When I was living in big cities, the first cold days in September always brought me into melancholy. Autumn seemed like nothing more but the end of the apparently best part of the year and the sign for that it is time to get prepared for winter. Slightly unnoticed my attitude to this season definitely changed after we moved to the countryside one year ago, and started our life in our little house close to the nature. I realized that I like autumn, or more than that: I love it! I like the autumn lights, which projects the shadows of our cherry tree on our house in the morning.
In the early hours the hill opposite our house is covered by fog and dotted by the yellow and brown spots of the autumn leaves. Cicadas, that served us relaxing music in summer nights, don’t play any more, and yesterday we started to think about that slowly it is time to heat up our tile stove the first time this season. At the evenings it feels so good having a cup of tea, wrapping myself in a warm blanket and reading a good book. Nature and maybe the whole world around us is slowing down, life has changed but it feels good to live this part of the year as well, not only the never-sleeping, vibrant and exciting summer.
Autumn inspires me to cook in a different way. I am happy about a long cooking process or to switch on the oven, because of the warmth it brings to the house these days without heating yet. Originally I wanted to bake a cake for this blogpost, but when I saw the ripe peppers in our kitchen garden, I quickly changed my mind and decided to cook stuffed peppers with tomato sauce. You can cook the meat balls stuffed into peppers or without, as you want, but peppers give a wonderful flavor to it. It is a perfect dish for cool autumn days: it still reminds you about summer at the same time it warms up your body and soul. I cook it in the way my mother does it, with lots of vegetables- so the sauce will be made not only by using our own peppers but tomatoes and onions from our kitchen garden as well. Continue Reading…
I am sitting at my favorite place, on the stairs at the front door eating cheese wafers we made with my grandmother yesterday and listen to the quiet little noise leaves are making when they arrive at the bottom after falling down slowly from the cherry tree. This idyllic relaxing moment ends when my dog Beeper shows up with her toy in her mouth and asks me to play with her. For this I would really need four hands: two for typing the blog post, another one for grabbing the wafers and another one to throw the toy as far as possible to make her happy. Fortunately some people from the village pass by on the street which attracts little dog’s attention so I can go back to my blog post and wafers. At least for a while.
Cheese wafer is our childhood classic and favorite snack which is my grandmother’s speciality since she was the only one who had the cast-iron wafer-maker which is necessary to make them. It was made specially for her in a small manufactory in Veszprém, in my home town. Its grips are made from wood, the iron became already black because of lots of years of usage which is not surprising: it is already 60 years old. It served many family occasions, evening snacks and the arrivals of the grandchildren.
Although I don’t have a wafer- maker yet, I would like to learn how to make it, if only because of the nostalgic feeling it awakes in me when I see these golden brown cheesy wafers. Continue Reading…
Falling leaves and the sunshines that come in a special low angle give us an unmistakable sign that autumn has arrived. In the countryside the way you perceive time is different, you notice the change of season through observing the cycles of the garden which is like a living calendar. It is almost unbelievable that already a year has passed by since we arrived with our boxes, hopes and enthusiasm to that time utterly empty little house in the countryside.
Since than this house became a home that we tried to fill up with as much happy memories, laughters and talks as possible during a year. We learnt a lot about the garden and the one most important is how much we still don’t know about it. I have filled up the air of the kitchen countless times with the scent of the meals I was preparing. I have lighted up the flame of the stove, opened the door of the oven hundreds of times in order to get my family and friends happy and well-fed around the dining table.
One of the most important thing I learnt during this one year is that what a treasure lies in simpleness and the return to simple life. I touch with love our old dining table, which has scratches, spots and even some cracks. I like the concrete floor in the pantry which became already shiny throughout the years. It is such a nice feeling to discover old glass coffee cups in the attic, or the wooden-handled knife which is surprisingly sharp although nobody sharpened it since decades. We are happy for every little step we take in order to preserve the house and the orchard for many many more years.
We could celebrate the past one year, but instead I would like to celebrate the actual day, the Today with all the beauties it will bring, if it is today a basket full of pears that I collected under the tree. In the spirit of simpleness I will bake “mákos kifli”, Hungarian crescent cookies filled with poppy-seed cream according to my mother’s recipe. It is so delicious that you would think you need to spend a lot of time preparing it. The dough doesn’t contain any sugar and it is fluffy like puff pastry but there is no need to fold the dough any times. I can prepare double portion and put one portion of dough and filling into the freezer. So when we suddenly feel a strong desire for freshly baked “kifli” we only need to wait until it defrosts and I can start rolling the dough out.
There are many things to do in the orchard: raking leaves, weeding out kitchen garden, it is time to plant strawberries and we have to collect fruits that have fallen down.
Fortunately we can always sneak to the kitchen for a crescent cookie…or for another one and another one…
“ Mákos kifli” – Hungarian crescent cookies filled with poppy-seed cream
300 g all-purpose flour
60 g cake and pastry flour
250 g butter or margarine
1 pinch of salt
200 ml sour cream
1 package of vanilla sugar
For the filling:
150 g grounded poppy-seed
100 g caster sugar
150 ml milk
1 package of vanilla sugar
25 g semolina
Mix flours with salt and butter, add sour cream and egg, knead it to a soft dough, roll it into a plastic foil and let it rest in the fridge for a couple of hours or even better for a complete night. For the filling bring milk to boil, add poppy-seed and semolina than finally sugar and vanilla sugar. Stir it well and let it cool down. On a lightly floured surface roll out the dough to 0,5 cm thick and cut it into 6 x 6 cm rectangular. Divide filling among the rectangulars than roll them up, push them a bit so the dough sticks together and place them on a baking pan lined with parchment paper. Important is that the folding is on the bottom so they won’t open while baking and leave some space between them because they will grow a bit. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees and bake them until golden brown. Mix confectioner’s sugar and vanilla sugar and while the cookies are still hot, roll them into the mixture.
Every week when I prepare my new blog post I get inspiration from somewhere regarding the subject of the post. Sometimes our orchard gives ingredients, sometimes a dish comes up in a conversation with somebody or I just get hungry for something. However, this week inspiration to cook fresh Hungarian home-made pasta with cottage cheese and bacon came unexpectedly and surprisingly in form of a box of fresh pasta. My mother called me and asked whether we would like to have some pasta with cottage cheese. Of course we wanted to. My sister and I were so lucky that we could eat fresh pasta in our whole childhood. My poor mother who always had an 8-hour or even 12-hour job tried to prepare this dish once with a pasta from the supermarket. We were so spoiled by her home-made pasta that we immediately noticed the difference and started to complain. “Mom, it is not the one we are used too…”
So my Mum kneaded, rolled and cut the fresh pasta in the last 30 years. I was watching her while she dropped the pasta to the boiling water and I was waiting impatiently for it to get ready, because I wanted to taste it right away, without any topping.
And now a box of cooked pasta is waiting for me in the fridge (it even tastes good when heated up afterwards) while I start kneading another dough, to be able to tell you the exact amount of water needed, since my mother told me to “add as much as the flour takes up”. I change the method according to modern age so the kitchen machine kneads the dough instead of me, and I roll it out with a pasta machine.
I bring some fresh sour cream and cottage cheese from my neighbor, Ani, and buy some delicious smoked bacon at the nearby butcher which I dice and fry so it will be crunchy.
I am standing in front of the pot of boiling water and waiting impatiently that pasta comes up to the surface. Then right away, I start to eat it with a wooden spoon. I must say, there is nothing better than fresh pasta. No question about it.
Hungarian home-made fresh pasta with cottage cheese and bacon
250 g all-purpose flour
50 g cake and pastry flour
approximately 100 ml water
sunflower or olive oil
50 g diced bacon
200 ml sour cream
250 g cottage cheese
Mix flour, eggs and water by adding water gradually because amount of water can depend on the flours. (I needed exactly 100 ml) Knead it to a flexible and soft dough then roll it out with a pasta machine. My machine has 7 grade, I rolled first on 7th, 6th and then finally 5th) Sprinkle a kitchen towel with flour and lay the pasta on it and let the sheets try for 30 minutes- 1 hour. Cut sheets lengthwise put two on each other and cut them julienne with a knife. Use your fingers to separate the ones stick together. Dice bacon and fry it in a pan. Boil some water, add salt and some drops of oil. Cook pasta in bunches in boiling water until it comes up to the surface. Use a small sieve to remove pasta and pour cold water on it to stop cooking process. Move sieve to remove any excess water and put pasta into another pot, mix with the oil so they don’t stick to each other. Season with some salt. For cottage cheese pasta add some cottage cheese and sour cream to it and top with the fried bacon cubes.
This year we don’t have so much plums in our orchard, there was a lot of rain which didn’t help the ripening process. The ones who use pesticides face the same problem this year as the ones who don’t: plums fall from trees moldy and wormy. Anyway, our orchard remains organic. Our plum tree is old, this year we didn’t have time to prune it. Part of the tree trunk is rotting, branches grow in a chaotic way and the tree itself is way to high. Still, it serves us with enough plums for me to experiment with the first plum syrup in my life, I can give some for my grandmother and still have enough for cakes and pies. In my childhood we didn’t use plums for cakes, more for jams, so instead of looking for a family recipe, I open the old cookbook from the 1930’s which I found in an antique shop last year. Its pages are yellowed, have spots and the scent of time and past cookings. Since plum was apparently neglected in our kitchen, i find a good opportunity to change this by baking a wonderful plum pie as written in the book. Although it had been 80 years ago when this book was published, the recipe is easy to follow and understand. Or at least it seems. Continue Reading…
Preparing a blackberry cake is nice, but using wild black blackberries is something special. I could have gone to the market to buy some fresh berries but using the wild ones is much more exciting and adventurous not to mention the difference in taste. In my family we don’t have any recipe with blackberries so I decide to take my mother’s sponge cake recipe and top it with my own fruity cream so I can be faithful to the original concept of this blog. I must say this combination doesn’t disappoint me. Quite the opposite. Continue Reading…
This blog post will be about the iconic Hungarian ratatouille, called “lecsó” (pronunciation: letch-oh)
I must say it is a really controversial speciality, even among Hungarians. It can be made in different ways and obviously everybody thinks that her/his recipe is the real one. Even in families it can be a matter of debate but we all can agree in one thing: the basic ingredients are tomato, pepper, onion and paprika. Continue Reading…
We wake up early in the morning and go for a walk with my dog, Beeper. I like these early hours, if we are lucky enough all dogs in the street are still sleeping so we have a chance to go to the forest without loud and constant barking. We pass by orchards and flower gardens and I realize that the tree which I see so often is the same race of apple tree that we have in our garden, and I can already recognize some healing plants as well. Every time we go to the forest I discover something new: this time blackberry bushes which have already a few ripe fruits. They have a wonderful sour taste which I like so much, so I memorize the place and promise myself to return. Continue Reading…
Weeks of constant heat are followed by days with rain showers and sometimes even storms. The lawn which was already burnt out greens again, I don’t need to carry canful of water to water our tomatoes and the air has a completely different scent. After a bigger storm I am bit worried so we go up to the attic and check the roof but fortunately the old little house which was built more than 80 years ago could stand the challenge of the big storm. It feels so good to widely open windows and let the fresh air inside the house, even if thanks to the stone walls our house always remained cooler even in hot summer days.
A friend comes to visit us today who I know from Spain. Raji grew up in Germany but her roots go back to India. We spent great time together sitting in Málaga next to a glass of wine and tapas, talking about dreams, cultural diversity, traveling and plans for the future. Now we will see each other again one year later and 3000 km far away.
As usually when we expect guests I start looking at our house and garden with more critical eyes. I feel it is absolutely necessary to remove weeds from the flower bed in front of the house and plant the rosemary wig I have put into a vase weeks ago. I try to staple books and magazines in a more orderly way and in the meantime I think about what to cook for lunch. Continue Reading…
Waffles were always very special treats for me. Maybe because as a child I liked its shape or the fact that it doesn’t come out from the oven, we use a special machine for that. Or maybe just because it is so tasty. I ate waffles the first time when we visited friends of my parents, aunt Zsuzsa and uncle Gyula and I immediately put them on the list of my favorites. I was 10 years old, ate one after the other one until I couldn’t eat more although my eyes were still hungry for them. Uncle Gyula suggested that I should run around the house two times and most surely I will be able to eat one more. He was joking but I took it seriously, stood up, ran two rounds around the house, set down again and had another waffle. One year after the cousin of my father visited us who was living in Western Germany. At that time it was not easy to travel especially between Western and Eastern Europe. He wanted to give us a present but didn’t know what we like so he gave us West German deutsche Mark. If you lived at that time in Europe you know very well how big treasure it was in the 1980’s! We kept it in the cupboard and were making plans with my sister what we were going to buy for this money. Actually I didn’t think a lot. I could have asked for a beautiful doll, or doll house, or for some clothes but at that time I was already interested in other things. So when friends of my parents could travel to Western Germany, we gave them my money and asked them to buy my heart’s desire: a waffle-maker. After that we were continuously making and eating waffles, spooned apricot jam or chocolate pudding and whisked cream over. But in the last years we completely forgot about waffles. In the meantime we had to replace the old waffle-maker but the “new” one is also almost 20 years old. To recall memories I borrow it from my mother and prepare the good old recipe. I make also some vanilla sauce as we had at uncle Gyula’s house long time ago. The kitchen is filled up by the scent of the baking dough and vanilla and I remember that if after the second one I cannot eat more, I can run two rounds around the house. Our garden is big enough…
Waffles with vanilla sauce
250 g butter
120 g caster sugar
3 packages of vanilla sugar
400 g flour
1 tsp. baking powder
500 ml milk
To the vanilla sauce:
500 ml milk
2 egg yolks
1/4 vanilla bean
50 g sugar
1 tsp. flour
Mix butter, sugar and vanilla sugar and beat it with a hand mixer until foamy. Add eggs, mix flour and baking powder and add it to the dough alternately with the milk. Keep it refrigarated until you start baking waffles. In the meantime prepare the sauce. Mix the egg yolks, flour, sugar and 100 ml milk and set aside. Bring the rest of the milk to boil then add it to the egg mixture. Put it back to the stove and cook it slowly, stirring continuously until it thickens.