This winter has been one of the most severe in recent years so it has been important to keep warm and eat plenty of hearty food. One of my favourite recipes sure to warm you up and originating from Slovenia in the Balkans, is Pašta Fižol. This bacon, bean and pasta soup is rich and has a touch of spice. Plus, it’s incredibly easy and requires just one pot to save on washing up! Simply serve with some chunky bread (preferably rye) to enjoy a fabulous winter warming meal.
500g pancetta lardons (or smoked bacon)
1 tin of red kidney beans (240g drained beans)
1 bay leaf
1 small white onion, finely chopped
1 clove of garlic, crushed
1 tbsp tomato puree
20g plain flour
600ml chicken stock
125g small pasta shapes
2 tsp marjoram
2 tsp hot paprika
1 tsp cider vinegar
Heat the bacon and onion in a large stockpot
When the bacon and onion are thoroughly cooked, add the garlic and stir thoroughly
Stir in the tomato puree
Add the flour gradually
Pour in the stock and stir
Bring the boil (constantly stirring to prevent sticking)
Reduce heat to a simmer
Add pasta, marjoram, beans and bay leaf to pan and cook for 10 minutes or until pasta is cooked
This recipe is traditionally eaten during the hottest days of the year in Southern Bulgaria. However, I like to use plenty of paprika so it makes a great hearty, warming side dish for those cold winter days. Serve with a sprinkling of parsley as garnish and a dollop of sour cream.
40ml olive oil
Handful of fresh flat leaf parsley
1kg of firm ripe tomatoes
1 tsp caster sugar
45g white breadcrumbs
1 tbsp paprika
Preheat the oven to 180°C
Grease a baking dish with 1 tbsp of oil
Sprinkle the dish with a generous helping of chopped parsley
Slice the tomatoes and arrange in the dish so they overlap
Sprinkle the tomatoes with seasoning and sugar
Mix breadcrumbs together with remaining oil and paprika
Sprinkle breadcrumb mix over top of tomatoes
Cover dish with foil
Bake in the oven for 45 minutes, remove the foil for the last 10 minutes of cooking
Garnish with a sprinkling of parsley and serve with a dollop of sour cream
There is much more to Hungarian cooking than the stereotypical goulash, porkolt for one. Porkolt is an easy, one-pot, family dish and can be made with cubes of pork shoulder or veal. Just fry off the onion, add in the pork to seal the meat, add in the other ingredients, stir and leave to cook for a few hours on a low heat. Just serve with gnocchi or polenta. Super easy, super delicious!
I recently visited Cornwall for a few days as my school friends had rented a large cottage for the week. The kitchen was an absolute delight and I insisted on cooking some good East European fare for my 7 companions.
The best thing about East European cooking is that the recipes are usually not desperately complicated, require just one or two pots and few ingredients, which keeps both washing up and costs down, yet enables you to create a really hearty and tasty meal.
Although this bean stew required smoked pork and a ham bone, I cheated and used pork chops and smoked bacon which added the required smokey flavour. Everyone seemed to enjoy it so I would definitely recommend this recipe!
Ingredients (serves 8 hungry beings)
2 white onions
1 tbsp sunflower oil
2 red chilies
1 tbsp Hungarian hot paprika (or to taste)
3 tins of mixed beans
20 black peppercorns
8 pork chops
500g smoked bacon
4 tbsp cornflour
Tomato puree or chili powder for colour if desired
Handful of chopped parsley for garnish
Crusty white bread to serve
Put mixed beans into saucepan
Place pork chops on top of beans
Just cover pork with cold water and add peppercorns
Heat until boiling
Reduce heat, cover pan and leave on gentle simmer for 2 hours
Remove pork chops from pan
Cut off fat and bone and cut into chunks
Return pork to pan
Chop onions and heat in sunflower oil in separate pan until translucent
Add chopped and deseeded chili to onion and cook for 5-10 minutes
Chop smoked bacon and add to onion and chili and cook until crispy
Add paprika to bacon mix, stir and cook for 5 minutes
Add cornflour to bacon mix, stir and cook for 5-10 minutes
Add bacon mix to stew and stir
Cook for further 10 minutes until well mixed
If desire deeper red colour, add tablespoon of tomato puree or chili powder
Serve into bowls, garnish with parsley (I forgot to!) and serve with chunky white bread
Lecso, is a traditional Hungarian dish which can be served alone with crusty bread, or used as a basis for stews and other dishes. I have always considered green peppers the less exciting and tasty of the capsicum family. I love the white/green peppers available in Eastern Europe but these are difficult to find in the UK. This recipe, however, is for the real green peppers. I feared that cooking green peppers for 35 minutes would leave them soggy and soft but they remained crunchy.
Ingredients (serves 6-8 people)
5 green peppers
30ml vegetable oil
1 onion, sliced
(I actually grated the onion so that it thickened the sauce)
450g plum tomatoes, peeled and chopped
(use tinned tomatoes, preferably whole plum tomatoes which you can then cut into a few pieces)
1 tbsp paprika
grilled bacon to garnish
Wash peppers and cut out core, then slice into strips
Heat the oil and soften the onions over a low heat
Add peppers to pan and heat for 10 minutes
Add the chopped tomatoes and paprika, season to taste
Simmer for 25 minutes
Serve immediately, topped with bacon and accompanied by crusty bread
I was never a fan of sauerkraut until I tried it in Polish bigos (a meaty stew) at Bar Polski. Since then I have been more open-minded.
This recipe for Pork with Sauerkraut is very surprising and quite frankly, delicious. Although the sauerkraut links this recipe to Central Europe, the presence of chillies provides a South European touch.
This recipe serves four and is great with either rice, baby new potatoes or mashed potato. Serve with a little sour cream and wholegrain mustard for a little cooling and warming treat respectively!
450g lean pork (or veal) diced
60ml vegetable oil
1/2 tsp paprika
400g shredded sauerkraut, drained and well rinsed
2 fresh chillies
90ml pork stock
50ml sour cream
coarse grain mustard
paprika and sage to garnish
In a frying pan cook the pork until it is browned on all sides.
Add the paprika and shredded sauerkraut.
Stir well and transfer to flameproof casserole dish.
Halve the chillies and remove the seeds.
Bury chillies in casserole.
Add stock to the casserole.
Cover tightly and cook over a gentle heat for 1-1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally to prevent it sticking.
Remove the chillies if desired and season to taste.
Garnish with sage.
Serve with pots of coarse grain mustard, sour cream sprinkled with paprika, and a side of crusty bread.
This dish is the ultimate in one-pot cooking. All the ingredients literally go in one pot which is put in the oven and after just 1 1/2 hours is cooked to absolute perfection. This recipe serves 4 very hungry people!
250g tin of kidney beans
8 chicken thighs and drumsticks
12 streaky bacon rashers
1 large white onion
250ml dry white wine
1/2 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp rosemary
pinch of nutmeg
150ml sour cream
1 tbsp paprika
lemon wedges, rosemary sprigs for garnish
Preheat oven at 180ºC
Arrange bacon around sides and base of ovenproof dish.
Sprinkle over onion.
Sprinkle over kidney beans.
Trim chicken pieces.
Combine wine, oregano, rosemary and nutmeg.
Pour wine mix over the bacon, onion and beans.
Mix together sour cream and paprika in a bowl or plastic bag.
Toss the chicken in the sour cream.
Place coated chicken on top of onion and beans.
Cover with foil or lid.
Place casserole dish in oven for 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours.
For the last 15 minutes of cooking, remove the foil or lid.
Serve garnished with rosemary and a wedge of lemon.
When I made blinis lavished with smoked salmon and prawns, I also made some Hungarian stuffed mushrooms (Sonkával töltött gomba). The woods of the Bakony Mountains in the Transdanubia region, boast an incredible selection of wild mushrooms. It is estimated that Hungary is home to between 20 and 30 varieties of wild mushrooms and these are regularly used in Hungarian cooking. However, bizarrely, it is the button mushroom which finds itself most frequently on the menu.
100g cooked ham
200 ml milk
4 tbsp flour
2 egg yolks
1 tsp paprika
100g parmesan (or other hard, grated cheese)
Wipe the mushrooms.
Cut off the stalks.
Grease flameproof dish.
Place mushroom caps in the dish.
Season with salt and pepper.
Chop up cooked ham.
Heat the milk.
Melt 40g butter in saucepan.
Stir in the flour (do not let it brown).
Gradually pour in the hot milk.
Stir continuously and simmer until the mixture thickens.
When mixture leaves the sides of the pan, add ham.
Add egg yolks and paprika.
Fill mushroom caps.
Sprinkle with cheese.
Drizzle with melted butter.
Bake in preheated oven at 200ºC for about 15 minutes.
If you have any stuffing mixture left over (as I did), let it cool, put it in the refrigerator and when you fancy a snack, smother on some toasted, grainy, bread, top with grated cheese and grill!
I love food. I love eating. However, I am also prone toward being rather lazy, and as a poor graduate have to make the most from the little I can afford. As a result, I am all for one pot dishes and am particularly fond of my slow cooker. However, if you do not have a slow cooker, this recipe is still for you as it can be cooked either on the hob or in the oven, which ever you desire!
Goulash is by one of the more familiar dishes from Eastern Europe. Made with sweet paprika, it is typical of many traditional Hungarian dishes. It would normally be cooked in an iron cast pot on top of a fire, but living in a studio flat in London makes this is somewhat impossible. Instead, I opt for cooking either in my casserole dish for at least three hours at 150 °C, or alternatively, in my slow cooker for between four and five hours on high. However, as I said, you could cook this on the hob, but with three jobs, I prefer to not have to keep too much of an eye on things!
You can just chuck everything into the pot and go but I try to make it a little more authentic. Onion, for example, is one ingredient which never quite has the same effect having been put in raw to the slow cooker.
First, prepare the ingredients which can be placed into either the casserole dish or slow cooker. Peel a carrot and parsnip and place into the dish. Leave them whole as they are just for flavour, not for eating. Peel and cut a large white potato into cubes and place this in the dish too. Add a bay leaf (two if they are small) and some parsley tied together so it can be easily removed (if you do not have string, use some foil).
Dice a large white onion and cook in a small amount of olive oil in a frying pan over a medium heat. Traditionally, goose fat should be used, but I find this can make the sauce too greasy. Cook the onion until it is translucent (not brown!), add in the chopped garlic for one minute, and then add half the paprika. Pour the onion, garlic and paprika into the pot with the carrot etc.
Sprinkle the stewing beef chunks with a little corn flour (though plain flour can also be used) and place into a frying pan over a medium heat. Do not brown this too much, just a little, to seal in the juices. Sprinkle on the rest of the paprika and cook for a further minute and then add this into the pot.
Add two teaspoons of caraway seeds into the frying pan and heat gently for two minutes. Put these into the pot and then rinse out the frying pan with a little of the beef stock. I add this and the remaining stock into the pot.
Cut two medium sized tomatoes and two sweet peppers into chunks and place these into the pot with two or three teaspoons of tomato puree.
Cover and heat either in the oven, in your slow cooker, or on top of a hob.
The stock may need topping up if a lot evapourates/is absorbed.
I serve this with gnocchi and a sprinkle of parsley in a nice large bowl.
Ingredients to feed 2 very hungry people:
500g stewing beef chunks
500 ml beef stock
1 bay leaf
1 large white onion
1 large white potato
2 cloves of garlic
2 medium sized tomatoes
2 sweet red peppers
2-3 tsp tomato puree
4 tsp sweet paprika
2tsp caraway seeds
2 handfuls of parsley
Gnocchi to serve
3 hours on low heat on hob
4 hours 150 °C oven (although, the longer the better!)
4-6 hours on high in slow cooker (again, the longer the better!)
Hard work? Well, I will not lie, any form of cooking requires effort and drive but here is the washing up I was left with – hardly a mountain!
And to prove you do not need a mansion in order to cook for yourself, this is my small kitchen in my studio flat. If I can do it, so can you!