I simply cannot get enough from spring. Sometimes I am wondering how I was able to live in big cities for 18 years and basically almost ignore what transformation takes place around me each year. ‘Does it goes like this every year? Amazing!’, I would happily tell everybody who passes by the house but I stop myself. Obviously this is natural for everybody except me. I came to the point when I realise that for too long time I was busy with unimportant things that once seemed so important so it was high time to turn to all those apparently insignificant ones which are much more valuable than I thought before.
Transformation in nature goes really fast. One day there is nothing, lawn is yellow and dry, trees stand sadly and baldly the cold winter wind, and wind whirls up fallen leaves in the flower bed. Then one day magically tulips and daffodil leaves creep out and violet and daisy appear from nothing. Since it is a real village garden and not a well-designed English one, it is always a surprise what plant and where will show up. I would prefer spending the whole day outside. I find great pleasure in hoeing the kitchen garden- which Áron dug a week before- and I sow carrot, radish and green peas seeds while murmuring wishes for good harvest. Continue Reading…
‘I thought this will be in good hands with you’, says Ica and she puts on the table a cylinder wrapped into brown paper and nicely tied with a ribbon. A yellowed, old recipe notebook is lying in front of me. It belonged to Ica’s grandmother and is wrapped into a little crochet tablecloth made by her mother.
We meet for a cup of tea on a late autumn day, after 22 years. Actually originally I called her “Ms. Szabó” since she was my form tutor at elementary school. Thanks to social media we found each other again after many years, we sent messages sometimes and she was glad that I didn’t give up writing after the writing tasks she gave us at literature lessons. Our elementary school was a kind of special one. If I remember those years I always start smiling. That school was newly re-opened after the Catholic Church got back the building from the city council. A really interesting group of people came together that time with lots of people with unique personalities both among teachers and pupils. The beginning was not easy, which gave us many occasions for chatting and
gossiping and it taught us to observe life with a sense of humour. The beauty of this story is that my grandmother went to the same school, which was led at her that time by the Congregation of Jesus. When they celebrated their 50. class reunion I could accompany her along the school’s passages.
It is strange to meet your teacher as an adult, you hardly get used to call her by her first name and you really get surprised how much you have in common. Suddenly it is not a 12 year-old schoolgirl who is sitting in front of her teacher warming her hands on the tea mug, but two old friends who recall memories together.
When I open the nicely wrapped cylinder, I am just sitting there wordless, moved, thumbing through the yellowed pages, looking at the grandmother’s handwriting which is to typical for that time and the spots which reveals cookings and bakings in a kitchen once upon a time. I imagine her, weighing butter, than turning back a page with her greasy finger because she doesn’t remember the exact amount or the moment when she is beating the egg yolks with the sugar – as she writes for half an hours since they didn’t have Kitchenaid that time- and spreads little spots on the notebook.
Time has passed since we met in autumn, and I kept this recipe notebook in a plastic folder waiting ready to start cooking and baking from it. And the moment came. Recipes are different than the ones we used to make so this experiment seems to be even more exciting. I am thinking a lot what I should bake or cook first, I enjoy going through the old handwritten texts which are more difficult to read than I expected.
My choice is ‘püspökkenyér’, bishop’s bread, which is a sweet cake with lots of raisins and walnuts.
My grandmother easily finds out what 4 e. and 6 e. means: those are the different versions of the recipe, with 4 and 6 eggs. My grandma lends me her mould saying that it is the one suitable for the 4-egg version. I only modify one thing: I add some chocolate to the dough as well, because my Mami says it gives a great twist to it, and also because Áron is a number one fan of chocolate.
I carefully fold over beaten egg whites into the dough than impatiently looking through the oven door at the promisingly rising cake.
It turns out to be delicious with a the perfect proportion of raisins, walnuts and chocolate. I cut one slice after the other one and can’t stop although I don’t like raisins in cakes so much.
I think this is the beginning of a beautiful exploration and I can’t wait to continue!
Püspökkenyér/ Bishop’s bread
Ingredients:4 eggs separated
150 g flour
160 g caster sugar
100 g walnuts
60 g raisins
100 g dark chocolate
grated zests of a lemon
Separate eggs, beat egg yolks with sugar until it gets white and foamy. Chop chocolate and walnuts roughly (or use a mortar), sift flour. Preheat oven to 180 °C. Beat egg whites until it forms stiff peaks. Add raisins, walnuts, lemon zests and chocolate to the egg yolk, than alternately fold over egg whites and flour. Pour the dough into a venison form (28 cm long) and bake it until it gets golden brown and when picking with a pin it comes out clean. (ca. 40 minutes)
It happens sometimes that you start preparing something in the kitchen and then something completely different turns out of it than you expected. Maybe these are the occasions when amateur and professional cooks discovered a new method or recipe throughout the history and thanks to them we can experiment with more consciousness and with more securely estimated outcome. Still we can face surprises sometimes.
As you could already notice I am a big fan of old cookbooks. I have been hunting them in antique bookshops in the last decade and fortunately I have already a small collection of them waiting for experimenting on my bookshelves. Cooking from an old cookbook is like bringing to life the past with all its traditions, style and tastes. I like reading them in the evenings and last time I stopped at a sweet wafer recipe, and it has a reason, why.
If you are regular reader of Taste of Memories blog you might remember those cheese wafers that I baked with my grandmother’s 50 year old wafer-maker. At that time I asked my boyfriend, Áron to make one for me but he couldn’t be fast enough because my mother and grandmother found a place where they bought one for me: same size, cast-iron with wooden handles. The only difference is that it was not made in my home-town Veszprém, which is a pity but I hope it will still serve us at least for 50 years as my grandmother’s one did.
Of course I needed to try it so I prepared quickly a cheese wafer dough in order to try it first with a recipe with high fat content. It was a good decision: the first wafers sticked a little bit, but after a while it worked perfectly. So next step is baking sweet wafers, from 1871. I imagined the thin, crispy, light-brown wafers that I planned to fill with chocolate buttercream and make a wonderful napolitaner. Well, I was completely wrong, however it was really wonderful, but not napolitaner. Continue Reading…
I am thumbing through my grandmother’s recipe book and suddenly the recipe of salty pretzels catches my eyes. How does it come that I have never noticed it so far? It immediately brings up all the happy memories: children’s days, carousels, visits in the zoo, the pet market where we we begged our grandmother to buy a white hamster for us, what she finally did and my mother thought it is a mouse when we arrived home… Candy-floss and honeycomb toffee which I had to try although I didn’t like them so much and something else which I really liked: salty pretzels. Not as dense as the Bavarian one, not as soft as the ones we get in bakeries nowadays. It is crispy, with a crunchy salty glaze that you could break off depending how much you liked salt.
I look out the window and nature assures me with little signs that spring finally has arrived. I can still be childishly happy for any single change in the garden, as if I saw it the first time. Snowdrops already appeared under the jasmine bushes, at the entrance door bulb flowers creep out of their bed, our fruit trees sprout and singing of birds awaken us in the morning.
I think about spring weekends, long walks, hiking and blooming trees and I see ourselves as we discover the region with our backpack full with pretzels. I get the cookbook and go to the kitchen because I have no doubt any more what I should make for this week’s blog post. Continue Reading…
For me, my mother’s mézes zserbó slice is the best dessert in the world. Just so simply. I can talk and write about a lot of different kinds of food- both savoury and sweet- with great enthusiasm but honestly I feel an extreme passion for mézes zserbó. My niece shares my devotion to it, so there is always a box of zserbó in the kitchen when she goes to visit my mother.
What is the secret of the honey zserbó? Maybe the vanilla cream which is spread between the layers, or the little bit crunchy-little bit friable sheets, or the dark chocolate glaze on the top? I don’t now exactly, but what I know is that I can eat a shameful quantity of it while I am considering these questions. Continue Reading…
Delicious home-made biscuit. A good one. Crunchy, friable with chocolate or vanilla flavour. Or both. I can grab it to the afternoon tea or the morning coffee. I can put it into the beautiful glass jar that we have on the top of our kitchen cupboard so we can take sometimes one piece out of it. Or maybe two. Theoretically it can last long but not in our house, where these biscuits mysteriously disappear very quickly so I rarely have the chance to even put them in the jar. I could say that Áron is exclusively responsible for the disappearance but I should be honest in my own blog. So I confess, I am an accomplice in that business.
First I try a recipe from an old cookbook. It is not like I expected, it is rather average than special. I once again realise that it has a reason why my grandmothers have written down certain recipes into their notebooks. After the first test I don’t want to risk any more. There is a biscuit that appears in the recipe booklets of both of my grandmother’s under the name “biscuit for New Year’s Eve”, which is a good sign, and actually we can have a reason to celebrate the New Year today as well.
My Swabian grandmother didn’t bake very often. Maybe the reason was that she didn’t like sweets so much. However I could be sure, that she will have these two-colour biscuits sticked together with apricot jam in a metal box in her pantry. In her recipe booklet she is writing with her typical italic handwriting that two biscuits can be sticked together with marmalade or chocolate cream. Since my boyfriend, Áron is passionate about chocolate I will use chocolate cream, no question about it. I don’t find any recipes for that but fortunately I have a wonderful butter cream recipe from Spain from the time I used to work as a pastry cook. So everything is prepared for my desired full cookie jar. Continue Reading…
I am standing at our front door- the only place in our house where is mobile phone coverage- and I am listening to my grandmother who is explaining how she cooks pörkölt, the traditional Hungarian dish that everybody knows and who tried once, most probably will never forget. Mami always loved cooking and you get already hungary only because of the way she talks about it. After that conversation there was no question what I am going to cook in this week’s blog post, and whose recipe I am going to share. Anyway: can you imagine anything that is more soul warming, than a pörkölt, with tender meat bites, thick sauce which the perfect combination and concentrated taste of onion, pepper and tomato? Continue Reading…
Who else is thinking more often of spring as I am doing? This year winter is so cold and resistant without any warm wave, especially here, in the Bakony mountain and the last weeks we cannot enjoy the sunshine either. Frostwork appeared on our windowpanes and if I don’t cook, there is only 13 °C in the kitchen. I must say it is not really comfortable temperature for sitting around, but a neat Swabian person- as we are and want to be- shouldn’t rest but always keep on doing something. My best friends are currently my knitted cardigans and warm socks, I pull my cap until my eyebrows and choose carefully the warmest gloves when I take my dog for a walk. There is an old Swabian proverb: “Wenn man die Faschingskrapfen auf der Gasse isst, isst man die Ostereier hinter dem Ofen”, which means if you eat the carnival doughnuts on the street, you will eat Eastern eggs next to the stove. So if this old proverb is true, I need to keep the finger crossed for really cold Carnival Sunday, so I have a chance to eat Easter eggs next to the blooming daffodils, sitting on my favourite spot in the garden, on the stairs at our front door. Continue Reading…
There are days when everything seem to go wrong. I don’t succeed to finish and important work, I am going past the deadline and everything falls out of my hand. I even step on a slippery spot in the garden and after a short alternative ice-skating performance I end up lying on my car’s bonnet.
A recipe that I wanted to try from an old cookbook turns out to be a disaster. I get ready in a big hurry for the concert that we have been planning since months so I forget my cap and gloves at home. I am walking by Áron’s side to the concert hall shivering, while trying to act like I won’t feel cold at all. These are the moments when everything seems to be hopeless, first of all: me. Continue Reading…
I wake up in the middle of the night and remember I was dreaming taking pictures of pears. I jump out of bed and make sketches about the composition which appeared in my dream so I won’t forget until morning, but I get so excited about it that I cannot go back to sleep.
Pears that we collected in autumn are waiting in crates for me to cook or bake something with them. I revive fire in the tile stove, and watch the flames while thinking about recipes with pears. It is 1.30 am. Continue Reading…