A Slovakian dinner – comfort food for a cold night

Week 11 – Slovakia

 

Beef Paprikás̃ with Haluŝky

It was time to pick our new culinary adventures – where would we be cooking from next? Bunny drew Togo out of the box this week and I pulled out another African country, so I picked again as hubby said “two African meals in one week was too much” Yah, I got Slovakia, another Eastern European country.

What did I know about Slovakia? 

Not a lot…….. It’s a landlocked country surrounded by five other (larger) countries, and was once half of Czechoslovakia. Home of the original Slav’s from the 6th century on, it formed part of Greater Moravia in the middle ages. Then gradually became part of the Kingdom of Hungary and later the Hapsburg Empire. Unified to become one country Czechoslovakia, which peacefully dissolved in 1993 becoming independent Slovakia and the Czech Republic.

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The capital and heart of the country is Bratislava, situated on both banks of the Danube River, it was once the capital of the Kingdom of Hungary. Loomed over by the impressive Bratislava Castle, it features many medieval towers, baroque palaces, wonderful churches and many green parks.

The small population is well educated, the fabulous natural landscapes of wild mountains, lakes, rivers and caves, strong and colourful folk traditions, and many well-preserved historic buildings and quiet towns make this a great country to visit.

 

wooden church Slovak Carpathians

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Top Attractions

Skiing, fishing (in rivers & lakes) cycling, sight-seeing of fabulous castles, fantastic churches especially the UNESCO site of the Wooden Churches of Slovak Carpathians, the mountains, especially the High Tatras, Bratislava itself, spa resorts and the Andy Warhol museum. Yes, Andy Warhol was actually Slovakian, born Andrej Varhola to parents who migrated from Miková in the 1920’s to Pittsburg, USA. Who knew?

Zelene Pleso (Lake)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The food 

Naturally given the history, the Hungarian/Austrian influence is very strong and all the countries in this region share a common culinary heritage. Many recipes are very similar but still have their own regional differences. Meat, particularly pork, chicken and game is very important,  vegetables are hardy species such as potatoes, onions and garlic, the cabbage family, capsicums and carrots. Fungi are hugely popular and many are found in the wild.

Wheat the staple crop is made into bread, dumplings and noodles. Temperate fruits such as plums, apples, apricots and berries are used in both sweet and savoury dishes.  Milk products such as yogurt and soured cream, cheeses especially sheep milk ones are eaten a lot and meals traditionally were simple, tasty and hearty, using what was locally available.

Long cold winters led to many techniques for the preservation of foods from cheese-making, salamis and sausages, pickles, and of course variations of sauerkraut. A much loved spice is paprika, hot varieties or mild and sweet, caraway, poppy seeds, and walnuts are popular flavourings.  Paprika finds it’s way into many foods and recipes and is synonymous with the region.

Haluŝky – Slovak Potato Dumplings

  • 2 large potatoes
  • 2 cups plain flour
  • 2-3 rashers streaky bacon
  • 1 tsp salt
  • approx. 1/2 cup water
  1. Put a large pan of salted water on to boil
  2. Dice bacon and fry until just a little crispy
  3. Peel and grate the potato and squeeze out excess water. Add the rest of ingredients and enough water to mix to a soft dough
  4. Put dough on a board, with a knife quickly cut into short little batons, dropping into the boiling water as you cut.
  5. Let them rise to the surface, then boil for a minute or two, scoop out and drain.
  6. Serve immediately with paprikash or even stirred into the sauce to coat the dumplings. Browned butter may be poured over the haluŝky for extra richness and flavour.

This recipe is adapted from a most excellent site for all things Slovak :  http://www.slovakcooking.com/2009/recipes/halusky/

 

Beef Paprikás̃  – Beef Goulash

Ingredients

  •  2 tablespoons olive oil
  •  500g beef round or topside steak
  •  1 large onion, chopped
  •  1 tsp caraway seeds. + a few extra to serve
  •  1½ tb sweet paprika
  •  2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  •  2 bay leaves
  •  1/2 red capsicum thinly sliced
  •  1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  •  180 g cherry tomatoes, cut in half
  • 4 medium mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 long green chilli, thinly sliced
  • 1 tb tomato paste
  •  1/2 cup (125ml) beef stock
  •  1/2 cup (125ml) white/red wine
  •  1 large potato, cut into 2cm cubes
  • 1 large carrot, sliced
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  •  2 tb finely chopped flat-leaf parsley

Method

  1. Heat oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook beef, in 2 batches, for 3-4 minutes or until browned. Transfer to a bowl.
  2. Stir onion and garlic in pan for 5 minutes until softened. Add carrot, capsicum, chilli  and mushrooms, cook for 5 minutes or until soft.
  3. Stir in paprika, caraway seeds and cayenne for 1 minute or until aromatic. Add tomatoes, potato and beef. Season.
  4. Add wine and bring to boil. Add tomato paste, stock and bay leaves. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook, stirring occasionally, for 1 hour 45 minutes or until beef is tender.
  5. To serve, mash the potato into the sauce with a rubber spatula to thicken it. Stir in half the sour cream, serve topped with a blob of sour cream, a few extra caraway seeds and the chopped parsley.

I used my own recipe and spiced it up a bit to come closer to what a true Slovak Beef Paprikás̃ should be. I hope you like it.

Thank goodness it was a cooler, rainy night when I made this hearty dish, otherwise we couldn’t have face it in 30 + degree heat! I served it with braised red cabbage, and the potato dumplings which were weird for us but good. Overall we enjoyed this meal from Slovakia and rated it 7/10. The dumplings made this dish interesting for us, as I regularly make a version of paprikash/goulash during winter.

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