This particular dish could also be called ‘a resourceful cook’s lunch’ or ‘a lazy shopper’s creation’. It is usually prompted by a situation like this:
You look in the fridge at eleven o’clock on Saturday morning with the intention to cook a hot lunch for three people. All you find is:
- 3 free range eggs
- a kapia pepper (looking still fresh and succulent)
- a few cherry tomatoes left behind after your son’s late night snacks
- a smidgen of store-bought chicken paté spiced up with bear garlic
- a few scallions (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:
- potatoes (1 large or 2 smaller per person)
A rack of condiments is filled with basic seasoning like:
- salt, black pepper, basil and curry
All in all not so bad, so you proceed with the cooking (or experimenting?):
Potato Gratin the Slovak Style
- Wash the potatoes with their skins on and pat them dry with some kitchen paper. 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, the kapia pepper and the sausage(s). Chop the onions and peel the cooled potatoes.
- Grease a baking dish and dust it with breadcrumbs or flour. Slice the potatoes and spread them 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 distributed bits of the chicken paté in between the vegetables at this stage).
- Cover with the sliced potatoes and repeat a layer of vegetables and sausage(s). Season to taste again.
- Break the eggs into a bowl and whip 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 egg 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 little and cut into portions.
Cook-from-what-you-find-at-home is quite common in Slovak households. Although we are far from a nation of lazy shoppers, we also don’t like wasting food, and so we’ll 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?
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