It’s bryndza time again. The first bryndza cheese of the year comes to our shops in the month of May, a few weeks after the flocks of sheep have been put out on mountain pastures to graze the new grass. Their milk is turned into cheese by shepherds at salashes – wooden cottages close to the pastures.
Bryndza cheese is a common ingredient in Slovak cuisine, but it is difficult to find outside Slovakia. That’s why Slovaks living and working abroad have to look for substitutes when they want to make Halushki with Bryndza Cheese – a dish that is considered to represent Slovakia and our shepherd’s culture, including its rich folklore.
An American lady with Slovak roots has asked me recently if it is possible to make Halushki gluten-free. I have researched a few Slovak cooking websites and found a recipe that used a gluten-free flour mix with good results. Although I didn’t find that particular flour in local shops, I tried a different one and it worked.
Below is the recipe for halushki that uses Schär Gluten-Free Universal, which is a blend of rice flour and potato starch. I had to adjust the amounts of other ingredients to achieve the dough of the right consistency (see photos below). If you make halushki with a different type of gluten-free flour, you will probably have to make alterations as well.
Gluten-free Halushki with Bryndza Cheese
- 4 large potatoes
- 200 g gluten-free flour (Schär Universal)
- 250 g bryndza cheese (can be replaced by other semi-soft cheese)
- 150 g smoked bacon, diced
- salt to taste
- fresh herbs to garnish (basil, parsley, etc.)
- oil as needed
- Take the cheese out of the fridge and let it warm to room temperature. Peel and wash the potatoes. Grate them finely into a large bowl. Add the flour to make a semi-soft dough.
- Salt and lightly dust the potato dough with flour to prevent it from browning. Cover with a dishcloth. Mash the bryndza cheese with a fork in a bowl. Pour in the milk and combine into a thin paste.
- Bring a large pot of water to the boil. Adjust to a simmer and either place a holey tin plate over the pot to throw small dumplings (halushki) into the simmering water, or do it with a teaspoon or a butter knife. If the dough is too thin to hold together, add more flour.
- Stir well and cook until the halushki come up to the surface. Take them out with a slotted spoon and transfer into a large bowl. Stir to prevent from sticking together and cover to keep warm. Repeat the throwing step until you have used all the dough.
- Put the bacon in a frying pan and place over a low heat. Let sweat until it starts letting out fat. Pour in some oil, if needed, and turn up the heat. Fry the bacon until crisp and brown, then put aside.
- Stir the bryndza cheese paste in the cooked haluski. Divide onto plates, spoon a little fried bacon over each portion and sprinkle with some bacon dripping. Garnish with the herbs.