Elderflower syrup

Elderflower syrup

There are three items that many Slovaks forage for, even if they aren’t the ‘in harmony with nature’ type of person: ramsons/bear garlic, mushrooms, and elderflowers.

Elderberry bushes with their characteristic large head of small white blossoms are a common sight throughout the western part of Slovakia in the spring, their strong scent filling the air. It’s common to see someone walking by with a basket, or even a huge bag.

What do Slovaks make with elderflowers? Elderflower syrup. I made this recipe with 2 litres of water, but most people make huge batches of 10 or more litres.

If you find the idea of fermenting elderflower wine or cordial intimidating, then this simple syrup is the recipe to try. Instead of juice concentrates, in Europe people buy syrups to make ‘juice’.  Click to continue reading

The “Lazy” of Central Slovakia

trees in autumn glory

Last fall our family went for a weekend to a chata, a cottage, in the middle of Slovakia. It was amazingly gorgeous: rolling hills with swaths of meadows, brilliant fall colours and bell ringing herds.

Farm in Central Slovakia

In most of Slovakia, houses are clustered together surrounded by fields. When she was a child, my mother-in-law had to walk 3 km to the family’s field. In some parts of central Slovakia however, family farms are spread out, sometimes solitary, sometimes in a group of two or three houses. These solitary farms in the hills are called lazy (la-zee), although other dialects have their own names.  Click to continue reading

Spring Wildflowers of the Slovak Small Carpathians

Snowdrops in Slovakia, Almost Bananas blog

Spring is my favourite season in the area of Slovakia I live in, in the west. After a grey winter, nothing sparks hope like new growth and warming temperatures. In the Malé Karpaty, spring comes on in full force. Of course, spring can lie too – this year, after a few weeks of warmth, winter returned for another few weeks.   Click to continue reading

Fermented Ramsons Flower Buds

Fermented Ramson Flower Buds on Almost Bananas

I love spring in the area of Slovakia where I live, in the Malé Karpaty. The forest bursts into life, with bird song and greenery (post coming soon on the amazing flower explosion in spring).

Ramsons, or bear garlic, is a wild garlic related to the North American ramps. I haven’t actually tasted ramps, but I’ve heard that they are stronger than ramsons. They carpet the forest floor (like here), verdant and lush.  Click to continue reading

Kapustnica: Slovak Sauerkraut Soup

Kapustnica Slovak Sauerkraut Soup - Almost Bananas
A Bowl of Comfort: Slovak Soups & Stews Book

I’m sharing another part of  chapter from my book, A Bowl of Comfort: Slovak Soups & Stews.

This is the last chance to get the book at the launch price before the price goes up!

With 26 recipes, cultural stories, and in-depth health info on traditional cooking practices, there is so much more than I’ve shared here!

Here I’m sharing about the batch style cooking of the old world, food that took minimum active time, as well as the recipe for kapustnica, Slovak sauerkraut soup. A hearty soup, it is often served when needed to fit a crowd.

 

Have you heard of batch cooking? With batch cooking, you prepare all your meals for, say, a month at a time on one day, then freeze the meals. Then for dinners every day, you only have to pull a bag out of the freezer to prepare. It saves a lot of time and decision-making, as well as the what-are-we-going-to-have-for-supper stress.

Slovaks once had that method down pat. Before the advent of fridges and freezers, food had to be preserved, which made cooking with it that much faster the day it was eaten.  Click to continue reading

Bone broth: health benefits?

Does bone broth actually have any health benefits?

 

A Bowl of Comfort: Slovak Soups & Stews Book

I’m sharing another part of  chapter from my book, A Bowl of Comfort: Slovak Soups & Stews. This chapter is where I get geeky.

In the book is info on the difference between broth, stock, and bone broth, and between white and brown stocks (for now we’re just calling it bone broth). Included are instructions for making bone broth with a pressure cooker, slow cooker, or stock pot with poultry, fish, or ungulate (animals with hooves) bones. And, I have six ideas of where to find bones, if you don’t know where to get them.

 

 
Bone broth is a bit of a buzzword. Trendy cafés serve flavoured bone broth to go and it is celebrated as a magic heal-all. Others scoff at broth as a fad of plaid-wearing hipsters or dismiss that any health benefits can result from drinking it.

Is the bone broth worth the fuss, not to mention the extra time and energy that goes into making it (or buying it)?  Click to continue reading

The Best Ever Goulash (and the ebook is here!!)

Best Ever Goulash - Almost Bananas blog

A Bowl of Comfort: Slovak Soups & Stews BookFor the past while, I’ve been working on an ebook, A Bowl of Comfort: Slovak Soups & Stews. I’ve learned a lot, I’ve been frustrated, and now I’m so excited to share it with you! It’s part cookbook, part travelogue, with cultural stories, delicious recipes, and info about traditional cooking methods – like why bone broth is so amazing.
You can check out the book here – A Bowl of Comfort: Slovak Soups & Stews
Here’s a teaser – one recipe and part of the story for making goulash.

 

Strictly speaking, goulash is not Slovak but Hungarian. Slovaks know a good dish when they taste it, however, and this stew is a staple here in Slovakia.

When hosting a large gathering, goulash and kapustnica (sauerkraut soup) are the go-to Slovak meals, much like chili or beef stew in North America.

This recipe is from my husband, goulash cook extraordinaire. Since I was accustomed to his goulash genius, I was under the impression that making goulash was fairly fool-proof; I thought that all goulash was good goulash. This is not the case. No. After sampling several underwhelming versions, I realized just how amazing his goulash recipe really is, and my opinion is shared by many.

Slovak friends who recently visited said it was the best goulash they had ever tasted, and Slovaks are not prone to exaggeration. In fact, his recipe is so popular that friends and family have called him to come make goulash for their celebrations, sometimes for 100+ people. His amazing recipe is a great way to get an invitation to a party.  Click to continue reading

Slovak Train Ride: a peek beyond the tourist brochure

Train in Slovakia - Almost Bananas blog

Last weekend, my husband was so kind as to take the kids out on Saturday so that I could work on the ebook of Slovak soups and stews. Sunday morning I went to join them via the train, which I don’t use that often.

Taking the train is much more comfortable than taking the bus. As I rode on the train, it struck me how much the two different trains I rode reflect recent changes in Slovakia.  Click to continue reading

Exciting news, winter wonderland, carnival festivities and other bits

Male Karpaty in Slovakia - Almost Bananas blog

Every week I plan to write here on the blog, and most weeks time goes by faster than I can catch it. Things have been busy here because, as I announced on Facebook…I’m writing an ebook!

It will be an ecookbook about Slovak soups and stews, full of bowls of comfort and notes about life in Slovakia. We’ve been eating a lot of soups and stews lately. As a cook, I don’t mind because they are easy to throw together. And my kids haven’t complained yet.

I’ve set the launch date as March 13…soon!

If are on Facebook, follow my Almost Bananas Facebook page and click ‘all posts’ under notifications. I’ll be sharing bits of the book as it is coming together and asking for your input. Here’s a Facebook video of me behind the scenes, complete with twin “helpers”. If you aren’t on Facebook,  you can see the video here.

To catch up on 2017, I’ve got mostly a pile of photos to share.  Click to continue reading

Bryndzové Halušky: Slovak potato dumplings with sheep cheese

Bryndzové Halušky, Slovak sheep cheese dumplings, gluten free variation - Almost Bananas

Ask any Slovak and they will tell you that bryndzové halušky is the national dish. Potato ‘dumplings’ are smothered in a sheep cheese, rather like soft feta, and topped with a good dose of bacon (don’t forget the drippings!).

The word ‘dumpling’ covers a multitude of meanings. As a child, a dumpling meant a puffy floury ball in soup or stew from my mom or a smooth more condensed drop from my dad.

I knew that dumplings covered everything from won tons to pierogies, but I thought that dumplings had to be boiled. According to Wikipedia, dumplings consist of some sort of dough, often wrapped around a filling, and can be boiled, steamed, or even baked. Well, that’s broad.  Click to continue reading

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