Nomads’ tajine

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Tajines are a variety of North African dishes, named after the clay pot whereh they are cooked, in which various kinds of meat can be used – or not, thus turning it into a simple yet tasty vegetarian dish (we tried beef, chicken and vegetable, but we also found lamp and meatballs). We had tasted lots of it while in Morocco, some were below average, others were simply not bad, but some proved exceptional choices. My favorite was the one I had at La Cantine des gazelles in Marrakech, a chicken tajine with apricots, plums and almonds.

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The dish I enjoyed most while in Morocco

I tried to emulate that taste, based on recipes I found and adding some more stuff to achieve the final result. The main problem I was faced with is that I don’t own a tajine pot. It wasn’t such a big deal though, as I used a pot to boil the ingredients and a deep, covered braising pan to roast them. So, here it is. For a dish that can easily serve six people, you will need:

  • About a kilo and a half of beef
  • 1 and a half small spoons of cumin
  • 2 small spoons of cinnamon
  • ¼ small spoon of turmeric
  • 1small spoon of ginger
  • salt
  • pepper
  • some olive oil
  • water
  • 2 onions
  • beef stock
  • about six plums
  • 2 large spoons of honey
  • 3 aubergines
  • 5 carrots
  • 4 zucchini
  • 4 potatoes
  • some almonds
  • Patience

We start be cutting the meat to medium sized pieces, before boiling it in low heat for a couple of hours to make it as tender as possible.

After that rather slow, yet easy process, we take the pieces of meat and spray them with cumin, cinnamon, turmeric, ginger, salt, pepper and some olive oil and mix it to ensure the spices reach every last piece of it.

Then we heat some olive oil in a large saucepan and when it’s super hot we place the pieces of beef on it for a while and turn it around to make sure it gets a nice color in every side. It won’t take long and once we are done with this step, we add enough water to cover the meat (you can use the dish where you mixed the beef and spices to do that, establishing that more spices will contribute to the final result). That’s it for now, all we have to do is cover the saucepan and boil in medium heat for nearly a couple of hours.

After patiently awaiting for that long, you have to throw in the sauce pan the finely chopped onions, the plums (sliced in halves), the honey and the beef stock and let it boil for a while (five minutes maybe), before throwing in the vegetables. If you don’t have such a large sauce pan (I didn’t) never mind. They will boil in the oven anyways, so it’s not really such a big deal.

You must be equipped with some sort of deep braising pan that has a cover. That is if you don’t own a tajine (I didn’t and I can live without it). Then you throw the content of the saucepan along with the vegetables and almonds in that braising pan, cover, place in the oven and wait for nearly a couple of hours. Enjoy!

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Bacalhau soup

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Since we are definitely visiting Portugal in August, I think that this is an appropriate dish to post. During the Weekend it was a national holiday as celebrations for the start of the Greek revolution against the Ottoman empire were held, combined with the religious Feast of the Annunciation. What’s cod got to do with it? You might ask. I honestly don’t know. Maybe a cod salesman convinced everyone in a country surrounded by sea that Cod is the proper way to celebrate these Feasts:

“Get your cod here! Come on! don’t push each other! There’s plenty for all! Eat the food of heroes’ and make your own revolution! Eat up or baby Jesus will cry!”

The most convincing story I’ve heard though is that during the period of Lent, this was one of the few days that people were allowed to eat fish and strengthen up and while everyone living near the sea could enjoy fresh fish, people living far from it could only get cod on their hands. We enjoy cod though – not as much as Portuguese do I guess – and although most Greeks enjoy it fried or roast, I cooked this tasty soup

Ingredients

2 cod fillets

2 potatoes

1 onion

some celery

4 carrots

salt, pepper

olive oil

lemon juice

First of all you need to heat up some olive oil and then through in the chopped onion and after a while the carrots and potatoes. After a few minutes bring the celery, salt and pepper at play and when the vegetables start to get soft, throw in the cod. DO NOT overcook the fish or it will dissolve in the soup. It only needs a few minutes. Add some lemon juice and enjoy.

An attempt to cook Halusky

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We came across this dish in a small square near Charle’s bridge in Prague. The place was filled with kiosks that sold street food and beer. We stood by a large stool -like table under the sun and enjoyed our meal. Occasionally we‘ve cooked this recipe at home but I certainly do feel like we need to improve something in order to assimilate the Czech taste. This was my first attempt to cook this dish and I relied on a combination of various versions I encountered on the web.

2 Potatoes

An egg

2 cups of Flour

1 small spoon of baking powder

Some milk

Half a cabbage

1 Onion

butter

Salt, pepper

Cheese (preferably goat cheese, I used feta instead)

(Bacon, I didn’t use any on my dish)

Heat the butter on a pan, chop the onions and cabbage and fry for 15 minutes in low heat (then add the bacon and fry for 10 more minutes)

Peel the potatoes and grind them, when done, remove the excess water and mix with the egg, the milk, salt, the baking powder and the flour making a dough.  Roll the dough making long stripes and cut the stripes into small pieces. It’s actually like making homemade gnocchi  and the result reminded me a little bit of pierogi dough. I wrongly made some large dough pieces on my first attempt and through experimenting I found out that the smaller the better. Finally, you throw the dough bits in salted boiling water and boil them for 3 minutes. Then you combine them with the cabbage and onion and serve with some cheese and pepper on top.

Buchteln – Bohemian like us

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This delicacy came to my knowledge while I was reading a blog about Café Hawelka in Vienna. The café was established just before WW2 by Leopold Hawelka, who was involved in the business until his death in 2011. Since the café’s opening the family ran café bakes it’s delicacy according to the secret recipe. So, since Catherine is a renowned sweet tooth, I simply had to introduce her to the realm of central European pastry. The task wasn’t as easy as we thought though, since we had to visit the place twice in order to succeed in finding our target to sink our teeth in.

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UPDATE: I finally got the chance to cook some Buchteln this May, with the help of a little friend. So, here’s the outcome.

Buchteln are sweet yeast buns, filled with marmalade. Unfortunately, ours did not survive long enough to take a picture, so here’s a picture from the Cafe Hawelka interior instead.  By the time we thought about it they were already gone away. So yummie! They originated in Central Europe and my version of them needs much work to even stand close to the ones we had tasted in Vienna. Nevertheless, Vienna is a long way from home and no matter the result of my efforts, preparing these rolls brings the memories of that place to life. I first baked them on a sunny Sunday morning a few weeks after our return from the trip and unexpectedly they were pretty good.

Ingredients

For the buns

250 ml warm milk

2 ½ cups flour

5 g dry yeast

2 – 3 spoons of sugar (I use 1 ½ since I don’t like it too sweet)

1 egg

5 spoons of melted butter

vanilla extract

salt

Some lemon zest

Poppy seeds or powdered sugar to top them if you wish

For the handmade jam

Fruit of your choice for the handmade jam, I use pear or apple

Water

Some sugar for the jam

Ginger and/or Cinnamon

 

To prepare the marmalade, peel the fruit, chop them and boil them with the fewest amount of water possible and some sugar (half the amount of the fruit, still I use less). Throw in a Cinnamon stick and ginger and watch the fruit pieces melt.

Or skip that step and use non handmade jam bought from a store

Ok, so now we got to prepare the yeast dough. Just let the yeast mingle with the milk for a while, nothing to worry, those two will be fine together. After ten minutes, add sugar, egg, vanilla, lemon zest, salt and butter and stir.

Then add the flour (use a strainer, since you do not want any lumps in the mixture)

Let the dough rise for about an hour

Now the tricky part. The dough is sticky so you need to oil your hands (you can use olive oil but you had better use butter). Stickiness is not the major problem though. Filling the buns is.

You need to flatten the dough and throw some marmalade in the center before closing them entrapping the jam inside the bun. DO NOT USE TOO MUCH JAM. Unless you are a buchteln expert that is. The marmalade tends to flow out, so you have to carefully seal it inside the buns. I add some extra dough on the sealing part, to prevent that and then let this point rest on flour.

Then you grease a pan with butter and place the buchteln in, carefully leaving space among them since they will grow in size. Coat them with butter and bake at 180 C for about half an hour, till they are golden brown. Let them cool and if you want sprinkle with poppy seeds or powdered sugar. Enjoy!

HELL AS GHULASH

You will need…

Tender Beef (you could use pork/chicken, but you ‘d better not, Ideally, you could not use meat and make this a vegetarian dish)

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2 spoons of Tomato paste

Paprika (as much as you wish)

2 chopped onions

1 clove of garlic

1 green pepper

1 red pepper

2 peeled tomatoes

Some olive oil

vegetable stock (you could use stock cubes and water)

1 -2 potatoes

1 -2 carrots

salt, pepper

1-2 spicy peppers (optional)

celery

Sometimes I use eggplants and/or zucchini

 

We both love tasty food, who doesn’t? Along with our wanderings in various countries we constantly strain to stroll along various tastes. While home I do most of the cooking and most of the time I am quite proud of the result. Today, I’m gonna present my recipe for an extremely favorable dish. Ghulash, the Hungarian King of Central European cuisine.

First of all, I need to stretch one point. I LOVE SPICY FOOD!!! I can’t really point out how much I do. I ‘ve occasionally even tasted some flavorless food , yet kept on eating for a while because it was spicy. Catherine on the other hand can’t stand spicy food, so there’s a thin balance between two thick people (we are working on that).

Ghulash, is a hearty Central European dish, which originated in Hungary. There are various recipes, and though not of Hungarian origin I’m posting my recipe along with its variations. Of course you do not have to follow it and you are free to add or subtract your own ingredients.

I usually cook this delicacy using yesterdays beef leftovers, since it saves on time and it’s an efficient way to recycle food, yet you could obviously cook the beef specifically for this dish (My advice is to slowly boil the beef in a saucepan with the lid on for a couple of hours).

First you need to heat some olive oil in a sauce pan and after it heats, throw in the chopped onions, after a while the chopped peppers, then the garlic and then the meat. After you stir them for a while throw in the game the potatoes and the carrots. Stir these ingredients once more and then put the chopped tomatoes in there, followed by tomato paste and vegetable stock. Lastly throw in paprika, salt and pepper and stir. Keep an eye on it and stir occasionally, after a while you are ready to savor a magnificent dish.

Update: You could also serve with some semi-hard cheese, or even feta cheese, especially  if you select to add eggplants in the recipe, thus giving the dish a Greek taste.