Browsing in local food markets, delicatessens, butcher shops, greengrocers, bakeries and supermarkets is among the "must-do's" whenever Peter and I spend time overseas. To us, this pastime is almost as enjoyable as visiting museums. Hence, our preference is to rent an apartment with a fully-equipped kitchen. That way, we can live, shop and cook like the locals.
It goes without saying that dining out in foreign countries is a most pleasurable experience, but there's something extra-special about sourcing fresh, local and unusual ingredients, and cooking meals from scratch. Not to mention that it's gentler on the wallet.
Our palates were treated to a range of new and interesting foods in Hungary; including salami made from horse meat; bresaola-style dry-cured smoked venison; fermented peppers stuffed with herbed soft curd; goose liver parfait studded with mushrooms; sour cherry balsamic; and violet-infused ice cream, to name just a few.
A sweetened curd-based dessert was one of the ready-made products that quickly became a favourite. Sold in little tubs labelled Túrókrém, or Krémtúró, and widely available across Hungary, this little number (flavoured with vanilla, orange and raisins) added a dollop of deliciousness to our morning muesli. It was particularly good topped with perfectly-ripe summer stone fruits and berries.
A classic ingredient in the Hungarian kitchen (alongside the quintessential paprika), túró is fresh, pressed curd cheese made from sheep (juh) or cow's (tehén) milk. It is slightly acidic in flavour, unsalted, naturally semi-sweet, and dry in texture. Unlike cottage cheese and ricotta. túró is produced from aludt‧tej, which is technically soured or acidulated milk that has "gone to sleep" at room temperature. It has to be left for a few days, and must then be heated gently, not boiled. My fellow Hungarian blogger friend, Zsuzsa, best explains the process here. (I plan to try Zsuzsa's recipe as soon as I have the time).
When she was still alive, my darling mother used to cook an assortment of traditional Magyar dishes based on túró, but because the Hungarian curd was not available in Australia, she used a type of fresh "farm" cheese, ordered through a local delicatessen. Her specialities included túrós rétes (curd-filled strudel, sometimes with morello cherries), túrós csusza (noodles topped with curd and cubes of lightly fried, smoked bacon), túrógombóc (curd-filled dumplings coated with spiced sugared breadcrumbs), túrós palacsinta (curd-filled pancakes), and túrós fánk (curd-filled doughnuts). ♥ More about these goodies (including a recipe or two) in an upcoming article, I promise.
For now, I'd like to share with you my original recipe for Hungarian-style creamed curd with vanilla and sultanas. Peter assures me that it tastes better than the store-bought version we so enjoyed in Hungary. Again, because the Magyar túró, isn't available here, I used an organic quark made by an award-winning dairy in Queensland. It was very good, but a little expensive, so I also tried making my own and will share the recipe with you in the fullness of time.
Serve a spoonful of this creamed curd atop your morning cereal; or enjoy it as a snack with fresh or canned fruit: apricots, peaches, raspberries, blueberries, mulberries, cherries or red currants.
HUNGARIAN-STYLE CREAMED CURD WITH VANILLA & SULTANAS
(Magyar túrókrém vaníliával és szultánnal)
60g sour cream
1/2 teaspoon ground vanilla bean powder
65g caster sugar
1 level teaspoon orange zest, finely chopped
Combine the quark, sour cream, ground vanilla bean, caster sugar and orange zest in the bowl of a food processor. Blend until smooth and creamy. Fold in the sultanas. Spoon into a refrigerator-safe bowl, cover and chill. Use within 2-3 days. Preparation time: negligible. Serves 6-8, depending on the size of the dollop.
Over to you now, dear readers. Tell me, when you're travelling, do you enjoy dining out for breakfast, lunch and dinner; or do you prefer to live like a local and cook some of your own meals, as I do?
Cooking and writing have been a lifelong passion.
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- Liz Posmyk
NB: I use Australian standard measuring cups and spoons in my recipes.