Cookbook 174: Carpathia – Food from the heart of Romania

I bought Carpathia: Food from the heart of Romania by Irina Georgescu because I’d never specifically eaten Romanian food, and because the book itself is stunning. Just check out the cover, how beautiful (no honestly, click on the link I can wait). The book has a some vegetarian recipes in it, which is good, and a lot of tasty stuff. The instructions were good, the photos in the book are stunning, and the vignettes of life in Romania makes me want to visit when international travel is a thing again (if that ever happens).

I do want to make the recipes I cooked again, and to try out some of the other recipes in the book. So right now I’m giving this 4.5 stars out of 5, and will revisit this for the fun of it sometime later.

Mămăligă cu brânză şi smântână (Cheesy polenta with soured cream and a runny fried egg) (serves 4)

Ingredients:

  • 300ml milk
  • 150ml water
  • 150g polenta
  • 50g butter
  • 175g crumbled blue cheese or grated Cheddar, plus extra to serve
  • 4tbsp sour cream
  • 4 fried eggs
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method:

  1. Bring the milk and water to the boil in a pan over a low heat. Turn the heat to medium and stir in the polenta. Keep stirring for about 10 minutes (or less if you have quick polenta), adding more hot water if necessary, until the mixture reaches the consistency of thick porridge and slowly falls off the spoon.
  2. Add the butter and cheese to the polenta and mix well until melted and silky. Season with salt and pepper and divide between pasta bowls.
  3. Top each portion with a dollop of sour cream and a fried egg. Sprinkle with more cheese to serve.

Notes on this recipe:

  • This was so good. It was a little fiddly getting all of the bits of this ready when I was also juggling other dishes, but it would definitely make a delicious brunch dish. It is quite filling too, good food to eat before heading out into the outdoors.

Pilaf cu pui şi ciuperci (oven-baked pearl barley pilaf with chicken and mushrooms) (serves 4)

Ingredients

  • 3 tbsp vegetable or sunflower oil
  • 1.5kg whole chicken, cut into pieces (or just 1.5kg of chicken pieces)
  • 2 onions
  • 300g pearl barley
  • 1/4 celeriac, diced
  • 2 – 3 celery sticks, diced
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 1 red capsicum, diced
  • 1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes
  • 200g chestnut mushrooms, quartered
  • 600ml chicken stock
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 5g black pepper
  • 25g butter, roughly chopped
  • 1 bunch of parsley, roughly chopped

Method:

  1. Heat the oil in a large, deep casserole dish, preferably with a lid, over a medium heat and brown the chicken pieces on all sides. Remove the chicken and transfer to a plate. Add the onions to the casserole dish and cook for 10 minutes, then add the pearl barley and stir to coat the grains with the oil, cooking for a few more minutes.
  2. Preheat the oven to 160C. Instead of dicing the vegetables separately, you can blitz them briefly in a food processor. Transfer them to the dish, add the tomatoes, mushrooms, stock and seasoning and combine gently. Return the chicken to the dish, then cover with kitchen foil and place the lid on top.
  3. Cook for 40 minutes, then carefully remove the lid and foil and cook for a further 10 minutes. Remove from the oven, place on a heatproof surface and dot with the butter.
  4. Sprinkle with parsley and serve hot, accompanied by a tomato or lettuce salad.

Notes on this recipe:

  • Absolutely delicious, I really like pearl barley, having grown up eating it in soups and casseroles.
  • The pearl barley and celeriac weren’t quite cooked in my version of this. I would recommend testing the pearl barley before cooking it for 10 minutes without the lid, and if it is not cooked through, give it another 20 minutes (or more depending on your scheduling). It was perfectly edible with the slightly crunchy pearl barley, I just prefer mine to be soft, tiny pillows.
  • We were feeding 4 and this dish had left overs (though we’d also eaten the polenta and eggs, so that’s probably to blame). We shredded the meat off the bones and froze the leftovers. We’ve since eaten them and it is still delicious.

Conopidă la cuptor (cauliflower gratin with soured cream) (serves 4)

Ingredients

  • a knob of butter for greasing
  • 50g breadcrumbs
  • 1 large cauliflower (about 1 kg without leaves)
  • 350ml sour cream
  • 125g Cheddar cheese, grated
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 3 tsp mustard
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 50g sunflower seeds (optional)

Method

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 200C. Grease a deep ceramic dish with the butter, then sprinkle with the breadcrumbs. Cut the cauliflower into medium-sized florets. Bring a large pan of water to the boil over a medium heat and submerge the florets for 6 – 8 minutes. Drain on the kitchen towels.
  2. Combine the sour cream, 100g of the cheese and eggs with the nutmeg, mustard and seasoning in a bowl. Place the drained cauliflower into the greased dish and pour over the sour cream mixture. Sprinkle with the remaining cheese and bake for 25 – 30 minutes, covering with foil if the top browns too quickly. Serve warm scattered with sunflower seeds to add crunch.

Notes on this recipe

  • Regular readers will know that I don’t like cauliflower and only make cauliflower dishes because Nigel and Jacinta like cauliflower. This dish was apparently tasty and the seeds added a nice crunch. I tried the sauce and it was good, except for the cauliflower which is gross. People who like cauliflower liked this dish.

Învârtiă (Apple and blueberry swirl pie) (serves 6)

Ingredients

For the dough

  • 250g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 10 ml vegetable or sunflower oil
  • 1 egg
  • 100ml milk

For the filling

  • 200g apple, peeled and diced
  • 2 tbsp caster sugar
  • Splash of lemon juice
  • 1 tsp cinnamon

To assemble

  • 60g butter, melted
  • 75g ground almonds
  • 100g blueberries

For the syrup

  • 50g caster sugar
  • 50ml water

Method

  1. To make the dough, mix the ingredients together and knead for about 10 minutes. The whole process of making this pie is quite tactile, so I like to knead the dough by hand and feel its texture turning smooth and springy. Refrigerate the dough while you make the filling.
  2. To make the filling, put the apple, sugar and lemon juice into a pan over a low heat and cook gently until the apple is soft but not mashed. Add the cinnamon and set aside to cool.
  3. Preheat the oven to 200C. Grease and line a 23cm cake tin, springform tin or non-stick baking tray.
  4. Place a clean linen tea towel measuring about 65cm x 50cm on the kitchen table, with one of the long edges closest to you. Dust the tea towel generously with flour and place the dough in the centre. Using a floured rolling pin, roll out the dough until it is very thin, perhaps 2 – 3 mm and covering the tea towel (you may need to use your fingers to stretch to the edges).
  5. Brush the dough with 30g of the melted butter, then sprinkle over the ground almonds evenly. Spread the apple filling onto the dough, then dot with the blueberries. Grab the edge of the tea towel and use it to roll the pastry gently away from you and over itself to form a tight coil. Brush lightly with the remaining melted butter. Place in the prepared tin and bake for 30 mins.
  6. To make the syrup, place the sugar and water in a pan over a medium heat and bring to the boil, then leave to simmer for 5 minutes.
  7. Remove the pie from the oven, brush all over with the syrup, then bake for a further 5 minutes.
  8. Leave to cool slightly, but serve warm.

Notes on this recipe

  • I baked this just before I put the chicken into the oven, so it was still warmish by the time we felt we could manage dessert.
  • The only thing I could complain about this recipe is that it needed more blueberries. It was fiddly to make, but the results were worth it.

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