Shoolantze – Slovak rolled pasta

An English-speaking lady with Slovak roots has contacted me recently asking for two ‘very Slovak’ recipes her Grandma used to make. Although I didn’t recognize them by the names given, they sounded like some sort of pasta dishes, so I asked for their description. It turned out that the first one was, in fact, a very old name for Halushki, and the second dish is very likely to be what we call Šúľance (transcribed into English as Shoolantze) today.

Šúľance are little pieces of pasta that get their name from the rolling movement (šúľanie in Slovak) applied to the dough by hand in the process of making. Most Slovaks will serve šúľance with ground poppy seeds, which are very common and popular in Slovak cuisine, but my Mum would often top them with home-made breadcrumbs or even ground walnuts. Whatever topping you’ll choose, melted butter is the vital ingredient to give ‘shoolantze’ that delicious velvety finish.

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Šúľance or Shoolantze
Serves 4

  • 600 g potatoes
  • 200 g coarse/strong/bread flour*
  • pinch of salt
  • about 150 g ground poppy seeds or breadcrumbs
  • 100 g unsalted butter, melted
  • powdered sugar for dusting
*The amount of the flour may change slightly according to the type of the potatoes, as well as the flour used. Anyway, the instructions and pictures below should be a good guide to what you need to achieve in the dough.

Method:

Clean the potato skins with a damp sponge and place in a pot. Fill it with enough cold water to cover the potatoes. Bring to the boil, adjust the heat and let cook for about 30 minutes or until the potatoes are easily pierced with a skewer.

Drain the potatoes and let cool down until they are cold enough to handle. Peel them and mash with a potato masher or a fork. Add the flour and a pinch of salt. Work into a smooth, slightly sticky dough. Cover with a dish-towel and put in the fridge for about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, grind the poppy seeds, or dry-roast the breadcrumbs in a saucepan over a low heat. Remember to stir the breadcrumbs all the time to prevent them from burning. Set aside.

Take the dough out of the fridge and transfer onto a floured rolling board. Dust your hands with flour, sprinkle some over the dough and divide into 8 parts – sort of balls. To make shoolantze, gently roll each ball into a long rope of 1 cm thickness. Cut into pieces about 5 cm long, dust with flour and put aside on a floured surface.

When you have used all the dough, bring a large pot of slightly salted water to the boil. Turn down the heat and throw the shoolantze in it one by one. Depending on the size of your pot, you may have to throw them in two or three batches.

Stir gently and cook each batch over a medium-low heat until the shoolantze come up to the surface. Take them out with a sieve or a slotted spoon, and transfer onto plates. Stir in a tablespoon of the melted butter. Cover and keep warm.

When all the shoolantze have been cooked and buttered, sprinkle each serving with the ground poppy seeds or the roasted breadcrumbs. Dust with the powdered sugar and pour the rest of the warm melted butter over the top. Serve immediately.

I hope the lady who was an inspiration for this post will find what she was looking for. Thanks to her, I have rediscovered a delicious meal I haven’t made for ages. True, I had to call my Mum to tie up a few loose ends, but I believe the recipe we have put together for Shoolantze will delight many of those with a sweet tooth.

Chicken Braised in Beer

This is a special bonus for Cookslovak fans and followers, as well as those who have already bought the cookbook. Each recipe in A Taste of Slovakia’ had been tested at least twice, so we had a good choice of photos from different shoots when my graphic designer was laying out the book pages. Sometimes a batch of pictures came out so well that it wasn’t easy to choose just one or two. At other times, we had a completely different problem and I had to repeat the same dish over and over again to finally get a photo we were reasonably happy with.

When leafing through the book now, I can still see flaws and imperfections, but that’s what learning is about – a work in progress, constant refinement of the style and honing your skills. Although the recipe below is identical with the one that appears in the book, the photos are different, so those who own or have seen a copy can compare, judge and comment.

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Chicken Braised in Beer
Serves 4

  • 1 chicken, gutted and carved
  • 200 g smoked bacon, sliced
  • 500 g sauerkraut
  • ¾ cup dark beer (200 ml)
  • salt, pepper, caraway, paprika to taste

Method:

  1. Use half of the bacon slices to line the roasting dish. Put the sauerkraut on the bacon slices and spread around evenly.
  2. Wash the chicken pieces and pat them dry. Rub the seasoning onto the chicken and put it on the sauerkraut. Cover with the rest of the bacon slices.
  3. Pour some of the beer over the chicken and put in the oven. Cook at 200°C for about 40 minutes, adding more beer when needed. The chicken is cooked through when the meat is coming away from the bone. Increase the temperature to 250°C and cook for another 5 – 10 minutes to give the chicken a nice, golden brown crust.
  4. Serve with boiled potatoes or rice and a garnish of sauerkraut.

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The juicy sauerkraut adds exciting zing to the dish which, together with a subtle undertone of the beer and crispiness of the bacon makes for a delectable Sunday lunch.

As I wrote in the post on Decadent Sauerkraut Soup, sauerkraut is a very popular ingredient in my country now that it’s still in the grip of a long, cold winter. As for beer, I learnt about its many uses in the kitchen when I was researching recipes for my cookbook – and I was surprised by the new flavours this ingredient imparted to classic dishes.

Roasted ‘Encian’ with Cranberries

Most of you will probably associate cranberries with turkey and Thanksgiving, but in Slovakia, we prefer to serve them with game and, quite often, they will also garnish grilled or roasted cheese. It should be said though that only certain types of cheese are suited to pan-roasting, and for this recipe in particular, the choice is even narrower. The good news is that the cheese you will need is available worldwide, though it might be sold under different names.

Encián is the Slovak variety of French Camembert – a soft, creamy cow’s milk cheese with a bloomy edible rind. Like Camembert, Encián is sold whole as small (80 g) or large (110 g) round cheese in cardboard boxes. In the neighbouring Czech Republic, Hermelín cheese is a very close relative to Encián, or perhaps is it vice versa? It’s really difficult to trace the origins of this simple, classic dish, as the Czechs and Slovaks lived together in one country for over seventy years, which explains why their cuisines are so close to each other.

So let’s enjoy one of the Czecho-Slovak dishes, which is perfect for a light dinner, or as a finger-licking treat for your surprise guests. In the recipe below I used the small cheese rounds of 80 g, but larger ones are perfectly fine as well, especially if your family or friends are ‘big eaters’. Also I put to good use the last bottle of the Cranberry Compote left from the previous preserving season.

dsc_0025 Roasted ‘Encian’ with Cranberries
Serves 2

  • 2 Encian rounds (80 g each)
  • 2 heaped tablespoons cranberry compote
  • salt, black pepper, oregano to taste
  • oil for frying
  • fresh vegetables to garnish

Method:

Wash and cut or slice the vegetables. Arrange them on a serving plate.

Warm a pan over a low heat. Brush the cheese rounds all over with oil. Season with salt, freshly ground black pepper and oregano to taste. Put the cheese rounds in the pan, increase the heat to medium, and roast on both sides for about 10 minutes. This will ensure the cheese is soft inside and lightly browned on the outside.

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Transfer the warm cheeses on the serving plates, top with the cranberry compote and serve immediately with slices of wholegrain bread.

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Grilled Encián or Hermelín with a cranberry sauce is often prepared fresh at open-air food festivals around Slovakia. You can also get it at Christmas market stalls, which will open in all Slovak towns and cities in about 10 days.

Bryndza Cheese Stuffed Mushrooms

I introduced our famed cheese in the post on Bryndza Cheese Sticks last year. With this year’s sheep farming season in full spate and some fine weather over the last month, our mountain meadows have turned into luscious pastures, so we are getting fresh supplies of bryndza cheese again.

The May bryndza, as we in Slovakia call it, is creamier and more flavourful than that made of sheep’s milk cheese stored in wooden barrels over the winter. It’s also less salty, as this is the ingredient used for preserving ground sheep’s milk cheese in the winter.

To do some aditional photography for the book I’m writing, I bought different bryndza labels a couple of weeks ago and tried a few more recipes. The one I want to share with you today also uses the bear garlic I got from my friend. Her parents have a large orchard in a remote hamlet in the mountains, so whatever she brings down from her weekend visits can be classified as bio-produce.

Bear garlic, also known under the names of ramsons, buckrams, wild garlic or wood garlic, is a wild plant that grows not only in forested areas of continental Europe and northern Asia, but also in British woodlands and eastern regions of Canada and the USA. I hear the herb can also be found in some London’s parks. If you want to have a go at Bryndza Cheese Stuffed Mushrooms outside the bear garlic season, feel free to replace bear garlic with other fresh herbs like chives, spinach or parsley greens.

To substitute Bryndza cheese in the recipe below, you can use any soft sheep’s milk cheese you can get locally, although I’m quite sure it won’t taste anywhere near as Slovak Bryndza 🙂

Bryndza Cheese Stuffed Mushrooms
Serves 4

  • 12 mushrooms
  • 150 g bryndza cheese
  • 2 handfuls bear garlic
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 2 tablespoons sesame seeds
  • a little oil for frying
  • radishes or other seasonal vegetables to garnish

Method:

Take the cheese out of the fridge 30 minutes prior the cooking to let it soften.

  1. Rinse the bear garlic leaves and let them dry off on a chopping board. Rinse the mushrooms, remove the stems and make a little hole in each cap by scooping out some of the insides. Don’t discard either the stems or the insides, as they both add flavour to sauces or make a wonderful soup (they can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to two days).
  2. Put the cheese in a bowl and mash it with a fork. Chop the bear garlic leaves and add to the cheese (leave some herbs to garnish if you prefer). Add the paprika and mix well to spread the bear garlic and paprika all around the cheese paste.
  3. Heat a little oil in a pan and fry the mushroom caps over a medium heat until slightly charred. If you want them tender, add a little water and let the caps sweat in a pan for 10 minutes. Set aside and cover to keep warm.
  4. In another small pan, quickly fry the sesame seeds over a medium heat to lightly char them.
  5. Put three mushroom caps on a plate, place a mound of the cheese paste inside each cap, top with the sesame seeds, and garnish with the radishes or other seasonal vegetables. Serve warm on its own or with fresh bread on the side.

Enjoy and let me know how it works for you!

Breaded Pork Steaks with Potato Salad

This is another classic dish that seems to be rooted in our history and geographical position in Central Europe. Having been part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire from 1867 to 1918 and sharing the southern border with Austria since then, we have borrowed a few cooking techniques and ideas from the Austrians as well. Our breaded pork steak closely resembles the Viennese style schnitzel and is often served with a potato salad, especially on festive occasions like Christmas, Easter, or at our wedding parties.

The potato salad, which is normally made with mayonnaise, is quite heavy on stomach, so I have decided to omit the mayo this time to give it a healthier twist:

Breaded Pork Steaks with Potato Salad
Serves 5

For the steaks:

  • 10 pork loin steaks
  • 8 tablespoons fine four
  • 2 – 3 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 10 tablespoons breadcrumbs
  • salt and black pepper to taste
  • oil for frying

For the salad:

  • 1½ kg medium size potatoes
  • 2 – 4 hardboiled eggs
  • 400 g carrot & pea mixture (frozen or canned)
  • 1 cucumber
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons white vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons mustard
  • 2 teaspoons basil
  • salt and black pepper to taste

Method:

Rinse the potatoes with their skins on and let dry off. Cook them in a steamer until tender (check by poking a potato with a fork or skewer). Put aside and let cool down.

Meanwhile, wash the steaks and pat them dry. Place on a wooden board and make a few short cuts at the edge of each steak to break the tissue. Sprinkle with salt and black pepper and tenderize on both sides.

Break the eggs into a deep plate and beat with a fork until whites and yolks combine. Spoon in the milk and beat again to make a thin mixture.

Put the flour and breadcrumbs in two other deep plates. Dust each steak in the flour first, then dip it in the egg mixture, and roll in the breadcrumbs to finish the coating.

Put the coated steaks aside on a clean tray and leave to rest.

Now let’s prepare the potato salad. Peel the cooked potatoes and dice or cut them into shapes of your choice. We in Slovakia use a nifty little gadget for this purpose that can be bought in all kitchenware shops around the country. We pass the soft potatoes through it straight into the salad bowl:

Add the carrot & pea mixture to the potatoes. If you’re using frozen carrots & peas, cook them in water for about 5 minutes before adding to the potatoes. In case of canned vegetables, it is good to strain them on a sieve beforehand.

Dice or chop the boiled eggs and add them to the potatoes. Do the same with the cucumber, then season to taste with salt and black pepper. Add the basil and mustard, spoon in the oil and the white vinegar. Combine all the ingrediets well with a wooden spoon. Leave to stand in a cool place.

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Back to the steaks now to fry them. Heat the oil in a large frying pan and place the steaks in it. Cook them in batches over a medium-low heat for about 15 minutes on each side. When they are cooked through and crispy brown on the surface, take the steaks out and put on a kitchen towel to drain excess oil.

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Serve hot with a generous helping of the potato salad on the side.

Breaded Pork Steaks with Potato Salad
Breaded Pork Steaks with Potato Salad

When paired with a mayonnaised potato salad, fried breaded pork steak is a devilish combination, which health experts and nutritionists would certainly frown upon. But that’s exactly why we only serve it on festive occasions like Christmas or Easter. And even then we’ll make more balanced choices and replace the steak with fried fish. Yes, modern Slovak cuisine is becoming much more health-oriented now that recipes and new ideas ‘travel’ happily around the internet and across the borders.

Lentil Stew with Fried Egg

Did you know people ate lentils as early as 13000 BC? At least that’s what archeologists say. No matter how accurate their findings are, the lentil has been part of the human diet for, well – quite some time! And rightly so.

The lentil is low on fat and rich in protein, in fact, it’s got the second highest content of protein among legumes, following soybeans. Although it was considered the food of the poor in the past, the lentil is becoming a popular staple in many modern households.

In my country’s folklore lentils have always been associated with prosperity because of their coin-like shape. That explains why a lentil soup is often served as a starter for the New Year’s Day meal in Slovakia.

I remember having lentils on my plate since I was aware what I was eating. Like most Slovak children these days, I was fed Šošovicový prívarok s volským okom or Lentil Stew with Fried Egg quite regularly in kindergarten. I still like it, I have to admit, and sometimes also cook it with meat to satisfy the carnivores in my family.

Here is a recipe for the Slovak lentil stew, which makes a filling, nutritious dinner, and takes about an hour to prepare.

Lentil Stew with Fried Egg
Serves 4

  • 150 g lentils
  • 1 l water
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 allspice corns
  • 4 medium-size potatoes
  • salt, black pepper to taste
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • ½ l milk
  • 2 heaped tablespoons fine flour
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • basil to taste
  • 2 tablespoons white vinegar

Method:

(you can use photos in this post as a guide, but note they were taken with slightly  different measurements)
  1. Rinse the lentils on a sieve under running water and transfer them into a cooking pot. Add the water, the bay leaves and the allspice corns (encased in a tea strainer for an easier removal at a later stage). Bring to the boil, then adjust the heat to let the lentils simmer for about 40 minutes or until they are almost done.
  2. Meanwhile, peel, wash and dice the potatoes. Peel and crush the garlic. Take the milk out of the fridge and let it warm to room temperature.
  3. Add the potatoes and the garlic to the lentils, season to taste with salt and black pepper and stir well. Bring to a simmer and continue cooking for another 15 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a frying pan and break the eggs into it. Fry them over a medium heat, either all at once or in batches (this will depend on the size of your pan) Turn off the heat, sprinkle with salt and basil and cover to keep warm until you finish the lentils.
  5. When the lentils and the potatoes are tender, remove the allspice and the bay leaves. In a hand mixer or a blender, combine the milk with the flour until smooth. Pour the milk mixture in the lentils and bring to the boil, stirring all the time. Set aside.
  6. Serve hot in bowls with the fried egg on top, and pieces of bread on the side. For a meaty option, add a fried sausage.

A few decades ago Slovakia was not only self-sufficient in lentil produce, but with its 500 hectares of lentil fields it was also seen as a European lentil power. Unfortunately, this is no longer true, so if we want to cook our traditional lentil dishes today, we often have to resort to imported lentils.

Lentil Stew with Fried Egg or Šošovicový prívarok s volským okom
Lentil Stew with Fried Egg or Šošovicový prívarok s volským okom

Beef Stew with Garden Peas

The second in the series of recipes from Vierka’s rural kitchen is this flavourful, sticky beef stew. Made from the meat of a locally raised young ox and home-grown vegetables, it was an absolute delight to eat. It came with a dollop of boiled rice covered in grated cheese.

My friend used her pressure cooker to reduce the cooking time while keeping all the flavours in. However, most Slovaks make their stew in a classical cooking pot, even though it takes much longer. Surely, you can do other small jobs while the meat is cooking, as long as you stir it occasionally and add more water when needed. The important rule here is that the meat is covered in simmering liquids until it is cooked to desirable tenderness.

Beef Stew with Garden Peas
Serves 4

1,2 kg beef                                                                 
2 tablespoons oil or pork fat
4 large onions                                                         

500 ml beer
water or vegetable stock as needed                                    

1 chilli                                                                       
300 g garden peas  (fresh, frozen or canned)                                               
200 – 300 g tomato purée                                    
salt and black pepper to taste
grated cheese (to sprinkle over the boiled rice)

For the marinade:  4 – 5 tablespoons oil, 2 cloves garlic, 1 tablespoon mustard, 1 tablespoon ketchup, 2 teaspoons paprika, ½ teaspoon oregano, ½ teaspoon ground cumin, ½ teaspoon turmeric, ½ teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon curry powder

Method:

Wash the meat and pat it dry. Cut into cubes of about 2 cm wide. Prepare the marinade by mixing all the ingredients well and soak the beef cubes in it. Either use your hand or a spatula to spread the marinade all around the meat pieces. Let stand overnight in a cool, dark place.

Peel and chop the onions. Rinse the chilli. Put the oil or pork fat in a pressure cooker and throw in the chopped onions. Let them sweat over a medium heat until translucent, then add the marinated meat. Season with salt and black pepper, increase the heat and fry the meat cubes on all sides until deep brown. Pour in the beer and just enough water or vegetable stock to cover the meat. Stir well and lock the cooker lid in place. Bring the pressure cooker to a steady steam and cook for 20 – 40 minutes (depending on the cut of meat and its toughness).

Turn off the heat and let the pressure cooker stand on the stove/cooker plate for another 15 minutes, or until the steam stops coming from under the pressure valve.

When it is safe to open it, take the cooker lid off and add the garden peas, the chilli and the tomato purée. Bring to a simmer and cook together for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Season to taste with salt and black pepper, take out the chilli, if preferred, and serve with boiled rice sprinkled with grated cheese.

Beef Stew with Garden Peas

For those who can’t do without meat, this certainly is a hearty, filling lunch/dinner that will keep you going for quite a few hours.

Pork Stew with Spiralled Pasta

When it comes to meat, pork is definitely the most popular in Slovakia, followed by chicken and other poultry like turkey, duck and geese. Although few Slovaks would call themselves vegetarians, we consume half as much meat per capita than in the USA, and less than two thirds of that in the UK.

As I wrote in the post on Braised Rabbit Thighs with Halushki, our cooking has been influenced by Hungarian cuisine, which is felt most strongly in the south of Slovakia, close to the Hungarian border.

The recipe below is another example of how our cuisines have blended over the centuries.

Pork Stew with Spiralled Pasta
Serves 4 – 6

1,2 kg pork
2 tablespoons oil
2 medium-sized onions
1 large carrot
1 chilli
2 tablespoons paprika
salt, black pepper, sage to taste
water or vegetable stock as needed
1 tablespoon fine flour for thickening 

Method:

Peel and thinly slice the onions. Rinse the meat and pat it dry. Cut into cubes of about 2 cm wide.

Warm a casserole dish on a cooker plate over a medium heat. Pour in the oil and add the onions. Let sweat for about 3 minutes or until translucent.

Throw in the pork cubes and add the salt. Increase the heat and quickly fry the meat from all sides until it releases juices. Turn down the heat and let simmer, stirring from time to time. When the meat juices have reduced, pour in as much water (or vegetable stock) as to cover the meat. Season with black pepper and bring to the boil. Stew over a medium heat for about 1½ hour, stirring occasionally and adding more water/vegetable stock if needed.

Meanwhile, peel and wash the carrot. Rinse the chilli. If you are using fresh sage as I did, wash and chop the herb. After about an hour, add the carrot and the chilli to the pork and cook together. Make sure the meat is always covered in liquids so as to cook regularly. When it is almost done, add to it the flour mixed in a little warm water. Stir well until the stew thickens, then add the paprika and the sage. Continue cooking over a low heat for another 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Set aside and cover to keep warm.

Cook the pasta according to the instructions on the packet. Drain on a sieve and divide into bowls. Ladle the pork stew on top of each helping and serve immediately.

Pork Stew with Spiralled Pasta

Enjoy the pleasant heat of this wholesome stew with the succulent pork bites nicely complemented by the peppery flavour of the sage.

Strapatchki

This is another variation on the traditional Slovak pasta. Yes, our halushki can also be served with sauerkraut, and topped with fried bacon. The old name for the dish is Strapačky (pronounced as strapatchki), which would translate as ‘curly halushki’ – the name very likely derived from the look these small potato dumplings get from the sauerkraut.

Strapatchki

Cabbage is in season now in my country, and lots of Slovak households are getting their pots/crocks ready for making sauerkraut – the fermented form of white cabbage. We know very well what a plentiful source of vitamins and minerals sauerkraut is. It helps us survive our long, harsh winters when we often eat it raw to increase the levels of C vitamin in our bodies and thus boost our immune system. It is also an indispensable ingredient for many of our dishes, not to mention its beneficial effects in times of hangover.

Strapatchki
Serves 4

4 large potatoes
300 – 400 g fine flour (plain wheat can be combined with wholemeal in a desired ratio)
salt
0,5 kg sauerkraut
150 g smoked bacon, diced

oil for frying (if needed)

Method:

Peel and wash the potatoes. Grate them raw on a nutmeg side of the grater, or blend in a food processor. Add the flour and a pinch of salt. Mix well to achieve a dough of medium thickness, as seen in the picture below, right. The exact amount of flour will depend on the size and type of the potatoes, and whether you use a grater or a food processor. In the latter case, you might need to add a little water to better blend the potatoes. It’s always good to start with less flour, and keep adding more (if need be) as you mix the dough.

To make halushki, you will need a holey tin-plate that can be attached to or hooked over a pot with boiling water, as shown in the picture below, left:

Choose a large cooking pot and fill it with water halfway up. Bring to the boil, turn down the heat and place half of the dough on the tin-plate. Pass it through the plate using a wooden spatula. Stir halushki (small dumplings that form in the water) well and adjust the heat, so as halushki don’t overflow. When they’re cooked through, halushki will come up to the surface. Take them out with a sieve or a slotted spoon. Transfer into a serving bowl and shake gently to prevent halushki from sticking to each other. Cover to keep warm. Repeat with the other half of the dough.

When all the halushki are done cooking, set about preparing the sauerkraut.

Put the bacon in a large, deep pan and heat over a low heat. Let sweat until it releases fat. If this is not enough for frying, add a little oil. Increase the heat and fry the bacon cubes until crisp and firm.

Throw in the sauerkraut and stir well into the bacon, so as to warm and grease it through. Transfer onto the warm halushki, stir again and serve hot on individual plates.

Strapatchki
Strapatchki

If not finished, Strapatchki can be stored in a fridge and reheated, although this rarely happens in my family. As with all food, Strapatchki are at their best when eaten straight after they’ve been cooked. This way the sauerkraut retains all its vitamins and unique taste.

Potato Gratin with Vegetables and Sausages

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.*

Filling the baking dish with layers of potatoes, vegetables and sausages.

*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.

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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.

Potato Gratin with Vegetables and Sausages

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?