Slovene Pašta Fižol / Bean & Pasta Soup Recipe

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.

Pašta Fižol

Ingredients

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

Instructions

Heat the bacon and onion in a large stockpot

Pašta Fižol

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

Pašta Fižol

Stir in the paprika and vinegar

Season to taste and serve

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Winter Warmer: Spicy Bulgarian Tomato Casserole

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.

Ingredients

40ml olive oil

Handful of fresh flat leaf parsley

1kg of firm ripe tomatoes

1 tsp caster sugar

45g white breadcrumbs

1 tbsp paprika

Seasoning

Instructions

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

Thracian tomato bake

Sprinkle the tomatoes with seasoning and sugar

Mix breadcrumbs together with remaining oil and paprika

Sprinkle breadcrumb mix over top of tomatoes

Thracian tomato bake

Cover dish with foil

Bake in the oven for 45 minutes, remove the foil for the last 10 minutes of cooking

Thracian tomato bake

Garnish with a sprinkling of parsley and serve with a dollop of sour cream

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Hungarian One-pot / Family Pork Porkolt Recipe

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!

Hungarian Pork Porkolt
Hungarian Pork Porkolt

Read more…

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Romanian Bean Stew

Charlotte J - stirring. Photo Credit: Jill Robinson
Charlotte J – stirring. Photo Credit: Jill Robinson

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

Instructions

Put mixed beans into saucepan

Place pork chops on top of beans

Just cover pork with cold water and add peppercorns

Beans, chops & water in pan

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

Onion

Add chopped and deseeded chili to onion and cook for 5-10 minutes

Onion & chilli

Chop smoked bacon and add to onion and chili and cook until crispy

Onion, chilli, bacon

Add paprika to bacon mix, stir and cook for 5 minutes

Onion, chilli, bacon, paprika

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

Romanian Bean Stew

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

Serve!

Serve!

Owen, Jared, Dave, Jill, Simon, Nicky, Carla
Owen, Jared, Dave, Jill, Simon, Nicky, Carla

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Lecso

Lecso
Lecso

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

Instructions

Wash peppers and cut out core, then slice into strips

Heat the oil and soften the onions over a low heat

onion

Add peppers to pan and heat for 10 minutes

peppers

Add the chopped tomatoes and paprika, season to taste

tomatoes

Simmer for 25 minutes

Serve immediately, topped with bacon and accompanied by crusty bread

Serve!

Serve!

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Pork with Sauerkraut

Done!
Pork with Sauerkraut!

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!

Ingredients:

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

Instructions:

In a frying pan cook the pork until it is browned on all sides.

Pork

Add the paprika and shredded sauerkraut.

Pork, sauerkraut, paprika

Stir well and transfer to flameproof casserole dish.

Halve the chillies and remove the seeds.

Bury chillies in casserole.

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.

Almost done!

Remove the chillies if desired and season to taste.

Garnish with sage.

Close-up

Serve with pots of coarse grain mustard, sour cream sprinkled with paprika, and a side of crusty bread.

Bulgarian Chicken with Beans Casserole

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!

Ingredients:

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

Instructions:

Preheat oven at 180ºC

Arrange bacon around sides and base of ovenproof dish.

Sprinkle over onion.

Bacon & Onion

Sprinkle over kidney beans.

Bacon, onion, 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.

Sour cream & paprika

Toss the chicken in the sour cream.

Chicken in sour cream

Place coated chicken on top of onion and beans.

Ready for the oven!

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.

Ready to serve!
Ready to serve!

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The Perfect Canapes: Part 2

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.

Ingredients:

500g mushrooms

80g butter

100g cooked ham

200 ml milk

4 tbsp flour

2 egg yolks

1 tsp paprika

100g parmesan (or other hard, grated cheese)

Instructions:

Wipe the mushrooms.

Mushrooms

Cut off the stalks.

Grease flameproof dish.

Place mushroom caps in the dish.

Mushrooms, stalks removed, in greased dish

Season with salt and pepper.

Chop up cooked ham.

Chopped ham

Heat the milk.

Melt 40g butter in saucepan.

Butter in saucepan

Stir in the flour (do not let it brown).

Butter & flour

Gradually pour in the hot milk.

Butter, flour, milk

Stir continuously and simmer until the mixture thickens.

When mixture leaves the sides of the pan, add ham.

Butter, flour, milk, ham

Add egg yolks and paprika.

Eggs & Paprika

Mix thoroughly.

Fill mushroom caps.

Filled mushrooms

Sprinkle with cheese.

Drizzle with melted butter.

Ready for the oven

Bake in preheated oven at 200ºC for about 15 minutes.

Serve!

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!

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Hungarian Beef Goulash

Tower Slow Cooker
Tower Slow Cooker

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.

Onion in pan

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.

Beef in pan

Ready to go!
Ready to go!

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 carrot

1 parsnip

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

Cooking times:

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!)

Finished product!

Serve!

Washing up
Washing up

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!

Kitchen left
Kitchen left
Kitchen right
Kitchen right

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