Tag Archives: romanian

Romanian Cozonac, Hungarian Kalacs/Beigli or Ukrainian Babka

Whether you call it cozonac, kalacs/beigli, or babka, this sweet bread filled with ground nuts (usually walnuts), poppy seeds, raisins or even rahat/lokum (a gummy middle eastern candy known in the west as ‘Turkish delight’) is served at Easter and Christmas in many eastern European countries. I can’t remember my mom ever making this though, knowing her difficulties with yeast based baking, it’s unlikely. However, I HAVE eaten it at Romanian and Hungarian church and community center bake sales.

Poppy seed isn’t a filling I’ve used often so I thought I’d give it a try for a change of pace. I bought a fresh, one pound bag at the grocery store, even though I’ve got a couple pounds, at least, in the freezer downstairs. I’m not quite sure how long it’s been there. Several years at least, I think, so I didn’t want to take a chance that the poppy seeds were stale.

I followed the shaping instructions on one of the web sites I researched which said to fold in the ends of the roll but I wasn’t happy with the ‘knobs’. Next time, I’ll risk the filling oozing out and leave them open.

The end piece … dough is nice and fluffy, or as they say in Romanian, pufos.

Cozonac cu Mac (Cozonac Filled with Poppy Seed) – 1.14 kg (2 1/2 lb) of dough, makes 2 11 by 14 inch rolls

For the Filling

200 gm ground poppy seeds
100 gm of sugar
150 ml of milk
1 tsp butter
1 pkt vanilla sugar
1 tbsp of lemon zest (reduce to 1 tsp)

For the Dough

4-5 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 cup milk, warmed to 80 deg F
2 tsp active dry yeast
3 eggs, 1 egg divided
2 tbsp butter, softened
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 tbsp freshly grated lemon zest (optional)
1 tsp salt

NOTE (12/10/2017): used ~2 tsp grated lemon zest, increased butter to 4 tbsp, used close to 5 cups of flour

Making the Filling

Mix the ground poppy seeds, milk, butter and sugar and bring to the boil over medium heat. Cook until a creamy composition is obtained, about 5 min, while stirring constantly. Add vanilla and lemon peel and leave to cool.

Making the Dough

In a large bowl, mix together 1 1/2 cup of flour, warm milk, sugar, and yeast. Cover the mixture and place it in a warm place for 25-30 minutes, until bubbly.

Separate ONE of the eggs, placing the white in a separate bowl and setting it aside. (White is whisked until frothy and used later to brush the bread before it goes into the oven.)

Once the flour and yeast mixture is nice and bubbly, mix in the 2 eggs and one egg yolk.

Add 2 1/2 cups of flour, the soft butter, vanilla, lemon zest and salt. Mix until the dough starts to come together. Then, turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead it until it is smooth and elastic, 8-10 minutes, adding only as much of the remaining 1 cup of flour as is necessary to keep it from sticking to your hands.

(Alternately, you can mix the dough in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook for 2-3 minutes, until it is smooth and elastic, adding flour as necessary to keep it from sticking to the sides of the bowl.)

Place the dough into a clean, well greased bowl and cover it with a damp tea towel. Let the dough rise in a warm, draft free place until it has roughly tripled in bulk, about 1 1/2-2 hours.

Once the dough has risen, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead it a few times. Divide the dough in half.

Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured working surface and roll out into a rectangle about 11 inches by 14 inches. Spread with half the poppy seed filling to 1/2 an inch from the edge.

Roll the dough and place onto a parchment lined baking sheet. Repeat with the second portion of dough and filling.

Cover with a lightly oiled sheet of food wrap or a damp towel and let rise until doubled.

Preheat the oven to 375 deg F.

Beat the reserved egg white and brush over each of the two loaves. Bake for 45-50 minutes until set and the top is golden brown. Check after 15-20 minutes and if the top seems to be browning too quickly, cover with a large sheet of aluminum foil and continue baking. Rotate the baking sheet half way through the bake.

Let cool completely before cutting.

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Re-post of Old Standbys

PICSPAM BELOW:

Sometimes I just don’t have the energy to research/cook/post new recipes. So I dig out the tried and true recipes of the past. Pork is featured in some form in almost everything below, except for the chili.

Like pork crackling biscuits.

I use bacon fat instead of lard or butter for the lamination.

You don’t need to cross-hatch the top of the dough before cutting out the biscuits, but it does make them pretty.

Ham and bean (pinto) soup flavoured with bay leaves and thyme

Chili topped tostadas

Debrecener (Hungarian style pork) smoked sausages served over sauteed coleslaw flavoured with balsamic vinegar

Sometimes I just fry the sliced sausage rings and serve them with fried eggs and cottage cheese for breakfast.

Pizzas made with Greek flatbread

… or with my regular white bread/pizza dough. Half of the dough was used to make a 12 inch diameter pepperoni, mozzarella and fresh basil pizza and the rest was shaped into buns for work lunches.

Nice fluffy crumb in the pizza crust

Underside of the buns – baked for 20 minutes at 400 deg F then basted with melted butter

Tocană or What’s in a Name?

I remember my mom making a lot of stews when I was growing up because she could use ‘filler’ vegetables, especially potatoes, to stretch a small amount of meat to feed a hungry family of four, with lots of leftovers. Tocană was the word she used instead of stew, however, because, like many immigrants, she interspersed her English with a lot of Romanian words. I was never quite sure what they meant, and, sadly, didn’t always ask, but I managed to figure out the meaning of most of the words, in the context in which they were used.

PS: ‘Zamaă (zeamă)‘ was another tricky Romanian word, which meant ‘soup’, but seemed stew-like to me. Amusingly, in later years, the word ‘soupă’ became part of our family lexicon. And then there were ‘ciorbă’ and ‘bors’ which are types of soups. I may go into that in a future post.

When my brother married a Canadian-born Hungarian girl, she brought other food words into our conversations. Some were very familiar. Like ‘tokány’ which was similar enough to the Romanian word for a stew. But ‘porkolt‘ also refers to a stew. As does ‘paprikash’.

Porkolt, paprikash, and tokany … makes your head spin, doesn’t it? And then there’s ‘goulash’ which can be a soup OR a stew. But I won’t get into that in this post.

Romanian cooking terms almost seem easy in comparison. At least to me, they do.

Romanian pork stew with cornmeal mush and a fried egg

In my recent internet searches, I’ve learned that tocană ‘usually’ refers to a mutton/lamb stew. But my mom has never liked mutton so her tocană was usually made with pork, which seems to be the go-to Romanian meat. Beef was very rarely served at our house as it was not something my mom was that comfortable cooking, to be honest. (You do NOT want to know how she cooked a frozen t-bone steak.)

Anyway, getting back to the tocană, I debated on making a chicken (pui/gaina refering to a chicken/hen) or even a mushroom stew, but I settled for what I felt most comfortable cooking … a pork stew or ‘tocană cu carne de porc’.

One final language aside. Tocană is what you get in a restaurant. Tocăniță (the diminutive form, like saying ‘little tocană’)  is what your mom makes at home … with love.

Romanian pork stew with mashed potatoes

Tocăniță cu carne de porc (Romanian Pork Stew) – serves 3-4

600 gm pork, neck preferred but a boneless pork loin* works as well
2 tbsp finely diced pork fat or vegetable oil
1 large onion, small dice
1-2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 medium carrot, small dice**
1/2 medium sweet pepper (red, yellow or orange), small dice**
1/2 cup chicken stock or water, more water as needed
1 tbsp sweet pepper paste or 1 tbsp sweet paprika
1 teaspoon hot pepper paste or harissa or gochujang
1/2 teaspoon dried summer savoury or thyme
1/2 teaspoon salt, to start
1/4 teaspoon pepper

Optional: 3-4 small potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes

Garnish: 1/4 cup chopped parsley leaves

* As my pork loin was pretty lean, I added about 2 tbsp of finely chopped pork fat trimmed from a pork shoulder, after I had seared it for red chile pulled pork

** This dish was often made in the winter when fresh vegetables weren’t available. Frugal housewives would dry and coarsely grind up various vegetables and use them in their soups and stews. If you have access to a dry vegetable soup mix, use 1-2 tsp, I used the carrots and sweet peppers instead.

Cut up the pork meat into 1/2-3/4 inch cubes.

In a dutch oven, over medium-high heat, render the fat and use it to fry the pork, for about 10 minutes or until it starts to brown. Remove the meat to a bowl and reserve.

Reduce the heat to medium, add the onion and cook until it softens, about 10 minutes. Add the carrots and sweet peppers and the garlic and cook for a few more minutes. Add the thyme, sweet pepper paste and the hot pepper paste and stir into the vegetables. Cook for another minute or so to cook the ‘raw’ taste out of the spices and liven up the herbs.

Add the chicken stock and use it to scrape up the fond (browned bits of flavour) on the bottom of the dutch oven. Add the browned pork, salt and pepper and bring the mixture to a boil. Your meat and vegetables should be just barely covered by liquid. If needed add up to a cup of water, cover with the lid and cook for about 30 minutes at medium heat. Check the meat for tenderness. It should fall apart and the mixture should not be dry but there should be a ‘sauce’ surrounding the meat and vegetables. If needed add some more water and continue cooking the pork with the lid on.

If using potatoes, add the cubed potatoes at this point, another cup of water or as needed to cover the potatoes, and about 1/2 tsp more salt, put the lid back on and cook for an additional 30 minutes. Taste for seasoning. If you like a bit more heat, add more hot pepper paste.

When ready, sprinkle fresh chopped parsley over the top of the stew.

Serve with cornmeal mush/polenta or mashed potatoes (mamaligă sau piure de cartofi) if not using potatoes in the stew. Slices of a crusty bread are a tasty accompaniment to sop up any extra juices.

For a one bowl meal, stir diced boiled potatoes into your finished pork stew. This gives you the option of serving the stew itself in various ways and stew without the potatoes freeze better as the thawed potatoes don’t get too mealy.

Mexican Street Corn and another try at Mititei/Mici

I set aside a couple of the grilled corn on the cob from last week’s barbecue and finally got around to making the dish I had planned … Mexican Street Corn.

It’s a remarkably easy dish which can add flavour and moisture even to corn that’s no longer at its peak in terms of flavour and texture because it’s been sitting in your fridge for a day or three longer that it should have. Incidentally, the result tasted SO good, I wish I had more grilled corn available.

Mexican Street Corn – serves 2

2 grilled corn on the cob
1 tbsp mayonnaise or Miracle Whip
1 tbsp sour cream
1 tbsp fresh herb or herb mixture (cilantro, parsley, oregano, thyme, mint**), julienned
1/2 – 1 tsp lime zest
several shakes each smoked or regular paprika and cayenne pepper
salt and pepper to taste

Garnishes
1-2 tbsp grated cheese (manchego, asiago, Parmesan, Romano**)
1 tbsp sliced green onion
paprika, to taste
lime wedges

** I used mint leaves and the Romano cheese

Combine the mayonnaise, sour cream, paprika, cayenne pepper, fresh herbs and lime zest, stir and refrigerate covered for at least one hour to allow the flavours to meld together.

Brush the mixture on all sides of the warm corn on the cob. A silicone pastry brush will help to load the thick mixture onto the corn and help spread it out.

Sprinkle on the cheese, green onion and more paprika to taste. Squeeze the lime wedge over your corn just before eating.

This is my second attempt at making these skinless Romanian sausages called “mititei” or “mici”. (The Serbian version is called “cevapcici” or “cevapi” and uses equal parts ground beef and pork.)

I used a package seasoning mix which contained: garlic powder, salt, onion powder, summer savory, MSG, ground black pepper, ground coriander, bicarbonate of soda, ground caraway seeds as well as a bunch of preservatives.

As suggested on the package, I added the contents to 1 kg of ground beef along with 50 mls of cold water, and hand mixed it for about 10 minutes, though 15 minutes might have been better, but I got bored. If you have a stand blender with a dough hook, it will save you both time and effort. I portioned the meat into 50 gm amounts and then shaped it into 3 inch sausages using wet hands.

Grilling on the barbecue would have been the best way to cook the sausages but I didn’t want to fire it up, so it preheated a cast iron frying pan to med-hot, seasoned with about a tbsp of vegetable oil. I browned the sausages on all sides and then finished the sausages in a 375 deg F oven for 15 minutes. I think 10 minutes would have been plenty as a lot of liquid came out and the resulting sausages were drier than I would have liked.

Served with salad as part of a meal or as a snack with mustard or tzatziki sauce on tortilla wraps, they were very tasty but I know the next trial, with my own seasoning mixture, will be even better.

Cherry Dumplings (Potato Dough)

There’s a lot of overlap between Romanian and Hungarian dishes, which we learned when my brother married a Hungarian girl. Like these these potato dough dumplings that may be filled with sour/sweet plums or cherries. I had a pound of sweet cherries in the freezer so that’s what I went with. I used the ingredients and technique I found in a recipe online but reduced the amount of butter used and rewrote the instructions.

Cherry Dumplings

Cherry Dumplings – makes 30-32

Hungarian – cseresznyes gomboc
Romanian – galuste cu cirese

Potato Dumpling Dough
1 kg all purpose potatoes
2 tbsp unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
400 gm (2 1/3 cups) all purpose flour, divided
1 large egg (55-60 gm), beaten slightly
1 tsp (5 ml) salt

Filling
680 g pitted sweet cherries (90-96 cherries)

Sauce
70 g (1 cup) dried breadcrumbs
200 g (~ 1 cup) unsalted butter (use half or less)
3 tsp (15 ml) ground cinnamon (optional)
1 1/2 tbsp (30 ml) white sugar

Icing sugar, to serve (optional)

Scrub potatoes and bring to the boil in a large pot of salted water. Reduce heat to low and cook covered for 1 hour or until tender. A steak knife inserted into the potatoes should go in easily. Drain the potatoes and cool slightly, then, peel.

For the best texture, pass the cooked potatoes through a potato ricer into a large mixing bowl. Otherwise, just use a potato masher. Add 2 cups of the flour, the softened butter, salt and the beaten egg to the bowl and, with a fork or your hand, combine into a smooth mixture. Turn out onto a floured working surface and gently knead just until you get a soft dough, adding flour as needed. Don’t overwork/handle the dough or it will become tough.

Divide the dough in half and then each half into 15 or 16 portions to get 30-32 balls.

Working with one ball at a time, flatten a bit and place 3 cherries inside. Fold the dough up over the cherries to enclose them and re-roll into a ball. Place dumplings on a floured tray. (At this point, you can place the tray in the freezer and when firm, place into a freezer bag and freeze for 2-4 weeks. Boil from frozen.)

Working in batches of 5 or 6, drop the dumplings into a pot of boiling salted water and cook for 6 minutes or until they rise to the surface. Remove and place onto a large tray while making the sauce.

Melt the butter in a large frying or saute pan over high heat. Add the breadcrumbs and cook for a couple of minutes or until light golden. Add the dumplings, shaking the pan, for 2 minutes or until well coated.

Combine the cinnamon and sugar, spoon over the dumplings in the pan and shake again to distribute over the dumplings.

Serve 2 to 3 dumplings per person and dust with icing sugar.

NOTE: For the plum version, use one small pitted plum per dumpling. If the plums are large, cut them in half.

Pasca cu aluat de cozonac (Romanian Easter Bread)

There are several kinds of Easter bread or preparations called variously, pasca or pascha or paska. One is even a molded type of cheese. But this version, made with the same sweet yeast dough as cozonac, has a sweetened cheesecake filling. The cheese used is a dry curd cheese, though ricotta, drained cottage cheese or even cream cheese has been used in recipes I’ve seen on line. I had a bit of cottage cheese in the fridge but not enough for the recipe I wanted to try so I made a batch of paneer (cheese made from acid curdled milk) which I drained well and used instead.

I wanted a higher cheese to bread ratio so I only used 1 1/2 pounds of dough (instead of the full two pounds the dough recipe makes) for the pasca.

Paneer – freshly made curd and after being drained and pressed

 

The sponge for the dough was allowed to proof for 30 minutes and was then combined with the rest of the ingredients

Dough shaped into base and braided border – next time I have to press down the center area where the cheese is spooned in.

 

I made a braided bread cross with the remaining dough.

 

In Romania and other countries where the pasca is made, it has deeper religious meaning, but it’s also a very tasty bread enjoyed at this time of the year.

Some Things I Inherited From My Father

As the years flash by since I lost both my parents, I remember all the things that they contributed to making me the person that I am. I hope that I’ve done them proud.

While my mom was the practical one, who made sure we had clean clothes, were warmly dressed and fed, and bills were paid on time, my father was the dreamer, the romantic, the poet in our household. Not that he didn’t work hard, both at his job as a house painter for a national company which no longer exists, but when he came home he would spend hours tending to his vegetable garden. He always dreamed of having his own farm with horses, pigs, chickens, fruits and vegetables to feed his family. And a vineyard. He wanted to make wine out of his own grapes. Although it was late in life, and on a small scale, he was finally able to have a hobby farm where he and my mom raised chickens and the fruits and vegetables.

And he made a start at the grapes. Unfortunately, by that point he no longer had the energy nor the money to spend on his dream. The vines are still there … The dream is just a bitter sweet memory.

Books

My mother never really saw the attraction of books. When I would close myself in my room reading, she’d try to shoo me outside to play, to walk around, to do SOMETHING. My dad would tell her, “leave the girl alone, books are important too.” I escaped into my books. Into the worlds between those colourful covers. Into the romances, mysteries, science fiction and fantasy stories.

Plants – Flowers and Vegetables

My dad’s favourite flowers were tulips. When we lived in the suburbs, he turned the back yard into a mini-Holland with raised beds of tulips (peonies also made an appearance in season).

Supported by huge rocks he brought into the yard, he covered them with self sowing sweet alyssum. Rhododendrons and azaleas with their showy colourful blooms also made an an appearance.

My own gardening efforts are restricted to herbs I can use in my cooking and grow in outdoor pots.

Music

Over the years, my dad was able to collect a handful of tapes of Romanian folk music that he’d listen to on the boom box I bought for him. But his favourite was opera, in particular performances by Luciano Pavarotti. I managed to record all the specials Pavarotti appeared in on PBS, especially “The Three Tenors”, for my dad. Personally, I’m more fond of light opera in the style of Gilbert and Sullivan, but I can enjoy classic opera as well.

Cultural Heritage

My dad was proud of his Romanian heritage, and though he didn’t belong to the local church and community center, where one would normally congregate with fellow Romanians, he wanted us to retain our language and be aware of its history. Regrettably, my brother and I embraced our new country wholeheartedly and all that remains are a few Romanian newspapers and this book kept for its illustrations. I just wish it actually contained the fairy tales it refers to.

Somehow I ended up with all 3 copies of the book. I’m sure one was supposed to be for my brother, one for me and the last for my parents, and eventually for any grandchildren.

Traditional Crafts – Embroidery and Weaving Patterns

Each country has its own costume, usually with a linen shirt or blouse which had been hand embroidered painstakingly and a woven skirt for the women and vests for the men. I’ve never had a loom but the patterns in this book would look wonderful.

Pork Crackling Yeast “Biscuits” Redux

It’s been almost a year since I last made these pork crackling biscuits and I’ve been wanting to make some for the last month or so. They’re not particularly pretty  (I still took a lot of pictures to make up for the bad ones posted before) but they’re fluffy and tender from the pork fat in the cracklings. Some recipes grind half the cracklings to a paste and leave the other half more granular, but I kept them all granular. Duck fat was used to help create the layers.

Chunks of ground pork cracklings give texture and flavour to the biscuits

Two Different Finishes to the Biscuits  – The cuts on top should have been only 1/4 inch apart but I got lazy. The top layer slid off so it wasn’t as photogenic as the ones I made a number of years ago.

Pork Cracklings – cut into chunks and then ground

Layering the Dough

Some Things I Inherited From My Mother

NOTE: I hope to take pictures of some of my mom’s vast doily output and the crocheted tablecloth I made one of these days, after which I’ll post them.

My mom left any formal education behind early and spent much of her life working on the family farm in Yugoslavia near the Romanian border. Her family raised chickens and pigs and grew various vegetables and grapes. Besides working in the field alongside her parents, in the growing season, and helping out in the kitchen year round, she spent the winter months knitting and crocheting. There weren’t any pattern books to follow but samples were shared among the women she knew and copied.

Crocheting … I never really saw the attraction of most of the items my mom crocheted. One can only have so many doilies, regardless of the patterns. I DID like the afghans she made though. They were lovely and warm to wrap around oneself when the weather got nippy to keep you warm, while reading a good book. The rugs were pleasant to step on when you walked into the tiled bath room in your bare feet. Though she DID make slippers as well from odds end ends of yarn. They wore out quickly from the heavy use and I miss them.

Salmon Shawl

Afghan – You can just see one of the few doilies I still use under the lamp

I have no idea what this piece of crocheting was for. Maybe to be attached to something as a decorative finish.

Knitting … Sweaters and scarves were always useful. I remember making myself a pair of mittens. They were a bit misshapen, to be honest, but they fit and they were warm. Buying them as I have for the last 40yrs seems like cheating, somehow, but I’ve never had the urge to make myself another pair since. I found this gray sweater that my mom made for my dad, when I was clearing out their cottage, and brought it home. It fits so I wear it.

Macrame … When I was about 20, my mom got it into her head that she wanted to learn to macrame so I bought a bunch of pattern books. Since she didn’t really read English very well and translating the instructions was hard even for me, it took a while to translate the instructions into Romanian for my mom. Especially since I didn’t have the Romanian vocabulatry to really explain what to do. But we managed and she made some pretty impressive pieces. I use one of my mom’s smaller macrame projects every day. It’s an ugly looking brown toothpaste (I put my comb in the sleeve instead) and toothbrush caddy and still hangs on a hook next to my sink. I give it a quick hand wash every 5 yrs or so. The big plant holders she made were relegated to the attic, when we moved into our current home. There just wasn’t any place to hang them.

Looms and knitting needles – I can’t remember what was made on those looms. I think it was flowers on the round ones. I should really donate everything.

Along with these tangibles, I’ve inherited my frugal nature, my ability to be happy with what I have rather than what I DON’T have, my fondness for savoury rather than sweet, and my tendency to put on weight regardless of what I eat. Three out of four isn’t bad, right?

Placinta (Strudel) Redux

ETA: The post dropped before I’d finished adding the pictures. I made it several weeks ago … and lost track with RL stuff.

Strudel/phyllo/burek dough is found in many cuisines under a wide variety of names. My Romanian parents called it “placinta” and my mom’s cheese (placinta cu branza) or apple (placinta cu mere) versions were eagerly anticipated at my house. She also made a pumpkin version (placinta cu dulete or dovleac) which wasn’t bad … if that’s all that was left, IMNSHO.

I’m only made it once before, successfully. I don’t think this try was as good as that one and I messed up a few things, but everything was, at least, edible.

NOTE: I just discovered that I had only made a half recipe on that previous attempt so it’s possible that my stand mixer just wasn’t able to knead it well enough to get the gluten development it needed. It’s hard to imagine that my mom did all this by hand.

Because I didn’t have a lot of cheese (feta and ricotta) in the freezer, left over from previous projects, only enough for 2 mini coils, in fact, I thawed a container of filling for Jamaican beef patties and filled the remaining dough with it. My filling estimates were a bit uneven and the first roll was too meaty, while the 2nd was a bit too doughy. Oh well, it just means I need more practice.

Recipe in Pictures

Dough balls, coated with oil and allowed to rest covered with food wrap. After 1-2 hrs, each ball is stretched, carefully, over a linen covered surface, before being filled. Extra oil or melted butter is generously drizzled over the dough to help with the browning. Don’t skimp.

The thickened edges are trimmed off before rolling up into a long ‘snake’. The resulting ‘snake’ can then be coiled or shaped into a U onto a baking sheet before baking

The inside of the cheese strudel was a bit gummier than my mom’s ever turned out though it WAS cooked.

Cheese Strudel

Meat Strudel

My goal is still to be able to stretch the dough to cover the entire kitchen table, as she did.