Monday, December 26, 2011

and finally Christmas!

For the last little while Budapest, for most of the time, has been under a fog, with grey skies and no sun. The water level on the Danube was so low that the large ships could not come down this part and the water also from the balcony  looked very grey as there was no blue reflection on it .  My cat slept most of the time. When she did venture out from a hidden spot she would look outside, turn to me meow and disappear again. In all my years here I have never seen the weather like this here in Budapest .
But on Christmas day  we awoke to blue skies, the sun shone and it was gorgeous.....

My husband and I decided that as we were alone celebrating Christmas that we would make something different this year.....sauteed goose  liver, foie gras . I watched many videos of how to make this as I had only had it in restaurants before.  So we went shopping for a goose liver.

Some background.....from wikipedia
...."As early as 2500 BC, the ancient Egyptians learned that many birds could be fattened through forced overfeeding and began this practice. Whether they particularly sought the fattened livers of migratory birds as a delicacy remains undetermined.[7][8] In the necropolis of Saqqara, in the tomb of Mereruka, an important royal official, there is a bas relief scene wherein workers grasp geese around the necks in order to push food down their throats. At the side stand tables piled with more food pellets, and a flask for moistening the feed before giving it to the geese.[8][9][10]
The practice of goose fattening spread from Egypt to the Mediterranean.[11] The earliest reference to fattened geese is from the 5th century BC Greek poet Cratinus, who wrote of geese-fatteners, yet Egypt maintained its reputation as the source for fattened geese. When the Spartan king Agesilaus visited Egypt in 361 BC, he noted Egyptian farmers' fattened geese and calves.[8][12]
It was not until the Roman period, however, that foie gras is mentioned as a distinct food, which the Romans named iecur ficatum;[13][14][15] iecur means liver[16] and ficatum derives from ficus, meaning fig in Latin.[17] The emperor Elagabalus fed his dogs on foie gras during the four years of his chaotic reign.[18] Pliny the Elder (1st century AD) credits his contemporary, Roman gastronome Marcus Gavius Apicius, with feeding dried figs to geese in order to enlarge their livers...."

So there you have it it has been around for a very long time. 
How did it get to Europe well......
..."After the fall of the Roman empire, goose liver temporarily vanished from European cuisine. Some claim that Gallic farmers preserved the foie gras tradition until the rest of Europe rediscovered it centuries later, but the medieval French peasant's food animals were mainly pig and sheep.[25] Others claim that the tradition was preserved by the Jews, who learned the method of enlarging a goose's liver during the Roman colonisation of Judea[26] or earlier from Egyptians.[27] The Jews carried this culinary knowledge as they migrated farther north and west to Europe.
Now Hungary is the world's second-largest foie gras (libamáj) producer and the largest exporter (1,920 tonnes in 2005). France is the principal market for Hungarian foie gras; mainly exported raw....:

Ok so that is why we find Foie Gras in almost every little store in Budapest and is probably in every suitcase leaving the country.
The large market  place by the bridge in Pest called the Nagy Csarnok is were we went to buy the goose liver. The prices range from 6,500 forints a kilo to 8,500 forints a kilo.....still much cheaper than buying this in France.

This is the nagy csarnok and as it is a few hours before closing on the 24th  it is almost empty.  I love this very  'tourist place' as my husband calls . The smells, the colors and the absolute abundance of product.

We bought the more expensive goose liver for 8,500 forints, it seemed to be nicer and larger and I am one that believes if I have never made this before better to start with the best.LOL.  I also bought a bag of hard goose. fat

The liver I bought was almost one kilo , of this 1/3 will be used to saute and 2/3's will be made into cold foie gras.

The first thing, after washing and drying the liver is to de-vein.
The liver has 2 lobes and these are connected by veins. The large vein is the most important to remove. Also try not to leave the liver out too long as it will get soft and then very hard to work with.

You then cut out all the red spots and then I sliced off the pieces 1 inch thick which I will be sauteing .

From the picture you can see the little veins, they do not need to be removed as they will disintegrate during the frying. Place these back in the fridge until ready to use.

For the caramelized apples you will need 
1 apple peeled and sliced
sugar , 2 tbls 

melt the butter in a sauteing pan
add the apples when the butter has melted
 Add the sugar and cook until apples are soft and the sides are browned from the sugar
 You can put that aside.....

Take the liver slices from the fridge  and salt, pepper and sligthly flour them
and place in the pan , you do NOT need any oil as the liver gives off fat as it cooks. I had the heat on medium high, do 2 minutes on each side and then just carefully turn the livers until you see that they are done. Ours took about 8 minutes total.

As you see there is a lot of fat given off by the livers. I poured it off  as it accumulated as I will be using it for the next dish.
While all this was being prepared and my husband constantly looking over my shoulder we were drinking Proseco ...this was just in case it did not work out.
I cut chives from the garden , the few tiny pieces not frozen , I had made the mashed potatoes , plain just with milk and butter and I sligthly re-heated the apples.
So this was our Christmas dinner. We had already started eating before I realized that I needed to photo this!
This meal was one of the best I have made and it really was very simple. A perfect Christmas dish!

Tomorrow I will be making the cold foie gras so check back. 
The only thing I would do different in this dish is to make more apples I think for 2 people you need 2 apples. I will never eat this dish in a restaurant again after making myself . 
I do not see how anyone can not make a perfect sauteed Goose Liver!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

No time to slow down!

Well the fall rush to do everything at once has started. Here in Budapest the days are still warm, thankfully the evenings cool down so we can breathe. Yesterday was another day that ran out of time for me . Suddenly it was time for dinner and I had not a clue what to do .
Then I remembered an old favorite of mine that is fast and very easy.

1 carrot
250 grams of mushrooms any kind
150 grams if snow peas
1 small onion
1 chicken breast sliced into thin strips
smoked thick bacon cut into small pieces ( approx. 1/2 cup) 
soya sauce, salt and pepper, balsamic vinegar

Fry the bacon until it is almost crisp and then add the onion for vegetarians just use oil.

fry that until the onion gets glassy
Add the carrots and fry that until they start to soften
add the snow peas and fry another 5 minutes

then add the mushrooms

The mushrooms will give off water and combining everything gives it a great taste
When the mushrooms are soft I add the soya sauce to taste (2 tbls) and a little Balsamic vinegar ( 1 tbls)
While all this is being done I am making the rice .

I make my rice like pasta, just boil a large amount of water and add the amount of rice you need, boil this until the rice is done around 15 minutes. no need for a lid
Now this quick delicious meal is done
On a plate is looks great with all the colors, the aroma is wonderful  as it is being made and this meal is a no brainer. You can not make a mistake. You can also add different  vegetables but I have found that some times adding more vegetables you loose the taste and you have to add a lot of soya sauce to compensate.

This weekend will again be time for baking , I found a pumpkin! I am not sure what I will make yet , it depends on the time I have but I can hardly wait. To me fall starts when I have something sweet made from pumpkin .
I have never seen a child trick or treating here ,  they celebrate oct 30th a different way.  We used to live near a cemetery and we went along with hundreds of others to light candles there. It was really beautiful . People came and put flowers and lite candles on their family grave stones and walked around and looked at all the other displays . If you are here and near a graveyard it is worth while going out and checking the graves that are filled with flowers and candles .The best is to go just before it gets dark as then as the light fades the candles really shine. But even with the candles it gets very dark in there so bring a flashlight!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Poor mans caviar an amazing vegetarian dish

A couple of years ago we were invited to the home of a gourmet chef who hosts weekend parties. There were about 10 of us. It was a long way from Budapest and the gps was not working too well so we drove around for awhile in the gorgeous countryside.
This is what I like about the fall on the weekends there is not a rush to get outside and tan and make sure you get the last ray of sunshine and only then come in . In the fall it is a more peaceful time. You can get out enjoy the fresh air no need to hurry.
While I was thinking about that weekend I remembered a recipe that just floored me.  We were served caviar on small pancakes , not blinis just regular tiny  pancakes.  I am not really a fan of caviar so I initially did not take one . But everyone was raving about this creation so I decided I had better try one also. Well this looked like caviar but the taste was so different. We were all trying to figure out what it was while eating a ton of these appetizers. I don't think anyone wanted to anything other than these, which of course was not good  as the dinner was a 10 course meal and we were just starting.   Anyway finally we cornered the chef, he called it  his take on the poor mans caviar.

The weekend was filled with many wonderful dishes but that one stayed with me .
So today I will make this not as an appetizer but as a meal. It is a great vegetarian meal.

400grams of mushrooms , I like using brown mushrooms
2 purple onions
3 cloves of garlic
salt and black pepper
sour cream
chopped chives for presentation colour .
1 lemon

1.5 cups of  flour
2 eggs
1 cup of milk
oil for frying
1.2 teaspoon baking soda
1/3 cup of soda water

This is such an easy recipe but just needs some preparation.
The mushrooms,garlic and purple onions you chop up into the tiniest pieces, think of the size of a pearl of caviar.  I also take the stems off the mushrooms, freeze them and use later for something .

Now you put oil in the pan and add the onions and garlic and quickly fry for about 2 minutes  then add the mushrooms.

No water is needed as the mushrooms give off water. Now you just fry this stirring on occasion.
 Notice how much water is given off by the mushrooms.
 The 'caviar' is done when the water which came from the mushrooms disappears and it starts to get dry.
 I cooked this for another 15 minutes until you can not see the difference between the mushrooms and the purple onions. Before it is done squeeze the juice of one lemon on to this mixture together with salt and pepper and continue to cook. The taste will just come alive.

During the last 20 minutes start the pancakes.
Pancakes are also easy to make. Just add the milk to the flour  and the baking soda and stir.

Now add the 2 eggs and stir until nicely blended.

This we will leave for about 30 minutes. That is the time I finish the mushroom caviar and set the table.

Now we wipe the frying pan with a paper towel that has some oil on it , heat the pan to medium high , ladle a small amount into the pan. These are to be made little like 3 inch diameter. So you can make a bunch of these very quickly.
 When the insides start to bubble then you flip them .
So this is how they will look and then you place them on the plate. They are ready very quickly do make sure you watch them !

Now that these are done and so is the "caviar" it is time to put it together. Place a spoon of the mixture on the pancake add a tiny bit of sour cream and sprinkle some chopped chives on top.

Make a bunch of these and then serve immediately. Whatever is left over you can keep in the fridge for a couple of days. This is a great appetizer for a dinner party or for a cocktail party also. It will get everyone talking as to what is in it !
I realized that this batch I did not make the onions as small as they should have been but my husband still ate 15 of them! A few times while I was cooking he came out and asked when it was ready . This is the type of meal that everyone loves. It is light, easy , tastes great and actually is an elegant way to start off a great dinner party. Or like we did tonight make it a meal!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Healthy Pumpkin recipes

The first year I was here I was trying to find a pumpkin , the type I was used to in North America.  I wanted to make a pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving.   Well it was impossible!  After a few years yes there were some pumpkins available but for only like 3 days.  You see Hungarians do not eat pumpkin like North Americans , they eat squash mostly when it comes to eating these vegetables.  Pumpkins seem to be decorations only .

Of course making a pie is also difficult as they do not make pies here! I finally bought a silicon pie shell online and I can make my pies. 

But I first need a pumpkin. 

So in October I go out and buy the pumpkins as soon as I see one. I then cut it up , take out the seeds and roast it in the oven, scrap out the  insides and use that in baking.

I have added and article from "A Taste of Home"  with recipes and all about pumpkins for the people homesick for pumpkins in October.

I will be making a pumpkin pie very soon but I have to wait until I find a pumpkin.  Culinaris sells pumpkin pie filling that you can use in a pinch but I like to make my own .

So until I can find my pumpkin enjoy the recipes.

Healthy Pumpkin Recipes

These healthy recipes prove pumpkins are more than just a Halloween decoration

Super Food of the Issue Pumpkin
Pumpkin Streusel Muffins

Pumpkins are rich in vitamin A, which is known to potentially reduce the risk of some cancers. It's also beneficial to vision, especially night vision. Get more in your diet with these seasonal, delightful recipes.
Pumpkin Streusel Muffins
These nicely spiced Pumpkin Streusel Muffins are a great accompaniment to any meal — or try them for breakfast, dessert or a snack. The pumpkin flavor is complemented by a sweet brown sugar topping. You'll never know they're made with egg substitute.
—Connie Pietila, Atlantic Mine, Michigan
Frosty Pumpkin Pie
This Frosty Pumpkin Pie is so delightful that no one will guess it's made with reduced-fat ingredients. My gang actually prefers a slice of this layered dessert to traditional pumpkin pie at Christmastime.
—Janet Jackson, Homedale, Illinois
Pumpkin Dinner Rolls
For a delicious roll at your Thanksgiving dinner table, try these Pumpkin Dinner Rolls. It is a very easy yeast roll recipe and are on the table in no time.
—Connie Thomas, Jensen, Utah
Pilgrim Pudding
With a pleasant pumpkin flavor, caramel and almonds, this rich and creamy Pilgrim Pudding from our Test Kitchen tastes decadent, but it's surprisingly light.
—Taste of Home Test Kitchen, Greendale, Wisconsin
Curried Pumpkin Soup
This comforting Curried Pumpkin Soup is wonderfully warming on an autumn day, and the subtle curry flavor lets the pumpkin star. My family really enjoy dishes like this that have a delightful down-home flavor.
—Eleanor Dunbar, Peoria, Illinois

More Pumpkin Recipes »