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JAPAN: Toshikoshi – Soba Noodle Soup 年越しそば

JAPAN: Toshikoshi – Soba Noodle Soup 年越しそば

soop_japan_1114-8Here’s what we learned about Japan in  our research this week:

  •  Buckwheat noodles (soba) are traditionally eaten in Japan at midnight on New Year’s eve.    According to wikipedia, “the tradition started around Edo period (1603-1867) and there are several theories believed that long soba noodles symbolize a long life.”
  • A recent study revealed that approximately 50% of Japanese citizens eat toshikoshi soba on New Year’s eve.
  • While buckwheat is gluten free, many soba noodles are made with both buckwheat and regular wheat.  Check the packages carefully to find 100% buckwheat noodles if you eat gluten-free.

Here is a fun video showing you how easy toshikoshi soba is to make and how fun it is to say.


Remember back when Beckett chose Nsusu and Fufu because he could run around yelling those two words at the top of his lungs?  Anyone want to guess why we made toshikoshi soba this week? 

That only went on for 20 minutes or so.  No idea why schnitzel was part of his chant.  Anyway, our first attempt at toshikoshi soba was a complete flop and rendered utterly inedible due to the insane amounts of salt.  Luckily, we had also made sushi and, since Dungeness crab season just started, a cucumber crab salad, so we didn’t go hungry.  Plus, our friends arrived with fun Japanese sodas that had the kids so entranced, they barely noticed the food at all.soop_japan_1114-12Refusing to accept defeat, I retooled the recipe and nailed it this morning.    The fun part of toshikoshi is that you can add whatever floats your boat to the soup.  The first night (pictured here) included some leftover pork loin we had in the fridge, enoki mushrooms, and fish cakes.  This morning, we used shiitake mushrooms, spinach, and eggs (pictured at the bottom of this post).  The most important part of this soup is the broth and the noodles – the rest is just fun creation.  If you have kids who aren’t so sure about trying new “ethnic” foods, a nice way to introduce them to Japanese food might be to make toshikoshi and allow them to put in whatever toppings they would like (like taco night only with Japanese soup!).


Toshikoshi – Soba Noodle Soup 年越しそば
Serves 4


    • 8 cups water
    • 1 oz sliced dried shiitake mushrooms
    • 2 teaspoons HonDashi bonito soup stock granules *
    • 1/2 cup tamari (gluten free soy sauce)
    • 1/2 cup mirin
    • 1 tablespoon sugar (more to taste)
    • 200g package soba 100% buckwheat noodles
    • 2 large handfuls baby spinach leaves, optional
    • 2 eggs, soft boiled, peeled and cut in half lengthwise, optional
    • 4 green onions, sliced thin
    • 1 package Enoki mushrooms, ends trimmed and separated, optional
    • 6 ounce log fish cake, sliced into thin half moons, optional **
    • Cooked pork loin slices, optional
    • Shichimi Togarashi (Japanese pepper spice)


  1. In a large soup pot, bring water, shiitake mushrooms, and HonDashi to a boil.  Add tamari, mirin, and sugar.  Reduce heat to simmer and cover.soop_japan_1114-2
  2. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Add the soba noodles and cook until al dente – approximately 8 minutes.  Drain noodles and rinse well under cold water to remove any excess starch.soop_japan_1114-5
  3. While noodles cook, prepare all garnishes.soop_japan_1114-3
  4. Prepare bowls by adding noodles and garnishes to bowls.soop_japan_1114-11
  5. Add spinach to broth and cook until wilted.  Gently ladle spinach and broth onto noodles and garnishes.  Serve with Shichimi Mogarashi if you like things spicy.photosoop_japan_1114-10

Cook’s Notes

*  HonDashi is a flavor additive that contains fish and msg among other things and gives a very rich umami flavor.  You can make your own dashi if you prefer or you can substitute the dashi with salt.

** Many types of Japanese fish cakes contain gluten.  Be sure to read the packages carefully.

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REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Muamba Nsusu and Fufu (Chicken and Peanut soup + Yams)

REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Muamba Nsusu and Fufu (Chicken and Peanut soup + Yams)


Here’s what we learned about Congo in  our research this week:

  •  Gorillas!
  • Pygmies!
  • Lonely Planet ranked Republic of Congo #6 in it’s 2015 countries to visit!
  • Republic of Congo is also called Congo Republic and Congo Brazzaville.
  • Brazzaville is the capital of Republic of Congo and sits directly across the Congo River from Kinshasa, the capital of Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire).

This video is good for a sampling of what life is like in Brazzaville. You can even hear the singers talking about Fufu at one point!

Muamba Nsusu and Fufu (Chicken and Peanut soup + Yams)

soop_congo_nov14-22I’ll admit it.  Beckett chose this recipe because he thought Muamba Nsusu was fun to say.  Well, first he actually picked fufu and ran around the house for several minutes shouting FUFUFUFUFUFFUFUFUFUFUFUFUUUUUUU before I could settle him down to pick what ELSE we should make seeing as how fufu is actually a starchy side sort of akin to our mashed potatoes.  He was set on having something as fun to say as FUFUFUFUFUFFUFUFUFUFUFUFUUUUUUU and therefore picked NSUSUNSUSUNSUSUNSUSUNSUSUNSUSUUUUUUU!

As luck would have it, it Nsusu a good pick.  I described it to our friends’ boys who weren’t so sure about the stew as “peanut butter soup”.  That pretty much nailed it.  Very common all over Sub-Saharan Africa, peanuts (called groundnuts in Africa) are used very commonly in various stews combining chicken and tomatoes.  This version uses red palm oil, another staple of Sub-Saharan Africa, which some argue is the best type of fat (better than olive oil, coconut oil, and avocados) you can ingest due to its high level of Vitamins A and E.

While the soup Nsusu was a culinary success in our meal, the fufu was, well, let’s call it an acquired taste.  Fufu is Sub-Saharan Africa’s answer to our mashed potatoes.  It is made many different ways using many different starches, but in Western Africa it is usually made from yams, sometimes combined with plantains.  We chose to get half traditional and make it with yams and one plantain, but used the food processor instead of the more traditional way to make fufu (as seen in the video below).  I’m not including a recipe for fufu in this post simply because there seem to be a gigazillion different ways to make it, so I’m going to encourage you to get out there and blaze your own fufu path should you feel like running around the house yelling FUFUFUFUFUFFUFUFUFUFUFUFUUUUUUU!!!!

Ahem.  Now then.  Traditionally, our fun to say stew would be eaten with your hands – more specifically your right hand.  Eaters would take a bit of fufu and some stew and quickly slurp it all up by sticking fingers directly into mouths.  Had we gone this route, I’m sure the boys would have been thrilled, but we opted for spoons this time.

Would we make it again?  Sorry Congo, but the fufu was not a hit.  The soup on the other, hand, while much too heavy for me was a hit with the kids… even Dracula.




Muamba Nsusu
Serves 8


    • 1.5 pounds skinless/boneless chicken thighs
    • 2 tablespoons red palm oil, divided
    • 1 large onion, chopped
    • 1 large carrot, chopped
    • 2 jalapeños, minced
    • 1 cup natural peanut butter (peanuts and salt only- no other ingredients)
    • 1 can tomato paste (6 ounces)
    • 1 teaspoon cumin
    • 1 can chopped tomatoes (14.5 ounces)
    • zest of one small lemon
    • 6 cups chicken stock
    • 1/4 cup peanuts


  1. Generously salt and pepper chicken thighs.  In large heavy soup pot, add 1 tablespoon red palm oil, then cook chicken thighs over medium heat until chicken is no longer pink and the juices run clear. This should take 8 to 12 minutes. As the chicken cooks, turn it occasionally so it browns evenly. Once chicken has cooked and browned, remove it from pot and set aside to cool.soop_congo_nov14-14
  2. Add palm oil to pot and melt over medium-low heat. Sauteé onions, carrots and chilies (scraping up any browned bits from the chicken) until well caramelized.soop_congo_nov14-15soop_congo_nov14-16
  3.   Meanwhile, in a small bowl combine peanut butter, tomato paste and cumin with 1 cup of the chicken broth and stir to combine well.soop_congo_nov14-13
  4.  Add peanut/tomato mixture to the pot along with the tomatoes, lemon zest, cooking for a few moments until fragrant.  soop_congo_nov14-17
  5. Add  chicken stock and bring to a simmer. Shred or chop chicken thighs and return to the soup. Add peanuts.  Simmer until soup has thickened.
  6. Check for seasonings – adding salt, pepper, lemon, sugar, or cumin as needed.
  7. Serve with fufu

Cook’s Notes

Red Palm oil is available at Whole Foods and online.

Also, yams are kind of hard to peel – says Beckett.soop_congo_nov14-18


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SOMALIA: Oat + Goat Soup (Shurbad)

SOMALIA: Oat + Goat Soup (Shurbad)


Here’s what we learned about Somalia in  our research this week:

  •  Somalia has a huge nomadic population and they eat primarily goat and camel meat.
  • The northern part of Somalia declares itself independent as Somaliland, but is unrecognized by most of the rest of the world.  That part of Somalia was ruled by Britain until 1960.
  • The southern part of Somalia was ruled until 1960 by Italy.  Therefore, pasta is incredibly popular in Somalia – some even suggest that pasta is the national dish of Somalia!
  • Somalia is 99% Muslim – the vast majority being Sunni.
  • Ramadan is observed throughout Somalia whereby fasting is observed during daylight hours for close to a month.  Upon breaking the fast, many Somali families eat a very filling and hearty soup of goat and oats.
  • Doing a Google search of images of “Somalia kids” is not advised unless you (a) have tissues at hand, (b) are prepared to answer a lot of questions from your kids about starvation, and (c) can stomach it.
  • The recipe we chose would traditionally be eaten with hands by using a pancake like bread to grab little handfuls.  I couldn’t find (and honestly, didn’t have the gumption to try) a gluten free version of this bread, so we went with rice instead.  If you can eat gluten, here’s a great looking  recipe!


So, it turns out that finding a Somali soup that can be verified to be a true and traditional soup of Somalia was quite a challenge.  There are many wonderful Somali cooking blogs out there, but I couldn’t find a “official” source of Somali recipes to cross check any of the recipes I found online.  Which led me into an interesting line of thinking about how the internet works and what people find online tends to be taken as gospel truth simply because it was found online.   And I then realized that once I post this recipe out there on the interwebs, I will, in fact, be just as much an authority on Somali soups as anyone else who has ever put a recipe for Somali soup online.  Wacky.

Anyway, I finally settled on two recipes I could vouch for the authenticity of and gave Calvin a choice between lamb shoulder stew and goat + oat stew.  I was surprised when he chose the goat + oat, worried about how it would come out, and nervous about our friends coming over to join us with their two little boys.  I should not have worried:

soop_somalia_oct14-25The enthusiastic response was immediate and all 4 boys went in for 2nds and one went for 3rds.  Plus, my two boys had leftovers in their lunch boxes yesterday and both ate every bite while bragging to their friends (and intentionally grossing out the girls) about eating goat stew.  Which reminds me… you don’t have to use goat.  It is the traditional meat for this dish, but you could also use lamb or beef if you desire.  If you’re really not into goat, don’t let the goat stand in the way of making this incredible soup – go ahead and use a different meat.  I won’t tell anyone.

This soup is simultaneously simple and complex; hearty, but not rich.  It is easy to make (once you’ve made the spice mix) and quick enough for a school night dinner.  We served it with Somali rice, spice encrusted goat, and a DELICIOUS coconut hot sauce.  For a quick an easy dinner, I might make a simple salad of cucumber and tomato to eat with this soup and call it a night.  We will be making this one again for sure.soop_somalia_oct14-30

Oat + Goat Soup (Shurbad)
Serves 4-10 depending on whether served as an appetizer or main


    • 2 tablespoons canola oil
    • 1 pound ground goat meat (you can use lamb instead if you desire or beef if you don’t like goat or lamb)
    • 1 small onion, chopped
    • 1 tablespoon salt
    • 1 cup diced tomatoes
    • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
    • 1 tablespoon xawaash spice (see recipe below)
    • 2 boullion cubes (preferrably HerbOx)
    • 8 cups water
    • 1 1/2 cups rolled oats (Trader Joes and Bob’s Red Mill have gluten free versions)
    • Juice of one lemon


  1. Heat oil in large soup pot.  Add goat meat and brown.  Add onion and cook until the onions are translucent.  Add garlic, tomatoes, and xwaash bariis- stir for 2 minutes.soop_somalia_oct14-19
  2. Add water, boullion, and oats.  Bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer for 30-40 minutes, stirring frequently.soop_somalia_oct14-20soop_somalia_oct14-21
  3. Using an immersion blender or a regular blender blend soup until smooth.soop_somalia_oct14-23 soop_somalia_oct14-24
  4. Add lemon juice and check for seasoning adding more xawaash bariis or salt as needed.  I mixed a little olive oil and xawaash bariis to make a sauce I could drizzle on top for a little color.

Cook’s Notes
All adults and 2 of the kids at the table though the coconut hot sauce (recipe below) brought this recipe to the next level.  Feel free to use a different meat if you desire.  I won’t tell anyone.

Somali Spice Mix (Xawaash Bariis) 
Makes about 1 cup



    •  1/4 cup cumin seeds
    • 1/4 cup coriander seeds
    • 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
    • 1 small cinnamon stick
    • 24 cardamom pods
    • 1/2 teaspoon whole cloves
    • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
    • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
    • 1 tablespoon turmeric powder


  1. Add all ingredients except last three to small frying pan and heat, stirring constantly, for 4-5 minutes until very fragrant.  Cumin seeds will burn quickly if not attended to.soop_somalia_oct14-13
  2. Place all ingredients in a spice grinder (I use a coffee grinder) and grind into a fine powder.soop_somalia_oct14-14
  3. Pour into a glass jar and add ginger powder, nutmeg and turmeric powder.  Place lid on jar and shake until all spices are well incorporated.

Somali Coconut Hot Sauce (Basbaas Qumbe)
Makes about 2 cupssoop_somalia_oct14-16


    •  1/3 cup dried coconut, unsweetened preferrably
    • 3 large jalapeños, stemmed (seeded too if less spicy is desired)
    • 2 large cloves garlic
    • 1 small onion
    • 1/4 cup white vinegar
    • 1/4 cup canola oil
    • 1/4 cup water
    • 1 tablespoon salt


  1. Soak coconut 15 minutes in boiling water to remove any sweetener and soften coconut; changing water at least once. Drain well.
  2. Add all ingredients to blender and blend well.

Xawaash Encrusted  Goat Meat (Hilib Ari Duban)
Serves 6-8


    •  Goat shoulder or leg (approximately 3 pounds)
    • 3 tablespoons xawaash spice
    • 3 tablespoons canola oil
    • 4 large cloves garlic
    • 2 tablespoons salt


  1. Preheat grill or oven to 300 degrees (we used a Traeger smoker grill).
  2. Mix oil, xawaash, garlic and salt in small bowl.  Spread mixture all over goat, making sure to get spices into every crevice.
  3. Wrap goat tightly in aluminum foil at least 4 times – making sure every seam is well closed.  (If steam escapes, meat will not cook properly.)
  4. Allow goat to rest and marinate at least one hour.  Marinate in the refrigerator overnight for best flavor.
  5. Put on grill (with door closed), traeger, or in oven for 3-4 hours.  Because all the moisture stays inside the foil, it is nearly impossible to over-do it.
  6. Remove from heat and allow to rest for 20 minutes before opening foil.
  7. Pick meat off bones and serve.


    Sorry there is no before photo… the problem was it smelled so insanely good when it came off the grill that all 4 adults dove in before I remembered that we needed a photo. Oh well – we’ll just have to make it again.


Somali Spiced Rice (Bariis Iskukaris)
Serves 8 as a side



    •  2 cups basmati rice
    • 4 tablespoons ghee (or olive oil)
    • 1 large onion, chopped
    • 1 tablespoon xawaash spice
    • 3 large cloves garlic
    • 1/2 cup peas, more to taste
    • 1/2 cup chopped carrots, more to taste
    • 2 1/2 cups water
    • 2 tablespoons salt


  1. Rinse rice thoroughly until water runs clear.
  2. In large pot that has a properly fitting lid, melt ghee over medium heat and fry the onions until they begin to caramelize.
  3. Add xawaash, garlic and vegetables and cook, stirring constantly until fragrant – 2-3 minutes.
  4. Add rice, water and salt.  Bring to a boil, then immediately reduce to a simmer and cover pan.
  5. Simmer for 15 minutes then turn off stove (do not remove lid!) and allow rice to sit in covered pot another 15 minutes.
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SWEDEN: Ärtsoppa + Pannkakor med Sylt Lingon (Yellow Pea Soup + Swedish pancakes with lingonberry jam)

SWEDEN: Ärtsoppa + Pannkakor med Sylt Lingon (Yellow Pea Soup + Swedish pancakes with lingonberry jam)


Here’s what we learned about Ärtsoppa in  our research this week:

  •  Ärtsoppa (EHRT-soh-puh) is traditionally eaten on Thursdays in Sweden.  It’s said that even the King of Sweden eats this on Thursdays.  This tradition dates back to the middle ages.
  • The Finnish eat this same soup, but with green peas.
  • In Sweden, ärtsoppa is served in schools, the military, hospitals, government offices, and many restaurants on Thursdays.
  • It is traditionally eaten with Swedish pancakes and lingonberry jam.  Also, these pancakes are not eaten for breakfast, but rather as a lunch/dinner item.  That said, we had the leftovers for breakfast the next day.  😉
  • The traditional beverage that accompanies this meal is a liqueur called Punsch.  It is not easy to find, but I HIGHLY recommend you seek out a bottle.  It is low alcohol, sweet, and complex.  It’s fantastic alone, over ice, served hot, with sparkling water, with lemon squeezed in, in your coffee… you get the point.  Here’s more about Punsch.  If you can’t find it in a store near you, there’s always online: K&L Wine Merchants has it available.
  • “When it rains soup, the poor man has no spoon” ~ SWEDISH PROVERB


Screen Shot 2014-10-17 at 10.22.24 AMWhat an exciting night in Casa SOOP.  Not only did the SF Giants win the game that will send them to the world series (sorry Cardinals fans), but we got to have pea soup, Swedish pancakes, Swedish punsch, AND we got a visit from the fire department.  As it turns out baseball games, liqueur and making pancakes don’t go so well together.  (Quick shout out to my local fire department:  thank you for responding so quickly!  Next time, I will not walk away from a browning Swedish pancake to watch a home run hit!)soop_sweden_oct14-25

Okay, so deviating a bit from our traditional Sunday SOOP, we ate this soup on a Thursday as it is done in Sweden.  Frankly, I did not give the soup enough time to cook (the recipe has been adjusted to reflect an increased cooking time), but since it was a school night, we forged ahead and just ate it a little crunchy.  Even still, it was a hit.  I have said my whole life that I don’t like split pea soup (sorry mom), but this recipe converted me.  As it was cooking, I was pretty much grumbling under my breath about how it smells like split pea soup, but my boys all kept talking about how great it smelled, so I figured at least 3 people would like the soup.  Turns out I liked it too.

Every thumb up!  Ärtsoppa  + Pannkakor med Sylt Lingon + Värmlandskorv (pork/potato sausage)

Every thumb up! Ärtsoppa + Pannkakor med Sylt Lingon + Värmlandskorv (pork/potato sausage)

A trip to IKEA will yield you not only Swedish mustard and lingonberry jam, but also all kinds of fun chocolates, cookies, and other Swedish goodies.  Maybe that’s why the kids were so excited about dinner last night!  Do hunt down the Swedish Punsch too.   There is a non-alcoholic version as well where you can add your own gin to make a fab cocktail.  The boys got to have some of the non-alcoholic mixed with elderflower juice from Ikea.  Happy campers.

This is the liqueur you want to try to find.  If you don't like it, don't worry - I'll drink it for you.

This is the liqueur you want to try to find. If you don’t like it, don’t worry – I’ll drink it for you.

Scratching off Sweden!

Scratching off Sweden!

Serves 6


  • 2 cups dried yellow peas*
  • 1  large smoked ham hock**
  • 6 cups water
  • 1 small onion
  • 1 carrot, chopped small (I cheated and used Trader Joes’ shredded carrots)
  • 8  cloves
  • 2 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme or 1 tablespoon fresh thyme, plus a few stalks  for garnish
  • 1/2 teaspoon – 2 teaspoons salt depending on how salty your ham hock is
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Whole grain mustard***


  1. Soak yellow peas for about 12-24 hours – discarding any impurities.

    Before soaking overnight on the left; post soaking on the right.  Huge difference!

    Before soaking overnight on the left; post soaking on the right. Huge difference!

  2. Prepare small onion by spiking it with the 8 cloves.
  3. After soaking, rinse the peas and add them to a large soup pot along with 6 cups water, ham hock, chopped onion, carrot, cloved onion, and thyme.  Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer and cover.
  4. Cook with the lid on, stirring occasionally, until the peas are soft enough approximately 6 hours****.soop_sweden_oct14-14
  5. When it is tender, remove the meat and cut into small pieces and return meat to the soup – discarding bones, fat and gristle.soop_sweden_oct14-29
  6. Remove and discard cloved onion.  If desired, use an immersion blender to puree soup (we did).
  7. Check for seasonings – adding more salt or pepper.soop_sweden_oct14-24
  8. Serve with whole grain mustard – each person adding as much as they like to their tastes.

Cook’s Notes

* Nordic yellow peas are not the easiest thing to come by.  I found them at a Scandinavian grocery store in Berkeley.  They do mail orders.  Nordic House has the whole yellow peas which are more traditional, but split yellow peas can be used if you can’t find the whole yellow peas.  If you use split yellow peas, you do not need to soak the peas over night – just begin soaking them the morning you plan to make this soup.  Bob’s Red Mill carries split yellow peas.

** This can be made vegetarian by omitting the ham hock.  Since a lot of the salt/depth of flavor comes from the ham hock, please replace the ham by adding a vegetarian bouillon cube.

*** Ikea sells whole grain mustard that is unlike any mustard we’ve tasted before.  It’s almost like a cross of dijon, honey mustard, and gouldens.  It is quite spicy, but sweet at the same time and was absolutely delicious in this soup.  If you don’t live near an Ikea, I’d recommend dijon with a little bit of honey stirred in as a substitute.  Beckett found it a little too spicy for his liking, but found the lingonberry jam quite delightful.
soop_sweden_oct14-19 soop_sweden_oct14-22

**** Split yellow peas will take at least half the time.  Next time I will use split yellow peas.  😉

Pannkakor med Sylt Lingon  | Gluten-Free Swedish Pancakes with Lingonberries
Makes 12 pancakes depending on the size of your frying pan.

  • 6 eggs
  • 5 cups of milk
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 1/4 cups gluten-free all-purpose flour*
  • 4 tablespoons of butter, melted
  1. Preheat oven to “warm” or lowest setting and place a plate or cookie sheet in the oven.
  2. Whisk the eggs and add in the milk- continuing to whisk until blended. Add flour, salt and melted butter and mix together until thoroughly combined.  Batter should be fairly thin – about half as thick as traditional American pancake batter.
  3. Spoon 1/2 cup of batter into a large buttered frying pan at medium-low heat and spread the mixture around by tilting the pan as you would for a crepe.soop_sweden_oct14-20
  4. Brown the pancake on one side – watching for bubbles to form on the top.  Before flipping, take a peek and make sure bottom side is browned.  Flip your pancake over and brown on the other side.soop_sweden_oct14-17
  5. Once browned on both sides, place in oven to keep warm while you make the rest of the pancakes.
  6. Serve with a generous spoonful of lingonberry preserves (this can be found at IKEA)

* THIS is my go to all-purpose GF flour.  It hasn’t let me down yet.  I make a big batch of it and use it in everything.  It was truly hard to tell that these pancakes were gluten-free.

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HUNGARY: Sertéspörkölt (pork goulash)

HUNGARY: Sertéspörkölt  (pork goulash)


Here’s what we learned  in  our research/kitchen time this week:

  •  There are actually 3 Hungarian stews made from onions, meat and paprika: gulyás, pörkölt and paprikás.
  • The dish called pörkölt (pronounced PURR-colt) is what we Americans call “goulash” (thick meaty stew).  Gulyás is a soup and paprikás is similar to pörkölt, but only made with chicken.
  • When chopping onions, if you chew gum at the same time, you will not cry.
  • Speaking of onions, do not be scared off by the amount of onion in this recipe.  Rather than making the stew bracing, they actually caramelize down to bring a wonderful sweetness to the stew.
  • The Rubik’s cube was invented in Hungary (and none of us can solve it).
  • This dish matches the colors of the Hungarian flag: red, white, & green.

If you’re curious to hear how Hungarian sounds as sertéspörkölt is being made, here you go!  He makes his a little differently from how I make mine, but the recipe is fairly similar.


Calvin researched Hungarian soups for about 4 seconds before pointing at a photo of Pörkölt and saying, “that’s it!  Let’s make that!”  Okay kid.

It took me a few tries to get this recipe right – it was good the first night, but kind of a pain to make, so I retooled the recipe and made it again the next night.  Everyone agreed that not only was the stew better, but it was WAY easier and produced many fewer dishes!

Calvin was eager to help my chop all the onions required for this dish because I’d told him about a theory that chewing gum keeps you from crying while chopping onions.
The verdict: it works!

The big issue with this meal was my attempt to make a gluten-free version of traditional Hungarian nokedli which are basically spaetzle.  My first several attempts were actually laughably bad, but the last version (a modified version of THIS recipe) actually worked okaaaay, but I didn’t think it was good enough yet.  We all liked the pörkölt better with the pasta, but just to prove that I made my own nokedli (no matter how bland they were) here is photo proof!


Okay, so side aside, this is a TOTAL keeper recipe.  Even after eating it for dinner two nights in a row, everyone agreed that this should go into regular rotation.  Even my soup-reluctant husband said I should make it again.  This is the PERFECT fall/winter dish that will simply simmer all afternoon and make you feel all warm and cozy when you eat it.  Next time, completely divergent from traditional pörkölt, we will make a gremolata (chopped parsley, fresh garlic, and lemon zest) to bring a little zing to the finished product.  Oh, and the pepper relish from Comoros (poutou) was pretty stellar with this dish too.  Hungarian/Comoran fusion cooking…. coming soon to a kitchen near you!

Finally, though this would have been stellar with a red wine, the only Hungarian wine we could find this Irsai Oliverweekend was a fantastic white from the foot of the Mátra mountains.  This description from the importer nails it:

Originally crossed in 1930, the parents of this native grape are Gewürztraminer and Muscat Ottonel. Not surprisingly, it’s incredibly perfumed and floral. That said, its not fat and weighty on the palette like Gewürztraminer can often be and has there’s no detectable residual sugar either. The finish has a mineral, almost saline quality that balances out the Muscat heavy aromatics. And while the style is decidedly reductive, it opens up right away and jumps out of the glass even when chilled. While it can easily stand alone as an aperitif, it pairs beautifully when fruit and salt play off of each other. Prosciutto and melon is a classic, but we’ve also found that Indian food (especially chutneys) pairs extremely well.

You can get  wines from along the Danube from these guys including the Irsai Oliver we loved this weekend.


Sertéspörkölt (Hungarian Pork Stew)
Serves 8


  • 2 tablespoons bacon fat or lard
  • 2 large onions, diced
  • 2 pounds pork butt shoulder, trimmed of bones and fat and cut into 1 cubes
  • 2 medium banana peppers*, cut into 1/2″ dice
  • 1 large tomato*, chopped or one 14 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 3 teaspoons sweet Hungarian* paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon hot Hungarian paprika or 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon whole caraway seeds, ground
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • chopped parsley for garnish (optional)


  1. Heat large dutch oven or soup pot over medium low heat.  Add bacon fat or lard to pot and render.  Add onions and cook slowly, stirring frequently, until onions are beginning to caramelize and have changed from white, past opaque, to deep tan.  Go slowly so onions don’t burn – this is the most important part of the whole meal.  This step should take at least 30 minutes.
  2. Add garlic and pork, increase heat to medium and stir constantly until pork is cooked on all sides and beginning to release its juices.soop_hungary_oct14-7
  3. Add chopped pepper and tomato.  Combine well.  Add 6 cups water paprika, caraway and marjoram, stirring gently to combine.  Simmer, uncovered,  until most of the liquid has boiled down and sauce is a thick gravy (approximately 1.5 hours though you could go all day so long as you make sure there is enough water in the pot).soop_hungary_oct14-8
  4. Check pork for tenderness.  If it is not quite tender, add another cup of water and simmer longer until sauce is desired consistency.  Once pork is tender enough to be cut easily with a fork, add salt and season with pepper to taste and serve over a bed of pasta.soop_hungary_oct14-9

Cook’s Notes

* If you can’t find a banana pepper, yellow gypsy peppers or yellow, green or red bell peppers would work.  We used red pepper and chopped it small to hide it from our boys who think they don’t like peppers.

* Unless you are in the middle of tomato season, use canned tomatoes as they will have much more flavor that the flavorless winter tomatoes.  We used dry farmed tomatoes which are possibly the most delicious thing on the face of the planet.

* Hungarian paprika is very different from the standard paprika you can find at the grocery store.  It is not expensive and totally worth seeking out.  It comes in “sweet” and “hot”.  Here’s more about paprika.

Traditionally, this would be served with a spaetzle-like pasta called nokedli.  I tried 4 different times to perfect a gluten-free version of nokedli and finally gave up and served it over Jovial’s gluten free egg tagliatelle.


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UKRAINE: Red Borscht


My borscht came out a little more red than I had planned, so I increased the amount of beet in the recipe below.

UKRAINE: Red Borscht

With nearly as many variations on the recipe as good old chicken noodle soup, it’s tricky to nail down an “official” borscht (also called borsch) recipe.  Only a few things are certain: borscht contains beets and Ukrainians claim that this popular Eastern European soup comes from Ukraine.  This version is an amalgam of recipes found all over the interwebs and in various cookbooks.

For a fun history of Borscht and its effect on Ukrainians, take a gander at THIS blog posting.  And to keep it traditional, consider sipping on ice-cold vodka while cooking and eating.

Let’s get started shall we?  My afternoon sous chef,  Beckett, and I gathered all the ingredients we needed to get ourselves started, turned up the radio and got to it.


Ukrainian Borscht
Serving: 8-10

  • 1.5 pounds pork butt shoulder or boneless beef chuck (I used 2 cuts of osso buco – totally not traditional, I know, but the cuts were reasonably priced and it worked wonderfully)
  • 1 Tbsp salt + more to taste
  • 4 medium beet roots, washed, peeled and grated
  • 3 carrots, grated
  • 2 parsnips, grated
  • 4 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp vinegar
  • 1Tbsp sugar
  • 2-3 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 1 large yellow onion, finely diced
  • 2 Tbsp minced parsley stems
  • 2-3 bay leaves
  • 5-6 black peppercorns
  • 4 small russet potatoes, washed, peeled, quartered and sliced into 1/4” pieces
  • ½ head of green cabbage, sliced very thin
  • 4 cups beef broth
  • 2 large clove garlic, minced, divided
  • 2 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
  • Salt + sugar to taste
  • 0.15 – 0.25 lb salted salo*
  • 4 sprigs fresh dill
  • Garnish: sour cream and lemon wedges



  1. Cut the meat into 1” pieces and place them in a pot filled with 12 cups cold water and1TBSP of salt. Bring to a boil and skim off any fat/crud on the surface. Reduce heat, partially cover and simmer 45 minutes – 1 hr, periodically skimming off any crud that rises to the top.

    mmmm... yummy... scum!

    mmmm… yummy… scum!

  2. While the meat is cooking, grate beets, carrots and parsnips (keep the beets separate from the carrots and parsnips) on the large grater holes (you can use a food processor if you have one). Prepare all other ingredients – cut potatoes, slice cabbage, dice onions, etc.soop_ukraine_sept14-4soop_ukraine_sept14-6
    While it's not Ukrainian vodka, it is vodka, was straight out of the freezer, and was delicious.

    While it’s not Ukrainian vodka, it is vodka, was straight out of the freezer, and was delicious.


    You may notice the tomatoes in the background. They have been omitted from the recipe because they didn’t add anything to the dish, in my humble opinion.

    Caught red-handed!!

    Caught red-handed!!

  3. Place the beets in a large heavy-bottom skillet with 4 Tbsp olive oil and 1 Tbsp vinegar and sauté for 3 minutes, then reduce heat to med/low and add 1 Tbsp sugar and 2 Tbsp tomato paste. Mix thoroughly and sauté until starting to soften, stirring occasionally (about 10 min). Remove from pan and set aside.soop_ukraine_sept14-14
  4. In the same skillet (do not wash after the beets), sauté onion in 1 Tbsp butter for 2 min. Add grated carrot, parsnip + tomato and sauté another 5 min or until softened, adding more oil if it seems too dry.soop_ukraine_sept14-15
  5. Once the meat has been cooking at least 45 min, skim any crud off the top, scrape marrow out of osso bucco bones, and remove bones and tendon.  (Give bones to dogs, if you have them once they’ve cooled to make sure your dog will love you forever and ever.)  Place bay leaves, peppercorns and sliced potatoes into the soup pot.  Add beef broth, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 10 min.
  6. Add cabbage, sautéed beets, onion, carrots, parsnips and parsley stems. Cook another 10 minutes or until potatoes can be easily pierced with a fork.soop_ukraine_sept14-21
  7. Add chopped parsley and 1 clove of minced garlic then stir them into the soup pot. Immediately cover and remove from heat. (Over-boiling borscht will affect the soup’s color; bringing it from bright magenta to dark brick-red).soop_ukraine_sept14-22
  8. Check for salt and sugar flavors and add more of either if desired.
  9. Cut the salted salo into small pieces**. Add the remaining minced clove of garlic. Grind them together in a deep bowl with a wooden spoon (or blend in a mini food processor) until it forms a rough paste.  Stir into the cooked borscht. Allow to rest for 15-20 minutes before serving so the flavors can meld.soop_ukraine_sept14-18
    My pal, vodka, lending a hand here.

    My pal, vodka, lending a hand here.

    This is how it looked post food-processing.  It melted into the soup like a champ and gave a wonderful depth of flavor.

    This is how it looked post food-processing. It melted into the soup like a champ and gave a wonderful depth of flavor.

  10. To serve, top with a tablespoon of sour cream and a small sprig of fresh dill.  Serve lemon on the side for those who desire more acidity in their soup.soop_ukraine_sept14-24

* Salted Salo is a traditional Eastern European food consisting of cured slabs of fatback. It has little to no meat and is quite similar to Italian lardo. If you cannot find salo or lardo, Trader Joes’ bacon ends and pieces can be used in a pinch by cutting off the meat and using just the fat.

** If possible, ask your butcher to slice the salo, lardo, or bacon into thick bacon slices and store it in the freezer until you are ready to chop it.  Chopping frozen fat is easy-peasy.

Once our borscht was simmering away, we were lucky to lure our BFFs (and luckily, neighbors) to join us for our feast which we completed with (a not insignificant amount of) vodka and a salad of quartered tomatoes, sliced cucumbers, fresh dill, and cannolini beans all tossed in sour cream.  Oh, and for my oenophile friends, a crisp rosé paired quite nicely with the borscht once we moved away from the vodka.soop_ukraine_sept14-23


The people have spoken: 2 thumbs up, 1 middle thumb, and 1 thumbs down (but with a smile).


Thanks for sharing our first adventure in SOOP you brave, brave souls.

Enjoy and as they say in Ukraine, Budmo! This means approximately ‘shall we live forever!’ Usually, one person says ‘Budmo!’ and everybody at the table/party answers ‘Hey!’ (the meaning is straightforward). This repeats for up to 3 times depending on the mood of the crowd. Only then, everybody empties their glasses.