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Archive for the ‘Food that crosses my table’ Category

Saturday I was wandering the Great Market with BreAnna and Elise when I spotted a Hungarian cookbook at one of the stalls.  Not only have I been looking for a cookbook for the past few weeks, but it was in English!  I scanned through it and noted that at least some of the recipes were non-meat.  I figured it was enough to warrant purchasing the cookbook.  So, for 3,500fts ($16), I acquired my very own Hungarian Cuisine cookbook.

My Hungarian Cuisine CookbookA good 70 percent of the recipes probably include meat, but for some of them I can substitute other ingredients.  Besides, BreAnna and I were running out of online recipes because unlike French and Spanish cuisine, Hungarian cuisine is not well known.

As we were perusing the market, I glanced through the cookbook and happened upon a fairly easy recipe.  So without further ado, we claimed it for our Sunday night dinner attempt and went about purchasing red onions and sweet paprika.  Our recipe of choice was Mushroom Pörkölt (Gombapörkölt).

Ingredients (for 6 servings):

  • 3 lb mushrooms (any type or mixed)
  • 8 tablespoons oil
  • 3 medium red onions
  • 1 heaping tablespoon sweet paprika
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon thyme
  • salt
  • 6 eggs (if desired)

Even though the recipe called for 6 servings, we planned to have Elise and Clare over, and we figured it would leave us with some extra.  Unfortunately, Clare was unavailable, so Elise, BreAnna and I buckled down to the task of cooking 3 lbs of mushrooms.  When I went to purchase these mushrooms, I looked up the following conversion: 3lbs = 1,300 grams.  Since mushrooms came in a pack of 260grams, we bought 4 packs, and used up the rest of an open pack in our refrigerator.

Our Ingredients

Directions:

Step 1: Peel and chop the onions, and chop the mushrooms into slices or wedges.  There is nothing like trying to chop 3lbs of mushrooms. Luckily, I wasn’t chopping mushrooms, instead I was crying while slicing onions.

Step 2: Heat the oil in a pot and sauté the peeled, chopped onion in it.  It looked silly sautéing the onion in so much oil, but we figured the two huge bowls of mushrooms would soak up the oil.

Step 3: Add the mushrooms, suaté a bit longer.  Unfortunately, only one huge bowl of mushrooms ended up in the oil, because our pot wasn’t big enough to hold both bowls of mushrooms.  Instead, we put the rest in a second pot and had to douse those mushrooms in their own oil to cook everything at the same time.

Step 4: Mix in the paprika, black pepper, and thyme.  After the mushrooms finished cooking they shrunk enough to stuff everything into one pot and add the spicing.

Step 5: Cook over high heat until all the liquid evaporates.  We thought the liquid would never evaporate.  After 10 minutes we began debating if we should just add the eggs or not.  Elise recommended we wait a little longer, and I’m glad we took her advice because eventually we noticed the liquid level in the pot was reducing.  Finally, the liquid was nearly gone, so we decided to add the egg.  We didn’t let the liquid completely evaporate because 1) we didn’t want the food to burn, 2) we’d added extra oil when we had to sauté our mushrooms in two pots, and 3) we were hungry and didn’t want to wait any longer.

Step 6: Add salt only at the very end, as the mushrooms do not absorb the salt easily and the dish can become overly salty.

Step 7: If you prefer, add the beaten eggs.  We did prefer, and we poured in the eggs.  After about two minutes, the eggs began cooking.  When we poured them in, the eggs turned red, but as they cooked, they turned brown, making the mixture appear to be mushrooms and ground beef instead of mushrooms and eggs.

Step 8: To turn this dish into a paprikash, mix in some sour cream as well at the end.  We had no idea what a paprikash was, but we still added two globs of sour cream to the mixture.

Alternative Step: There is an alternative option of preparing the dish with lescoWe decided against this, but you may be interested in attempting it.

  • Either add 1 scant cup of lecso at the end or
  • Add 2 each of chopped peppers and tomatoes to the onion base at the beginning.

BreAnna and Eliza

Yum!

It smelled delicious

Results:

  • MUSHROOMS!!!
  • One bite and lots of nodding. We didn’t want to talk about the food, we wanted to keep eating it.
  • The egg looked like ground beef, but luckily wasn’t beef.
  • Since we used sweet paprika, it wasn’t hot spicy.
  • We could have added more onion, but the red onions we bought were a bit small, instead of medium sized. Next time, we’ll be sure to acquire medium sized onions.
  • We probably could have added more sour cream as well, or perhaps none, I wonder how much it affected the taste.
  • Overall, it was delicious, and has been one of our favorite meals.
  • Between the three of us, we finished all of the dinner. That means we each ate about a pound of cooked mushrooms….. I’m still letting this fact sink into my brain.
March 11, 2012

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A country where we can buy Alcohol

-Drinking and smoking are the two main socialization activities of young adults and students in Hungary.

-Bars/Cafes are the main hang out places at night

-We decided to try a Lemon Bacardi Breezer Rum Refesher (a wine cooler of sorts). Separately, we determined that the Lemon Bacardi Breezer smells and tastes like Lemon Cleaning Fluid. Eeeeeew.

-Later, we sipped at an orange version of the Bacardi Breezer with better results.

-BreAnna thought the Chardonnay was ok, and I couldn’t drink more than a few sips (I can’t stand strong alcohol)

-However, I have actually found an alcoholic drink I enjoy; orange juice mixed with Malibu.

-Finally, opening a wine cork sometimes draws blood (please see Vegetarian Guylás).

Jan-May, 2012

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BreAnna decided to search for this particular recipe, thanks to a wonderful meal at the Great Market (described in To The Market!!).  BreAnna successfully located this particular recipe at: Hungarian Langos.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup of plain flour
  • 1.25 teaspoons of yeast
  • 0.75 teaspoons of salt
  • water
  • oil for frying

This Sunday Night Dinner had 3 pairs of hands involved in its creation; My hands, BreAnna’s hands, and Clare’s hands. Our friend Clare owns the two puppy dogs, Judae and Buddy (see Puppy Love).  We actually doubled the recipe since it said it produces four small langos or two large langos, and our hunger called for 4 Large Langos.

Instructions:

Step 1: Combine the flour and yeasts with your fingersBreAnna stepped up to the plate, and we figured so far, this is.

Step 2: Add the salt and lightly stir throughYep, going well.

Step 3: Add sufficient water to make a thick sticky dough – basically just enough to absorb the flour, not too much or you’ll need more flourI began adding water, a few pours at a time and BreAnna stirred the increasingly goopy mess. We analyzed the amount of water needed, added a few more pours and plopped into the next step.

Step 4: Mix together well and turn out onto a board or workbench to kneadHaving only plastic cutting boards that I felt were too small anyway, we wound up spreading flour on the kitchen table for our work space. I remembered enough from previous experience that excess flour was necessary to keep the dough from gluing to the table. Unfortunately, it didn’t stop the dough from gluing to BreAnna’s hands. So, I took over the kneading, BreAnna washed clumps of dough from her hands, and Clare added flour when necessary.

Step 5: Knead in the French style, making sure to capture much air in the dough. (Pick up the sticky dough in the middle, whack one end onto the bench and fold over the other end, repeat). VIDEO Demonstration by Me!

Step 6: The dough will eventually become smooth and springy. Set aside to rest for 1/2 hourFacebook Time!

Step 7: Once rested, carefully tip out the dough onto a floured surface and then carefully stretch out into a square. Cut into four (or two for larger langos).

Step 8: Stretch out each piece with your fingers into a rough square with the centre being thinner than the edges.  The only issue: our dough squares didn’t want to stay stretched!  Eventually, Clare and I wound up with 4 oval pieces of dough.

Step 9: Place into hot oil, turn once such that each side is goldenBreAnna and Clare busied themselves with frying the dough as I was briefly occupied with an email.  They began to smell delicious!

Step 10: Optionally brush with garlic oilWe decided to forgo this option since I was planning to put jam on part of my langos, and garlic + jam didn’t sound appetizing.

Step 11: Top with grated cheese and sour creamOur particular toppings involved sour cream, stir fried mushrooms, and cheese. BreAnna and I also tried strawberry jam.

Langos with jam, and mushrooms, sour cream, and cheese

Results:

  • Fried dough and toppings = A scrumptious meal that we couldn’t stop discussing.
  • I can’t decide which I liked better, the strawberry jam or the mushroom/sour cream/cheese version because they were both delectable.
  • I’m going to make this meal for my family when I return home, although with 5 people, I’ll have to at least triple the ingredients.
Feb 26, 2012

BreAnna wants me to take the picture faster because she's hungry.

Ready to Eat.

What a wonderful Dinner with Friends!

Both topping types were wonderful!

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This entry is about a week late because I’ve been trying to get back on track after the Pécs trip (Feb 11-12).  We made this dish last weekend, February 19.  I try to add an entry at least every 2 days, but with the promise of warmer weather, outside exploration may impede my blog posts.

The Story

The creation of our Vegetarian Gulyáswas an adventure.  The word “Gulyás” is Hungarian, and the English version is Goulash (pronunciation is basically the same).   The full recipe can be found at:

http://low-cholesterol.food.com/recipe/vegetarian-goulash-279773#ixzz1lulpjnbu

Ingredients Included: olive oil, onion, celery, mushroom, green bell pepper, veggie crumbles (or veggie steak strips), garlic cloves, paprika, whole canned tomatoes, red wine, oregano, carraway seed (optional), tomato puree, sugar, salt and pepper.  All of the ingredients are ultimately cooked in a skillet.

Our Version: Our vegetarian gulyás was slightly altered.  First of all, veggie crumbles don’t seem to exist in Hungary, and trust me, we looked.  Second, we were having issues locating caraway seed, so we decided not to exert any more effort since it was optional.  Third, BreAnna and I had purchased a green pepper a little over a week earlier in preparation for cooking that Sunday night.  Due to exhaustion following our trip to Pécs, we decided to forgo our Sunday night dinner.  By this Sunday night, our green pepper had obtained a ring of white, fuzzy mold.  We pitched it, and eliminated pepper from our recipe because the few grocery stores that are actually open on Sunday are closed by 8pm.  Finally, since we were worried the elimination of the veggie crumbles would cause the gulyás to be overly soupy, instead of a skillet, we cooked our gulyás in a pot.

BreAnna and I were doing fairly well at cooking our gulyás until we realized that we hadn’t yet opened the bottle of wine.  Having never used a wine opener, BreAnna and I encountered several false starts.  Finally, I realized that our concept of how the wine opener SHOULD be working was completely opposite of how it ACTUALLY works.  I succeeded in extracting the cork partway, but I didn’t have the arm strength to hold the wine bottle on the high counter top to completely pop the cork.  So, I manned the bottle and attempted to keep it from jumping across the counter, and BreAnna tugged at the bottle opener.  For a good 2 minutes we were hauling and grunting and laughing our asses off.

A satisfying pop accompanied the cork’s release.  Unfortunately, as BreAnna successfully opened the bottle, the vengeful cork directed the bottle opener into her face.  She escaped with a small slice upon her cheek, a tiny reminder of our wine bottle extravaganza.

After patching herself up from her mini scuffle, BreAnna waltzed back into the kitchen, smiling.  The gulyás finished cooking and we dug in.

Cooking the Gulyás

Results:

-It’s ok.

-Probably should have made some rice to go with it, but we were so consumed in actually completing the gulyás that rice wasn’t about to happen.

-It would have been better if we’d had the pepper and veggie crumbles to add.

-Paprika = spicy

-Personally, I don’t like the tomatoes (but then again, I never have), and if we’d added more ingredients, the tomato taste would have been counterbalanced.

Dinner is Ready

Feb 19, 2012

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For me, Saturday night’s dinner in Pécs was a highlight.  A few people had some issues with their meals, but they’d chosen a different menu.  I had picked Menu C, which was the only all-vegetarian menu option.

Menu C Included:

1. Two pancakes stuffed with courgette and mushroom.  Aka, a vegetable crepe.  I’ve tasted veggie crepes before, but they rarely live up to their fruit-filled versions.  Note: courgette is zucchini.  The crepes I wound up with were deliciousness under a blanket of cream sauce.  If these two crepes had been dinner, I would have been happy because they were quite enough for a meal.  However, this was only the first course.

Pancakes stuffed with zucchini and mushrooms

2. Potato with spinach, tomato, cheese and roasted vegetables.  At least, that’s what the menu said, but what arrived appeared to be a sandwich, not a baked potato.  I was wondering if they’d added a biscuit to keep the vegetables together.  When I took a bite, I realized that the “biscuit,” was instead fluffy potatoes.  I couldn’t eat more than half of this sandwich because I was nearly full.

Potato with spinach, tomato, cheese, roasted vegetables

3. Sponge-cake.  When I looked at the menu, I was disappointed that the only menu I could choose had such a boring dessert (the other menus looked like they had amazing deserts).  Then my plate arrived with three snowballs covered in chocolate sauce.  They tasted more like sponge-cake ice cream, and they were amazing.

Sponge-cake

The entire meal was a little richer than my usual chosen cuisine, but it was a nice change from noodles and bread.  I had a fabulous meal, and I honestly have no idea how to recreate any of the food.  Perhaps I’ll try to look up similar recipes and add them to our Sunday-night cooking attempts.

Feb 11, 2012

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A little bit about me:

I grew up vegetarian, which is rather unusual for an American. I think I’ve met only one other person in my life who’s diet was vegetarian from birth.  Now, I have met a barrel-full of people who are vegetarian, but a significant portion of them made the decision to become vegetarian around middle to high school.  My younger sisters were also raised vegetarian, so we had the opposite option of eating meat.  Our parents made the decision to change to a vegetarian diet before I was born (and I’m the eldest).  Both Mama and Papa grew up eating meat regularly, and I believe the main reason for the switch was for health reasons.

In the past few years, I’ve determined that I’m vegetarian by default; I have no strong feelings about eating meat, I just don’t eat meat because it’s not in my diet.  Throughout my life, I continuously run into people who can’t seem to wrap their heads around vegetarianism (Note: Not a religion).  I’ve had to explain my diet in a number of ways to classmates, roommates, friends, co-workers.  Vegetarianism does not include fish (that would be a pescetarian), does include milk, eggs, and other dairy products (so not a vegan), and most certainly doesn’t include meat.  You’d be shocked how many people have to confirm with me that I don’t eat meat.

Other clarifications I’ve had to make include:

  • This is my diet, I’m Not ON a diet.
  • I CAN in fact survive without eating meat: beans, peanut butter, eggs, sprouts, spinach, etc, contain protein.
  • I WILL get sick if I eat too much meat, it’s not a myth, my body can’t break down the abundance of protein that exists in meat.
  • On the flip side, I can taste a little bit of meat if I choose, and in the past, I have tried meat.
  • And yes, I’m vegetarian, NO, I don’t like Tofu!  But, I will consume it under a few circumstances (Nothing to eat. It’s in the meal I’m served. I’m starving).

Now, admittedly, most people are just curious, and I’ve met a few with a fair amount of knowledge about vegetarianism.  However, since arriving in Budapest, I have had to (once again) repeat the above notes to several people.  Why?

Being Vegetarian in Hungary

People I meet in Budapest are truly blown off-kilter when I tell them I’m vegetarian.  I keep running into that swinging question, “You’re VEGETARIAN? And you came to Hungary?” accompanied by a one-eyebrow launch to the ceiling.  It seems that meat is a highly valued component in Hungarian meals.  I can’t imagine what I’m doing visiting a meat-loving city after coming from a country that practically lives off of Hamburgers, Hot Dogs, and Pepperoni Pizza.  I live in Pennsylvania; kids take off school on the first day of hunting season.  I go to school in Maryland, crab cakes anyone? Sea food? Lobster?  I thought Americans were stereotyped for always eating at McDonald’s?

Furthermore, the amount of stunned faces I turn up is disproportionate to the availability of vegetarian food here in Budapest.  Now, I say “here in Budapest,” because it has been made clear to me that the further you venture into the countryside, you will find increasingly fewer non-meat options.  Since I’m cooking for myself, I have plenty of opportunity to make my own vegetable, fruit, cheese, bread, noodle combinations, which are available at regular grocery stores and fresh food markets.  However, BreAnna and I are looking for a few opportunities to eat out, although we both have restrictions due to tight budgets.

So far, Vegetarian meals that I’ve consumed in Budapest include:

1 – A buffet-style meal that we had in the first week.  We headed across the city on a metro line at night, and popped up in an area defined by the train tracks, sketchy shadows, a brick wall, and the metro station from which we were emerging.  A few feet along the walk-way, and we came to a street corner that housed our destination, and a few other dark buildings.  The first floor of the restaurant held a coat check and a wall stuffed (no pun intended) with antlers.  It seemed reminiscent of a scene in The Illusionist (2006), where Chief Inspector Walter Uhl strides down the hallway of Crown Prince Leopold’s palace.  Antlers, like branches of a winter forest, loom above Chief Inspector Uhl.  Deer heads and frozen birds ghost through the lifeless forest.  Admittedly, the restaurant wasn’t spooky, and luckily, we didn’t end up eating under the antlers.  We wound our way upstairs and sat at a long stretch of tables.  The main attraction for the restaurant was the selection of meat which they would grill in front of you, according to your request.  Luckily for me, the buffet had plenty of other options.  I found a noodle dish, which I thought, at first, was a rice dish because the noodles were chopped so finely.  It had a lovely light spicing, probably with paprika (it was distinctly coated in red).  Even though goulash (meat based) was the main soup option, there was a delicious vegetable soup settled in the next pot over.  While vegetable soup isn’t my first pick, Hungarians know how to make soup.  It wasn’t overly salty, and none of the vegetables were mushy or too firm, and the spicing added an amazing touch.  And, of course there was fruit, vegetables, bread, etc.

I'm sad when there's no Strawberry Juice

2 – A delicious rice dish acquired from the cafe at McDaniel College Budapest.  The cafe is located in the basement, but is a nice place to relax, and they give large portions for good prices.  This plate of rice had broccoli, carrots and peas and was very tasty.  For a drink, I had strawberry juice – deliciousness!

Carrots and Peas and Corn, Oh My!

3 – A second food item acquired from the McDaniel cafe, and while it’s not unique to the cafe, it’s toppings are unique to Hungary.  This is the third time I’ve had a Hungarian version of “vegetarian pizza,” and it’s quite literally called vegetarian, not vegetable pizza.  In America, I’ve had vegetable pizzas with onion, pepper, mushroom, black olives, tomato, and broccoli.  In Hungary, the vegetarian pizzas have the basic tomato sauce and cheese, but the normal toppings are corn, peas, and carrots.  Corn Peas and Carrots?  It’s what you stir in a soup, throw on rice, or eat as a side.  This particular version also had beans, adding to the “goes in a soup” assessment.  I have never before eaten a pizza with corn, peas, carrots, or beans.  It tastes fine, even though it has a very lumpy appearance.

 Final Comments:

Being vegetarian in Budapest isn’t any more impossible than in any American city.  (We’ll see how it goes when I get to small towns, but I can live on bread + water for a few days).  This weekend, my group is traveling to Pécs, where our Saturday dinner is payed for, and I’ll reveal the contents of that meal next week.  Finally, BreAnna and I are stirring up plans for another Sunday night dinner, and hopefully we won’t be so tired from the Pécs trip that we can’t cook.

Jan-May, 2012

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Lecso (Hungarian dish #2) is essentially a stir fry. Since BreAnna and I have decided to attempt Hungarian dishes, we’ve found ourselves with a Sunday night tradition. One main dish a week seems to be appropriate for us, particularly since most recipes are meant for 4+ people (Leftovers!). I found this recipe at food.com, but since I failed to save the link, I only found variations of the following ingredients:

  • 1 green pepper, cut into strips

  • 1 red pepper, cut into strips

  • 1 orange bell pepper, cut into strips

  • 1 yellow pepper, cut into strips

  • 1 large onion, cut into strips

  • 2 tablespoons canola oil

  • 2 tablespoons Hungarian paprika

  • 3 tomatoes, skinned, & chunked

  • 2 eggs, well beaten

We created our own variation, which involved one green pepper and one red pepper (instead of a total of 4), and we used 5 tomatoes because we could only find small vine tomatoes. While chopping the peppers, we decided that the strips should be around ½ the height of the full pepper. Here are some photos of the process:

 As we were chopping, we sort of guessed at sizes, and we had words with our onion because it caused us to lose a few tears. We then squished into the issue of skinning our tomatoes. My personal attempts involved removing more of the tomato than I should have, and resulted in a very lopsided, shaved mess.

BreAnna, however, had a more successful attempt, and by tomato #3 had tomato skinning perfected. I merrily skipped around, applauding her success, and enthusiastically captured photos of the master at her craft:

Jubilant cheers were raised as our massacre of vegetables came to a close.  Now it was time to sacrifice the vegetable limbs to the fire.

      1. The onion is the first sacrifice.  You must fry the white limbs in oil until their white transforms to clear.

      2. Mix in the red dust of paprika to cure clogged noses.

      3. Then drop in your peppers & fry the juicy limbs for 2-3 minutes.

      4. Your massacred tomatoes slop in next, and these should be cooked for one minute.

      5. The final step, lower the heat, stir in the eggs of hen until just cooked.

      6. Now that your witches’ stir fry is complete, add your choice of cat’s whisker, snake’s tongue or your own witchy tooth.

(The above instructions may have been altered from their original text)

Our final meal included a bottle of Chardonnay, which confirmed my former assessments that I don’t like alcoholic drinks.

Sizzling Peppers in a Pan

Results: Fiery dragon breath burns snot from nostrils.

My assessment: Could have used some mushrooms.

BreAnna’s assessment: Would be great with ground beef.

Conjoined opinion: Needed more than 2 eggs. The vegetables barely fit in our frying pan, and when the egg was added, it seemed to simply soak into the mix and disappear. We couldn’t really taste the egg at all. It was still pretty good as an onion and pepper dish.  The following night, we made noodles and mixed in the Lecso, which I really enjoyed.

Feb 5, 2012

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