Week 23 – Serbia/Croatia – 19 July 2015
The first börek I had was from a little bakery in Zagreb. Not really knowing what I was ordering, I pointed to one curly pastry and handed over a couple of coins. Next thing I was asked was whether I wanted yogurt or not… “Um, sure.” It was grouse. Börek – with or without yogurt – was henceforth my go-to savoury snack in central Europe, because once I chomped into that pastry there was no going back.
This was one week in Eat the World where I didn’t bother looking for alternative recipes. All I did was try to confirm where the food originated. It looks, however, like there is no straight answer, with Croatia, Serbia, Macedonia and Slovenia all in contention for ownership. Or at least putting up their own variation.
I sort of based my börek on an online recipe, although my technique and fillings ended up being quite ad hoc and all I really took from the recipe was the wash poured over the dish at the end. Essentially, my dish comprised of 12 – 15 layers of filo (lightly oiled every couple of layers), followed by filling, followed by another stack of filo. My two fillings were meat (cooked beef mince, onion, parsley, garlic, cumin, salt and pepper) and cheese (feta, spinach, onion). And with the leftover meat I made a couple of extra börek rolls (one stack of pasty rolled around a line of meat filling and tucked in at the ends).
The interesting part came in the wash, as I haven’t previously cooked pastry like this. Mixing three eggs, ¾ cup of yogurt and ¾ cup of soda water, each of my börek dishes was drenched with said mixture, covered and refrigerated for two hours prior to cooking. After a subsequent 45 minutes in the oven, the filo still crisped up and separated slightly, but had a denser consistency that matched my memory from eating this food in Europe. And therein lay the trick to making this Croatian/Serbian variety of börek.
This dish was easy to make and I may have gone overboard with quantity, but I’m not worried because it freezes perfectly fine (if it makes it that far post snacking across the following couple of days).
Have a look at a recipe here.
Week 24 – Austria – 26 July 2015
Schnitty Day! This one required no thought, Austria = Schnitzel. Hearty and delicious, Austrian fare is also easy and instead of taking advantage of that, I decided to put together both a main and dessert.
So… Strudel Day!
First, dinner. Veal, beef and pork schnitzels were all available to me and I decided on this occasion to opt for pork, as it’s a meat I rarely cook at home. The meat is lightly floured, egged and crumbed and it is during this process that you can make the schnitzel your own. In my case, the egg wash was mixed up with parmesan cheese, parsley, lemon rind, salt and pepper (but the possibilities are endless). Once crumbed, it went in the fridge for an hour before being pan fried and served.
So in that time, I worked on my sauerkraut. For this, I cooked one red onion in oil until soft, then added one quarter red cabbage, ½ cup of apple cider vinegar, ½ cup apple cider and ½ cup of water, along with ¼ teaspoon of caraway seeds. This then simmered on the stove for an hour until the cabbage is nice and soft. Again, this can be made to taste: more tangy = more vinegar, less tangy = more water, sweeter = more cider, etc.
For dessert, I worked off a recipe for a delicious Austrian apfel strudel. For the dough, I used ‘00’ flour instead of all purpose. This meant that after it had rested, it was super easy to stretch thin. The rest of the recipe I followed as is, with no complications. In terms of improvement, the strudel didn’t need as long in the oven as the recipe stated, with the dough ending up quite hard. The filling was delicious, however, and all together it went down perfectly with some vanilla custard.
As an aside, I mixed the strained rum from the raisins with the leftover cider (warmed in the microwave for a minute) and some spiced apple pinched from the strudel mix for a delicious winter warmer.
Week 25 – Czech Republic/Hungary – 2 August 2015
If you’re after some hearty winter grub, it’s hard to go past a goulash. And when I think of goulash, I’m drawn to the dish’s home of Hungary, or to Czech Republic from where my week’s particular recipe digs in.
My original idea had been to pit the two countries against one another, but I quickly realised that the Hungarian paprika prominence and Czech pilsner pride could easily just come together. In looking for a good pilsner based recipe, I found exactly what I was after – a Czech goulash paying all respects to a traditional Hungarian one.
When I stayed in Nuremberg, Germany, there was a man there who spent a good 8 hours perfecting his goulash on the hostel kitchen stove, coming back time and time again to stir and taste. While that might be the dream, my goulash took only one humble hour to prepare, yet packed a worthy punch all the same.
I stayed true to the recipe, both for goulash and dumplings, only adding a diced capsicum to the former to really enhance the flavour. At first, the capsicum/paprika flavour seemed in overdrive, but once cooked down in the beer it developed a much more balanced flavour that shared the glory amongst its neighbouring ingredients. The dumplings really brought out the Czech home cooking of the dish (as did the accompanying Pilsner Urquell), although could easily have been substituted with tészta (noodles) if nodding to Hungary.
Recipe was from Loaded Kitchen.
Week 26 – Germany – 9 August 2015
Meatballs are something I tend to associate with Italian food, cooked in hearty tomato based sauces and served over pasta or polenta. German meatballs are far from this style – they celebrate sour and salty and are generally served with potatoes. Of all the German fare I’ve enjoyed, I haven’t had German meatballs as a meal on their own before. So this week, I decided to abandon all that I though I knew about meatballs and go Deutsch!
Lemon, capers, cider vinegar, sour cream and a triple mincemeat combo… These are some of the ingredients that make up the white dish of Konigsberger Klopse. There are three stages involved in this dish: creating a broth from stock, wine and vinegar; forming the meatballs and boiling them in the broth; and finally converting the broth to a white creamy sauce.
Tender and flavoursome, the hefty list of ingredients that goes into the meatballs themselves pays off, with each providing the bulk of interest once on the plate. The lemon comes through, but the sour cream dominates the sauce, so it’s good that the meat releases such a range of flavours.
The recipe I used is available here, but I would recommend at least halving the amounts for the meatballs unless you want to feed a sports team.
For dessert, I put together a German treat I have wanted to make for a long time: Kalter Hund. The only reason I know about this dessert is because of a café by the same name in Dresden. We visited the café because of its dachshund logo, only to learn there was a resident dachshund, Stefan, who lived there and came to say hi to all the customers (i.e. his new friends).
Literally, kalter hund means “cold dog”, but this dish is layers of chocolate cream and butter biscuits; assembled, chilled and sliced to create a biscuit ladder effect that is quite cool. The recipe is available here and we decided to honour Stefan in our serving of each slice.