Wednesday, March 30, 2011

European Cooking 2&3: Hungarian Paprika and Czech Semolina

I’m dying to share pictures and stories from this past weekend’s trip to the Moeraki Boulders and Otago Peninsula, but I’m waiting on some photos from a friend to make it complete.  In the meantime, I can give you something small to munch on: my second and third cooking classes.

Last week we took a quick trip to Hungary and were introduced to the slightly sweeter Hungarian paprika, of which Chef Zuzana dumped copious amounts into both our soup and entrée.  After a quick intro, the class proceeded much like the first one.  Zuzana gave us recipes that we barely glanced at the entire class, (in fact, they turned out to be so insignificant that I forgot mine on the counter at the end of the night - oops!), we each took turns stepping forward for different tasks, and we went much later than anticipated, (I got home close to 10 pm).  This is what we came up with:

[Halászlé (Fish) Soup: We made our fish stock the authentic way - with actual fish heads.  Zuzana refuses to do it any other way.  We boiled these and two bodies of some type of sea fish (she wasn’t sure what kind specifically - she was too upset that she could find a freshwater trout which would have been more traditional).  A small catastrophe stuck as we attempted to get the heads out of the water.  Long story short, much of our fish ended up in the sink.  We cleaned it up and added the veggies and wine.  Very light and tasty, despite my usual aversion to fish-based dishes.  Though I could have done without the aftertaste that hit me hours later...]

[Hungarian Goulash: We browned some chucks of pork and added two huge cans of sauerkraut - a very different dish than the soupy goulash I’ve had before.  Add some chopped onions and garlic (don’t forget the paprika, wine and salt), and it was ready for the oven.  Again, tasty, but a new taste for me.  I enjoy sauerkraut now and then on my sausages or hot dogs, but this was quite a bit in one go.  It definitely added to that fishy aftertaste I had going later...]

[Traditional Apple Strudel: Yummmmm.  Any uneasiness I had experienced while eating the first two dishes was completely made up for by this delicious dessert.  We didn’t have time to make our own phyllo dough, but we layered it with lotttssss of butter and poured chunks of apples, cinnamon, sugar, and rum-soaked raisins inside.  After emerging from the oven, we barely gave it any time to cool before digging in.]

This week we covered the Czech Republic, Zuzana’s homeland.  She came prepared with easy, no-fail favorites that she uses for pot-lucks.  This class was a little crazier than the last two.  Zuzana had been running to class following a busy shift at the hospital (did I mention she’s a nurse?) and had accidentally forgotten some crucial ingredients, like onions.  Everyone was also much more confident this week, and soon all three dishes were being made at once.  I stood back and watched as well as I could while everything went a little too fast.  Luckily, someone soon made a quick run for the missing ingredients and Zuzana did her best to slow the class down.  Some steps were accidentally skipped in the mess, but it all worked out pretty well in the end:

[‘Orange’/Yeast Soup: The base of the soup was nothing but veggie stock, some seasoning, grated carrots, and yep, yeast.  We made dumplings out of semolina and eggs, and as the soup simmered, we dropped the dough in little bits at a time.  At the very end, we mixed in a couple beaten eggs for texture.  It had a pretty interesting and light taste.  The yeast wasn’t too overpowering, but it definitely made itself known.]

[Plnená Paprika (Stuffed Peppers in Tomato Sauce): The title is pretty descriptive.  We mixed together some raw minced beef with uncooked rice, garlic, onion and seasoning and stuffed it into hollowed-out green peppers.  The sauce was simply tomatoes, onions, flour, and seasonings - but very tasty.  This may have been my favorite entrée so far.  Very filling with a nice, but not too strong taste.]

[Bublanina (Plum Semolina Cake): Again, yummmmm.  Another nice simple recipe consisting of plain and semolina flours, sugar, eggs, etc. with canned plums dropped into it right before baking.  Powdered sugar thrown on top before serving, and it was the perfect end to a nice dinner.]

[So tasty that I might have gone back for seconds... and possibly thirds...]

Though I’m excited to see what happens next week with Portuguese food, I’m sad to that the class will be over so soon.  I’ve been exposed to some very new tastes, and even though they may not be my new favorites, I’m glad I’ve gotten to try some new things.  I’ve come to realize how narrow my cooking scope is (sautéed veggies, cheese, and pasta, and I’m set), so it was definitely time for me to step out of that comfort zone for a bit.  Luckily my flatmates like different types of food, too, and are excited to expose me to some Indian, Japanese, Thai, etc. dishes while we’re here.  The foreign food restaurants are plentiful here, and I’ve only had small tastes at home.  These choices aren’t as readily available back in central PA - and when I do find them, I have no idea where to start. I usually run to the nearest Olive Garden instead.  (Or better yet, cook a yummy pasta dish at home.)  Maybe I’ll get lucky and will find some new flavors to bring back - but my home favorites are pretty hard to beat.  Dinner at the flat tonight: Italian-dressing-marinated steaks, roasted potatoes with thyme, and garlicky, buttered green beans.  It doesn’t get much better :)


  1. I admire your courage. I would not have even attempted the fish soup. I was once taken to dinner at an authentic Indian restaurant and the smell of the food around me made me absolutely nauseous I sat motionless and voiceless for the entire meal. I had never had such an experience before or since. I love stuffed peppers and mine are made in a similar way. My goulash is obviously not Hungarian, but I wouldn't mind trying theirs.

    Funny how all of the desserts sound great to me. I am glad you are well. I need to quit avoiding paperwork and get my butt in gear. Take care.

  2. @ Beth: The fish heads were pretty intimidating. And, oh, Indian spices! My best friend did some research in India last summer and lost sooo much weight due to the unfamiliar (aka yucky) smells and tastes. She couldn’t even bear to eat rice when she got home! The goulash was alright... I think I would prefer yours. Too much sauerkraut for sure.

    And the desserts are always my favorite :) Somehow we got through all of the classes without using any chocolate...

  3. Kudos to you for trying so many new things. The OGS is offering cooking classes now, anything from cooking for crowds to specific cuisine. But beware, Icould easily retire from my kitchen duties and let you step in! Daddy would eat fish soup...

  4. @ Cyndy: I did actually see that on their Facebook the other day when I was Googling for Central PA cooking classes. Hopefully they’ll still be available when I get home. And as for the fish soup, I may have eaten, but I’m not planning on touching fish heads any time soon.