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Cake of the country

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koronás országtorta20 of August is the greatest national holiday for the Hungarians, celebrated with day-long festivities followed by spectacular fireworks throughout the country. On that beautiful end of summer’s day people commemorate the foundation of the Hungarian state, -it’s like Hungary’s 4th of July- and also calls as St. Stephen’s Day, remembering Stephen I, the first king of Hungary and founder of the Kingdom of Hungary, who was canonized on August 20th, 1083 by Pope Gregory VII. St. Stephen’s Day also marks the festival of the new bread, celebrated in cities and towns across the country. Traditionally, the first bread from the new harvest is baked on this day
Festivities start in the morning with the raising of the Hungarian flag and go on all day long, culminating in a spectacular fireworks display over the Danube river.

There is also a cake cutting ceremony as well, as it has become since 2007 a tradition to select an official cake for Hungary on August 20th. Visitors to the ‘Street of Hungarian Flavors’ on the Danube embankment can enjoy a slice. Celebrations continue with many other programs such as street festival of the Hungarian flavors, open-air concerts, high mass, procession of St Stephen’s holy right hand.

Cake of the country competition

Since 2007 in August, every confectioner of the country challenges themselves against each other. As the leading sportsmen/women they prepare and practice too, to win the title “The cake of Hungary”. The National Trade-Corporation of the Hungarian Confectioners called for tender the “Cake of Hungary” first in 2007. Every confectioner in the country can make a cake, which reflects to the Hungarian relish, judged by a jury, containing confectionary masters. The trade-corporation that calls the tender tries to side with a social group, or to reflect to a social problem. In 2010, the country’s 1000 pieced cake given to flood-stricken children, in 2012, the first “Sugar-free cake of Hungary” tender was born.

The list of the winner cakes

In 2007 – the Floating Island cake, in 2008 – the Plum cake from Szatmár, in 2009 – the Cherry cake from Pánd, in 2010 – the Plum dumpling cake, in 2011 – the Millet cake with peach from Kecskemét, in 2012 – the Poppy cake with apple from Szabolcs, in 2013 the Brittle cake with honey from Milota , in 2014 the Revolution cake of Somló, in 2015 the Apricot brandy caramel cream cake orszagtortafrom Pannonhalma.

Hungarian potato dish with sweet paprika and sausage

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paprikás krumpliThis is a very Hungarian potato dish which is great cooked with smoked sausage.

Ingredients: 2 tablespoons butter, 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 large onion, diced, 1 12 tablespoons Hungarian sweet paprika, 6 large potatoes, diced 3/4 inch (waxy type), 1 small green pepper, diced, 1 large tomatoes, peeled and diced, salt and pepper, to taste, water, 150 g smoked sausage or spanish chorizo

Directions: In a large saucepan, melt butter and olive oil together.

Sauté the onions for 5 minutes with the smoked saussage or chorizo.

Put all of the rest of the ingredients into the pot, just barely covering the potatoes with water.

Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer.

Avoid stirring as much as you can to keep the potatoes from breaking apart.

Cook for 30 minutes or until tender. Eat with pickles or fresh cucumber salad!

 

Japanese honey cake-Castella

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Nasi lemakKasutera (Castella) is an old-fashioned Japanese sponge cake that is loved by everyone from the young to the old. It is sweeter and moister than the European sponge cakes which are often eaten with cream or some kind of frosting. The Japanese Kasutera you can eat as it is.

Cake from the Middle-Ages

Even though Kasutera is originated from Europe, it regards as a very authentic Japanese sweet today. According to the European history in the 16th century, the Portuguese reached Japan and soon started trade and missionary work. Nagasaki was then the only Japanese port open for foreign commerce. The Portugueses introduced many then-unusual things, such as guns, tobacco, pumpkins and the castella as well. The original name of kasutera was Pão de Castela, -meaning “bread from Castile”,-and was very popular because it could be stored for a long period of time, and so was useful for the sailors who were out on the sea for months. In the Edo period, in part due to the cost of sugar, castella was an expensive dessert to make, despite the ingredients sold by the Portuguese. When the Emperor of Japan’s envoy was invited, the Tokugawa Shogunate presented the Castella.

Over hundreds of years the taste of the kasutera has changed a lot to suit Japanese palates. Nowadays it is sweetened with sugar and honey or gooey syrup, like corn syrup to make the texture of Castella is moist and soft. The result is: its taste is unique, little different from ordinary pound cakes. Also the substantial amount of sugar and syrup gives the Kasutera’s signature a dark brown top which is the favorite part of the cake for lot of people. Many Japanese like to eat Castella with no cream decoration.

Kasutera is sold at many old established Japanese sweets stores, department stores, and even supermarkets. Prices and flavors varies widely from the expensive ones to the cheap ones. Because of its popularity there are some famous Castella manufacturers in Nagasaki such as Bunemido and Fukusaya (The large, pound cake type Castella is popular as a gift. The small, spheral Castella, called “Suzu Castella” is very common at festivals).baby castella

Kasutera (Castella)

My recipe version is a pretty good for home baking, I got it from my Japanese sister-in-law, who’d got from her grandmother..It is soo good so it is hard to resist the urge of eating the cake immediatelly after baking, but it is better to leave it wrapped for a couple of days before tasting because the flavor and the texture get better and better day by day.

One more thing: Don’t worry if your Kasutera will be soft and chewy in texture, because that’s normal. Flour with higher gluten content such as bread flour is used to achieve this result, but the cake will be very light cake, and the advantage of it there is no fat in it.

Prep Time: 25 minutes, baking time: 50 minutes

Yield: 1 9″X9″ cake pan

Ingredients: 7 eggs, on room temperature, 1 1/4 cup sugar (250g), 1/4 cup milk (60g), 1/3 cup honey (80g), 1 1/2 cup bread flour (200g)

  1. Heat the oven to 350F (175C).
  2. Beat eggs in a stand mixer, adding sugar in 3 parts over about 10 minutes.
  3. Mix milk and honey in a separate bowl, then heat to lukewarm until the honey melts.
  4. Sift the bread flour and set aside.
  5. Add half of the milk mixture to the egg mixture and mix for a few seconds. Add half of the bread flour and mix. Add the rest of the milk and honey, and mix, then lastly add remaining bread flour and mix for 2-3 minutes. Give a good mix by hand with spatula.
  6. Line a 9″X9″ (23cmX23cm) baking pan with parchment paper. Pour the cake batter in the pan (if you have leftover batter, bake in another small container). Bake at 350F (175C) for 10 minutes, then lower the temperature to 320F (160C) and bake another 30-40 minutes. Cover the top with aluminum foil if it is browning too much too soon.
  7. Take the cake out from the oven and immediately drop the pan from a height of about 5″ (12.5cm) to release the air in the cake to avoid collapsing.
  8. Spread plastic wrap on a flat surface, cool the cake top side down on the plastic. Wrap it with plastic after it has completely cooled.

Swiss noodle soup

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Salmon quiche 029Last weekend I visited the small Beuerberg abbey in Bavaria, near the lake Starnberg where in the closter laden I had found an interesting sort of dry noodle. Its name’s Spätzle and later on I figured out that it’s a diminutive plural of Spatz, what literally means “little sparrows”, and also known as Spätzli or Chnöpfli-Knöpfli in Switzerland, and in Hungary it is known as Nokedli, Csipetke or Galuska- and they are all a kind of soft egg noodles or dumplings found in the cuisines of southern Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Hungary, Alsace and also in South Tirol.

Their names were invented before the invention and use of mechanical devices were spread Europe-wide to make these noodles, and they were shaped by hand or with a spoon. So the results resembled Spatzen (sparrow) or Knöpfle (means “small buttons”) and describes the compact form of this spätzle variety.Salmon quiche 033

How to make it

Spätzle dough typically consists of few ingredients, principally eggs, flour, and salt. The Swabian rule-of-thumb is to use one more egg than the number of persons who’ll eat the spätzle. Often, water is added to produce a thinner dough, but care needs to be taken. The flour traditionally used for spätzle is a coarse type, which gives a chewier texture but can produce a dough too crumbly for scraping if no water is added, particularly when cutting short on eggs for health reasons. If fine (“all-purpose”) flour and the full complement of eggs are used, all fat and moisture in the dough is derived from these, and water is rarely necessary.

Traditionally, Spätzle are made by scraping long, thin strips of dough off a wooden (sometimes wet) chopping board into boiling salted water where they cook until they rise to the surface. Altogether, the dough should thus be as viscous as to slowly flow apart if cut into strips with a knife, yet hold the initial shape for some seconds. If dropped into boiling water, the albumen will congeal quickly in the boiling water, while the yolk will keep the dough succulent. After the noodles have become firm, they are skimmed and put aside.Magyarország augusztus-szeptember 139

Since this can be a cumbersome way to prepare spätzle, several devices were invented to facilitate cooking that resemble a strainer or colander, potato racer, food mill or coarse grater. As with scraped Spätzle, the dough drops into the boiling water. Those instruments that use muscle pressure in addition to gravity can be used with a firmer dough; that for a Spätzlehobel should be as “runny” as the one for scraping.

This soup recipe is an absolut keeper. Beside of this soup you can make from knöpfli a rich one plate dish which gonna be the Swiss equivalent of mac and cheese just you make the pastra from scrap and the cheese is Swiss. By the way many dishes that are made from knöpfli are favorites in many Swiss homes around the country, especially for the kids. Instead of self making the pasta you can buy in grocery stores under different names such as on the above mentioned names spätzli or knöpfli. They look like little globs of dough, which are turn out, they are. Thankfully, those little globs you cover in butter and cheese, will make them super delicious.

Soup with knöpfli

Ingredients: 2-3 tbsp of oil, 3 carrots, 2 white carrots or small turnips, 100g peas, 1 big potato, half of an onion, 150 g knöpfli, 1 vegetable stock (1,5 liter soup), salt and pepper to taste, 1 teaspoon Hungarian sweet paprika powder

  1. Fry the knöpfli until golden brown. Add chopped, raw vegetables with the potatoes, (peeled and cubed) to it and fry them together for a few minutes until beginning to soften.
  2. Cover with the stock (1,5 liter) and simmer for 10-15 minutes or until the vegetables are tender. Season with salt and pepper and with the Hungarian sweet paprika. Serve with some fresh herbs.Salmon quiche 035


 

Grape cheese mousse cake

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Pena's grape cakeLast weekend my Japanese sister-in-law was in Singapor in order to participate in a taekwondo competition. I always like to follow (virtually) her travelogues because they are full with sensational food related pictures so I did the same thing during last weekend. “I followed her steps” when she ate peach bread pudding at the lounge and then lovely sea foods in the bar and fully agreed with her when she mentioned that she didn’t feel guilty of eating them. But when I discovered of a photo of a very appetizing grape cheese mousse cake I immediately recalled of the Hungarian grape harvest when my grandma prepared a superb grape & cheese cream cake. Luckily I inherited one of her 100 years old recipe book and I’d found the recipe of her grape cheese cake. I gave it for a try and it was divine!

Ingredients: 6 tablespoons butter, melted, 2 cups graham cracker crumbs, 34 cup sugar, 2 large eggs, 1 teaspoon vanilla, 1 (8 ounce) jar grape jam (or preserves), 1 cup grapes, 4 cups seedless red grapes and green grapes (about 2 pounds), 1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons grappa, 1 8-ounce container mascarpone (softened), 3 tablespoons powdered sugar, 3 1/2 teaspoons grated lemon peel, 2 cup grappa, lemon peel

Directions

  1. Combine butter and graham cracker crumbs and press firmly and evenly onto bottom of 9 X 13-inch baking pan. 2. Cut 2 1/2 cups grapes in half; place in bowl. Add 1/3 cup grappa. Let stand at least 3 hours, stirring occasionally. Purée remaining 1 1/2 cups grapes in processor. Transfer to strainer set over bowl. Press on solids in strainer to extract as much liquid as possible; discard solids in strainer. Transfer 1/2 cup grape juice to medium bowl (reserve any remaining juice for another use). Add remaining 2 tablespoons grappa, mascarpone, powdered sugar and 2 1/2 teaspoons lemon peel to bowl with grape juice; whisk until well blended. (Grapes and sweetened mascarpone can be made 1 day ahead. Cover separately and chill. Beat cream until well blended. Spread cream evenly over crust; sprinkle with some fresh grapes. Refrigerate leftover bars for up to 3 days.

 

grape cheese cake

Salmon quiche with cherry tomatoes

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Salmon quiche 039Paradise time with tomatoes

The tomatoes are now in its peak. They are sweet and juicy so I decided to prepare a dish with it. I added some salmon to some cherry tomatoes and it made a super dish on a hot sunny day. With the fresh basil and dill our quiche was such a bless. Enjoy with us!

Ingredients: 1 (375g) ready rolled shortcrust pastry sheet, parchment paper, frozen peas, 3 eggs, 100g cream or creme fraiche, 200g grated Comté cheese, 50g or 15 ripe cherry tomatoes, 500 gr salmon fillets or 3 slices smoked salmon, cut into strips, 1 bunch basil leaves, 1 bunch dill

Directions: Preheat the oven to 180 C / Gas 4. Mix the eggs with the cream and grated cheese in a bowl. Roll out pastry and line a quiche tin. Pour the egg and cheese mixture into the pastry case. Add the cherry tomatoes and the strips of salmon or the salmon fillets (need to cut into 2,5 cms). Place it into the oven, enhance the temperature to 200 C and bake quiche for 30 minutes. Decorate with fresh basil and dill leaves. Serve it warm or cold.Salmon quiche 013

Venetian calf liver with onion confiture

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Füge+Levi+ZazaWe are still suffering from the heat wave but at least it is good for the figs that are ripening in our garden (on the picture, the boys have picked them up and arranged them nicely on the plate). We can’t complain because we have so many that we have had enough from them. But meanwhile I was cooking some fig jam on the other day I recalled a super good veal dish what I ate in Venice, in Italy. It was called Fegato alla Veneziana. Lots of people dislike liver but if you try this recipe you won’t understand them why.

Historically liver belongs to the Italian culinary tradition and is the most eaten of the offal. There are references to the use of liver as early as in the roman period, in Apicius’ work: De re Coquinaria. In his book the liver was called iecur and Apicius, in order to obtain a very fat liver, used to feed the animals (mainly cows and gooses) with figs (ficus in Latin): hence the name iecur ficatum (liver with figs), then abbreviated as ficatum and adapted as fegato (liver).

But why this dish is so popular?-we can ask. The answer is because the fegato alla veneziana recipe is based on only two ingredients. The strength of the dish is given by the perfect combination of two opposite ingredients: liver and onions. Traditionally it is made with pork liver, even if today the calf or steer livers are preferred for their more delicate flavour. Onions, on the contrary, are undisputed: when you talk about onions in Venice and in the Veneto region you are referring to the one and only white Chioggia onion. It is the ingredient that gives the dish that sweet hint that must be present when an onion which meets a strong flavour as liver’s. And finally there are the complementary ingredients: butter and a good extra-virgin olive oil used to sauté the onions, vinegar (optional) and parsley. Some may use white wine or lemon instead of vinegar: they are variations that may outrage purists, but they derive nonetheless from family traditions and are more than acceptable.

Ingredients: 4 tablespoons olive oil, 1 cup thinly sliced onion, 14 teaspoon dried sage, 1 lb calf liver, cut crosswise into 1/4 inch strips, salt, freshly ground black pepper, 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar, 2 tablespoons parsley, finely chopped
200 g figs, soaked in brandy or Porto wine
Methods: Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a heavy 8 or 10 inch skillet.

Add onions and cook over moderate heat, for 7-8 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in the sage, cook 2-3 minutes longer, until the onions are limp and lightly colored. Set aside, off heat. Pat the liver strips dry with paper towels and season them with salt and a few grindings of pepper. In another large heavy skillet, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil until a light haze forms over it. Drop in the liver strips and sauté them, turning frequently, for 2 or 3 minutes, or until they are lightly browned on all sides. Stir in the onions and cook with the liver for 1 or 2 minutes. Add figs and cook them for 2 minutes. Transfer the liver and onions to a heated platter. Immediately pour the white wine vinegar into the skillet and deglaze. Pour the sauce over the liver and onions and sprinkle with the chopped parsley. Serve immediately with the figs.Hagymás borjúmáj