Czech Goulash

For the first recipe of 2017 my other half picked the country, the Czech Republic, and even found a recipe I could use on the National Geographic website. Back when I was doing bits of research in the Czech Republic I ate quite a lot of goulash, and when I took some students there in 2012 I had an amazing goulash in a little bar not far from where we were staying in Prague. Not only did it taste amazing, it was served in bread, the bread acted as the bowl. I managed not to poke a hole in it with my cutlery so the contents didn’t spread all over the place. This was by far the best meal I had in the Czech Republic and if I do go back I’ll have to see if the place is still there.

dscf9260  The recipe we found was called ‘simple Czech goulash’ and looking at the ingredients list it was easy to see why. I wanted to see if there were any other common variations for the recipe, and as is typical with a lot of stew type dishes you’ll find a whole swathe of different varieties, some which add garlic, others which add peppers or a tomato, plus a range of other ingredients. For some people goulash might be more of a hungarian dish than a czech one, but since it’s a common dish there too I’m going to use it for these purposes to tick off the Czech Republic on my ‘cook dishes from around the world’ challenge. The recipe included in this blog post represents a merge of a few different recipes. I also had a spare carrot and red pepper, and this seemed like a good opportunity to use them up. This recipe serves around 2-4 people, and we served it with some bread, although you could also opt to make some dumplings too.

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 3-4 onions
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 500g beef
  • 2 tbsp paprika
  • 4 cups of water
  • 1 tsp caraway seeds
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 red pepper
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 tsp marjoram.

Method

  1. Heat the oil in a casserole dish and cook the onions for about 10 minutes.
  2. Add the beef and garlic, and cook to brown the meat.
  3. Add the paprika and cook for a minute
  4. Add the water, followed by the spices and vegetables.
  5. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Bring to the boil and then cover and reduce the heat to simmer for about 2 hours.
  7. Add the marjoram and cook for another 10 minutes.
  8. Check the seasoning, and then serve with bread or dumplings.

And that’s it. My version of goulash, with very little effort! If you have the time you could also do this in the slow cooker.

India: Bagara Baingan

My entry into Indian cooking really began with Rick Stein’s book ‘Rick Stein’s India‘, after watching the series and deciding that I wanted to try and make some of the dishes. The recipes were clear, and the results have been great more or less every time. A favourite has to be chana masala (a chickpea curry) – I never thought one of my favourite foods would be a tomato and chickpea dish. But anyway, I’ve now cooked so many of the recipes from there that I wanted to try something different. I first discovered what Bagara Baingan was after visiting Exotic Dining restaurant in Kettering, my home town. We met a friend there for dinner a couple of years ago and the food was wonderful – of all the years I lived in the that town I hadn’t even realised the restaurant was there, and the sign outside really doesn’t do the food justice. My usual dish until recently would have been the murgh methi, a chicken based dish, but for some reason I decided to order something from the vegetarian section – Hyderabadi Bagara Baignan. According to saffron streaksBagara means tempering the oil with spices, a traditional Indian practice of cooking to enhance the aroma of a dish. The recipe uses the small types of aubergines (brinjal) that you should be able to find in larger supermarkets or if you live in a city like Coventry, the central market should have them (once again Coventry market has been my first port of call for getting ingredients I need for my year of global cooking). There are lots of different versions of the recipe available online and I have decided to go for an adapted version of the recipe from the blog Edible Garden. Already this year, by looking for cooking inspiration I have found so many great cooking blogs – I should compile a list at some point.
 Bagara Baingan 
(Serves two people)
 Ingredients:
  • 6 baby aubergines
  • 2 tbsp sesame seeds
  • 2 tbsp peanuts (red skinned)
  • 2 tbsp dessicated coconut
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 inch piece of ginger
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tbsp coriander powder
  • 1 tsp kashmiri chilli powder
  • 1 dried kashmiri chilli (finely chopped)
  • A small lemon sized ball of tamarind
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • Salt

bagara baingan

Method
  1. Dry roast the peanuts and sesame seeds separately until golden brown. Set aside to cool. Then, blend together with the coconut and little water to form a smooth paste.
  2. Extract the tamarind paste in 1 cup warm water. Grind the ginger and garlic (or mash in a pestle and mortar).
  3. Fry the aubergines in 1 tbsp of oil until soft but still hold their shape (about 10 minutes). Drain and set aside.
  4. In the same oil, fry the onions and ginger garlic paste until golden. Then add the ground paste and fry for a minute.
  5. To this, add turmeric powder, chilli powder, coriander powder and salt. Mix well and fry for another minute.
  6. Add the tamarind water, mix, then add the aubergines and cook closed for 5-10 mins.

It’s usually served with roti or rice, but we had it with naan bread. If you have any fresh coriander you could sprinkle some of that on top too.

So that’s India marked on the map for this week’s cooking adventures.
bagara baingan

New year, new adventures

Recipe organiserI started this blog some time ago with the idea that it would become a repository for many of my recipes in an effort to get them to be a bit more organised rather than a notebook filled with ripped out pages from magazines, print outs and newspaper clippings. I never really got started with the blog as I intended, but this year I’ve decided I’m going to use it a bit more, but in a slightly different way than what I had originally thought.

I’m not usually one for New Year’s resolutions as such, but I do like to think about things I would like to achieve over the following year. The last couple of years I have stuck with the aim of trying to learn to cook at least one new recipe every couple of weeks. In reality there were some times that I did more than this, and some times less – overall I wanted to try and expand my culinary repertoire by about 25-30 dishes in the year. I’m pretty sure I’ve done this although I haven’t documented it.

sicilian bread

Sicilian bread recipe I tried in 2015.

Cooking for me has become an activity to escape from work. I find it very difficult to switch off from work and disengage with what I have been working on in the day. Cooking forces a bit of a break because it makes me focus on something different. During my PhD studies baking became my escape activity, and I often joked that the more elaborate the baking was, the more stressed I was. One time I made a pirate ship cake – needless to say this was not a happy week in the office. But anyway, I realised that time in the kitchen was ‘down time’, and the bonus also being that we had nice things to eat.

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It’s been in the last few years though that I’ve realised cooking more generally helps me relax, whether it’s baking bread, making ratatouille or attempting to make my own pasta. It’s also become something my husband (also an academic) enjoys too, it take us both away from the computers as we can plan things we’d like to cook, head into the city to get ingredients (we are lucky in Coventry to have such a great market) and then spend the time together to make whatever dish we’d selected. Over the years I’ve ended up with quite a large collection of cookery books, not to mention piles of recipes from magazines and the internet. I want to make more of an effort to use them, even more than I have been doing. At the same time I’ve become a lot more adventurous with food, and want to find out more about different food cultures, cuisines and ways of cooking.

So for 2016 I am going to set a goal to cook a new dish from a different country every week. This was also in part inspired by a podcast I heard last week about Ann Morgan who set out to read a book from every country in the world in order to expand her literary horizons beyond the familiar western world. You can listen to a TED talk about her literary adventures here. While I am not going to try and cook something from every country around the world in a year I am going to try and make sure I vary the countries I explore the food cultures of. If I can cook something from at least 52 countries over the year I will be happy. I have ordered myself a world map pin board and will keep this in the kitchen as reminder of the countries I have ‘tasted’.

Now I realise that one dish cannot represent a whole food culture. But this is not an attempt to know everything about every food culture, but instead an attempt to expand my horizons a little, provide encouragement to try new ingredients and recipes. The dishes I cook will take inspiration from different countries over the year – I say ‘take inspiration’ rather than ‘provide authentic tastes’ because it might not always be possible to make dishes as authentic as you would find in the countries themselves.

Each week, there will be a blog post to explore what I have cooked, and a little of what I have learnt in the process about cooking, ingredients and food cultures. Hopefully this time next year I’ll be able to look at a map with lots of pins and I will have a much greater appreciation of what the world has to offer.