MY COOKBOOK

MY COOKBOOK
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4.6.14

CHERRY CHUTNEY


My cherries are still green, but it won’t take long before we can enjoy this year’s produce if the birds would leave us some. With a large garden and mature fruit trees we are keenly aware that changes are taking place. The last couple of years brought in some never seen species of bugs and birds. Some of the familiar wildlife that used to pass through from spring to late fall disappeared and we have been getting new ones; large flocks are coming through and sometimes eating up everything in sight. We had to replant several times. Ferocious birds would ransack our birdhouses and beat up on local species that have been nesting in the backyard for decades. The mosquitoes are deadly. There are too many storms and the breeze is a constant and we are getting brutal winds even on hot days. Climate change, it’s happening.  

I thought it was high time I added the chutney recipe from last summer. It yielded three tiny jars of chutney and some, which we ate with cream of wheat and with cream cheese on crackers. If you use a food processor to chop the fruit, pulse only once or twice. It will be a bit messy, but you can always chop the fruit with a chef’s knife. The cherries and apples should be in chunks and not liquefied. Don’t put them in a blender. The raisins are added last. They will swell from the heat and don’t require cooking.

5 cups ripe, coarsely chopped cherries
1 apple cored, peeled and chopped
2 tsp whole allspice
2 cinnamon sticks
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup red onion, chopped
4 garlic clove, diced
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup honey
1 cups raisins

  • Prepare canning jars and lids.
  • You will be reducing vinegar, open up the windows and make sure you have good ventilation.
  • Add the chopped cherries and apples to a stainless steel or enameled stockpot. 
  • Tie the allspice and the cinnamon sticks into a cheesecloth bundle.
  • Add the spice bundle, vinegar, onions, garlic and salt to the stockpot.
  • On medium heat cook for about 20 minutes or until the mixture thickens.
  • Stir the chutney occasionally.
  • Just as the chutney begins to spit add the honey and stir to combine. 
  • Lower the heat and continue cooking at a simmer for 20 more minutes. Stir often.
  • Do not let it boil hard and certainly don’t leave it. At this stage the chutney scorches easily.
  • Add the raisins and bring back to simmer.
  • Remove from heat.
  • Remove the spice bag and fill the chutney into sterilized jars leaving 1/2-inch head space.
  • Process or pour into sterilized jars and place in the fridge for up to 6 weeks.

3.6.14

APPLE RHUBARB TARTS


There is something magical about making your own flaky pastry especially without the challenges that follow the wrapping a block of butter. Hungarian Flaky Pastry is the easiest things to make; it is not nearly as complicated as making puff pastry. And yet it is flaky and tastes wonderful. Like most things, commercial puff pastry doesn’t taste as good as it used to, so all the more reason to make your own pastry. I used a half a batch of Hungarian Flaky Pastry with 1 Granny Smith apple and a large stick of freshly cut rhubarb.

I started to reduce the sugary fruit juice to combine it with the apricot jam for the glaze, but it burned as I was running back and forth between the kitchen and the living room, baking and watching TV at the same time, well actually listening to Astronomy magazine dive into the 10th episode of A Space Time Odyssey, The Electric Boy on YouTube. I wasn’t overly disappointed not using the juices. Such as life!  

These tarts are so good you cannot have just one slice. Hence the small batch, only 8 pastries, plus as the case with all pastries, they are best on the day they are made. 


1/2 batch of Hungarian Flaky Pastry click on link for the recipe
1 Granny Smith apple
1 large stick of rhubarb
1/4 + 1/4 cups sugar
2 Tbsp brown sugar
1/3 cup apricot jam


  • Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • Assemble the pastry and roll it out.
  • Fold, warp and chill pastry for 30 minutes.
  • Meanwhile chop the rhubarb stick into 4 to 6 segments.
  • Thinly slice the segments lengthwise.
  • Place in a bowl and toss with 1/4 cup of sugar. Set aside
  • Peel, core and thinly slice the apple.
  • Place in a bowl and toss with the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar. Set aside.
  • Roll out the pastry into a large rectangle and cut into 8 squares. The sides will not be perfect squares.
  • With a sharp knife, cut lines around to mark the edges: this will help the puff pastry rise at the border.  Don't cut through the dough.
  • Place the baking sheet in the fridge for 20 minutes.
  • Meanwhile drain the fruit and discard the juices. [If you are willing to stand by the stove to reduce the liquid, you can use it to mix into the apricot jam for the glaze at the end. This is optional.]
  • Preheat the oven to 400F.
  • Remove the baking sheet with the pastry squares from the fridge.
  • Arrange the apple and rhubarb slices in the center of each square.  
  • Bake the tarts in preheated oven for 25 minutes or until the crust is golden.
  • Remove tarts from the oven and immediately brush them all over with the apricot jam. If for some reason you have to glaze the tarts later, lightly heat up the jam in the microwave so it’s spreadable.  
  • The tarts are ready to enjoy.

2.6.14

SKILLET CHICKEN CACCIATORE


It’s almost like chicken paprika. Perhaps that is why I always had fondness for the cacciatore. Our friend, Sheila Vinge used to make it in Prince Rupert and when we moved to a sunnier climate some decades ago, our chicken cacciatore enjoyment came to an end. We spoke on the phone the other day and I remembered Sheila’s delicious cacciatore.

Last night I put together a skillet version. This pleased my better half and I have to say it was far tastier than the elegant meal we had at a posh restaurant on our 47th wedding anniversary a couple of days ago. Not wanting to spoil the mood I kept thinking “we are here for the ambiance and not for the food”. On the plus side we didn’t get food poisoning. The lesson is if you want really good food you have to make it yourself.



4 chicken thighs with the skin removed
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp butter
salt to taste
1/2 large onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, sliced
2 cups sliced mushrooms
6 chopped tomatoes, with skin removed [I used frozen]
1 red pepper, chopped [I used frozen]
1/2 cup water
ground pepper to taste
2 tsp tomato paste
chopped parsley

[Flat leaf Italian parsley gives the best flavour; however don’t substitute it with cilantro. Use curly parsley instead]

  • Wash and dry the thighs with paper towels.
  • Cut along the thigh bone to divide each chicken piece.
  • On medium heat melt the butter with the olive oil.
  • Add the chicken pieces and sprinkle them with salt.
  • Sauté for 3 to 5 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink.
  • Add the onions and the garlic and continue to sauté until onions are soft.
  • Add the sliced mushrooms, chopped tomatoes pepper and add the water.
  • Season with ground pepper and salt and bring to a slow simmer.
  • Cover with a lid and continue cooking on medium heat until the meat is tender.
  • Remove lid and stir in the tomato paste.
  • If the sauce is thin, continue to simmer to reduce it.
  • Adjust seasoning and sprinkle chopped parsley on the top and serve. 

1.6.14

RHUBARB APPLE BERRY PIES


This recipe is designed for 3 good-sized pies when rhubarb is in season. The harvesting period for rhubarb is from late spring through to the end of summer. We have a well established plant and it comfortably gives us two harvests. The third harvest tends to be spindly. Don’t let the stalks become too large, they will get tough and woody. I used one stalk for pastry, a couple of stalks were refrigerated for use later, and several stalks were used to make these pies. One pie was eaten and two were given away.


Rhubarb is best either diced or very thinly sliced. Large chunks tend to get soggy. Speaking of soggy, I would have to be very hungry before I would settle down to a dish of stewed rhubarb. I find the flavour on its own a bit harsh so I like to combine it with apples or strawberries. I only had a few strawberries left, so I added a cup of frozen raspberries to the fruit mixture. Generally count on two and a half to three cups of fruit for every pie.

Both rhubarb and raspberries are tart, so I added more sugar than usual. Rhubarb and apple let a lot of juice so I increased the flour too. I learned to make pies from cookbooks and I always ended up with runny pies. Then I realized cookbooks follow trends and present an ideal, but not always what works best. When it comes to pies, the trend is to reduce sugar and flour. This helps to sell cookbooks. After all who cares if half of the recipes are unworkable. Make the buck and run. Most people will believe they were at fault anyway. After all it looked so good on the picture. In truth, pies will never be diet foods. With all that sugar and flour I used, these pies still hinted tartness, though with perfectly well balanced texture and flavour. Cut a slice, have a slice and share a slice. If you make pie you might as well enjoy it!

When we bake we use sugar, fat, flour and some salt. Actually none of these things are bad for you. They didn’t hurt your great grandparents they were all slim. We have been on a sugar free, low fat, fat free and low sodium diet for years and now we are cutting back on gluten and yet we are still packing on the pounds. But this isn’t our fault. We gain weight because we live on chemically processed factory food. Virtually all the food products in the meat, bakery, deli, dairy, vegetable and bulk isles, all the packets, jars, cans and boxes we take home from the supermarket contain ingredients that mess with our hormones. THIS is what makes us fat. I heard somewhere that if we stick to the perimeter of the store we can escape the chemicals. It’s a lie. All foods are industrialized and factory produced and we won’t escape it not even with organically grown produce.

At least we can avoid fads. Take sugar for instance. First it was Aspartame than Splenda then Stevia and then Agave Syrup [the word syrup should have brought up the red flag, but it didn't] and in the end they all turned out to be far worse than you guessed it… sugar. Be aware and don’t fall for marketing or for pseudoscience. Look for independent, locally produced food products and grow a garden. The rest would have to be solved politically, but not everyone gets that. When our civilization finally wakes up to climate change serious changes will have to occur. Let’s just hope it will not be too late and there will remain a possibility for local agriculture to emerge. If not, the Earth will clean it all up and we will go the way of the dinosaurs. Go ahead and have a slice of pie! Sose halunk meg.   

still warm when cut

2 batches of pie pastry  

1-1/2 batches are not quite enough for three pies and from 2 batches you will have some leftover pastry. I wrapped the leftover and froze it to make half a dozen jam tarts at some other time.

Filling:
4 cups diced rhubarb
1-1/2 cups of mixed berries [strawberries and raspberries]
2 thinly slices Granny Smith apples
1-1/2 cups sugar
1 pinch of nutmeg
1-1/2 cups flour
1/4 tsp salt
4-1/2 Tbsp butter
1 lightly beaten egg for glazing
1-1/2 Tbsp sugar for sprinkling

  • Make the pie pastry.
  • Preheat oven to 400F.
  • Cut and discard the ends and dice the rhubarb.
  • Cut and discard the top the strawberries and chop trying to match the rhubarb pieces in circumference. 
  • Add the frozen raspberries.
  • Peel, chop and thinly slice the apples.
  • Combine fruit.
  • Add the sugar and stir to coat.
  • Add the flour and stir to coat.
  • Divide the dough, making one half a little larger. You will use this for the tops.
  • On a floured board, roll out the bottom pastries into a circle. 
  • Place the dough circles into the pie plates.
  • Pat the dough into the pie plate. Try not to stretch the dough.
  • Add the prepared filling.
  • Dot the top with small chunks of butter.
  • On the floured board, roll out the tops. Make them large enough to overhang.
  • Tuck the overhang under, making sure the dough comes to the edge of the pie plate, but does no go beyond. If it does, it will just crack off when you slice it. 
  • Make fluted edges. 
  • Brush the entire top with egg wash and sprinkle with a little sugar.
  • Cut slits into the top for the steam to escape.
  • Place the pies in the preheated oven and bake for 20 minutes. They were touching, but I was able to fit the three pies on one shelf.
  • After twenty minutes reduce the heat to 350F and cover the pies with aluminum foil.
  • Bake the pies for 30 minutes longer or until the tops are evenly browned. 
  • Let the pies sit for half an hour before slicing. 
  • Guaranteed, these pies will not run. 

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It began with posting a few recipes on line for my family. "zsuzsa is in the kitchen" has more than 1000 Hungarian and International recipes. What started out as a private project turned into a well visited blog. The number of visitors long passed the two million mark. I organized my recipes into an on-line cookbook. On top of the page click on the cookbook to access the recipes. I am not profiting from my blog, so my visitors will not be harassed with advertising or flashy gadgets. Feel free to cut and paste my recipes for your own use. Publication is permitted as long as it is in your own words and with your own photographs. However, I would ask you for an acknowledgement and link-back to my blog. This is to my old on-line friends and visitors: policing the comment section for spam and answering questions has become a chore. Good wishes to you all, happy cooking and keep on feeding your people with good food.