About Me
I'm a Melbourne boy, hailing from St Kilda with one ex, one current wife and four kids. Love the outdoors and making new discoveries. I cook a lot at home (cheers from wife) and do some preserving, mostly jams, pickles and fruit liqueurs. This is the diary of a cooking journey.

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Wednesday, February 22, 2006
Memories of Easter
I love Easter time, the season has moved into autumn and with it comes cooler weather. If the rains have come, there is the bounty of wild mushrooms, free for the taking. For my wife D. who is Polish, Easter is a significant religious celebration of death and renewal and after the period of lent, a family feast follows Sunday mass.

A couple of Easters ago, we took a holiday to Tasmania, an island State, south of mainland Australia. It is a relatively unspoiled place where the main industries are forestry and tourism. The feeling of the place is laidback and there are tons of things to see and do. My son A. and daughter M. traveled with us and my son and I decided before the trip to fit in some trout fishing at a place called Launceston Lakes. The only day we could fit it in was Easter Sunday much to D.'s dismay, but it was only for the morning, so there would still be time to go to mass in the afternoon.

We rang around the local churches to find out the time of the Mass, but in Tasmania it seemed they liked to do the mass early, for we could find nowhere that celebrated it in the afternoon. Somewhat guiltily my son and I took off for fishing, it was raining, so maybe someone else wasn't too happy with us. When we arrived at the lakes, there was no one to meet us as planned at the gate, which was locked, so we trudged up the path to the main building. On the way up, we noticed a large lake that was full of motion from feeding trout, but we were directed to a different lake, full of weed and not a single ripple of a fish to be seen.

My son and I flogged that lake for all we were worth, there was not a single take. We walked every inch of the shore to no avail. When we were directed to this lake, the owners had said we could try the lake we had walked past on the way in, so we made our way there, found a likely spot and started to cast our lures. On my second cast, I hooked up with a fair sized fish and after a struggle, landed a trout of about a kilo (2.2 lbs). My son, whose interest had been waning, suddenly brightened up and asked where I had cast. Flicking the lure out to show him, I hooked up again on a similar sized fish.

With dinner taken care of, we packed up and returned to our motel about midday. D. wanted at least to go to a church, so we decided to look for one in Launceston. We drove around for a bit, then discovered a beautiful old bluestone church that reminded us of St Ignatious church in Richmond, where we sometimes go for their Polish mass. Just how similar it was, we were about to find out. People were going in, so we joined them and sat in a pew, the mass was just beginning. The priest said a few words and I nudged D. with my elbow.

"It's a Polish mass."

"No it's not."

I speak only a few words of Polish, so I couldn't be sure, but after a few more words from the priest D. looked at me incredulously.

"Yes it is!"

Serendipity is a wonderful thing, for the Easter before, we had made another discovery on Easter Sunday. We had decided to attend our local church, which celebrates an Hungarian mass, Father Kiss (pronounced kish) is the priest and talks with a thick accent, which is barely understandable. Our daughter M. was with us in a pram and was becoming restless, so I decided to take her outside. The church is attached to school grounds, so we wandered there and found people setting up for a huge Hungarian feast.

There were enormous pots of toltott kaposzta (cabbage rolls) and gulyasleves (goulash soup), trays of debricziner, the sausage that takes its name from Debrecen, the third largest city in Hungary and of course plenty of potatoes. Every kind of sweet was on display, szilvas gomboc (plum dumplings), strudel and the famous Dobos-torta amongst others. I had left the church and gone straight to heaven.

We were going to my sister-in-laws for lunch, so we had to satisfy ourselves with a few sweet things, though we were not disappointed at missing out on lunch, as we cook a couple of Hungarian dishes at home, particularly lesco (pronounced lecho) and gulyasleves. We discovered our recipe for gulyasleves in the St Kilda library. What peaked my interest in the recipe, was that I thought of gulyas (goulash) as more like a stew.

The word gulyas originally meant only "herdsman," but over time the dish became gulyashus (goulash meat) - that is to say, a meat dish that was prepared by herdsmen. Today, gulyas refers both to the herdsmen, and to the soup.

At the end of the 19th century, there was heightened awareness and interest in the Hungarian national identity, which led to gulyas leaving the herdsmen, where it was eaten with wooden spoons from a shared kettle, to the manor houses, where it became highly fashionable. From there it moved on to the simple folk outside the Great Plain of Hungary, where it finally became common property.

(Goulash Soup)

1/2 kg (1 lb) beef round or topside
1/2 kg (1 lb) beef chuck or blade
3 tablespoons lard or oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 tablespoon paprika
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 cup beef stock
4 medium potatoes, chopped
8 cups water
1 green pepper, seeded and sliced into strips

Cut meat into cubes. In a large casserole or pot, heat lard or oil and saute onions until transparent. Add beef, paprika, salt and caraway seeds and continue to saute for 10 minutes, stirring. Add tomato paste, beef stock and water, simmer for 30 minutes and add potatoes, cook for 15 minutes. Add pepper strips and csipetke and cook for 10 minutes more and serve.


1/2 cup of plain (all purpose) flour
pinch of salt
1 egg
1 teaspoon water (optional)

In a bowl combine flour, salt and egg. Knead until a stiff dough is formed, adding water if necessary. Flatten the dough with the palm of your hands until 1 cm (1/2") thick. Pinch off 1 cm (1/2") pieces of dough and drop into simmering soup.
  posted at 8:49 am

At 12:23 pm, Blogger Ange said...

My grandparents were polish so I grew up eating a lot of goulash & for us it was a casserole & not a soup. We also ate the dumplings you gave the recipe for which we called 'cluski' (spelling as we pronounceed it - no idea of the real word) & we had them in simple chicken soup Do you prepare much other polish food?

At 3:46 am, Blogger Angela said...

Yummm.....I've made goulash, but never goulash soup....sounds delicious. I don't cook anything Polish, but I do own lots of Polish pottery. How funny.....I forget that your Easter is in autumn, where as ours in in the spring......I can't quite imagine celebrating Easter with a centerpeice of pumpkins and rust colored leaves on the table.

At 8:36 am, Blogger neil said...

Hi Ange, I've had to consult the oracle for your reply. Kluski is the Polish generic word for dumplings, we eat kluski at home, but ours are made with potato and flour, and are virtually indistinguishable from gnocchi. It seems once upon a time, a long time ago, an italian princess married into the polish court and brought recipes for pasta and gnocchi. Pierogi is a first cousin of ravioli for instance.

What polish food do we eat at home? Glad you asked.

Kotlety schabowe - pork chops in breadcrumbs,zurek - fermented soup, barszcz czerwony - beetroot soup, zupa ogorkowa - fermented cucumber soup, krupnik - chicken soup with barley, pyzy - dumplings filled with pork, cwikla z chrzanem - beetroot with horseradish, mizeria - cucumber salad with sour cream, pierogi - pasta shapes with fillings, placki ziemniaczane - potato cakes, salatka jarzynowa - potato salad (similar to russian salad), racuchy - yeast pancakes and golabki - cabbage rolls

Hi Angela, When D. first made goulash for me, it was more like a stew, but it was polish style. Goulash in Hungary traditionally means a soup dish, its just been tampered with on its way around the world. I do hope you try it, its not too hard to make despite the length of the recipe, and makes a light, tasty dinner with some crusty bread.

At 9:25 am, Blogger chili&vanilia said...

Hi,thanks for visiting my site and my goulash recipe:)
This is a great post and also the recipe sounds absolutely good. And you know what, the best I like that you also published the recipe for csipetke!! (by the way, making csipetke is a great activity for sleepless nights:)


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