Once upon a time in Poland … Allocation

Osiedle Zlote Lany 1970s

This is the story that Bogdan told me when he was still with us. This is the story of love, dreams and challenging all these little hiccups that life brings.

Wedding

First, there was the wedding – well at least this is where this story will begin. The wedding happened in April 1969 and as was the custom those days started with a simple civil ceremony at the registry, followed by a ceremony at church and finished with a wedding reception that was held at the bride’s parents’ house. Over 30 guests were invited and arrived to enjoy the feast of homemade cold meats, sausages, cakes and as much vodka as was possible to provide in the communism times.

zaproszenie na slub 1969
Wedding Invitation 1969

The newly wedded couple were flooded with generous gifts that would make every young family happy – the latest model of the fridge, white goose down pillows and duvet, hand-embroidered bed linen, a crystal vase, and a porcelain floral dinnerware set for six accented with gold banding. They were all ready to set up their own new home, except they had no where to move in yet and could only wait and hope the allocation will happen soon.

Wedding Kiss 1969
Wedding 1969
Waiting list

Even though it was twenty five years after the second world war and the country was being rebuilt at allegedly a very speedy and efficient rate, the housing was still very scarce. Usually a family of  3 or even 4 generations lived together under one roof. Grandparents, and their children with their families shared rooms, cooked in the same kitchen and queued to the only bathroom there was. Wiesia and Bogdan were no exception and shared a two-room apartment with Wiesia’s parents, her sister’s family and soon enough with their little son and niece.

Dream

Wiesia and Bogdan had this dream of moving into their own new flat and so they thought, and they planned, and they did their best to make it happen. They knew they had to wait for the state to allocate them a house, as it was the state who actually owned all the housing. Money would not buy you a house or not even time, yet in the end you had to pay for whatever accommodation you were allocated. Choice was back then definitely one of the most overlooked human rights. Wiesia was already on the allocation waiting list and a member of a certain building fund, yet together they tripled the funds and with the savings of over 30,000 that was the equivalent to 1.5 annual salary they could even afford a 3-room apartment. As there were much more 3-room apartments being built and allocated, the plan was to apply for a bigger house consisting of 3 rooms rather than 2 rooms and be able to move in sooner. The state dwelling ratio, however, assigned 13.5 square meters per person and by no means a family of three would be entitled to a house consisting of 2 bedrooms, a living room, a kitchen and a bathroom. Wiesia and Bogdan applied for the allocation for five people to meet the requirements. To double their odds, they transferred the building fund membership to Bogdan who – due to his factory employment.- would be eligible for the prioritized allocation. They crossed their fingers and toes.

Przydzial Lokalu mieszkaniowego 1973
The Allocation Act 1973
Allocation

Two years passed and the prefabricated ten-floor buildings started to pop up around the town crowning its panorama. Everyone was admiring the newly constructed estates hoping one of thousands of flats will be theirs.

Zlote Lany - Beginnings
The beginnings of the estate
Photo: Bogdan Targosz

Bogdan received the good news at work. He finished a bit earlier and decided to walk along the main street to meet Wiesia on her way from work.

‘We have  a problem’,

he started with a twinkle in his eyes, ‘we’re going to need a lot of money.’ He hanged around for a tiny bit longer to cherish the moment and then happily announced.

‘We’ve got the apartment!’

Wiesia threw her arms around him and cried with joy.

Bielsko Biala 1970s
Bielsko-Biała 1970s
Photo: Bogdan Targosz

What for us now is a socialist realism architecture of mass constructed concrete ten-floor buildings, for them then was the ultimate dream come true. They had their own address now and could move into a shiny new flat that they would make their home.

Zlote Lany Widok
The view from the 6th floor
Photo: Bogdan Targosz
House Swap

It’s the early seventies and everything about the estate is brand new, launching or still under construction. There are no buses servicing the area and the nearest bus stop is 15 minutes away. The lifts are not fully installed. There are cranes, there is dust, there are snags. Bogdan does his bit of research and finds out the Dos and Don’ts of living in a ten-floor building. One commonly acknowledged fact is that the fifth floor, where their apartment is supposed to be, has the lowest pressure and therefore frequent water shortages. It gets even worse at the site visit that reveals a state of art pipework system that zigzags from the floor to ceiling. It is now clear that any other floor would be better to live on. Bogdan takes measures again. He spends his contingency dollars on a finest bottle of cognac and persuades the officer to change the allocated floor number. They are now going to move in on the sixth floor.

Protokol Zdawczo Odbiorczy s1
House Inspection Receipt
Moving In

After officially receiving the apartment in November 1973, the big day finally

Pismo dot. kafelkowania lazienki
Letter of Request 1974

arrived in January 1974 and the family moved into their own three rooms. First things first, the fridge had to be carried upstairs as the lift was not working. The semi-automatic washing machine had to be purchased and installed. The kitchen and the living room had to be furnished. The hall had to be fitted with wardrobe. The bathroom needed tiling yet the tiles are impossible to source. Bogdan writes a very well worded letter to the authorities requesting the tile installation as a part of – as he argues – providing facilities to the public. He succeeds and soon enough the whole family can splash in the white tiled bathroom.

Life goes by

It was the home of celebrations, cooking and welfare. Everyone was warmly welcomed. Food was always served. Help was always given. Things got always fixed. Everything was in spotless condition and perfectly organized. It was the happy place where you want to spend time and the safe place where you want to go back. Christening and communions, birthdays and anniversaries, Christmas and Easter all happened here for – as the saying goes – there’s no place like home.

Wiesia and Bogus Wedding Anniversary Podgorze
The 25th Wedding Anniversary 1994

The view from the 6th floor might have slightly changed over the years. The estate got more structured and greener, many new buildings appeared in the city panorama and all the new roads lit up brightly at night but for my husband it will always remain one of the most stunning views you can wake up to. 

Sonia-signature

 

 

 

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A gift for a mum-to-be – Nappy Cake!

nappy cake

I love DIY gifts. I have always cherished the idea of spending time to plan and prepare a custom-made present. It can be a T-shirt, a framed work of art, a home made preserve or decoration. The list is as big as your imagination. Sometimes you need more time, effort and expertize and sometimes, as in the case of a nappy cake, you need only about an hour and a bunch of nappies to create a very impressive, and yet very practical gift. You’ve bound to wow the parents-to-be and to make a statement and you will find it surprisingly easy and a great fun to make. Here is a step by step tutorial …nappy cake

Nappy Cake
(for a three tier cake)

60 (plus some extra) size 2 nappies

a kitchen roll tube

60 (plus some extra) small transparent rubber bands

6 medium and large rubber bands

ribbons in a colour of choice

a soother

a round large paper doily

a large sheet of transparent cellophane wrapping foil

nappy cake

First roll tight each nappy starting outwards from the open side of the nappy. Secure with a small elastic band in the middle of the nappy. nappy cake

When your nappies are ready – assemble the cake starting from the lower tier. Place the kitchen roll tube in the middle and arrange the first ring of rolled nappies around it. Secure with a medium rubber band and add the second ring of rolled nappies. Put another rubber band around to keep the nappies together. Add the third ring of rolled nappies and use the largest elastic to hold tight. nappy cake tutorial

Continue with the second tier. You will need to arrange two rings of rolled nappies for the middle layer.nappy cake layer

Add the final top layer with only single ring of rolled nappies. Place one nappy in the middle of the kitchen roll tube. Secure the bunch with a rubber band. nappy cake layer

Now you are ready to decorate the cake. Carefully wrap and tie the ribbons in the middle of each tier.

nappy cake

You can place any centerpiece on the top of the cake. I like to use a soother as well as a small bunting on two kebab sticks. At this stage you can personalize it with name, colour and miniatures.

nappy cake

Finally, place the nappy cake on the cake doily and wrap with the cellophane foil and ribbon.

Happy crafting!

Sonia-signature

Rain or Shine Rainbow Muffins

ranibow muffins

Ireland is the country of rainbows. I have never seen more rainbows anywhere else and, before you say anything, it is not because it rains all the time but because after every lash of rain the sun will come out and the rainbow crowns the sky. Rainbow spotting is a must on my bucket list of things to do in Ireland and more often than not you are bound to see not one but two or three at the same time. And who knows, if you get lucky you might even find the mythical Leprechaun lurking at the end of the rainbow with a pot of gold just for you.

rainbow in Ireland collage

If you want the splash of colour in the kitchen – whatever the weather – these rainbow muffins are fun to make, if a bit messy, and are sure to impress. No one – big or small – will resist the intense mix of colours. Obviously, they are full of chemicals but every now and then it is no harm to get a bit hyper. 

I came across those bright muffins at one of the bake sale at work. The baking level was always really high there and yet the little vivid treats that Janice brought that day stood out and hit the right spot. I was very happy to get the recipe and when I tried it for the first time it turned out actually very easy and well, a piece of cake. I halved the ingredients of the original recipe and following Janice advice skipped the frosting so that everyone can see the twisting colours on the top.

ranibow muffinsRainbow muffins
(adopted from Dan Lepard’s recipe)
makes 12 regular muffins or 36 mini muffins

100g unsalted butter, softened
25ml sunflower oil
75g creme fraiche
175g caster sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs
235g plain flour
1½ tsp baking powder
A rainbow of food colouring

Frosting – optional

75g creme fraiche
3 -5 tbs icing sugar

ranibow muffins

Heat the oven to 180 °C.

Beat the butter, oil, creme fraiche and sugar together until smooth and thick.

Add in the vanilla extract and eggs, one at a time and combine well.

Stir in the flour and baking powder and mix in evenly, then divide equally into bowls (three to five will work best), depending on the number of different colours you have.

Slowly – drop by drop – fold in the colour of choice into each bowl and beat until combined. The colours will be really intense at this stage but will subdue while baking.

Arrange the paper muffin cases in a muffin tray. Dollop a teaspoon of each colured dough into each muffin case. Be careful not to mix the colours.

Bake for about 30 minutes or until a toothpick stuck into the cake pulls out clean. Do not overbake as they will loose the bright colour at the top. Remove from the oven and leave to cool.

If you want to have cupcakes rather than muffins make the frosting by beating the creme fraiche with a few tablespoons of icing sugar. It should be smooth and yet still hold its shape. Swirl on the top of the cakes and decorate with rainbow sprinkles.

Happy Paddy’s Day

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The dog and the challah bread that wasn’t

Guilty Dog

Some things are just too good to last long. In kitchen it translates into an even simpler formula – the better something is the less long it lasts. Good things are meant for sharing and experiencing together.

When I was a teacher at the Jewish primary school we would all gather together in the school hall every Friday to celebrate Sabbath and share challah bread. We would tear a piece of chałka while saying a Hebrew blessing that I learnt sheerly by repeating the sounds every week, and that I still remember today:

Baruch ata Adonai, Eloheinu Melech ha-olam, asher kidshanu b’mitzvotav vitzivanu l’hadlik ner shel Shabbat.

Blessed are You, God, Ruler of the universe, who sanctified us with the commandment of lighting Shabbat candles.

When you bake challah bread you usually get two loaves which makes it perfect for sharing. One day our lovely neighbour, Kasia, baked chałka at home and brought us one loaf. The smell of the freshly baked challah that filled the whole kitchen was amazing and even though some of us were very tempted to have a slice straightaway, we decided we will all wait and share it for breakfast the next morning.

It was one of those grey and chilly autumn morning that does not make you jump out of bed to rise and shine. Still, the alarm clock went off reminding us it was the time to start a new day of the weekday routine. When I, half-asleep, made my way downstairs into the kitchen, Maciek was already there, eating … cereals. It did not occur to me at first but after a few seconds I burst, “Why, for God’s sake, would you have cornflakes this morning if there’s home-made challah bread for breakfast?” He had another spoon and mumbled that he didn’t see any and, sort of, forgot. I went dumb for a moment clearly digesting what I had just heard and then retorted, “But how the hell could you not see it if it is right here on the kitchen top?” And I turned gesturing behind me to the kitchen top. And there is was – a clean wooden kitchen top, with absolutely nothing on it. “But … , ” and I went speechless again. This time for slightly longer.

It wasn't me -dog

We were both staring at the kitchen top trying to envisage the scene that happened overnight. The challah bread, that was there on the kitchen top smelling divine. The dog, that loves bread and that could not contain himself. Was it a planned operation that took him a few walk-arounds, sniffs, jumps and snaps? Or was it a spur of a moment and all it took was one precise coordination of paws, jaws and tongue? We never found out what exactly happened in the middle of the night in our kitchen but one thing we know was that there was not a single crumb left. When we called Lucky, he had this distinctive “it wasn’t me” look on his face that we all know means guilty as charged.

Surely and truly, Lucky, whose other adventures are here, here and here, ate the entire challah bread one night. With no remorse and no desire to share. After all, doesn’t it prove how good the thing was. Definitely, too good to last too long …

Guilty Dog

The original recipe that my neighbour shared with me is the one adapted for Thermomix. I do not have the appliance myself but I tried the recipe out – with a little tweaks – and I must admit it works fine for both – Thermomix-equipped and Thermomix-less households. The recipe below does not require any special equipment. The original recipe for Thermomix can be found here.

Challah Bread

from the Thermomix recipe at www.przepisownia.pl 

makes 2 loaves

challah bread

Challah dough

1 cup milk

50 g fresh yeast

550 g flour

2 tbs butter (unsalted) plus some more for greasing

2 eggs (at room temperature)

1 tsp salt

4 (1 and 3) tbs sugar

5 tbs lukewarm water

Crumble:

1 tbs butter (fridge cold)

1 tbs caster sugar

3 tbs flour

challah bread braids

Warm a large mixing bowl by rinsing with hot water and pat dry. Mix together the yeast, 1 tablespoon of sugar, warmed milk and 3 tablespoons of flour. Gently stir the mixture for about 3 minutes and leave in a warm place for about 10 minutes by when it should double its size.

In the meantime separate one of the eggs so that you can keep the yolk for brushing the bread. Beat together the remaining egg white, whole egg and 3 tablespoons of sugar.

Gently melt the butter and set aside to cool.

Once the yeast mixture has risen, add 350 g of flour, eggs with sugar, salt, water and melted butter. Mix the dough until nicely combined and smooth.

Add the remaining flour and knead until silky for about 10 minutes. If it gets too sticky add a little bit more of flour and knead on.

Cover with a cotton cloth and leave in the bowl for about an hour or two. It should double its size again.

Once the dough has risen, preheat the oven to 180°C and grease 2 baking tins with butter.

Take the dough out of the bowl and place on a lightly floured surface. Press gently down to remove the extra air from the dough. Divide the dough in two and then each of the halves into three parts. You will get 6 equal parts that will make 2 plaits. Stretch and roll each of the pieces until longer than the length of the baking tin. Gently gather three strands and start braiding. Once finished carefully place the challah bread in the baking tin and tuck in the edges. Repeat with the other loaf.

Leave to rise in a warm place for about 10 minutes.

In the meantime prepare the crumble by combining sugar, butter and flour.

Brush the challah with the egg yolk and sprinkle the crumble on. You could also use the traditional poppy seeds or both.

Place in the preheated oven and bake for 25 – 30 minutes.

challah bread

Serve freshly made with butter. I love to pair it with this home made plum spread.

challah bread

Enjoy and by all means keep away from the dog.

Sonia-signature

The First Winter of Baby Sonia

Baby It's Cold Outside

September 1979 was a start of a dull and rainy autumn that gradually turned into a long, frosty and snowy winter. Ela was on her maternity leave spending days and nights with baby Sonia, looking at her growing as the time went by. As every mother she had her ups and downs, her joys and her doubts trying to make sure that the baby was well and the world around hadn’t changed as much as it seemed.

Baby Notes Diary 1979 and 1980She kept a little diary – a red pocket notebook – where she wrote down – with love and wit – what the baby did, how the baby felt, what the baby ate and what everyone planned to be doing with the baby in the future.

Her granddad says he will buy her a pair of skates and that he will finally have someone to go ice-skating with. Her Dad says he will teach her how to swim and how to ski. 

Ela feeding baby SoniaI always tell her how cute she is when I feed her, though she probably doesn’t understand a lot. 

Sonia gets prettier every day. Her face gets rounder and you can notice she grew. She is now fast asleep in her cot covered with a blanket. She stretched her all 50-something-centimeter self up, put her arms above her head and spread her legs. Pure comfort!

I think she starts to get colic as she often cries after her feeds. I blow a little puffs at her belly then. I am not sure if it helps but she stops crying. 

What Baby Did

Sonia grows nicely and gains weight. She laughs and says “GAA” now. For the last month she has eaten the vegetable soup and all is going well. She loves when you carry her around  and opens her mouth with delight then. She has already outgrown her first baby clothes and got bigger and plumpier. I think she might be getting her first tooth out, as she drools and puts her little hands into her mouth. She also now gets apple puree and she has already learnt to swallow.

Notes from Diary January 1980
Notes from the diary – January 1980

Baby in her cotShe has now finished seven months and the baby has developed her moves. She is very lively and turns from back to front on her own. First, she walked around her cot and now moved onto exploring the carpet and floor. She has difficulties falling asleep and growls when she can’t sleep. 

Sonia makes funny faces and can roll her eyes. It’s very amusing. She looks like a little alien from another planet.

My little girl loves her pink winter suit. In general she likes wearing clothes she looks good in and she seems to be calmer and happier then. She doesn’t particularly like her pink bodysuit, though. My little fashionista. 

Winter Walks

Winter 1980 Spacer Bielsko Biala Zlote Lany

She spends lots of time outside on the walks. She has her morning walk with her Granny, her midday walk with me and if the weather is nice her afternoon walk with her Daddy. She has a lovely collection of clothes and loads of toys. She is a happy baby and laughs a lot or waves her arms as if she was fighting a windmill. I’m a bit worried she doesn’t sit yet, but she will learn in time. She  loves when I carry her around and grasps the curtains when she’s in my arms at the window. Sonia has beautiful blue eyes but is still a bit bald (her hair is very slow to grow).

Baby in her pram 1980

She puts everything in her mouth now, in particular she loves the Squirrel and the Duck. She is such a silly adorable baby. She loves “tidying up” the cupboards and drawers and throws everything on the floor. She is so lovely and cute. She doesn’t eat much – she must be watching her weight – a clever girl. She loves her baths and she splashes the whole place with water then. She must enjoy that much. She is such a precious little bundle of joy. 

A Winter Gift

On Monday, Grandfather got Sonia lovely sledge for the winter so that she can ride in style when the snow falls. The baby is unaware of all this at the moment but in a few weeks she will enjoy that a lot.Baby It's Cold OutsideSo here’s me going on my first snowy ride. Dressed up warm and tucked in tight as – well – baby it is cold outside.

Hope you are enjoying the winter too.

Sonia-signature

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Teatime for a rainy day

a stack of waffles

Some days are just made to stay at home. And for those type of days there is nothing easier than putting together a few pantry ingredients for a perfect teatime. Well, I have to admit that keeping some pre-made Eastern European thin and crisp waffles might not be a thing in every household, yet, I myself try to have a package in stock just in case I hear as random as spontaneous: “I feel like andrut. Will you make me some?” from my husband.

My mother in law – Wiesia – was famous for her andrut . She perfected the recipe and shared it kindly around. Unlike many other baking goods it was easy to make, easy to take on the go, easy to store and definitely easy to eat. For all these reasons she would often send or bring over andrut to Maciek when he was away studying providing a real feast for him and his fellow students.

waffles for teatimeTo me, there is certainly something about arranging layers while cooking that I find appealing. And it is surely the combination of flavours that work well together and complete each other that wins the crowd. Whenever I make those I like to take out the slightly old now and covered in coffee and butter stains piece of paper with the recipe that she typed and printed for all those who wanted to recreate the delightful bars at home.

homemade layered waffles collageLayered waffles – Polish Andrut

1 package (approx. 10 individual sheets) of pre-made Eastern European waffles

5 egg yolks

150 g  caster or icing sugar

250 g butter (softened at room temperature)

50 ml of strong coffee (made with 4 tsp of instant coffee)

50 ml calvados (or similar)

juice of 1 lemon

2 tbs of powdered instant milk

a stack of waffles

Prepare a “water bath” in a pot of simmering water. Place a metal bowl inside and cream together egg yolks with sugar until smooth and pale. Set aside. Once it cools down, add butter cut in chunks and blend in using a hand held mixer. As the mixture is smooth and silky add the instant milk powder and divide equally into two smaller bowls.

Now – spoon by spoon – add the flavours to the mixture. Add the juice of one lemon to the mixture in one bowl and the coffee infused with liquor to the other. You might not need to add the whole liquid but just make sure your mixtures are smooth and do not get lumpy.

Start arranging your layers. Spread the first layer of pre-made waffles with the coffee mixture then carefully place the next sheet of waffle on the top of it and cover with the lemon mixture. Keep adding the layers until the use all  the spread or all the waffles, or both. You should have no less than six layers – three of each type, but ideally if you end up with ten.

Once ready wrap the layered waffles in a baking parchment, put on a flat surface and place a baking tray or a book to press down. Leave for at least 6 but ideally 24 hours. Cut into little bars and serve.

Enjoy.waffle and a cup of tea

 

Sonia-signature

 

Walnut Crescent Biscuits

walnut-crescent-biscuits-3

This memory dates before the chocolate advent calendars and gingerbread thins and its nested safely in the early childhood flavours and cravings. It is one of those festive baking that gently signals that Christmas is near and yet there is plenty of time for more preparations. Zosia, my beloved grandmother, would usually start with a generous batch of those little crunchy biscuits and then day by day would add more, making sure there is enough to keep us going up until Christmas and beyond. Walnuts give the biscuits the texture, the flavour and the twist and because there were always walnuts galore at my grandparents house using them for baking seemed natural and practical.

Surely, it involved many trips to the attic where walnuts were stored and spread on meters of old newspapers to dry. Clearly, it required hours of cracking and grinding. Yet, definitely, it was worth time and effort.

walnut-crescent-biscuits-recipe

Most of Zosia’s recipes could be found in The Book. It is a thick, manila covered, tattered notebook with grease-stained yellowish pages that years ago must have been crisp and stiff. Zosia, being obviously a talented baker and knowing her way around the kitchen and the oven – would only scribble the gist of the recipe, i.e. the ingredients and the proportions. For a less experienced mind it could be baffling and challenging, which is why, my grandfather, Bronek, would rewrite some of the recipes for those well organized minds that need more instructions. I am so glad he did as many a time I would be struggling recreating Zosia’s famous and excellent creations. Luckily, the recipe for the walnut crescent biscuits appears in The Book in both versions, side by side. Once scribbled in a hasty manner and then neatly noted down in a beautiful handwriting.  Still, the proof of the recipe is in the baking so without further ado …

walnut-crescent-biscuits-recipe-2

Walnut Crescent Biscuits

100 g walnuts – ground (ideally in a walnut grinder)

200 g butter – soft and at room temperature

100 icing sugar, plus some more to sprinkle

250-300 g flour

1 tsp vanilla essence

egg white for brushing

walnut-crescent-biscuits-4

Preheat the oven to 180ºC and line a baking tray with baking paper.

Whisk together butter and icing sugar until light and pale.

Gradually add walnuts, vanilla essence and finally the flour. Mix until combined and smooth.

Take small ball of dough and roll to form little crescent slightly bigger than your index finger. Place on the baking tray and delicately pat it down.

Spread the crescents on the baking tray, brush with some egg white and put in the preheated oven for 10-15 minutes until golden – but not brown. Take out of the oven and leave to cool. Sprinkle generously with icing sugar and crunch on.

Sonia-signature

 

 

Dark and sweet

glazed pork chops

When the evenings are dark and I do not get back home before dusk I try to tame the gloom with lights, tealights and candles, and crave for something sweet. By sweet I do not necessary mean a bar of chocolate (though not saying it never happens) but a meal that has it all – including the rich dark and sweet flavours.

This is the dish that everyone enjoys and everyone asks for a recipe. It comes from one of my favourite and most used cook book – Home Cooked by Donal Skehan. It is a great combination of juicy pork and apples, sweet maple syrup and onions, tangy soy sauce and cider vinegar. It is quick to prepare and  makes a perfect workday meal, yet it is very refined and can be proudly served for Saturday dinner.

If you do not keep these staples at home anyway – this dish is definitely a reason to stock up with maple syrup, soy sauce and cider vinegar. I even persuaded my mum, who is not a big fan of maple syrup, into buying one and this dish is now one of my father-in-law’s favourites.

And since it is dark and gloomy outside, why not give it a go.

 

Glazed Pork Chops
from Donal Skehan Home Cooked

4 pork chops (with a good layer of rind on them)

1 red onion

4 tbs maple syrup

4 tbs apple juice

1 tbs apple cider vinegar

1 tbs soy sauce

1 tbs of butter

1 tbs of rapeseed oil

salt and pepper to taste

4 gem lettuce

glazed pork chops

Preheat the oven to a 190°C.

Pat dry the pork chops with kitchen paper and season with salt and pepper. In a frying pan (ideally a cast iron one that you can transfer into the oven) melt the butter with the oil. Gather the pork chops together and place on the pan with the rind side down so that it gets golden brown and crispy. You might need to hold the meat upwards with tongs while doing that.

Once the rind turns into crackling place each pork chop flat on the pan and fry until it gets golden brown on each side.

Finely slice the red onion and add to the meat. Keep frying for a minute or two so that the onion gets golden and sweet. Then add the apple juice, apple cider vinegar, soy sauce and maple syrup and give it a nice stir so that everything is combined and the chops are covered in the dark sweet sauce. Transfer to the oven and cook for 10 minutes.

In the meantime – prepare the gem lettuces. Cut each in half lengthwise, brush with a bit of the rapeseed oil and place on a preheated griddle. Grill on a high heat for about 2 minutes on each side until golden brown but still crispy and holding the shape.

Take the meat out of the oven and set aside to rest while you reduce the sauce so that it gets even darker, sweeter and stickier. Place each of the pork chops on the plate with the charred greens and add some generous spoon of the sauce. Sprinkle a dash of chopped spring onions and bring to the table to the absolute delight of everyone.

Depending on the season I like to pair it with roasted chestnuts – just like this time – roasted sweet potatoes or plain cooked baby potatoes.

glazed pork chops

Enjoy.

Sonia-signature

The Story of One Cinema

Kino Złote Lany i Hotel Magura Bielsko Biala

This is one of those stories that have no definite beginning nor ending. This is a story of a cinema that was built in the 70s, flourished in the 80s and 90s and vanished into oblivion in the noughties.

Kino Złote Lany i Hotel Magura Bielsko Biala
Kino Złote Łany. Image courtesy of BBFAN.pl

The cinema – Kino Złote Łany – was a part of a grand design that included adopting  the former  hilly golden crop fields into a huge modern estate that would be able to house and cater for thousands of people. Everything was supposed to be prodigious and profuse. Among the high buildings, schools, creches and other facilities – the cinema was the cherry on the top and was meant to bring quality leisure for all the hard working people living in the neighbourhood.

It was designed on a large scale with ample space and extensive features. A set of steps was leading to the vast partly sheltered entrance. When you entered the hall on your left and on your right you could see huge film posters behind the glass displays and once you were making your way to the ticket office along the glossy tiled floor it felt like the walk of fame.

bilet wstepu do kina 5.50 zl
a cinema ticket

Once you got your ticket and had it inspected and quite frequently asked for the ID, you climbed up the staircase onto the first floor. Behind the set of glass door was a spacious foyer with a cloakroom and a café – most of the times closed and unused but still waiting for the occasion to reveal its full potential.

The screening room was one of the kind – or so I thought – with walls furnished with dark wooden boards and long rows of seats with red geometrical pattern upholstery and wooden armrests. It was supposed to be fitted with a – back-then, of course – state of art sound system that apparently could and did blow the audience away.

A Twin Cinema – Kino Jubilat, Głogów. Photo: Darius Gut

Surely while there was a lot going on inside the cinema even the outside part of the wide-spread building was the place to be. The well-spaced steps, super smooth landing and little bordering walls  made one of the greatest spaces for skateboarding tricks. My teenage friends would spent hours here riding, popping ollies and being chased by the cinema ticket office ladies.

Unfortunately, there are very few pictures that could show what the cinema looked like. After scavenging my personal family archives and asking many friends for help as well as searching here here and here I was only able to find these few pictures to illustrate the story.

Kino Zlote Łany 1995
Image courtesy of http://www.beskidia.pl

Possibly one of the greatest moments for Kino Złote Łany was the national premiere screening of the Polish TV production Panna z mokrą głową. The venue was chosen to honour a young actress – Paulina – who played the leading role in the film and in real life, lived just a few minutes away. A cast of famous Polish actors, film executives and media all arrived to the little town in the south of Poland to celebrate the release. To me that was the high life as I knew it. The local school representation was invited and I was lucky enough to be there and even got onto the stage as a flower girl. All this splendour clearly required special measures and extra efforts so for the first time my 13-year-old self was wearing high heels. I borrowed them from my mum and practised walking up and down the hall the day before so that everything could go smoothly. And it did. The cinema was made for such events. The foyer filled with mingling people, the stage was perfect to host the celebrities, the steps looked great in camera flashes. The cinema grew bigger in our eyes.

I started going to the cinema at the age of seven when my parents brought me here to watch a family adventure fantasy called Podróże Pana Kleksa. Going to the cinema was the adventure itself, not to mention watching in the dark and looking at the huge screen. I was so impressed and intrigued I demanded more. As the cinema was just a few minutes away any time I passed it by I would check the posters and if any was colorourful and possibly involved fantastic creatures I would nag for the tickets.

I was dazzled with the animations I got to see at Gremlins and Howard the Duck and held my breath and bite my nails watching their adventures. I even secretly dreamed that my godfather might bring me a Gizmo-type creature from his trips to China.

A few years later – and this time as a part of cinema school trips – I was keen to follow the never ending battle of good and evil in the comic strip adaptations of Batman and Dick Tracy.

I cried there watching The Lion King. I remember it so well as it was the first movie I ever cried at and one of the very few in the years to come. I guess,  I was this sort of pretend toughed-up person who would hardly ever cry at the cinema and was consciously looking around to see others sobbing. At least – up until I met my husband who was able to change that little hitch of mine.

As a teenager I would spend many many evenings, and lots of my pocket money too – in front of the big screen watching new releases, old good classics and independent productions. Every Monday me and my friends would rush for the cinema club – DKF – not really knowing what would be on and whether we would like what we were watching, yet very happy to be taken on the journey. Two of those films I remember particularly well – The Big Blue and The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.

There was some unspoken magic of watching the big blue ocean on the big screen and I felt utterly submerged and deeply moved. I also remember how we felt discovering the vibrant and colourful world on the other side in The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. It definitely opened our eyes and started a discussion that in turn opened our minds.

It was also on that big screen that I watched the original trilogy of the Star Wars as the episodes IV, V and VI were re-released in the anticipation of the prequel series. We made it slightly more American by bringing in (or actually smuggling in) freshly home made popcorn and cold canned coke.

bilet wstepu do kina 8 zlI never went to the cinema alone. It always seemed  more of a social event – a group outing, a friends get together, a date, a girls night out … It was sharing the experience and sharing the opinions afterwards that made it real quality time.

My boyfriend and I would have endless discussion of “What would you do” after watching Before Sunrise – one of my favourite romantic movies.

For my 19th birthday myself and my friend dressed up and put full make up on. I even got myself my first red lipstick for the occasion. All that to go to the cinema, sit in the red chairs and watch Lolita together.

Lolita Cinema Flyer

Funny enough, Shrek was the last film I saw there. A bit of a weird choice of a movie for a twenty year old, I realize. Yet, to think of it, what a great sum-up of all my adventures at Kino Złote Łany it was. A mixture of great animations, cute talking creatures, engaging plot and every day, every man and every princess problems.

Myself and my husband-yet-to be were home from the universities for the summer holidays and got us free tickets from the local magazine – Kronika Beskidzka. You did not have to do much to get those. Just be there first before the ticket office opened. We arrived way too early leaving no chance, claimed the tickets, watched the film and … lived happily ever after.

Shrek Bilet do kina Zlote Lany z Kroniki Beskidzkiej

Sadly enough, there was no happy ending for the cinema and the next time we came home it was just not there anymore. It was one of those changes that strikes you and makes you realize some things will never be the same and a certain chapter closed. It feels sad that there was no room for the cinema with a difference in my hometown. There is an undeniable charm in those old cinemas that do not have a cup holder in their seats and do not urge you with meal deals at the ticket office.  Fortunately, there are a good few survivors that managed to prosper against all odds and you can find more stories of old cinemas in the new multiplex world here. Apparently, there is a twin cinema – with same architecture and interior design in Głogów and I now added it to my bucket list of things to go.

Kino Jubilat Głogów
A Twin Kino Jubilat, Głogów, Poland

For Kino Złote Łany, however, the story finished when it was put up on sale and converted into a convenience store. It is a sore sight now and I shiver any time I happen to pass by as I still keep comparing the before and after images. Just see for yourself – the first picture that I found here shows the cinema right before closing, while the other two I recently took for the purpose of this post.

Kino Zlote Lany 2002
Photo: Rafal Stec

WhereMaguraHotelAndKinoZloteLanyUsedToBe

WhereMaguraHotelAndKinoZloteLanyUsedToBe

I want to send special thanks to all who were so kind to help on this post, searched for photos and shared the stories.

And if you have your cinema story, please share it with me.

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Of Plums

plums-in-basket

I simply love how September blends summer into autumn and slowly brings the inevitable change of seasons. It lets the summer linger while mornings bring first frost and evenings cover with mist. Until one day you can actually feel the crispy air in your lungs and you know that the autumn has fully arrived.

There is nothing more luring than the early autumn garden. The warm palette of colours.  The sun-kissed grass. The trees laden with plums, pears and apples. It is one of those childhood memories that I cherish for life. I would be five or six and I would be playing in the garden and any time I felt peckish I could just pick a fruit or two right from the tree.

The picture below shows little Ela picking plums. Or maybe some other fruit. It is really hard to tell as Ela would, and apparently still does, call any fruit plum.

girl-picking-plums

Later on, I might not be playing in the garden anymore but I would still pick random fruit right from the tree. And plum tree in particular. I developed a distinctive taste for late September plums. Those small, dark and slightly frost bitten plums that might be even wrinkled on the outside but are nothing but rich and sweet inside. While I would have them freshly picked with Earl Grey Tea, my granny, Zosia, would make them into a decadent slow cooked jam that I could  shamelessly eat all. Kind of like in This Is Just to Say poem by William Carlos Williams.

plums poemFor many years it has been my guilty pleasure to eat the whole jar of plum jam. Spoon after spoon. I was solely responsibly for making sure that those dozens of jars filled with plum jam would not go to waste and that there is none left before the winter is gone. Not that my granny minded. She would gladly spend early mornings in the kitchen to stock up the pantry. Somehow I always thought it was a very complicated recipe and after Zosia died I never imagined making it myself. It was only recently when I came across the recipe in the old family cookbook and found out that it isn’t complicated at all. I also learnt that it is actually so much less guilty pleasure than I ever thought as there’s very little sugar and the so called “frying” is in fact slow cooking. All you need for this Pantry Perfect recipe is plums, sugar and lots and lots of time.

plums-in-basket

Slow Cooked Plum Jam

3-4 kg of plums

a few tbs of sugar

The following recipe comes from our old family cookbook Kuchnia Śląska (Cieszyńskiego) by Emilia Kołder.

plums-jamThe best time to make the plum jam is at the end of September or the start of October when the plums are the sweetest. Make sure to use the small oval blueish plums ( I got my węgierki  from the local Polish store). It is fine if they’re wrinkled as the flavour and sweetness are even better.

Day One

Wash, dry and pit the plums.

Place the plums is a big and rather wide heavy bottom pot. You might grease the pot with butter to avoid the plums sticking. A wide pot will help to reduce the liquid and the mixture will get thicker more quickly.

Very gently bring to boil stirring the plums with a wooden spoon. You will not need any water or sugar as the plums are juicy enough. Just keep stirring to make sure the plums won’t stick to the bottom of the pot.

Simmer and stir for 2 – 3 hours. As you stir you will break the plums and will see the mixture steam. The plums will start to reduce and get darker thicker.

Day Two

Leave to cool till the next day and then repeat the process of simmering and stirring for another 2 – 3 hours. The plums will reduce and thicken again.

Day Three

On the third day repeat the process again. Keep an eye on the pot and keep stirring as the mixture is now very thick and sticky. At the end of the slow cooking taste and add as much sugar as you think is needed. The sweeter the plums the less sugar you will need. You might not even add the sugar at all. Simmer and stir for another 10 minutes then turn off the heat and leave to cool a bit.

Fill the sterilized jars with the jam and place in a warm oven – 100°C / gas mark ¼ – for about 1 hour. That will preserve the jam.

plums-spread

The plum spread is great with rolls, brioches or challah and will bring some summer sweetness to your breakfast table.

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