Romania


Yesterday was a damp, misty, chilly day so very suitable to serve our dinner guests a classic boeuf Bourguignon (or, if you prefer, boeuf a la Bourguignonne); very filling so a simple, light starter (more below) and a small but rich classic desert – mousseline au chocolat – with a little side of fresh fruit to offset the richness.

Romanian wines, red and whiteMuch as I like French wine, it was a good opportunity to drink a couple of excellent Romanian wines which have been in the rack for a while, a red called ’3 Hectare’ (three hectares) from the Murfatlar wine region, between the Danube and the Black Sea in south east Romania and made from the ancient Romanian grape variety Feteasca Neagra, and a sweet white called Grasa de Cotnar, from north east Romania, with the dessert. This latter is a wine favoured by French visitors as an affordable alternative to Château d’Yquem. With the starter I chose a refreshing dry Riesling from Germany.

This is the first ‘haute cuisine’ I’ve attempted in quite a while, for reasons I touched on in the previous post (and I forgot to take photos for this post so have cobbled some together from left-overs and pix taken by my wife at the occasion).

‘Crayfish’ and asparagus mousse verrine

Starter151114Catching up on the blog-related emails I came across a post from blogger ‘a French girl cuisine‘ which seemed to fit the bill for something not too demanding after slaving over the beef. She gives it as a Crayfish & Asparagus Mousse Verrine but I haven’t seen any crayfish since I used to catch them in the nearby River Wharfe when a child so I used King Prawns. I won’t give the recipe here (I’ll just say that it takes more time to wash the liquidiser than to make the recipe!) but follow the link to a French girl cuisine .

Mastering the art of French cooking

The two other recipes come from a book which I’ve said before on this blog is one of my few favourites and that from which I learned to cook classic French: Mastering the Art of French Cooking. It wouldn’t go down well with the judges of Master Chef who favour meagre sculptures on  a plate, nor the so-called ‘healthy eating’ brigade, but it covers the sort of food I became used to when I had a business client in Normandy (and the sort of quantities served there then, reminiscent of my Yorkshire grandmother’s table).

Boeuf Bourguignon on the plate with parslied potatoes and peasBoeuf Bourguignon is a labour of love if made in the classic way but not costly other than the necessary bottle of good red wine. It can use a relatively cheap cut of beef; I used skirt. Topside or silverside would be a bit more costly alternatives, or rump if you want to push the boat out, but I really don’t think it’s worth it. Some people marinade the beef before cooking but it isn’t necessary – make the basis a couple of days in advance and let the cooked beef marinade in the gorgeous wine sauce which results from the first stage.

The recipe – for six

A brief summary of the recipe should be sufficient here. Cut 3lb (1.25kg) of lean beef in two inch (5cm) cubes. Cut a 6oz (140g) chunk of streaky bacon in 1/4in (0.5cm) thick lardons and saute to brown slightly in a heavy casserole which will just take the beef. Blanch the bacon rind. Put the bacon aside, raise the heat to almost ‘smoking’ and saute the carefully dried beef cubes a few at a time until brown all over; add the bacon and a carrot and an onion, sliced and browned together.

Toss the beef with 1tsp (5ml) of salt and 1/4 tsp (1 ml) pepper. Sprinkle on 1oz (25g) of flour and toss again. Put in the oven at 450degF (230degC)  for 4 minutes, toss again and put back in the oven for another 4 minutes. Now the meat is covered with a thin brown crust. Remove the dish and lower the oven temperature to 325degF (160degC). Add a bottle of good red wine, enough beef stock to just cover the meat, 1 tblsp (15ml) of tomato puree, two mashed large cloves of garlic, 1/2 tsp (2.5ml) of thyme, a crumbled bay leaf and the bacon rind. Cover the casserole and seal the lid with foil. Put in the oven and regulate the heat so the liquid simmers very slowly. Cook until the beef is pierced very easily with a fork (3 to 4 hours). Cool and put in the fridge until required (at least a day before, preferably more).

On the day of serving, saute about 20 small onions in 1 tblsp (15ml) of oil and 3/4oz (18g) of butter, gently rolling about until browned (about 10 minutes). Braise, covered, in 1/4 pint (150 ml) of good brown stock with a medium herb bouquet (4 sprigs parsley, 1/2 bay leaf, 1/4 tsp thyme) until tender but holding their shape (about 45 minutes). Remove the herb bouquet and put the onions aside till needed (this can be done well in advance).

Saute 1/2lb (225g) of button mushrooms in 1.1/2 tsp (7.5ml) oil and 1oz (25g) of butter until lightly browned (about 4 or 5 minutes). I don’t need to tell the cooks here that the fat should be hot or the mushrooms will just boil in their own juice rather than saute; it is hot enough when the butter foam just begins to subside. Put aside till needed. Again, this can be done well in advance.

When ready to serve the dish, bring the beef up to almost boiling and pour the sauce through a sieve into a pan. Skim fat off the sauce. If the sauce is thick enough to lightly cover the back of a spoon it’s OK; if not reduce to this point; if too thick add a little stock. Taste and season to taste. Try not to consume all the sauce.

Heat the onions and mushrooms and distribute them over the meat and vegetables back in the casserole. Pour over the sauce. Again this can be done in advance.

Just before your guests arrive, cover the casserole and bring up to a simmer and leave for a couple of minutes and, voila, one of the best creations of French cuisine.

Serve with small boiled potatoes, tossed in butter and chopped parsley, and buttered peas.

Mousseline au chocolat

There are of course many recipes for chocolate mousse and the one I usually make for ‘every day’ eating is very simple, from one of those little books with names like ‘Yorkshire teatime recipes’ and widely available in tourist destinations in the UK for £1.50. In this it’s called Yorkshire Chocolate Pudding!

mousseline au chocolat with an apple and orangeLast night I settled on the one the authors of Mastering the Art of French Cooking say is the best, and I’d go along with them. As it’s very rich I served it in a little pot with a rosette of cream on top and raspberries, slices of Cox’s apple and bits of fresh orange, all marinated for a couple of hours in spiced rum with a little sugar at the side. This adds a bit of colour to the dish too.

For four people (following a substantial main course) you need three large eggs (use 4 eggs for six with other ingredients in proportion), 3 oz (100g) of sugar (I use unrefined ‘golden’), 4 oz (100g) of dark chocolate (I use 70%), 2 fl oz (60ml) of orange liqueur, 3 oz softened unsalted butter, a tablespoon of strong black coffee and an extra 3 tsp of sugar.

Beat the sugar with the egg yolks until it is pale and forms a slowly dissolving ribbon. Then beat it over hot water, not quite simmering, until thicker like a mayonnaise (about 4 minutes, just too hot to keep your finger in). Then beat for another 4 minutes over cold water. Beat in the orange liqueur. Meanwhile melt the chocolate, with the coffee, over hot water (not touching). Beat the softened butter into the melted chocolate a little at a time. Beat the melted chocolate and butter mixture into the egg yolks. Beat the egg whites until soft peaks are formed. Sprinkle on 3 tsp (7.5ml) of sugar. Beat until firm peaks are formed. Stir a quarter of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture until well distributed, then carefully fold in the rest of the egg whites. Drop into little serving pots and pop in the fridge for at least a couple of hours. That’s it. Decorate if you wish. You can serve with a creme anglais or lightly sweetened whipped cream, but I think it’s enough without and prefer to accompany with a little marinated fresh fruit.

Cheese

Cheese151114

 

 

The only French product on the after sweet cheese plate was a Brie. Stilton from Colston Bassett and a Yorkshire traditional Wensleydale from Hawes reminded us of where we were.

The morning after

We forwent our usual traditional English for Sunday breakfast. Two lightly poached eggs with buttered toast and Yorkshire tea was perfect

100th post

Fittingly I think, my previous ‘resurrection’ post was grumpytyke’s 100th.

 

 

 

 

Grumpytyke is back, I hope fairly frequently, after a long absence, and I’m trying to decide whether to resume with the wide ranging subjects which I wrote about before – Romania, VW campers, classic minis, haiku, Yorkshire and food and cooking, and a few more as the mood takes me – or to limit myself to one or two themes. That might be difficult for me.

I just ploughed through emails going back to February this year – helluvalot of spam – and was glad to see a lot of ‘old friends’ still posting, though some seem to have disappeared in recent months. Apart from one short post in February ‘explaining’ my absence I haven’t really posted or looked at emails for about a year.

Me

Much of my absence has been due to a major health problem. I was diagnosed with prostate cancer, had my first ever stays in hospital and spent a while with tubes and bags limiting my movement. Hopefully it’s under control for the moment. I might have something to say about the wonderful overworked nursing staff in the NHS, but the often abysmal administration, management and systems, in a future post. (more…)

grumpytyke:

It’s a long time since I wrote something on this blog, one reason being that the blog/site I created and maintain for the village in which I live has taken up much of my spare time. However, I have often written on this blog of my admiration of Romania and Romanians so thought I would re-blog the latest post on my village website here as Farage’s comments about Romanians just lost him a vote, albeit an ‘anti-Cameron’ rather than pro-UKIP vote, in the European elections. Grumpytyke

Originally posted on Menston Village Wharfedale:

In the week of the local and European elections, our columnist ‘grumpytyke’ faces a dilemma:

“In my opinion Menston has an excellent local MP in Philip Davies, the current Wharfedale Ward Councillor Dale Smith seems to have worked for the people of Menston, and the candidate Gerry Barker says he will do so if elected. So what is the over-riding reason that I cannot vote for the last named this week and the first named next year?

“It’s very simple: a vote for them is effectively a vote for David Cameron and ‘Concrete’ Boles. These two (ironically assisted by Labour Councillors in Bradford), despite their protestations to the contrary, are clearly intent on destroying for ever – for short-term gain – much of not only what makes the Yorkshire Dales loved by all of us who are fortunate enough to live here but many areas of beauty elsewhere in this green and pleasant…

View original 821 more words

Icon of Saint Dimitrie

This icon of Saint Dimitrie, Dimitrios (Greek) or Dumitru (Romanian), is one of several in our home

Today is Saint Dimitrie’s day, so also ‘my’ day as Dimitrie is my name too, given to me when I was baptised on 26th October. In the Eastern Orthodox Tradition, the name day corresponds to the day on which a saint “fell asleep”, or died (Gregorian calendar).

I was given the name in the Orthodox church of ‘Stefan cel Mare Domnesc (the Lord’s Church of Stephen the Great), Iasi, the church I attended when I lived in that Romanian city (and the church in which I was married).

Although in Romania the saint is known as Dumitru, I chose the Russian version – hence Dimitrie – and that is how my several Orthodox priest friends, and some other friends, call me.

When I was in Romania people would call at my home on this day and share a drink and a snack, or even a celebration meal. Now, in the UK, I receive email messages and ‘iconograms’ from friends and relatives in Romania, especially from my Godparents – Godfather Vasile, now a mathematics lecturer in an Australian university, and Godmother Gabriela. (more…)

Some month’s ago I removed the requirement for me to approve comments before they appeared and until now that had not resulted in a lot of spam comments. Sadly, over the past couple of days this has changed and, from the content, I suspect that it is originating in Romania or with a Romanian. I don’t think it a coincidence that it has happened after commenting on a Romanian blog – though I’m sure that blogger has nothing to do with it. Most of these spam comments were on past pages with content about Romania. It’s simple enough to remove it and that I have done, but it’s a pain. For some reason they have not been picked up by the usually excellent spam filter; the spammer seems to be ‘commenting’ from Facebook, which I hardly use. I hope it will stop. Va rog, sa va opriti!

Mackerel – don’t overcook

However, I have a pleasanter fishy thing to blog about – mackerel. Among the cheapest of fish it is also a favourite for me and, I think, at its best prepared very simply. Those who follow this blog will know that I like cooking classic French cuisine, often a very complex and long-winded preparation, but for mackerel simple is super. So I thought I would share the way I do it, our meal last night, with you.

Too big for our 10 inch dinner plates, this fish takes about 14 minutes to cook. Very important not to overcook.

Too big for our 10 inch dinner plates, this fish takes about 14 minutes to cook. Very important not to overcook.

I have mentioned before that I am fortunate in having very good fish close at hand – in Leeds Kirkgate market where Marks & Spencer was born. Of course they would be even better straight from the sea and every time I eat them I remember childhood holidays in the Yorkshire east coast resort of Bridlington, getting up very early in the morning to go out on a small boat, line fishing, and returning with the boat full of mackerel just as most other holiday-makers were getting up.

The fish we had last night were large – way too big for the 25cm (10inch) dinner plate you see in the picture. We’re gluttons so had one each, but the only accompaniment was some crusty wholemeal bread.

As with pretty well all fish the only difficulty is making sure you don’t overcook them. At the size shown they take about 7 minutes a side under a hot grill (on a good summer day I’d do them over charcoal outside but this is a bit more difficult as you need more than usual separation between the coals and the fish, otherwise the outside can be overcooked before the inside is done). The meat close to the backbone should only just be cooked, still very moist and juicy and slightly pink.

I prefer the head left on but it can be removed for the squeamish. Make deep slashes, but not cutting right through, on each side of the fish. This helps them cook evenly. Rub the fish with oil then squeeze ‘French mustard’ (I use the best – Dijon) in each slash. No other seasoning at all; if you like things salty this can be added while eating but personally I prefer them without. Then under (or over) the grill, turning half way through. That’s it!

Gravlax, Scottish smoked wild salmon, monkfish tails or turbot – all wonderful – but none of them beat the taste of this simply prepared mackerel for me.

Having had an enforced break not only from posting but also from reading the blogs of those I follow, it’s been a real struggle to catch up. There were more than 500 email notifications of new posts etc going back to the end of March and I haven’t got through them all yet. To be honest, many have been ‘filed away’ unread but there are some bloggers who I know will produce something which I don’t want to miss in every post – fortunately they do not post every day, let alone several times a day. I’m slowly getting through these. Catching up on my other (photo/film cameras) blog was much easier as most of those I follow just post a picture or more, most writing very little if anything.

Birthday treats

:) So yesterday was my birthday – don’t ask how old but it’s very. I got some real treats.

:) First, a lovely Romanian lady found the one post I did manage to make a few days ago and followed this blog, so of course I went to hers. A wonderful site mainly devoted to Romanian food. She writes in Romanian but also in very good English. The title, amintiridinbucatarie (‘Memories of the kitchen’), is a clever play on the title of a very famous book by the Hans Christian Andersen of Romania, Ion Creanga, called ‘Memories of childhood’.

:) A ‘liker’ in this Romanian blog took me to my second treat – a young lady in Canada, of Romanian descent, who blogs not only on food but on my second passion too – photography. She provided the basic recipe for today’s evening meal but also, praising her father’s photography, took me to his blog, so I’ve signed up to that :) as a third birthday treat. I will not reproduce her recipe here , just click that link to find it, but I made one or two minor modifications which are noted below.

My modifications

1. I did think of eliminating the ‘g’ from the oil, making it rapeseed oil (from Yorkshire) but decided to go for the authentic Romanian – sunflower – instead.

2. I had some genuine homemade sausage in the freezer – made by my mother-in-law and smoked by my father-in-law in Romania, so I used these (we usually put them with another Moldovan staple – beans – which I adore). We also make both potato and bean casserole with smoked ribs of pork, or bacon ribs.

3. It doesn’t apply to the whole of Romania but in Moldova, in the north and east of the country, where my Romanian persona was raised, a dish without dill is almost unthinkable, so a generous handful of chopped dill went in a couple of minutes before serving.

:) 100+ followers

My other treat? I saw that the number of my followers had just passed 100. I know that’s small beer compared with many but it’s a great thrill to me, especially as my blog doesn’t meet the rule of four Us: I think it is usually ‘Unique’, and often ‘Useful’, especially when about food; but this blog is certainly not ‘Ultra specific’ – intentionally so – nor ‘Urgent’. Nor does it follow WordPress’s constant urging to post every day (from my observations bloggers who do that rarely manage to keep a high standard).

PS. Why no picture? The aroma from the ‘ceaun’ (Romanian pot) so excited my wife when she came in after her day of teaching she couldn’t wait to get it on the table, so I forgot to take the picture until after it had been eaten!

I don’t have a lot of time for blogging at the moment – the weather is superb for walking and photography but unfortunately that means it is also ideal for some much needed ‘tender loving care’ for Lofty, our beloved VW camper. However, having just cooked and eaten the obligatory full English breakfast I thought I’d use the 15 min ‘digestion’ pause to get this off.

The Romanians are almost uniquely able to have a joke on themselves and, being far better generally educated than the majority of people coming out of UK schools, are able to do it with a wit and substance sadly lacking in much of what we see from British commentators. I just love the poster campaign launched by the Romanian paper Gandul (‘The Thought?) in response to that from the Guardian. The posters are in English so English speakers can understand them even if the accompanying text is in Romanian.

http://www.gandul.info/news/why-don-t-you-come-over-raspunsul-gandul-la-campania-britanica-nu-veniti-in-anglia-update-10528548

So here are some of the Romanian poster words, each of which has a postscript “Why don’t you come over. We may not like Britain but you’ll love Romania”. There are many more gems.

Your weekly rent covers a month here – pub nights included

Our Tube was not designed with sardines in mind – sorry sardines

Our newspapers are hacking celebrities’ privacy, not people’s phones

Our air traffic controllers have seen snow before. They were unimpressed

We don’t have a congestion charge here. We believe congestions are punishment enough.

Our draft beer is less expensive than your bottled water.

And my favourite – almost absolutely true:

Half our women look like Kate. The other half, like her sister.

Most of my followers will know I have a serious love affair with Romania and Romanians and the majority of Romanians coming here so far are very well educated, hard-working and an enormous benefit to our society. But this doesn’t mean my eyes are closed to the problems: corruption is endemic (but worse in Bulgaria) and certainly a large number of Romanians coming here have come to commit crime and will do so in the future (the Romanians would say that they are not Romanians, but gypsies, and while I cannot support this racist statement there is an underlying truth).

So, much as I love Romanians and their country, the concern about freely opening the door to them is well-founded.

But it will be great for Britain to have a boost to the population of people who can actually speak English!

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