'If the bee is, as the French say, "the sentinel of the environment", then the fact that large numbers of bee colonies are perishing around the world is an alarming sign that we must ... attempt to reconnect with a nature that is rapidly disappearing.'
Peter and I really enjoy sharing our garden with nature. We love it when birds and bees come to visit, so when scores of bees suddenly disappeared from our courtyard recently, we became quite concerned and wondered why this had happened. Our lavender bushes had finished flowering, so that might explain it, although we had never before noticed the departure of the bees altogether. Coincidentally, I had also (in hindsight, perhaps foolishly) sprayed some of our shrubs with a natural pyrethrum spray to bring them back to good health after a burst of scale and leaf yellowing. Curiously, I'd been doing this for a couple of years and it had never affected bee visitor numbers. And with the bees gone, we also noticed our strawberry patch isn't flourishing with the same vigour as last year. Perhaps it is just the season, or maybe the lack of bees pollinating the flowers. Whatever the cause, now I'm actively engaged in bringing bees back to my garden and I'm happy to report that they're visiting flowering bushes and plants outside in the front garden, so all may not be lost.
As far as dates go, it might very well be the first day of Spring in Australia, but this morning's cracker frost and minus 6.9 degrees C temperature assures me that, despite the season, it is not at all inappropriate to share with you one of my most favourite recipes, the Hungarian classic Paprikás Csirke Nokedlivel, (Chicken Paprika with Soft Noodles).
Smoked Hock and Lentil Soup
Lentils have been on the menu in my family for generations. My mother always kept packs of green/brown and red lentils in the larder. She made beautiful soups with them, and a hearty lentil stew which I didn't really appreciate the flavour of until I was in my twenties. Similarly, smoked pork hock featured often on mum's Hungarian repertoire, mostly in soups, such as bean soup or lentil soup; and sometimes with cabbage rolls.
As I write this post, it's pouring with rain outside and I am reminded about walking home from school on rainy winter days. Mum never learned to drive and my father was at work, so there was no such thing as the luxury of being driven home. The only time my father picked me up from school (very occasionally) was to take me to piano lessons, which I hated at the time. I was taught by nuns and the curriculum was ever so boring. Did I really need to learn how to play 'Song of the Volga Boatmen'?! Not to mention that I didn't enjoy having my hands slapped by Mother Superior if I made a mistake during 'pianoforte' examinations! Besides, she smelled, too. But I digress.
Veal Shank and Vegetable Broth
This weekend's snippet is a rustic, nourishing broth that my mother and father cooked for us kids, sometimes with a whole chicken and the giblets, instead of veal shanks. Their own parents, my grandparents on both sides, most probably cooked it for their children too. And their parents before them most likely taught the recipe to them. My son and daughter, and my sister's three children (and their children), and our partners, all refer to it as 'Nanna Soup'. Comfort food at its simplest.
Passionfruit and Apple Witches' Froth
Walnut Torte and Easter
Palacsinta Emlék (Pancake Memories)
My mother and father often told me stories of how much their lives changed when they arrived in Australia, having fled Sátoraljaújhely after the 1956 Hungarian uprising. Some aspects of life for them as ‘New Australians’ changed for the better, while others took some getting used to.
With my Hungarian, Czech and German background, spicy treacle or honey cakes, such as gingerbread, are a favourite. Peter and I have been taste testing gingerbread biscuits from various market stalls and bakeries recently and we have found that they are either bland or brilliant in flavour, depending on the combination of spices and the recipe used. Quality and freshness of the spices is essential, and I believe it is much better if you freshly grind the spices immediately before use
Cooking and writing have been a lifelong passion.
Join me as I share with you my favourite recipes; postcards and morsels from my travels; conversations with cookery writers
and chefs; and news on food, cookbooks
- Liz Posmyk
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NB: I use Australian standard measuring cups and spoons in my recipes.