Category Archives: Eastern European food

Leftovers Povitica (or, Thanksgiving Loaf and Crazy Cupboard Loaf)

This was another post made possible by Sainsbury’s. They’re such enablers. They asked me to come up with and blog these recipes in exchange for vouchers. 


I’d been considering making another batch of povitica. It is a time consuming project, no doubt about it, but the end results are really striking, and besides, it had been a couple of years since I made any. So, when Sainsbury’s asked me to pitch an idea for recipes to use up leftover turkey and leftover chocolate, the idea of povitica resurfaced.




I made one turkey and stuffing povitica – otherwise christened Thanksgiving Loaf – and one loaf that used up all kinds of things I had lying in the baking cupboard. There were three kinds of leftover chocolate, half a bag of walnuts, a third of a bag of coconut… you know the sort of thing. I’ll list out exactly what I used a bit later, but what this recipe development really taught me was that you can throw almost anything in this loaf, and it’ll come out delicious. Plus, if you’re making it to share, you can be pretty goshdarn sure that nobody else will be bringing the same thing. If you have some time to devote to it, povitica is an awesome potluck contribution to make.


Let’s talk about the process for making this swirly loaf. It starts out like a normal bread. You make and rise the dough as usual – the dough is enriched with eggs, sugar and butter, and I made mine with extra strong bread flour. Once it’s risen, you stree-e-eeeetch it out on the table, until it’s as close to see-through as you can get it. Then you spread on your chosen filling, roll it all up like a swiss roll, and fold it into a loaf pan. A short second rise happens while you heat the oven, then you bake for around an hour. Done! It sounds easy enough, right?


Here’s a slideshow of the steps, showing the dough being first rolled, then stretched out, topped, and rolled up. It also shows you more of my flat than you would usually see – yes, that’s a TV in the background. Don’t judge me for having a TV in the kitchen, it’s an open plan living room/kitchen arrangement.

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If truth be told, I didn’t stretch the dough to the very max, but I did get it pretty thin. You can kind of see in this photo – the colour of the sheet underneath it is almost visible, as is my hand. Using a very strong bread flour means that there is more gluten, which in turn means you can stretch out the dough thinner without it breaking.


Povitica 036 2


Now that we all know what povitica is, and we’ve had an overview on the method, let’s get down to the recipe. The recipe for the dough comes courtesty of The Daring Kitchen.

Confession: I didn’t roast a whole turkey and then use the leftovers for this loaf.

Bread Dough (makes two loaves):

  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp plain flour
  • 60 ml warm water
  • 1 tbsp dry yeast
  • 240 ml whole milk
  • 85 g sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 60 g unsalted butter, melted
  • 600 – 750g very strong bread flour
  • oil or melted butter for stretching out


First, activate the yeast. Mix the sugar, plain flour, water and yeast in a small bowl, and leave for ten minutes to foam up.

While the yeast is bubbling, heat the milk up to just below boiling, stirring constantly so that a film does not form on the top of the milk and it doesn’t burn at the bottom of the pot. When it gets hot enough it will start to shimmer and shake a little, with wisps of steam rising from it, and at that point you can remove it from the heat. Let it cool for five minutes.

When the yeast is ready, mix the scalded milk, the sugar and the salt until combined. The sugar and  salt will dissolve.

Add the beaten eggs, yeast, melted butter, and 300g of flour. Mix thoroughly – you will have a gloopy batter in the bowl. That’s OK. Slowly – a scoop at a time – add more flour, mixing well after each addition. Eventually you’ll have something that resembles a soft dough, which clears the sides of the bowl. You might not have used all of the flour.

Turn the dough out onto floured surface and knead, gradually adding flour a little at a time, until smooth and does not stick. Now, this step does rely on a bit of bread making experience. If you add too much flour, the bread will be dry. If you don’t add enough, it won’t hold together when you try to stretch it. That said, it’s better to err on the side of not enough flour. I used the full 750g this time, but it does depend on egg size and weather conditions, as well as the absorbency of your flour, how much it will take. Always add it slowly, and knead really well between additions. A dough scraper is really handy to keep the surface clean.

When your dough is ready, it will still be slightly tacky to the touch, but it will no longer stick to the work surface.  You will be able to form it into a ball with a taut, smooth surface. When you pinch up a big bit of the dough, you will be able to gently encourage it to stretch out so thin that you can see light through it.

Split the dough into two even pieces, and place each in an oiled bowl, in a warm place, to rise for about 90 minutes.


Make your filling while the dough is rising. Here are the fillings I used.


Povitica 013


Turkey and Stuffing Filling:

  • 18 cocktail size sausages
  • 4 overgrown spring onions (yep, those are spring onions!)
  • few sprigs sage
  • 4 – 8 tbsp white wine, stock or water (or a mix thereof)
  • 4 slices smokey bacon
  • salt and pepper
  • 300g cooked turkey meat


Pop the sausages out of their casings, and into the bowl of a food processor. Add the sage, and slice up the spring onion – white and green parts – and add that, too. Add 4 tbsp of whatever liquid you have to hand, and process until the meat forms a thick paste.

Chop the bacon into squares, and add to the food processor. Add more liquid if it’s too thick. Pulse a few times to incorporate the bacon without cutting it up too finely.

If you want to check the seasoning before adding anything, heat a frying pan, and fry off half a spoonful of stuffing mixture, flattening it out into a wee burger shape. When it’s cooked through, you can have a taste and decide if it needs any further salt or pepper.



Povitica Sweet Ingredients


Cupboard Leftovers Filling

  • 50g milk chocolate chips
  • Half a bar dark chocolate
  • 100g walnuts, crushed to a coarse crumb
  • 70g (ish) cream cheese
  • 1.2 jar (ish) blackcurrant jam
  • 50g dessicated coconut
  • 4 biscuits, crushed to crumbs
  • 4 squares white chocolate

I melted the milk and dark chocolate together, then stirred in the walnuts.

I also combined the cream cheese with enough jam to make a thick, full-flavoured spread.

These two mixtures were alternated across the dough, when it was ready. The coconut, biscuit crumbs and white chocolate (which I grated) were scattered over the top.

The point of this loaf is that you can use whatever you have lying around – combining a couple of different fillings makes the loaf more interesting, as with every bite you get a new flavour.


Back to the dough…

Once the dough is risen, place it on top of a clean sheet on your table. You will need lots of room to work, and the sheet will help you to roll the bread up at the end.

Roll the dough out with your hands and a rolling pin, at first. Once it’s about 10 x 12 inches, you’re ready to start stretching the dough out. Spray the surface of the dough with a neutral oil, or brush with melted butter. Then, working from the middle, lift and stretch the dough out, working your way from one corner to the next, and stretching each side equally. Try to keep the dough in a rectangle shape as you go.

Once the dough is thin enough to see the sheet through it, you’re ready to apply the filling.


For the Turkey and Stuffing Loaf:

Drop large spoonfuls of the stuffing across the surface of the stretched out dough, trying to keep them even. Flatten, spread and join up these dollops with the back of a spoon, until the whole dough is covered evenly.

Scatter the turkey over the top, and press down. Spend a few minutes lifting individual pieces and putting them in places there’s a gap (this step is optional, but I couldn’t help myself from doing it).

Roll the dough and arrange in a loaf tin as shown in the pictures above.


For the Cupboard Leftovers Loaf:

Spoon alternating heaps of chocolate and cream cheese mixture onto the dough, then flatten and spread out very thinly until the whole surface is covered. Scatter over biscuit crumbs, coconut and grated white chocolate.

Roll and arrange in a tin as above.


Cover the loaf tins and set somewhere nice and warm, to plump up.


Heat the oven to 180C. When ready, put the loaves in and bake for 15 minutes.

After the 15 minutes is up, check the loaves to make sure they’re not too browned, then lower the oven temperature to 150C and bakc for about another 40 minutes.

If the tops start to brown too much, cover with tinfoil.

Take out of the oven, and allow to completely cool before slicing. This helps the bread hold its shape.




You will be rewarded for your patience with some amazing swirls of colour and flavour inside each loaf.

As I mentioned, you can use any filling you like the sound of. The traditional filling is either walnut-based, or made with poppyseeds. A quick search brings up tons of varieties for you to browse through.

I took both loaves to work, and while people were at first unsure about the idea of a turkey and stuffing loaf, it disappeared in no time flat. Next time I’d consider putting some mashed potatoes and gravy in there, making a full meal of it… But I might be waiting a couple of years to make another. It’s a labour of love, after all.





Fillet of Beef with Stroganoff Cream – the Total Recipe Treasure Hunt

Those sneaky chaps at Total Greek Yoghurt are running a treasure hunt. AVAST, ME HEARTIES! Now, you know I couldn’t resist a good treasure hunt so I stepped forward to be involved, and because I am probably the only pirate who did so I was selected to join in. GAHAHAHAHAAAARRRRR!

Total Greek Yoghurt may now be regretting that decision. I hope not, though, because I’m pretty excited to be part of their campaign. If you check out the Total Eating section of their site, you’ll see that they have packed their pages quite full of yoghurt. Um. That is not the way it was phrased in the bloggers’ brief… There are 1000 (not a typo, literally 1000) new recipes for you to try, all featuring their authentic, actually made in Greece, Greek yoghurt. The skill levels range from just mixing to full on cooking and baking, so you will definitely be able to find something that takes your fancy and fits your time budget.

I am a blogger, you know, we say things like ‘time budget’ and get away with it. Forget about that, here’s the link to the Treasure Hunt, and a pirate COW.



As part of this campaign to get people trying new ways with yoghurt (steady on), they have hidden 30 different recipes around the internet for you to track down. The more of the recipes you find, the more chances you have of winning their Facebook competition. Top prize is £800 worth of kitchen kit, selected by top chef Paul Merret. Have a look here to see what the kit includes – there’s some great stuff in there. There are also two runners up prizes of VictorinOx Knife sets, worth £100 each. The stakes are high, folks (no pun intended), so get your treasure maps out and start hunting.


The recipe I chose to make is Fillet of Beef with Stroganoff Cream. Total sent me the ingredients to make this elegant Sunday dinner (minus the brandy, I think maybe they didn’t trust me with brandy) and I set to it! Here is there photo of the recipe:


Click through to get to the Total Greek Yoghurt site


Doesn’t it look beautiful? Now here is mine:



I just couldn’t live up to their standards. I did my best though. I cooked the steaks really rare, which is how I like them, and served with some simple, boiled new potatoes with black pepper and butter. Here’s the recipe, which I have amended from my own experience to serve two:


  • 150g Total Greek Yoghurt, or more to taste
  • 2 fillet steaks
  • 1 big shallot, finely diced
  • 2 gherkins, cut into strips
  • 25ml brandy
  • 1 small clove garlic, crushed
  • 1 tbsp paprika
  • 100g button mushrooms, sliced. The original recipe suggests 100g for four people, but I really love mushrooms.


Method (again, amended from my own experience):

  1. Season the steaks with a pinch of salt and a drizzle of olive oil, then fry over a medium- high heat for 2 minutes on each side. Adding the oil to the steaks is a sure way to stop them from sticking, rather than adding the oil to the pan.
  2. Remove the steaks from the pan and set aside on a plate.
  3. Put the pan back on the heat and lightly fry the shallots, garlic and mushrooms in the combined olive oil and meat juices from the steaks. That’s one of my favourite sentences. Once cooked, add the brandy and gherkins. The brandy will sizzle in a very satisfying way. Hold one arm up in the air as you shake the pan, and pretend that you are a chef.
  4. Add the paprika and yoghurt to the pan and gently heat. The recipe on the site does say ‘bring to a boil’ but I must admit to having had limited success with boiling the yogurt. Better to heat it gently and let it melt in among the other ingredients to make a creamy sauce.
  5. Return the meat and any collected juices to the sauce and cook the meat as preferred – I probably gave mine another two minutes on each side? I was a bit distracted by trying to rescue my boiled yoghurt from its curdled oblivion.
  6. Serve with spuds, rice, pasta or bread, as you prefer.


The key thing about boiling the yoghurt was that it did curdle and separate. I should have known this would happen, but it was easy to rescue. I simply added some more, cold yoghurt and mixed together; it wasn’t perfectly smooth, I’ll admit it, but it was much improved. I found that by the time the steaks were cooked, I needed to add more yoghurt anyway to create a lovely sauce; in fact, I left it quite thick, and used it as a base for the meat instead of pouring it over the top. You can choose whichever consistency you prefer, just make sure you have a little yoghurt on hand to add if you need it, and don’t crank the heat up under it too far, especially if your yoghurt is coming straight from the fridge.

Try this recipe out, or one of the other thousand (still not a typo) at the Total Greek Yoghurt site, and good luck with the treasure hunt!


Total sent me the ingredients to make this recipe, as mentioned above, but I received no other compensation for writing this post. I put myself forward to join in the competition because it sounded like fun, and Total Greek Yoghurt is a product I have used before and will use again. That is all.

The Daring Bakers Challenge May 2012 – Challah

 May’s Daring Bakers’ Challenge was pretty twisted – Ruth from The Crafts of Mommyhood challenged us to make challah! Using recipes from all over, and tips from “A Taste of Challah,” by Tamar Ansh, she encouraged us to bake beautifully braided breads.


Edit – for ALL the lowdown on challah, visit Ruth’s blog The Crafts of Mommyhood. She gives the history of challah, info about the significance of different methods of braiding, three recipes and even videos on how to braid the different loaves. She is an inspiration and a great Daring Baker!

I’ve been meaning to try challah (you don’t pronounce the c, if you were wondering) for some time. I love the look of it, but until now I didn’t know that there were so many different ways to braid a challah. The braids I tried were six strand braids, though you can also do a simpler three strand braid, a four strand braid or a really fancy round braid. I did want to try a round loaf this month but, alas, the time ran away with me! So much so, in fact, that my post is a day late. Tsk tsk.

I chose to make the Honey White recipe that was provided, which you can find here at Tammy’s Recipes.

My first attempt didn’t go too well… I didn’t add enough flour to the dough, which made it very soft and a bit, well… runny. Here are some photos, though I sort of gave up after it went in the oven so I don’t have a finished product photo!

The first challah dough after rising

The dough deflated a lot after punching down – it was very fragile

The dough was so elastic that as I rolled it out it just stretched and stretched, meaning that the strands I was braiding were growing as I worked with them. I thought I might never reach the end of them, like trying to drink a cup of tea in the rain. I rolled it into the scroll shape because it was a bit unmanageable by the time I was finished, and I rather liked the effect. It could have been a lovely loaf, if it hadn’t been so relaxed. It was still a nice bread, though a bit on the thin side. There was certainly lots of it – that was only using half the recipe.

I tried the same recipe again but adding more flour to get a tauter, firmer dough. This attempt went much better and kept its shape beautifully as I shaped and braided it.

This is the dough before rising – much more firm

I did a six strand braid, which was fun to pull together. I’m an old hand at the three strand braid, having had lots of toy ponies as a child whose tails I would braid. In fact any scarves I own that have tassels on the end get braided over and over again if I happen to be at a loose end. Bus journeys see a lot of braiding, for example. The six strand braid was a fun challenge – you start from the left and go over two, under one and over the last two, then repeat until you run out of space. Then you tuck the narrow ends under and let the challah rise for a little while before glazing and baking.

I happened to have run out of eggs, so I brushed the loaf with oil before scattering with sesame seeds. It didn’t give the lovely lacquered, deep coloured finish that you usually see on challah but I liked the end result all the same.

The close up shows the stripes in the finished loaf, which I think are made by the dough stretching as it rises. Stretch marks have never been so appetising.

I really enjoyed making challah. The bread itself is soft and rich and it kept me in sandwiches (tiny sandwiches) for a while. It wasn’t as yellow in colour as I’d expected, but I know there are hundreds of different recipes for challah available and some will include more eggs, or just egg yolks, to give that really deep colour. It was also quite a sweet bread, with the honey in the recipe – next on the list is a wholewheat challah, I’m looking forward to trying a more savoury version.

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