Halloween borsch? With witches’ noses

I abandoned Keighley library yesterday, visiting my friend Lou who lives with her family in a lovely old farmhouse overlooking the moors close to the Brontë village of Haworth. Her home is not in what you’d call a village, a hamlet would be more correct; there are no street names, the houses just have a number then hamlet name, like many small villages in Romania. I haven’t seen Lou for quite a while for one reason or another so three hours drinking ‘a brew’ (Yorkshire for a pot of tea!) and chatting in her farmhouse kitchen passed very quickly. Husband Stephen, a busy man – farmer, builder and heaven knows what else – popped in for a minute.

Lou runs her graphic design and small printing business from home. I love the fact that at the time her 10 year old daughter Kate is picked up from school business stops for the day. I saw Kate’s first watercolour yesterday, following a school trip to the English Lake District; she’s clearly taking after her mother. Unfortunately I couldn’t wait to say hello to her after school as I had to pick up Petronela.

Keighley railway station

 

On the way to Lou’s I stopped at Keighley railway station, one terminus of the Worth Valley steam railway, and took a couple of pictures to fulfil a promise. No steam engines there at the time so I stopped briefly in Haworth when I saw two engines in steam.

Borș, beetroot-coloured but without beetroot

I had a brief discussion about borș (Romanian spelling) a couple of days ago on the blog of one of my favourite food bloggers, Gabi in Gură Humorului, România. She’s a superb food photographer too. Part of the discussion was about how borș, the sour liquid added to a ‘soup’ to make it ‘borș’, should be made.

Seeing for the first time ‘purple’ carrots in a supermarket (Sainsbury’s – being sold as ‘witch’s noses’ as it’s close to Halloween – aaagh!), I decided to make a borș using the carrots.

 

I don’t make the borș (the sour liquid – confusing isn’t it?), I buy it (as Gabi said she does) but mine from Marinela’s Romanian shop in Leeds. As I said, it’s made by fermenting wheat bran.

My ‘borsch’ looks more like a witches’ brew than any borș I’ve seen gracing a Romanian table, but tastes pretty good. Apart from the purple carrots, which have a slightly peppery taste when raw, it has a chicken stock base with proper borș added ‘to taste’ (I like it fairly sour) but what in Moldova at least is considered an essential ingredient – leuștan, ‘lovage’ – potato, some left-over pork sliced into thin strips and, finally, added at the table, sour cream.

Purple is, of course, an original colour of wild carrots, the ‘eastern’ variety originating in Afghanistan. Those I bought yesterday were grown in Scotland, by James Rearie in Fife. I’d never seen one before. There’s a lot more information about them on the web page of the Carrot Museum; yes, there is such a thing.

Returning to Keighley

It looks as though I’ll be returning to Keighley the week after next, after school half-term break, as it seems Petronela will probably will continue teaching there. I’ll likely continue my Keighley sagas now and then.

 

 

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I’ve said in recent posts that I don’t believe in coincidence and that I’m easily distracted. Venturing upstairs to the reference and study section of Keighley library after my morning double espresso in Wetherspoons next door (see previous posts), I had to confront both.

Philip Snowden and women’s suffrage

First, ‘talking’ about how I began my blog to another blogger earlier this morning (she’ll know who she is) I mentioned one motivation being my desire to air my ire about discrimination, particularly discrimination against women. What first confronted me when I walked along the upstairs floor of the library? The ‘Snowden Library’, that of  Philip Snowden, a tireless campaigner for women’s suffrage. You’ll find more about him in one the pictures.

Proper parkin – again – and other recipes

Then, resisting the temptation to sit down all day with some of his books, I wandered to another section to see what they had about the beautiful Wharfe valley in which I live. A book about Yorkshire dishes almost jumped off the shelf at me. I opened it at a random page and what recipe did I see? Parkin! A proper recipe, almost the same as that I posted a few days ago.  And plot toffee.

I spent much of the rest of my time today with that book and recorded 27 recipes on the iPad. I’m putting some of them here as pictures. I had to include a fish recipe; in Yorkshire you’re never far from the sea and the superb Yorkshire coast. Then there’s a really weird one, ‘Long life’, using whole eggs, shell and all. I just had to include that.

Chicken stew and dumpings? I was taken back to childhood by the recipe for rabbit stew and dumplings. That was a frequent winter meal (rabbit was cheap, the cheapest meat; then chicken was a luxury, for Christmas). Now chicken is cheap and rabbit a luxury, hence chicken stew: chicken legs, onion, garlic, carrot, red lentils, barley, tarragon, parsley, thyme and sage.

Perfect for the cold, miserable, wet weather today, for which I abandoned a planned trip to one or more Worth Valley Railway stations.

Brontës

Finally, I spent a short time in the Brontë section. I knew if I got immersed in that I’d probably lose all sense of time and get a frantic phone call from Petronela asking where I was when she finished school. I just hope she’ll be returning there after the half-term break; she’s enjoying it having knocked the students into shape in the first two days.

I could spend six months in each of those sections.

The freshly baked bread sliced

It’s time (tomorrow) to visit my consultant (doctor) at the hospital so I needed to have a blood test today. The hospital is about 12 miles away, my family doctor 2-3 minutes on foot. In theory I could get the blood test done at the family doctor but they’ve always ‘lost’ it so I go to the hospital. I usually go very early, before everyone sent by the doctors on their rounds arrive, but this morning I couldn’t do that so I went at lunchtime when it is again quiet. How to fill the time? Clear up the kitchen, read blogs, comment on some and make some bread!

I decided to make my usual bread, lazy bread as the hard work is done by a breadmaker (£10 in a charity shop many years ago). So, I made two tin loaves; I usually do this now as being only two of us the majority is sliced and put in the freezer.

Now, I got told off recently for not putting a recipe, and not making pictures clickable to be viewed at full size, so I’ve put them in a gallery which is one way of doing this (hello 👋 Ilze 😂😇) and am giving my recipe (though I think I’ve done it before). ‘Real’ bakers, tv celebrity bakers will probably have a fit but it works and is great for people who have other things to do as it requires no more than 5-7 minutes ‘doing something’ to the bread, so you can get on with something else. Here’s the recipe (the spelt flour gives an unusual texture, which I like):

500g wholemeal strong bread flour; 168g wholemeal spelt flour; 10g butter; 2.1/2tsp sugar; 2.1/2tspn salt; 7g dried fast acting yeast; 432ml water.

My method is not at all like that given by the breadmaker manufacturer but I never was good at doing what I’m told:

Put the water and butter in the bread maker. Mix all the dry ingredients in a bowl. Spoon them on top of the water in the breadmaker. Set the breadmaker on the ‘dough’ programme and switch it on. All that takes a couple of minutes. Leave till the programme is finished (1.1/2 hours on my machine), meanwhile you can read some blogs, comment on a few, and write your own post (or you can sleep till the beep sounds).

Tip the dough out onto a floured surface. Fold over and push with the heel of the hand 12 times. Shape into a round, cut in half, shape each half into a sausage the length of the bread tins, put them in the tins, make three deep slashes in each. Optional: paint with milk and sprinkle on poppy seeds.

Put into a warm place (I put in the top oven set to 50degC). Cover with a cloth and leave till well risen (for me 1/2hr) during which you can have another catnap. Have the oven at 180degC. Bake for 20 minutes. Tip out of the tins and put back directly on the oven shelf till tapped on the bottom it sounds hollow (5-10 minutes. You get to know from the sound of the first tap when you’ve made a few). Leave to cool on a wire tray.

Bloodletting

The phlebotomists at the hospital (Airedale) are great, as are all the staff. Until I began to have these regular pricks I was a bit nervous. I cured it by taking a photo of the needle going in and enjoy the short chat with the lady taking my blood.

The needle for taking blood pictured just about to go into my left arm

Just about two years ago; that’s my arm. The hands are of a trainee phlebotomist

I was even more nervous of the ‘big needle’ which gets stuck in my belly every 3 months. I usually manage to have the same nurse, Hafsa, who makes me laugh and I hardly feel a thing. “It’s a screwdriver, not a needle,” she tells me. I’ve never dared to look. The nurse in Romania this summer, Paula, was equally expert.

The weather

Raining, again.

The dish of ‘cauliflower cheese’ taken from the oven

Just out of the oven

I’ve been making cauliflower cheese for as long as I can remember, certainly more than 50 years. A basic cheese sauce: flour, butter, milk and cheese, poured over steamed caulifloweur florets, topped with grated cheese and in the oven till browned. It’s a regular dish for our ‘non-meat days’.

This evening I made something  completely different. What a revelation. Petronela is, unlike me who will eat almost anything if it is well cooked, rather pretentious with food. She pronounced it ‘excellent’ and very filling (less home-baked wholemeal bread than usual consumed). What is more, it’s even easier to make (I managed to finish some tiling in the kitchen while making it!).

I’ll not give the recipe here, just a link to where I nicked it from:

a day in the life of a Latvian mom

As usual I didn’t follow the recipe to the letter: cauliflower florets steamed not boiled/blanched; I never know what ‘cups’ are so I used 200ml/qtr pint milk; “sharp cheese” – 100g extra mature cheddar beaten into the eggs/milk, 50g of the same sprinked on top, then 50g Pecorino Romano. Oven, fan, at 180degC for 1/2 hr.

Absolutely delicious. Creamy – don’t overcook.

 

Mushrooms cut ready for cooking

This post was going to be just about my mushroom dish, inspired by my recently found Latvian blogging friend, Ilze. However, I must comment on David Mellor’s Classic FM two hour programme on Sunday, about Maria Callas. I said in my post of about three weeks ago following his programme about Pavarotti, that his is for me the best programme by far on Classic FM. I’ve been listening to him when I could for a few years but I reckon his programme last evening was probably his best ever.

I’ve long held that Maria Callas was the greatest diva even though her voice wasn’t always the best, particularly in her later years. Mellor, as ever with carefully chosen recordings, illustrated just why he thinks so too (if you have the Classic FM app for iPhone or iPad, or the Android version, you can listen to the programme, in fact any programme, again for up to 7 days after broadcast).

Back to mushrooms

I’ve had one or two discussions with Ilze, on her blog, about the mushrooms she forages from the close by forest, the latest about a ‘new’ one for her – Delicious Milk Cap. I don’t have much possibility to forage for fungi here and even if I had it would be a steep learning curve to know which are safe; probably I’d never be confident enough.

Reading her latest recipe, with the ‘Delicious …’ she had found, determined me to try to give more taste to my usual dish of cultivated mushrooms in sour cream, a dish I make fairly often for our ‘no meat’ days. So here’s my recipe (tap the pictures to see captions).

Ingredients

Chestnut mushrooms – 300g

Sour cream – 300g

Oil (sunflower, rape or olive – on this occasion I used the latter) – 2 tbspn

Butter -10g (about)

Medium red onion – 1/2  

Cloves of garlic – A few

Ground ginger – 1/2 tspn

Leaves of Tarragon – a few

Salt and pepper – to taste.

Method

Wipe the mushrooms and cut in half. Heat the oil and butter in a frying pan until the butter foam has almost subsided (this indicates it is sufficiently hot to sauté the mushrooms rather than boil them in their own juice – the butter also gives a bit of taste). Sauté the mushrooms till just beginning to brown on each side. Remove from the pan.

Turn down the heat. Add the roughly chopped onion to the pan. Meanwhile crush the garlic cloves by putting a broad bladed knife on them and bash with a fist. When the onions are transparent raise the heat a bit and add the garlic. Stir a few times until the garlic has begun to brown.

Return the mushrooms to the pan, add the chopped tarragon and sprinkle on the ginger.  Turn over a few times until the mushrooms are hot again, add the sour cream and heat, stirring, until it’s just beginning to bubble. Taste and add salt and pepper to taste.

The result

We ate it just with my home baked wholemeal bread – very tasty – but rice would go well. A good chilled Chardonnay went well too (I know there’s a lot of rubbish with that name so it’s fallen out of favour but a good French one is, well, very good!). A side salad works too.

When I make it again I will probably substitute finely grated ginger root for the ground variety, and maybe a dash of cayenne to get closer to the peppery taste the wild mushrooms (and their more ‘dangerous’ cousins Woolly Milk Cap) are prized by Latvians for. You’ll find Ilzie’s recipe for the Delicious Milk Cap on her blog, and how she deals with the ‘poisonous’ Woolly on her blog too.

I must be getting back to normal; it’s taken almost two weeks following our marathon trip of approaching 5,000 miles over 45 days. First, yesterday, I made the first ‘full English’ breakfast since our return; today I’m baking bread for the first time (couldn’t bear any more from the shop, even ‘good’ bakeries) and I’m making ‘leftovers’ soup – from the carcass of a roast chicken with some mushrooms. That’s what I call ‘back to normal’.

The two loaves baked today, one still in the tin, the other out

Just out of the oven

It was only laziness that delayed breadmaking till now and I’m sure I’d offend that tv celebrity baker, Holiday Inn or something. I’ve long settled on my own recipe and let a breadmaker do the hard work, do the second rising in the warming oven, so all I do is a very brief knead, divide into two tins and, after doubled in size, put the two loaves in the oven to bake. If I lived in Germany I’d probably be even lazier – I’d buy my bread from the bakery. I prefer the firmer consistency to the airy ‘foam’ we get here.

My recipe, two tin loaves from: 500g wholemeal strong flour; 170g of wholemeal spelt flour, 430ml water; 10g butter; 2.1/2 teaspoons salt; 2.1/2 teaspoons sugar; packet of dried yeast. Sometimes I add sunflower or pumpkin seeds. Today I just brushed the tops with milk and scattered poppy seeds on.

Dinner tonight will be as lazy: beef stew made some time ago, from the freezer, with dumplings. I know, it’s not yet winter but I love stew and dumplings and it’s quite chilly today.

Although I kept a daily journal of the trip on Facebook (Dusty2Romania) I do intend to do at least one post here, about in particular the campsites on which we stayed, from the horrors of Budapest to the excellence of some in Austria and Holland. Soon.

Picture of the set of 'toiuri' with the flask. They are decorated with a oicture of a couple in national costume.

Țoiuri and flaska

I’ve almost never bought ‘souvenirs of’ places I visited, either for myself or as gifts for others, but I’m quite pleased with something I brought back from Romania this time. I always bring some ‘palinka’ – the very alcoholic drink made from plums – not that found in commerce but that distilled by friends, or friends of friends. It always comes in a plastic bottle previously holding mineral water – so not very impressive, even if it’s held my favourite, Borsec, when serving to friends back in UK.

The drink, and the slightly less alcoholic version usually referred to as ‘țuică’, was traditionally served in a tiny ‘tankard’ called a țoi (pronounced ‘tsoy’) and served from a small flask so I wanted to find a set of ‘țoiuri’ (plural – ‘tsoy-oorr’). I really wanted a set in glass, or rustic pottery, but I didn’t find either so settled for a ‘tourist’ set in porcelain. At least it’s made in Romania, from one of the two factories in Alba Iulia, not from China as so much ‘traditional’ ware now is.

Bilberries – afine

Having missed the bilberry season in UK, we brought back the Romanian version, afine, in the largest glass jar we could find. We didn’t collect them but bought them in the market, 2.5kg for honorary grandmother, 2.5kg for mother in law and 2.5kg for us. You can buy them, apparently cheaper, by the roadside, but the weighing scale can have been doctored and they can have been diluted with something similar in appearance like elderberries so at about £4/kilo it’s better in the market.

2.5kg of afine, less those already eaten for breakfast, behind the set of țoiuri

2.5kg of afine, less those already eaten for breakfast, behind the set of țoiuri

Afine are the same as the British bilberry but tend to be just a little smaller and more intense in taste. Either are far superior to the cultivated American ‘blueberry’ found in supermarkets here, usually imported from South America but can be from, eg, Spain.

To preserve them all you do is pour sugar on top, which eventually forms a fine syrup. I put them on my usual breakfast of raw oats and milk. They can be used to make ‘afinată’ by letting the sugared berries soak in țuica, but I prefer them just as they are. Having had them for breakfast every day since returning home I’d soon finish them if I continued so starting this morning with grapes I’ll now add other fruit most days and give myself a treat on just one or two days a week.

Raw oats and milk with afine

Breakfast

Other culinary items brought back were ‘zarzavat’, finely chopped herbs and vegetables (preserved with salt), a better addition than the vegetable stock cube resorted to here, ‘ardei iute’ – hot peppers usually accompanying borsch (not for me) and tomato juice made from the intensely tasting tomatoes grown in the countryside, not those from the glasshouses which have little more taste than those sold in UK. All of these prepared by mother in law. Also brought were 5 litres of ‘salcăm’ (acacia) honey from a local beekeeper; we were lucky, the bees didn’t make much of this, my favourite, this year and most available was polyflora. Several bottles were added: a few of one of our favourite reds, from the Murfatlar region – Trei Hectare; newly appeared in Romania, cider, for Petronela; and a couple of the renowned sweet whites from the Cotnar region of north Moldova – Grasă de Cotnar – for friends ; neither P nor I like sweet wines.

That completed the haul; the long drive back, very hot for the first days, made bringing other ‘fresh’ foods back impossible so there’ll be an early visit to Marinela’s Romanian shop in Harehills, Leeds.

At one time posts about food and cooking formed a substantial proportion of my posts on this blog but there are now so many I usually settle for reading some of, to me, the more interesting food blogs or the posts about food from bloggers I follow more generally. I almost never follow recipes anyway except for classic French cooking though I often get inspiration from them.