a desirable amount of pasta in a soup bowl (in my house we like some soup with our pasta). Cover with soup. Add the cream directly to the individual soup bowl, (this will allow any leftover soup to keep in the refrigerator for longer – it keeps up to 3 days.) I find 1/2 - 1 tablespoon is enough for 1 large soup bowl. Note that depending on which cream you use the texture will be slightly different, North American sour cream has a tendency to thicken. If you want a thicker texture add some flour or cornstarch mixed with water to the soup, while stirring constantly. (Otherwise noodles/lumps will form).

Chop a healthy amount of parsley or dill and place on top.

Serve, stir, enjoy <3

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