This could as well be called ‘A resourceful cook’s dish’ or ‘A lazy shopper’s creation’. It is usually prompted by a situation like this:
You look in the fridge at eleven Saturday morning with the intention to cook a hot lunch for three people. All you find is:
- free range eggs
- a kapia pepper (looking still fresh and succulent)
- a few forgotten (and not so crispy) tomatoes that your son didn’t manage to eat during his late night forages in the week)
- a smidgen of store-bought chicken paté spiced up with ‘bear garlic’ herb
- young green onions
- a pot of sour cream (200 g, three days till its sell-by-date)
- a traditional Slovak sausage
- a small piece of cheese
Another quick look in the pantry tells you there are a few basic staples left there, like:
- potatoes (1 large or 2 smaller per person)
- garlic from your friend’s organic garden
All in all not so bad, so you proceed with the cooking (or experimenting?):
Make sure to pick potatoes of roughly the same size. Wash them with their skins on and pat them dry. Precook in a steamer (or boil in a cooking pot) for about 30 minutes, or until half tender. Check by inserting a skewer in a potato. Let cool down before peeling.
Wash the vegetables and peel the garlic. Slice the tomatoes, kapia pepper and the sausage(s). Chop the onions and peel the cooled potatoes.
Grease a baking dish and dust with breadcrumbs or flour. Slice the potatoes and start laying them all around the bottom of the dish. Continue with a layer of the sausage, kapia pepper, tomatoes and onions. Season to taste with salt, freshly ground black pepper and basil.*
*I have also distributed bits of the chicken paté in between the vegetables.
Cover with sliced potatoes and repeat a layer of vegetables and sausage(s). Season to taste again.
Break 2 – 4 eggs into a bowl and check for any remaining shell. Whip the eggs with a fork until the whites and yolks blend. Add the crushed garlic, the sour cream and a pinch of salt. Stir gently until well-combined.
Grate the cheese and sprinkle all around the dish to cover the sausages and vegetables. Season with curry if you like. Pour the cream mixture on top and bake in the oven at 180ºC for about 40 minutes, or until a golden crust has formed.
Take out of the oven, let cool down a bit and cut into portions while the potato gratin is still warm. Serve and enjoy a tasty, filling lunch with a healthy twist.
For a vegetarian alternative, leave out the sausage(s).
‘Cook from what your pantry/fridge gives you’ style is quite common in Slovak households. Although we aren’t a nation of lazy shoppers at all, we also don’t like wasting food, and so will think of all imaginable ways to use leftovers to conjure up a nice, wholesome meal.
After all, that’s how most new recipes come to light, don’t they?