This week we had to organise and clean my grandmother’s house which was high time since she is gone since 3 years. I am collecting all treasures that remind me of her and which are for me great values: the pasta-maker, she used to use for making noodles for soup. Old cotton linen that she perfectly ironed and folded and among which I even find some decorated by embroidered monogram. I find also two pairs of crocheted gloves which I never saw her wearing but when I try them I realise that we had the same size of hands. Old children mugs, decorated by a scene from Hansel and Gretel fairy tail. Her spaetzle maker, graters and something unique: a pretzel-cutter.
I am shocked that even after 3 years I am so much shaken by this experience. It also makes me thinking about how I relate to objects that surround me and what objects have to be arranged after I will be gone sometime in the future, in 50 (or even better 100- I want to live long!) years. Not really funny thoughts, I know.
I am sure my grandmother would appreciate if I used her tools again so I decide to put them into the kitchen so they can also show up on the blog sometimes. I also promise myself to find out how to make noodles for soups the ways she used to make it, because unfortunately I didn’t learn the tricks while she was still with us. Noodles were her speciality and I could always see the different shapes and sizes drying on her kitchen table. Meat consommé never tastes as good as at that time we were eating it with her noodles.
Until I find out the know-how, I am cooking something very traditional and typical Hungarian for you: ‘paprikás krumpli’, or I can say paprikash potatoes. It is so simple and easy to cook and is a very handy recipe if you don’t have many ingredients at home. In the meantime I am telling you a story about the origin of my old copper pans and while I am telling the story, I can quickly cook ‘paprikás krumpli’ in one of the pans.
As you could already notice I am a big fan of old kitchen tools and stuffs, I just love having things that have a story. It is easy to go to a shop and buy what you need but sometimes it is much more interesting and exciting to immerse into an adventure even if it takes more time to get your dream fulfilled. As a cook and chef, one of my dreams was to have old copper pans in my kitchen. Not only for decoration but also to cook in them. Unexpectedly this dream came true in a vide grenier market 7 years ago, in Provence when I was living in Avignon and working in a French restaurant as trainee. Vide grenier means empty attic in French and basically it is a flee market organised by local authorities twice a year and is the perfect place for treasure hunters like me. It is not only a flee market but also a social event. People go to the main square of the village, sell their stuff for a few euros and meanwhile they can have a piece of home-made cake or quiche at the pop-up snack bar and discuss village matters with neighbours and friends. We visited a vide grenier market in Villeneuve-les-Avignon with my friends, when I found a set of copper pans. Heavy enough, really old, as I wanted and the lady only asked for 25 euros for the set. Of course I jumped on it, but later realised that because of the sunshine I haven’t notice the scratches inside of the pans which made them unsuitable for cooking purposes.
‘But I want to cook with them’, I complained sadly to my French friends, and French people are really understanding and showing great empathy especially in case it is about cooking. They started to think about who could possibly tin my pans.
‘Maybe Monsieur Bronze…and old friend of mine, visit and ask him’, said Elodie and I got my bike the next day and rode to Rue Pastor in Avignon to Monsieur Bronze’s antique shop. It was a badly lighted, rambling shop fully packed with old bronze (what else?) and copper objects, sculptures and antiques. I told him the reason I visited him and he started to tell his stories and experiences in Hungary with great enthusiasm. Unfortunately he could’t help me, he said, but he knew an old manufactory that used to do tinning. I timidly asked him whether he would do me a favour and call them.
‘Of course I can do it for you’, he replied helpfully, looked for the phone number and dialled. He explained the situation in a glib talk, then shortly after raised his eyebrow and said “Oh, non!”. Covering the microphone he explained to me:
‘They close the manufactory in two weeks because of economic reasons! ‘
‘Could they possibly tin my pans within these two weeks?’ – I am whispering to Monsieur Bronze who nodded and started a discussion, which was again so fast, that I could only understand the essence.
‘They can do it if we send the pans via post!’. We agree in price, deal is done and Monsieur Bronze insists on looking after shipment and also inviting me for a coffee in his favourite bar at the Rue Carreterie. It turns out that originally his profession is electricity engineer but he always dreamt about being a restorer.
‘Than I got to know that this shop and business is for sale. I bought it. Nobody believed in me, except two persons: myself and the owner of this bar’. His story inspired me so many times since then when I felt lost when going on unknown avenues of life and needed some faith to follow my way.
My copper pans had been tinned properly and to make this story sound even more like a fairy tale, my pans were filmed in a documentary by a Japanese television channel about the old manufactory right before closing. My friend, Christine picked up the pans at Monsieur Bronze’s shop, carried it to Budapest where I was living at that time and the pans came with me wherever I went. From Budapest to Madrid, from Madrid to Málaga, from Málaga to the heart of the Bakony mountain in Hungary. They found home- as I did- in the small village in the kitchen of the tiny house next to my grandmother’s pasta maker and baking tins.
And ‘paprikás krumpli’ turned out to be exactly as I like it. With a thick sauce in which I can press the potatoes with a fork (not really nice way but it taste me the most like this) and assemble each bite with a piece of crispy sausage or bacon.
Ingredients for 4 people
1000 g potatoes
2 small yellow onion
2 tomatoes (not necessary)
1/2 tsp paprika
salt, freshly ground black pepper, ground caraway seeds, marjoram
a few slices of bacon
a small piece of sausage (like chorizo) sliced
a small piece of butter (like a nut)
Peel potatoes and cut them into cubes. Dice tomatoes and onion. Fry bacon and sausages in a pot. Remove them with a strain and put the aside. Using the fat they released fry onions, remove from heat add paprika and tomatoes and fry it together stirring occasionally for a minute. Add potatoes, salt, pepper, a pinch of cumin and marjoram (or according to your taste) and pour over as much water that covers potatoes. Cover the pot and cook it slowly until potatoes get tender. Add bacon and sausages and serve it with fresh bread.