We fetishise food. We are told that this ingredient or that ingredient is currently fashionable and good for us and that we should eat it. Quinoa is like that at the moment. I was never a joiner and most importantly I was never a snob. I don’t believe that’s how cuisine works. Food is not fashion. Food is basic, food is unaffected. Food is primal. 

Take the humble larded potatoes. Hungary lived on it for years. It was the first hot dish young people were thought to make, in case they got hungry. Now nobody is willing to admit that they ever tasted it. Just look for zsíros krumpli on the Internet and you will get anything but. 

Zsíros krumpli can be basic, or made with chicken or pork drippings. Add some caraway seeds or freshly chopped parsley and you get caraway seed or parsley potatoes. If you don’t have homemade lard, use drippings or replace the lard with butter. We used to LIKE this. In fact we liked it so much that it was part of our Christmas feast. I don’t want szardellás palacsinta for Christmas, I want zsíros krumpli. “But lard is so fattening!” So is all that red meat you guzzle up with your salad. 

I would like to have a serving of zsíros krumpli. See how easy it is? 

2 potatoes per person* [any type] 
1 Tbsp homemade lard or meat drippings 
salt and pepper to taste 

• Place a wide bottomed pot on the stove and fill it halfway up with hot water. 
• Bring the water to the boil. 
• Meanwhile peel and chop the potatoes into even sized cubes. 
• Drop the potatoes into the boiling water. Make sure the potatoes are not crowded and are covered with water. 
• Bring to full boil. 
• Cook until the potatoes are tender, but not so soft they fall apart. Keep an eye on them, don’t overcook. 
• Immediately drain off all the water. 
• Add the needed lard or meat dripping to the potatoes and cover with a lid. 
• In a few minutes the lard will melt, gently shake the pot to evenly grease the potatoes. Do not stir, this will break them up. 
• Serve immediately.

* As a side, one potato for every person



Ah the love of peanut butter! I never got into it myself, but everyone else in this family LOVES peanut butter. Did you know there is a National Peanut Butter Lover's Day in the United States? Canadians are not as weird as that or are they? The Canada Food Guide of yesteryears had a daily peanut butter intake, for some days even twice, which I never followed anyway. Even back then I knew it was hogwash. I wish now I kept an old issue for a laugh. But the love of peanut butter has been curbed, because more and more people are allergic to it. Olivia can’t take nuts [any nuts] to school anymore. Could it be that we overdosed on peanut butter? Hard to say, but the one thing is certain I would never miss the stuff if it disappeared for good. But since I cook to please even I will do the occasional peanut butter recipe.

Teeth? What about the roof of your mouth?

Peanuts was a syndicated comic strip written and illustrated by Charles M. Schulz.

10 Sticky Facts About Peanut Butter

This yummy peanut butter recipe was adapted from the Brown Eyed Baker. I had a couple of bars myself, and I surprisingly enjoyed them when they first came out of the oven. This had to have been in no small part due to the quality of Adam’s, which is the brand of  peanut butter I use. It has no additives, no fillers and it actually tastes like roasted peanuts, which essentially what Adam’s is. All that Adam's contain is: peanuts. What does your peanut butter contain? The same with the chopped block chocolate I used. No brand of chocolate chip can come close to Callebaut. I can’t stress enough the importance of quality, use quality ingredients and they will always make the foods you make taste good. 

1-1/2 cups flour 
1/2 tsp baking soda 
1/4 tsp salt 
3/4 cup brown sugar 
3/4 cup creamy peanut butter 
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature 
1/2 cup sugar 
1 egg 
1 tsp pure vanilla extract 
1 cup good quality dark chocolate, chopped 

• Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. 
• Line a 9x13-inch baking pan with parchment paper. 
• In a small bowl whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt and set it aside. 
• In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together the brown sugar, peanut butter, butter and sugar on medium speed until creamy and light. 
• Add the egg and vanilla extract and mix until combined. 
• Reduce the speed to low and add the dry ingredients, mixing only until the flour is just incorporated. 
• Add the chopped chocolate and stir with a wooden spoon to combine. 
• Transfer the mixture into the prepared pan and lightly press into an even layer. 
• Place in the preheated oven and bake for 16 to 20 minutes or until the center is set. 
• Cool completely in the pan on a wire rack. 
• Cut into bars and store at room temperature in an airtight container.



We ate meat once a week while growing up and the rest of the time we had pasta or vegetable stews called “főzelék”. To replace the meat we put all sorts of things on top of the stew. A poached egg, a couple of slices of unsweetened French toast, fried bread cubes, fried potatoes, a tiny bit of leftover meat with sauce, a drizzle of paprika grease or some breaded deep fried vegetables. We called them “feltét”, which means “to put on top”.

 Making FŐZELÉK [Vegetable Stew] -- A Parody

Breaded cauliflower makes a tasty meat replacement, but it can be a nice appetizer too. Serve it with a sauce or sprinkled with freshly grated parmesan. We happen to like them golden fried with just pepper and salt. Breading vegetables is easy. It will never cease to amaze me the trouble people go into making up a batter just the right consistency, which invariably ends up too little at first and in the end way too much. Dipping the vegetables into the batter is pretty useless too, because most of the coating will slide off during frying. The Hungarian way is much easier plus you will never end up with naked veggies on your plate. 

1/2 head cauliflower 
1-2 eggs, beaten slightly 
3/4 cup flour 
salt and pepper 
oil for frying 

• Cut apart the florets, but leave them fairly large. 
• Rinse and dry with a paper towel. 
• Sprinkle the florets with salt. 
• Place flour in a medium sized bowl. 
• In a different bowl, beat the eggs lightly with a fork, making sure the yolks and the whites are truly mixed. 
• One by one dip each floret into the flour, then into the beaten egg and into the flour one more time. 
• Place the florets on a tray. 
• Slowly heat up 1 to 2 inches of oil in a fry-pan. Make sure the oil is not too hot, because the batter burns easily. 
• Turn the florets to lightly brown on all sides. 
• Drain on paper towels. 
• Serve hot or cold.



We have Olivia here throughout the week. I love the darling, but we needed a brake from chocolate. The weekend is the perfect time for us to bring out the adult flavours. It was time for sour cream, lemon, and blueberries. Let me tell you, no yogurt will compare to full fat sour cream. I used salted butter both in the cake and the frosting and it perfectly balanced the flavours. The fresh lemon juice did the same; it enhanced the blueberries and balanced the sweetness of the icing sugar. What a delicious slab cake this is, I thought I have died and gone to heaven. 

We have a row of young blueberry bushes in our garden and they serve us well with berries year around. These ones were picked by my darling in the hot sun last year and I froze them on trays and later we packed them into freezer bags. I asked for two cupfuls and he brought up two bags, one had ice crystals and the other was almost perfect. 

It is best if you use frozen berries unthawed, but I didn’t want ice crystals in my cake. I put the frozen blueberries in a fine sieve and rinsed them with a burst of cold water. This got rid of the ice crystals, but slightly thawed the berries. I drained them and transferred them into a bowl. Fresh berries are not as fragile, but frozen berries require a bit of careful handling. Still it is important to coat the berries with flour if you want them well dispersed throughout the cake. Warning, this scrumptious cake is too good and too large for two people. It begs to be shared. Ann! Come and get cake!


3/4 cup 14% sour cream 
1/2 teaspoon baking soda 
 2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice 
3 cups flour 
1-1/2 tsp baking powder 
3/4 cup salted butter 
1-1/2 cups sugar 
finely grated zest of 1 lemon 
1 tsp vanilla extract 
 3 large eggs 
 2 cups blueberries fresh or frozen 
1-2 Tbsp flour to coat the blueberries 


1/2 cup salted butter, room temperature 
2 cups sifted icing sugar 
3/8 cup 14% sour cream 
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice 

• Preheat the oven to 350F. 
• Fully line a 9 x 13 inch baking pan with parchment paper. 
• In a bowl combine the sour cream, baking soda and the fresh lemon juice. 
• In a separate bowl whisk together the flour and the baking powder. 
• Place the blueberries in a separate bowl. 
• Place the butter and sugar in a mixing bowl. 
• Add the lemon zest and vanilla and beat until very fluffy. 
• One by one add the eggs, beating well. 
• Add the sour cream mixture and beat until just combined. Add the flour mixture and beat until just combined. 
• Sprinkle the flour over the berries one tablespoon at a time. 
• You don’t want excess flour on the berries. Damp flour will make floury pockets inside the cake. Just move the bowl side to side gently and the berries will coat with flour. If flour is left in the bottom of the bowl: discard it. 
• Gently fold the flour coated blueberries into the cake batter. 
• Spoon the batter into the prepared pan. 
• Smooth out the top with an offset cake spatula. 
• Place in the oven and bake for about 45 minutes or until center springs back when lightly pressed. 
• Let the cake cool in the pan. 
• While the cake cools make the frosting. 
• Combine all ingredients and beat until fluffy. 
 • Put the frosting in the fridge while the cake cools. 
• Re-beat the frosting and spread on top of the cake. 
 • Slice and serve.



Puff pastry is the only commercially made pastry product I am willing to use. It has a little less substance and is a bit leafier, but it still bakes up into a darn good pastry. I used half a package of Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry Sheets and made eight good sized pastries. The chocolate is dark Callebaut. Chop the chocolate and simply follow the baking instructions on the box. As soon as the pastry begins to get a golden hue, take them out, because these burn easily. I would have liked to put a few raspberries next to the chocolate pieces myself, but then not everyone likes raspberries. It’s was a nice treat nevertheless.

There used to be a miniature candy bar, actually it was nougat, and it was called “BUM SZELET”. Bum means bang in Hungarian. It was a tiny, cheap revolting confection and it cost 1 forint back in the sixties. I don’t think it had chocolate in it, but this old couple of the family used to bring each of us kids a “BUM Csoki” on Thursdays. Even with our limited experience with good chocolate we thanked them and then left our BUMs on the table. We never ate them. After gifting us with the BUMs, Erzsi néni and Bendi bácsi made a b line to the table and stuffed themselves with grandmother’s pastries. Between mouthfuls we got to hear the latest news on Erzsi néni’s knee pains. Aren't children cruel and observant? I have to admit they were not alone picking Thursdays to drop by; Thursdays were baking days at the Vári house. Here I am sitting with my newly operated knee and thoughts of Erzsi néni’s knees and BUM Csoki float by. I don’t know if it’s my knee or the memory of BUM Csoki that pains me more.

1/2 of a 17.3-ounce package Pepperidge Farm® Puff Pastry, thawed 
1cup of good quality chopped dark chocolate 
1 egg 
1 Tbsp water 

• For best result thaw the puff pastry in the fridge overnight. 
• Heat the oven to 400F. 
• Roll half of the pastry into a 12-inch square. Always roll from the center outward and avoid stretching the dough by hand. 
• Cut the dough into 9 squares. 
• Arrange the chopped chocolate in the middle of the squares. 
• Orient the square so a corner is pointed away from you. Fold this corner down just past the filling and press firmly to seal. 
• Then fold over to one side, forming an open-ended envelope. 
• Brush the filled pastries with the egg mixture. 
• Place the pastries onto 2 parchment lined baking sheets. 
• Bake the pastries for 15 minutes or until golden brown. Be careful this burns easily. 
• Sprinkle with icing sugar and serve.



Cocoa, Sardines and the Old School 

I grew up with the puff pastry version of cocoa snails, but these are far better known and are simpler to make. Long before my time, a Hungarian pastry chef from Göd made cocoa snails famous. I used to go to Alsógöd [it was near the Pest side of Budapest] with my grandma; she had distant relations there. Grandma’s relatives prided themselves with the tiny inland fish they pickled. They brined the fish in wooden barrels. This was an odd thing to do in a sausage loving country. I was a fussy eater so I never tried the sardines. 

This brought back memories of the Red Cross packages we received when the 1956 Revolution was put down. There was of course no help during the bombing, while we were stuck in the basement for weeks with nothing to eat. But when the Red Cross packages finally arrived we got a few woolly skirts, a frilly pink bed jacket and I recall getting a huge tin of evaporated milk that was so thick we thought it must have gone bad. The same with the big can of cheez whiz. It was so salty we didn't know how to use it. At school we were given sardine sandwiches and a watery cocoa drink. I would have preferred a slice of bread with lard, but we were told we should be thankful for what we got. So we drank the cocoa and threw the sardine sandwich in the garbage. The large metal drum in the hall was full of sardine sandwiches by the end of recess. We were hungry, but we were not starving hungry. Feeding seven year olds sardines in a landlocked country was idiotic. But I don’t think foreign aid is well thought out. It first and foremost serves corporate interests and much of the donations end up as waste. 

It was about the same time I first tasted real cocoa and tropical fruits. During the revolution Olgi néni, my grandmother’s sister was stuck in Wienna visiting her half sister. She was one of the few who tried getting back to Budapest and not flee from it. When the bombs stopped and the trains were finally running, she arrived bearing bags of cocoa, coffee, oranges and bananas from the Austrian relatives. Eventually the stores started to carry cocoa and coffee and even bananas made an occasional appearance.

I wonder where they are now. The photo was badly damaged not long after taken; I had brothers and not much of my possessions survived them. I brought this photo with me to Canada in 1967 and a few years ago I pieced the brittle fragments together. I regret not every one of my classmates made it onto the final picture. I forget why I wore that ribbon on my chest; it must have marked some academic achievement, because they wouldn't have given me a ribbon for good behavior. Bányai Jolán tanárnő, my 5th grade teacher, not the one in the picture, once described me to my parents as a likable, smart kid, but prone to be an anarchist gang leader. Have I stayed in communist Hungary I may not have survived.

My elementary was not in the best part of the city, but it was an architectural wonder. It still is, and the only way I can describe the feeling going up the magnificent staircase, the wide halls and the marble posts is reverence. Elementary schools my children attended here in Canada were architectural hovels by comparison. 

I tried these snails with chocolate ganache, but I really didn’t like the way the ganache stained the risen dough and clumped into one area. These snails are best with cocoa. If you don’t like the sugar crystals, use powdered sugar instead. When making yeast buns, the most important factor is beating the dough until elastic. This poses no problem if you have a stand beater. Just pile in the stuff and set to beat. When the dough clears the sides of the bowl, it is ready. Hand beating is a little trickier. You can’t just pile the ingredients into the bowl and beat it. You have to start with beating the yolks and the sugar and then gradually, alternatively start adding the dry and the liquid ingredients. I would not knead this dough on a floured board, kneading would take up too much flour. Beat the dough by hand inside a large stainless or enameled bowl instead. Your arms will hurt, but the dough has to be light and elastic. It’s also important to use egg yolks only. I think the fluffiest yeast loaves come from the Jewish tradition. I made good yeast loaves for years, but when I made my first challah it simply blew me away. Anyway, I wrote the recipe for hand beating. If you have a stand beater, you will know where to make the shortcuts. 

4-1/2 cup flour 
1/4 cup butter 
1/4 cup sugar 
1-3/4 cups lukewarm milk 
2 tsp instant yeast 
1 tsp sugar 
2 egg yolks 

vegetable oil or clarified butter 
scant 1/2 cup cocoa 
generous 1/2 cup icing sugar 

• Beat the egg yolks and the sugar until fluffy. 
• Add half of the milk. 
• Add the instant yeast and let the mixture stand for ten minutes. 
• Gradually add the flour and the remaining milk, ending with the flour. 
• Beat vigorously until the dough is very elastic. 
• Plunk the dough into a well floured board and cover with the mixing bowl. 
• Let the dough rise until it doubles in volume. [Not longer] 
• Lightly flour the cutting board and place half of the dough in the middle. 
• Roll the dough into a large rectangle. 
• Brush the top with oil or with clarified butter. 
• In a bowl whisk together the cocoa and the icing sugar. 
• Spread the top with half of the cocoa mixture. 
• In jellyroll fashion, roll it up. 
• Cut the roll into1-1/2 to 2 inch segments and place the snails on a parchment lined baking sheet. 
• Repeat the procedure with the remaining dough and cocoa mixture. 
• Let the snails rise for 40 minutes and then place in a preheated 375F oven to bake. 
• When the snails start getting a nice colour they are ready. 
• Do not over bake. These snails should remain soft, with fluffy insides. You can glaze them, with a light vanilla glaze, but I like mine with a light sprinkling of icing sugar.



Up until the late fifties my maternal grandmother lived in the outskirts of Budapest, called Rákoskert. It was a truly rural setting back then with fields and fields of corn, small pockets of locals and urban dwellers coming in for the weekend.

Rákoskert in 1957 

I spent my most memorable holidays with Nagymama. The yard was huge with all kinds of fruit trees. She had a dog, two goats, chickens, a rooster and some ducks. Grandma had two kitchens. She cooked the milk inside and some stuff in the summer kitchen. Just outside the fence there was a deep well. The water was always cold and unbelievably tasty. I liked everything about Rákoskert except the outhouse.

I found this picture on the Rákoskert website. This was the store where we went for supplies. All these years I had a mental image climbing up those stairs. I see now the risers were indeed too high for little legs. 

During the summer months, my grandmother’s place was a popular gathering place for my extended family. It was fun to meet up with aunts and uncles and my older cousin. Across the street there was a big house with a huge lot. The lot was filled with mature hazelnut bushes. I would look at those hazelnuts with longing. I always loved hazelnuts. I played war with a boy from that house; he was also staying with his grandmother. I fought well, but he died better. He kept coming over to play. One day my mother was there and she was still combing my long red hair when he arrived. He stroked my hair and asked my mom if my hair was as beautiful as he thought. My mother said indeed it was beautiful. When finally I convinced him to play at his house I wasn’t offered any hazelnuts. It is when I discovered that romance and food are intertwined. 

1/2 cup unsalted butter, soft 
1/3 cup sugar 
1 tsp pure vanilla extract 
1 cup flour 
1/4 tsp salt 
1/2 cup finely ground toasted hazelnuts 
4 squares of quality dark chocolate [112g or 4oz] 
1/3 cup finely ground toasted hazelnuts 

• To toast the hazelnuts, preheat oven to 350F. 
• Place the raw hazelnuts on the baking sheet and toast for 5-10 minutes. 
• Remove from the oven and let it cool down a bit. 
• When the hazelnuts are comfortable to touch by hand, transfer them into a clean kitchen towel and rub them. The skins will come off easily. 
• Next finely ground the hazelnuts, using a nut grinder or a food processor. 
• In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter, sugar and vanilla until creamy. 
• In a separate bowl, combine flour and salt. 
• Add the flour mixture to the butter-sugar mixture and stir to combine. 
• Next add 1/2 cup of the finely ground hazelnuts and stir to combine. 
• Shape the dough into 4 logs 
• Wrap each log in plastic wrap and place the wrapped cookie dough in the freezer for 30 minutes or refrigerate for 30 minutes. 
• Preheat the oven to 325F. 
• Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. 
• Unwrap one of the logs and slice. 
• Place the cookie slices on the prepared baking sheet, spacing them 1 inch apart. 
• Bake for about 20 minutes. Don’t let the cookies get brown. 
• Transfer cookies to a rack to cool. 
• To decorate cookies, melt the chocolate in a double boiler over steam. Make sure the bottom of the pan does not touch the boiling water. 
• Dip half of the cookies on one side only, scraping the bottom against the pot to remove the chocolate. 
• Next dip the chocolate side into the remaining ground hazelnuts and place it on clean parchment paper to dry. 
• Repeat with remaining cookies.

Recipe is adapted from Hazelnut shortbread cookies recipe by Julia's Album



This is a not really gnocchi kind of gnocchi. Sometimes you just want something a bit different and easy. Take this un-Italian gnocchi I made. This gnocchi is very much like Hungarian nudli, except not rolled and without the toasted breadcrumb coating. Italian gnocchi is a naked nudli and you can’t get any more naked than that. This version is simple, I don’t mess around with rolling the dough; I just chop chop chop. But it tastes the same. When I gave it to him the man said “What no breadcrumbs?” I liked this naked nudli, gnocchi, potato pasta or whatdoyoucall this thing that it was. 

Today is April Fool’s Day. I love to laugh, but I hate practical jokes. There is nothing practical about practical jokes. The humor comes from getting people to trust you and then you punish them for it. I am no fun when it comes to practical jokes. You get no “April Fool's Day!” from me. Take the following video. It slowly builds up with cultural observations and presents them in funny, imaginative ways. This IS funny. Stepping into a slipper filled with catchup is NOT funny. That’s as far as I am willing to mark this crazy day. Have a nice one!

Potatoes or Pasta? 

3 large red potatoes 
2-1/4 cups flour 
1 egg, extra large 
1 pinch salt 
1/8 cup slightly melted butter 
1/4 cup melted butter for serving
freshly grated parmesan [optional] 

• Boil the whole potatoes until they are soft 
• Let them cool down and mash them. 
• Add the egg, flour and the salt and the slightly melted 1/8 cup butter. [butter should not be hot] 
• Mix to form dough. 
• Place the dough on a well floured cutting board. 
• Knead the dough gently until a smooth ball is formed. 
• Put a large pot of water to the boil. 
• Roll the dough into 3/4-inch diameter dowels and cut the dowels into 1-inch long pieces. 
• Drop the pieces into the boiling water and cook until they float to the top. 
• Drain the gnocchi and toss with 1/4 cup of melted butter and serve.



A week away from Christmas happens to be a busy time and not the greatest time to have a birthday. For Leilah’s last birthday we only managed to get together for breakfast. But a lovely breakfast it was. I took a video, but no photos were taken aside from the cake. I served up the cake at the beginning of our breakfast so we started off with the singing of Happy Birthday. This just marked the occasion and the slightly warm cake went well with the rest of the meal. I picked a coconut loaf cake and made the presentation a little more festive by serving it on a cake platter. The thick coconut glaze gently rolled down the sides… it was lovely. 

When Leilah was a wee little thing we forgot her birthday one year. She got her cake for her first birthday, but the following year somehow we got waylaid with Christmas. Several months passed when one day I realized we failed to mark this very important event. I told my husband and his reaction was that this was just terrible. Leilah was too young to care of course, but her sister and brother never let me live it down. I really felt bad, actually I still do. And as one of great ironies of life, the extra kid is the one who sticks close to home and despite her own busy family and carrier she still makes time for her parents. 

Birthdays are important; they give us the chance to celebrate the important people in our lives. Egyptians started celebrating the birthday of the pharaoh. Greeks added candles to the cake. Ancient Romans were the first to celebrate birthdays for the common man [not for women] Birthday cakes were invented by German bakers. In 1893, Patty Hill and Mildred J. Hill wrote a tune called “Good Morning to All” which we all know as “Happy Birthday To You.”


1 cup unsalted butter, softened 
1 cup sugar 
4 large eggs 
1-1/2 cups flour 
1 tsp baking powder 
2 Tbsp milk 
1 Tbsp coconut extract 

Vanilla Glaze: 
1/3 cup unsalted butter, room temperature 
1 cup icing sugar, sifted 
1 Tbsp milk 
1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract 

• Line a 7-inch round cake pan or a loaf pan with parchment paper. 
• Preheat the oven to 350F. 
• In the bowl of an electric mixer whip the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. 
• Add the eggs one at a time, scraping down the sides. 
• Sift the flour and baking powder together. 
• Fold in the flour mixture, milk and vanilla essence until the mixture is smooth. 
• Pour the cake batter into the prepared pan and bake for 40 minutes, or until the center of the cake springs back when gently pressed. 
• Let the cake to cool in the pan for 5-10 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool. 
• Meanwhile make the Vanilla Glaze. 
• Beat the butter until fluffy. 
• Add half of the icing sugar and the milk. 
• Beat to combine. 
• Add the remaining icing sugar and the vanilla extract and beat for 5 minutes. 
• When cake cools down substantially top it with the Vanilla Glaze.



Food bloggers, unless they rig up a white box with some skookum set of lights are in constant fight with the light. The light is either too bright or simply not enough for taking a good shot. I cooked this up last fall, when the light was slightly diffused, but still workable in the evening. Back in our Rupert days, the lamp in the sky kept us bright even longer. Jim didn’t have a darkroom and during the summer months he had to wait way past midnight to develop his films. Of course Prince Rupert is way up north. But as further south we go [in the northern hemisphere], the quicker the Sun will dip below the horizon during summer. I recall chatting with our granddaughter on Skype one evening when she noticed that our office was flooded with light and all the while her window was already pitch dark. We live in the same time zone, but she is down in California and we are up here in Central B.C.

Have you ever looked at the Moon closer? We used to have a crude homemade telescope. The legs of the stand were held together by rope, but the lenses worked just the same. When the kids were teens we spent many a summer nights looking at the night sky. The first thing we always looked at was the Moon. We never saw the man on the moon. We only saw craters. I remember my dad telling me once never to look at the Moon, that it would give me bad vibes. But off course I looked at the Moon! Looking at the moon always filled me with gladness and wonder. The Moon is beautiful.


This dish was adapted from Orzo with Bacon and Summer Vegetables from Bev Cooks. The dish is simple, vibrant and delicious. The best part, it doesn’t take long to prepare and easily adjusts to personal tastes. I like the vegetables and the orzo al dente, so I reduced cooking time considerably.

1-1/2 cups orzo 
1/2 small red onion, diced 
3 cloves garlic, minced 
1 cup diced broccoli florets 
1 cup diced red pepper 
2 roma tomatoes, diced 
1 handful of fresh parsley, chopped 
2 cups diced bacon [I use block bacon] 
1 pinch crushed red pepper flakes 
salt and freshly ground pepper 
freshly grated parmesan cheese [optional] 

• Boil the orzo until al dente, orzo cooks very fast. 
• Meanwhile prep all the vegetables and set them aside. 
• Drain the orzo and place it in a large mixing bowl. Cover to keep warm. 
• Meanwhile render the bacon in a large skillet over medium heat, until crispy. 
• Remove bacon pieces and reserve. 
• Drain all but 2 Tbsp of bacon fat. 
• Add the onions to the pan and sauté until they start to soften. 
• Add the garlic and the tiny broccoli florets and sauté for a couple of minutes. 
• Add the diced red pepper, the diced tomatoes and the fresh parsley and sauté for one minute. 
• Stir in the reserved bacon. 
• If the orzo cooled down, quickly heat it up in the microwave. Mine was still piping hot. 
• Add contents of the skillet to the reserved orzo. 
• Add the crushed pepper, salt and ground pepper. 
• Give everything a good toss. 
• Garnish with freshly grated parmesan cheese.


There goes a popular Hungarian sweet; it turns out to be Australian after all. I just found out what I always thought of as Hungarian kókuszkocka is Australian lamingtons. AllllRighty Then.


Lamingtons are squares of sponge cake coated in a layer of chocolate sauce and then rolled into desiccated coconut. It is an easy enough confection. I dipped the cakes into the chocolate sauce by hand and immediately rolled them into the coconut. It was a bit messy, but fun. If you don’t time it well, the chocolate sauce can solidify and will not be dip-able. Melt it slightly in the microwave; do not add more milk, because the additional moisture will soak your cakes. 

For the sponge cake: 
1/4 cup butter 
1 cup sugar 
1 egg 
2 Tbsp honey 
1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract 
2 cups self rising flour
200 ml milk 

For the Chocolate Sauce: 

scant 1 cup butter 
1 cup sugar 
1/4 cup milk 
scant 1/2 cup cocoa 
1 Tbsp rum 

1 cup medium unsweetened coconut 

• Preheat the oven to 350F. 
• Line a square baking pan with parchment paper. 
• Whip the butter, sugar, egg and the honey for 4-5 minutes. 
• Stir in the vanilla. 
• Fold the flour into the egg mixture and stir in the milk. 
• Beat to combine only. 
• Transfer the batter to the prepared baking pan and bake for 30 minutes. 
• Remove from oven and let the cake cool completely. 
• When cool, transfer cake to a cutting board and remove the parchment. 
• Cut the cake into squares. 
• In a small pot melt the butter. 
• Add the sugar, milk and the cocoa. 
• Add the rum and whisk to combine. 
• Place the coconut into a shallow baking dish. 
• Using your hands to dip the lamingtons into the chocolate sauce, rolling them around to make sure each side is coated. 
• One by one roll the lamingtons into the coconut, tossing them around gently to get them coated on all sides. 
• Place the lamingtons side by side on a wire rack and let them stand until the coatings firms up a little bit.


And Those Semolina Soup Dumplings 

I keep getting questions from people about semolina, farina, cream of wheat and wheatlets and of course about those semolina soup dumplings Hungarians like in their soups. 

First let’s talk about Semolina! In botanical terms, semolina is the endosperm [starch portion] of the wheat grain. From coarse grain to fine grain, semolina is always granular. The color can be from bright yellow to creamy white. 

Semolina, farina, cream of wheat and wheatlets are one and the same thing with only minute differences. You find them with the hot cereals or near the flours. Sometimes they will be in the Italian, East Indian or the Health Food section of the store. The differences are minor, weather you buy semolina, cream of wheat, farina or wheatlets, you are basically buying the same thing. Just never get it in instant porridge form or worse yet in small serving sized packets. Those things taste bad and you cannot use them for any other purpose than what they were designed for. 

The next problem is making the gríznokedli, those fluffy, yummy soup dumplings. Depending on the size of the egg and the type of semolina you use, the dumplings sometimes turn out a bit hard or so soft they fall apart during cooking. The semolina dumpling recipe I have on my blog, called FARINA SOUP DUMPLINGS - GRÍZ NOKEDLI  may or may not work, depending on the variables that exist, such as measuring, size of the egg and the type of semolina used.  

Making semolina soup dumplings was always a challenge. If you don't make these often, sometimes they work for you and sometimes they won't work. I recall conversations about the various tricks cooks used to get these dumplings large and fluffy every time. But none of those tricks work under the wrong conditions. I had my own failures over the years too and I came to the conclusion that nothing replaces time and experience. I tried to think how to translate experience into a foolproof recipe if there was such a thing. But aside from measuring out everything in grams, including the white and the yolk separately, one has to rely on experience. 

A couple of years ago I came up with a solution to get fluffy and yet stable semolina dumplings every time. Flour is more stable than semolina right? So add a bit of all purpose flour to the mixture. The flour will alter the dumplings' flavor ever so slightly and the texture will be a bit spongier, but they will remain soft and won't fall apart during cooking. And even with the added flour they will still be semolina dumplings. 

I put the recipe in picture form. You start with an egg. Add some semolina, stir, add some flour and stir again. Dip the spoon into the simmering water and scoop up a bit of batter. Submerge it in the simmering water and the little dumpling will slide off your spoon. As the dumplings cook they grow. Repeat until you use up all the batter. It’s easy.



Zsuzsa likes them too

“Did you make something today?” is the hello I get when Liv climbs into the car after school. What she means is did I bake some cookies? “Is there something to bite on?” asks the man. What he means are there any cookies left? These people are always looking for cookies. Milk and cookies, cookies for snacks, the freezer always has a couple of tin cans with various cookies unless I get wrapped up in some other project and fall behind with the supply. Of course nothing beats the happiness when those cookies are hot out of the oven and the house fills with the promise of sweetness. Around here cookies are it! I can make the loveliest cake or the most elaborate dessert, but their mainstay remains the cookie. 

These are soft and crispy and the white chocolate chunks just melt in your mouth. The dough is my basic cookie dough I developed years ago for my chocolate chippers. It’s so versatile, you put in something else and it becomes a different cookie. The secret is to scoop up a chunk of dough and just plop it down on the parchment. Do not press the dough together, keep it loose. Don’t flatten it or shape it, the cookies will rearrange themselves into perfectness as they bake. Here, have a cookie! 

1/2 cup butter, softened 
3/4 cup brown sugar, firmly packed 
1 tsp vanilla 
1 egg 
1-1/2 cups flour 
1/2 tsp soda [no more] 
1/2 tsp salt 
2 cups good quality white chocolate chunks 

• In a large bowl beat the butter, sugars, vanilla and egg light and fluffy. 
• In a separate bowl sift together the flour, soda and salt. 
• Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and combine. 
• Stir in the white chocolate chunks. 
• Drop 2 inches apart with a heaping tablespoon, on parchment lined baking sheets. 
• Bake at 350F for 12 to 15 minutes, or until lightly browned. 
• Allow cookies to solidify before moving them to a wire rack. 
• Makes 20



As nice as city hams are, they lack the flavour I want in a ham. Country hams are hard to find these days. I settle instead on a smoked pork picnic shoulder. It doesn’t quite bring back the wonderful country hams my uncle served when we showed up in Siklós. Jenő bácsi went to the kamra and would bring out a magnificent fully smoked ham and started to slice off pieces with his bicska [pocket knife]. Then Irmuska néni’s fress vekni [bread loaf] was brought to the table, which looked similar to the sourdough bread I make, except hers was baked in a kemence [wood fire earth oven]. If you ever tasted fully smoked, well aged country ham and sourdough bread baked in a wood fire earth oven… you will never forget it. Many decades have past since, but the memory of this feast still lingers.


Smoked pork shoulder is processed just like a ham and can be prepared in similar ways. It is less expensive and a little fattier and can range from 2.5 kg to 4 kg [five to roughly 9 pounds]. Mine was 3.70 kg. The hams in North America are prepared glazed and fancied up with pineapple and cloves. I don’t bother with it, because glazing and decorating the ham does not alter the flavour dramatically. But if you want a fancied up ham, just cut off the skin and trim the fat off half an hour before the ham is done. Score it up to the meat, glaze it and when the ham is finished baking, arrange pineapple slices and cloves on the top and then bake it for an additional 25 minutes. Scroll down for the ingredients if you want a decorated ham. Click HERE to my friend Elisabeth’s blog for a lovely fancy baked ham. 

 3-1/2-4 kg Smoked Pork Picnic Shoulder, smoked but not cooked 

• Preheat oven to 350F. 
• Place the whole pork shoulder package in a deep roasting pan. 
• Carefully cut the outer plastic packaging and remove it entirely. 
• Leave the netting on the meat; do not remove it at this time. 
• Place the meat skin side up in the pan. 
• Put the lid on the roasting pan and place it in the oven. 
• The ham should cook about 22 minutes per pound of weight or until the meat thermometer registers 170F. • My 3.7 kg ham took 4.5 hours to reach 170F. 
• During the last half hour, take out the ham [be careful it’s hot] and place it on a tray. 
• With a pair of kitchen shears carefully cut away the netting and discard. 

For an Undecorated Ham: 
• At this point crosscut the skin through the fat layer. 
• Stick the meat thermometer in the ham at the thickest part, but not touching the bone. 
• Return the ham to the roasting pan and place in the oven uncovered and roast until the temperature reaches 170F. 
• Remove from oven, cover and let the ham rest for 15 minutes before carving. 

For a Decorated Ham: 
• Or if you want a decorated ham, using tongs and a knife, carefully remove the layer of skin and most of the fat layer from the ham. 
• Make the glaze: combine the 1/2 cup brown sugar and 2 Tbsp mustard. 
 • Brush half of the glaze over the entire ham. 
• Return the ham to the roasting pan and place in the oven uncovered and roast until the temperature reaches 170F. 
• Remove the ham from the oven and remove the meat thermometer 
• With a sharp knife score the meat about every inch and about 1/2 inch deep. Basically you crosscut the again. 
• If using cloves, place one clove in each of the squares made from the cuts. 
• Use toothpicks to attach one can of drained pineapple slices to the ham and drizzle the remaining glaze on top. 
• Return the meat to the oven, uncovered and bake for about 25 minutes longer. 
• Remove from oven, cover and let the ham rest for 15 minutes before carving. 

For a decorated ham you will also need: 
1/2 cup brown sugar 
2 Tbsp mustard 
1 can of sliced pineapple 
whole cloves [optional]


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I began to post recipes for my family and it turned out to be a work in progress. "zsuzsa is in the kitchen" has over 800 recipes of Hungarian and international recipes. They are organized into a cookbook format in "zsuzsa's cookbook".