Tag Archives: romanian

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 tor 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.

Romanian Pork Crackling Biscuits (Repost)

I noticed that all the picture links on this post in LJ from Jan. 2012 had expired, so, I went back and re-uploaded the pictures to another archive. And then decided to share the post for these wonderful pork crackling biscuits here.

Enjoy.

When I was growing up, my mother would make these wonderful rich biscuits studded with ground pork cracklings. Recently I was reminded of this dish by a post on Eva’s Kitcheninspirations and decided to try and make them based on advice from Eva, searches on Hungarian and Romanian blogs and my own memories of the biscuits I had enjoyed. Yesterday, I bought a pound of the cracklings and today I attempted the recipe.

In case you don’t know what pork cracklings look like, here are pictures of the whole and ground porky goodness. 🙂


I think my first attempt at these was a success on the whole.

Pork Crackling Biscuits – makes ~3 dozen 3″ biscuits

Romanian – Pogacele cu jumari
Hungarian – Töpörtyus Pogácsa

4 – 4 1/2 cups (~550 gm) all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 package ( 2 1/4 tsp) instant yeast
1 tsp sugar
1/4 cup warmed milk
2 tbsp fat (pork lard, regular lard or unsalted butter)*
1/2 pound (250 gm) ground pork cracklings
1 egg, beaten
3/4 cup (200 ml) warm water (or milk)

* I used butter for this but will probably leave it out in the next batch as I don’t think it added much to the end product.

Egg glaze for biscuits
1 egg beaten with 1 tbsp cold water
caraway seeds, optional

Chop pork cracklings roughly and then grind them in a food processor in batches, if necessary, so as to get an even granular mixture.

In a small bowl, dissolve sugar in 1/4 cup milk and sprinkle the instant yeast on top. Allow to sit for 5-10 min until the yeast gets foamy.

In a second bowl, combine the egg with 3/4 cups warm water (or milk).

Sift together the flour, salt, pepper and baking powder and place in a large bowl. Cut in the fat or rub it into the flour so it’s evenly distributed. Make a well in the center and pour in the yeast/milk mixture and egg/water mixture. Knead for 5-6 minutes until you have a soft dough.

Let rest for 15 minutes.

Roll out about 1/8″ thick into either a square (~16″x16″) or rectangle (~12″x18″).

Spread 1/3 of the ground pork crackling mixture over the top.

Fold over opposite sides so you get 3 layers. Fold over the other 2 sides so you have three equal layers. Wrap up with saran wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Roll out again, spread with half of the remaining ground pork crackling mixture. (Sorry for the out of focus picture, I almost forgot to take it)

Fold, wrap and refrigerate. Repeat.

Preheat oven to 350-400 deg F.

After the last 30 minutes of refrigeration, roll the dough out 1/8″ thick. (For the Hungarian presentation, score the top of the dough with lines 1/4″ apart, making sure that the lines only go about halfway through the biscuit.) Cut biscuits out with a 3″ diameter biscuit cutter.

Let rest for 30 minutes. (NOTE: Did not do this.)

Brush top of the biscuits with the beaten egg mixture. (For the Romanian presentation, sprinkle a pinch of caraway seeds (8-10) in the center of the biscuit, if desired.) Bake 15-20 min or until lightly browned on top.

Trial 1: 400 deg F. Took 13-15 minutes until done. I estimated the amount of salt needed perfectly so I was very pleased with the taste. Unfortunately, they didn’t rise as high as I would have liked though they were the same height as the ones my mom made.

Biscuits – Hungarian style on the left and Romanian style on the right