Paprika Chicken with caraway noodles from Croatia

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PAPRIKAS

Oh beautiful Croatia, how I long for thee! Sandwiched between the Balkans and Central Europe, it has been a part of many different empires all leaving their mark on this land of stunning natural beauty. Known as ‘The Land of Regions’ owing to it’s wealth of cultural influences and varied terrains, Croatia is a treasure.

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Pletvice Lakes

Gorgeous beaches, myriad rocky islands, awesome mountains, caves, canyons,  and unbelievably scenic lakes and waterfalls. There are eight impressive National Parks and ten equally scenic Nature parks. To sum it up everywhere you go –  it’s picturesque!

Settled from the early stone age, there is fantastic architecture from many ages, all jumbled together, from Greco-Roman palaces, Viennese and Venetian mansions, Slavic churches and Napoleonic fortresses and medieval walled towns, seven places are listed with UNESCO.

Zagreb Cathedral

A colourful culture with loads of festivals and religious holidays and strong traditions in the arts such as painting, singing, folk dancing, traditional wooden toy making, lace weaving, and baking heart-shaped gingerbread. Many of these crafts are listed as culturally significant. A regional family orientated cuisine where eating and drinking are very important and a big part of any festival or (frequent)  religious days which often feature a special food or dish.

Sites to See

There are too many fantastic things to see in Croatia to mention them all, I’d love to go there myself! Have now put it on my ever growing list of places to see before I die! But some of the enormous range of top spots are: Dubrovnik and its’ impressive medieval walls, Split has a retirement palace built by the emperor Diocletian in the 3rd Century,  Zagreb the capital has a laid back charm, Pula features a fantastic Roman amphitheatre (better than in Italy!) in Zadar there’s Roman streets and a forum, there is the UNESCO world Heritage St James cathedral in Siblenik and the basilica in Porec not to mention Trsat Castle.

Amphitheatre at Pula

Spectacular natural beauties include the striking other world weird beauty of Pletvice Lakes and the waterfalls at Krka and limestone rock formations at Paklenica Nature Park, the very popular Zlatni Rat beach, and various scenic islands off the dramatic Adriatic coast.

Croatian Islands

Croatian Islands

Croatian Cuisine

Traditional Croatian Foods

The cuisine of Croatia is hearty peasant food with many distinctive regional styles, it follows the European traditional diets  of protein, dairy, vegetables and grains. An emphasis  on fresh seafood from the sparkling Dalmatian coast where the influence is more Mediterranean, to the interior where the Austro-Hungarian influence is strong, and from the East came the spices, pastries and coffee of the Ottoman empire.

A popular cooking method is in a pekawhich, a wood fired brick oven where all manner of food is cooked to perfection sealed  in a peka, a dish rather like a tagine. Another popular cooking method is spit roasting and grilling meats particularly over an open fire or coals, game is a favourite, and especially cevapcici, like a skinless sausage.

Pasta and dumplings like djoki gnocchi are common, and Croatians are extremely fond of their enormous range of charcuterie.  Wonderful tasty soups are integral to most meals e.g. Zagorska juha with porcini mushrooms, bacon and capsicum. Ajvar is ubiquitous and delicious condiment made from roasted eggplant and capsicum,  and spices like poppy seeds, caraway, and paprika along with citrus and Meditterean herbs such as sage, bay, marjoram and rosemarLet them eat cake!There are many sweet treats ranging from pastries like strudles, pancakes(palacinke) meringues, cheesecakes and doughnuts  and a vast array of complicated cakes, kolači or torta’s many featuring fresh or preserved fruit. Special favourites are cherry, plum and apricot as well as walnuts, almonds and poppy seeds. Custards and cream fillings are popular too.

Drinks

Croatian Beer

Croatian Beer

Huge coffee drinkers, and not surprisingly big beer drinkers too, surrounded by many world class beer brewing countries, Croatia does make some of its own. There are over 300 wine-producing regions and many fruit or nut flavoured spirits are produced.

Paprikas with buttered caraway noodles

  • 500gm chicken thigh fillets
  • 1 large onion
  • 1 tb oil
  • 1 large potato
  • ½ red capsicum/bell pepper
  • 3 tsp paprika
  • ¼ tsp gr chilli
  • 200ml white wine
  • 4tb sour cream
  • salt and fresh ground black pepper
  • 250ml water
  • 300gm egg noodles/pasta
  • 1 tb butter
  • ½ tsp caraway seeds
  • finely chopped parsley

Paprikas

  1. Cut up chicken into bite sized chunks, chop onion, peel and dice potato and capsicum.
  2. Heat oil in saute pan on medium, cook onion until soft and golden brown. Add chicken and brown well.
  3. Add potato and capsicum, brown lightly, add spices and seasonings, stir 1 minute till fragrant.
  4. Add wine  and bring to boil. Add water and cover and cook on low 15-20 minutes until chicken is tender and potato is cooked. Uncover and reduce to a soupy sauce.
  5. To serve : toss cooked egg noodles in butter and caraway seeds, place in bowls, ladle on Paprikas, garnish with sour cream and parsley.

This recipe came from a Croatian cuisine web site but I looked at so many I can’t remember which one!  Paprika Chicken in one form or another has long been a favourite of our family, so while this dish was no surprise, it was still enjoyed by all, and is particularly nice served with the caraway noodles – although Bunny declared a new found aversion to caraway seeds! Scored 7/10 – pleasant but not memorable.

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.