There are many Russian zakuski dishes (small, introductory dishes usually part of a welcome board serves to guests on arrival) that also double as impressive, party-piece starters. These tomatoes are no exception. The large tomatoes are stuffed with a mushroom and sour cream sauce which can all be prepared before baking for just 30 minutes before serving. Ideal! Should you have any mixture leftover it can be frozen for up to one month and used as a pasta sauce or sauce for a grilled chicken breast.
Here’s my recipe…
500g mushrooms, chopped (I use a mixture, wild are best but shitake and chestnut will do if availability is limited)
125ml sour cream
1 white onion, finely chopped
2 tbsp parsley, chopped
4 large beef tomatoes
100g grated Gouda cheese
Gently fry the onion, when softened add in the mushrooms
When sauteed add in the sour cream and parsley
Allow the mixture to cool
Cut the lids off the large tomatoes and hollow out the middle
When the mixture is cool, fill the tomatoes
Sprinkle the tomatoes with cheese and bake in an oven at 180°C for 20 minutes or until golden brown on top
This is a great hearty dish, perfect for a big party of people and ideal served with chunky fresh bread. The best bit about the dish is it is easily adaptable to cooking in a slow cooker so when you come home from work, your home smells great and you can sit down to a home-cooked meal even when you’ve had a hard day at work!
600g lamb chunks
1.5l lamb stock
3 large white onions chopped finely
5 garlic cloves crushed
3 tomatoes cut into quarters
5 tbsp rapeseed oil
1 tbsp tomato puree
5 tbsp long grain rice
5 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
3 tbsp coriander for garnish
Heat the oil in a pan and seal the lamb chunks
Place the lamb chunks into a slow cooker with the stock and garlic
Fry the onion in the rest of the oil for 5 minutes
Add the puree and tomatoes for 1 minute
Stir and add to the lamb and stock
Add the chili and parsley and cook for 4 to 5 hours
The rice can be added initially to the slow cooker, but if you are at home add 30 minutes before you want to serve
To serve, distribute the lamb between dishes (serves 4) and add equal quantities of liquid and rice mixture to each one
Garnish with chopped coriander and serve with chunky bread
This little but absolutely scrumptious dish is a sort of cross between a pancake and an omelette, however, unlike the aforementioned, it is cooked in the oven. This dish is super quick and very easy, requiring relatively few ingredients which makes it ideal to serve as a starter with a garnish of green salad, as part of a tapas selection, or even for a perfect evening supper dish when you are tired after getting home from work and want a quick and delicious snack. Sweet alternatives can also be made, just exclude the vegetables and sweeten with sugar and/or honey.
I have visited Purger twice now, and on neither occasion have I seen a non-Croat there. One waiter speaks no English and the other only understands the basics which for me, is always a good sign. I tend to believe that if the locals like a restaurant and it is not full of tourists, you are probably guaranteed a good meal. With Purger, this is definitely the case. From the outside one may be hesitant to enter but on negotiating your way through the restaurant one is finally met with a secluded courtyard, the perfect city getaway. The only problem, and it really is not a problem, is that this restaurant’s menu is not merely vast, it is excessive. It is difficult to decide which type of the seemingly endless options of veal, pork, beef, fish, chicken to choose.
The portions at this restaurant are comparable in size to that of the menu. The Vinksi Gulaš, a veal goulash unusually made with white wine and less paprika than the traditional Hungarian or Transylvanian goulash. Served in a large metal bowl, it is easy to think it would be impossible to finish every morsel but, as is the case with the food served at Purger, it is simply too delicious to leave a mouthful. The goulash is served with potatoes but you will want to make use of the dense, cornmeal bread to mop up the excess thin sauce.
The Naravni Samobor is a thin veal escalope doused in garlic and grilled, apparently a tradition associated with the nearby village of Samobor. The veal was beaten incredibly thinly and required very little effort to eat and the meat simply flaked apart on entering my mouth. For a garlic lover, this platter is simply heaven.
The only slight disappointment was the Svinjski Kotlet, a grilled pork cutlet which while was rich in flavour, was unfortunately a little tough. Nevertheless, the great taste made up for the minor disappointment.
Side dishes include potatoes, french fries, rice, croquettes, and a variety of large individual salads which add a useful, refreshing element to one’s meal. The beetroot is fresh and will make one never want to return to that pre-prepared from the supermarket, and the tomatoes are juicy with thick flesh and a truly wonderful taste.
The wine list boasted all the usual local wines including Vinarija Dingač, Pelješac, Kvalitetno vino, Vinogorje Pelješac, 2007. The wine was heady, smooth and velvety, a perfect accompaniment to the rich meal.
The last few days in the UK have been sunny and warm, so it seemed only right to enjoy some summer food inspired by the Adriatic region. This salad is quick but so delicious and makes an excellent starter, light main course or side dish. Serve with some great chunks of fresh wholemeal or granary bread.
This is such a great fresh dish with fantastic flavour and super cheap if you opt to use tinned sardines. Plus, do not forget, sardines are a great source of those all important omega-3 and I truly believe what they say, fish is brain food!
Ingredients (serves 6)
8 large firm ripe tomatoes
1 large red onion
4 tbsp white wine vinegar
6 tbsp good olive oil
18 – 24 small cooked sardines
75g black pitted olives, drained well
salt and freshly ground pepper
(I used smoked salt but regular salt will be fine)
3 tbsp chopped fresh parsley to garnish
Slice the tomatoes very thinly
Arrange the tomatoes on a serving plate
Top with slices of red onion
Mix together the white wine vinegar, olive oil and seasoning and spoon over tomatoes and onion
This recipe is a traditional Bulgarian casserole, cooked on top of the stove in a flameproof pot. The chicken is cooked very slowly on a low heat until it is tender and just before it is falling off the bone. Despite the fact the sauce only uses a small amount of stock and tomatoes, I ended up with rather a lot of sauce. I would recommend serving with bread for the sauce or alternatively, rice.
Ingredients (serves 6-8)
8 chicken portions on the bone, I prefer thighs but drumsticks would also be suitable
6-8 firm, ripe tomatoes chopped
2 garlic cloves
3 white onions
250ml chicken stock
2 bay leaves
2 tsp paprika
10 white peppercorns slight crushed/bruised
(It can be difficult to track down white peppercorns, even Waitrose did not stock them! However, it was worth the extra effort.
I do not own a pestle and mortar as my kitchen is so small, so I put them on a freezer bag and bruised using a bottle)
Handful of parsley finely chopped
Chop the tomatoes and crush the garlic, then place both in flameproof dish
Place chicken on top of tomatoes
Cover and cook on a gentle heat for 15 minutes
Add the diced onion, bay leaves, paprika, peppercorns and stock
Cover tightly and cook on very low heat, stirring occasionally so nothing sticks or burns, for 2 hours or until the chicken is tender
Depending on how fatty the chicken is, the fat on the top may need to be skimmed
Five minutes before the end of cooking, stir in the finely chopped parsley
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