Slovakia & Travel

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

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.

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

Slovak Roast Goose (or Duck)

Slovak Roast Goose (or Duck) at Almost Bananas

Roast goose and roast duck are common meals in the fall and winter in Slovakia. Through the fall, restaurants hang signs declaring “Husacie Hody!” or “Kačacie Hody!” – Goose Feast! Duck Feast! The word hody has connotations of fall or of an originally religious event of the feast of the local church.

Commonly served with roast goose or duck, or a goose-duck breed as my mother in law often does, is lokše, Slovak potato flatbread. Lokše is basically mashed potatoes with a little flour (including gluten-free flour, as the potatoes hold it together), rolled flat and cooked on a dry skillet. The lokše are then generously brushed with the fat from the goose or duck, although butter or lard can work as well. Click to continue reading

What I learned reading about Slovak Jews

What I learned reading about Slovak Jews - Almost BananasFor the last month I’ve been busy reading 21 books in English about Slovakia – read the reviews and enter the giveaway here – and six of those books were about Jews during WWII.

Of course we learned about the horrors of WWII in school, of racism and concentration camps. Nazi soldiers often come up in ethical discussions as The Ultimate Evil That Has Existed, i.e. “If you were faced with Nazi soldiers, would x action still be unacceptable?”

But growing up in Canada, the idea of war was so far away. We keep every Remembrance Day, maybe heard stories from grandparents or read a historical fiction novel. It seems closer in Slovakia, to some degree, just because fighting was on this soil. People still go metal detecting in the hills behind our home, looking for war artefacts. It seems strange that those quiet hills, perhaps even some of the same trees, saw such violence and action. When in the Low Tatras, a memorial to partisans killed high up in the mountain seemed so startling.

Call me naive, but I had this idea that the Nazis were the bad guys, Jew and other targeted groups were the victims, and everybody else was just kind of didn’t know what was going on.  Click to continue reading

21 Books in English about Slovakia

21 books about Slovakia in English at Almost Bananas

Almost Bananas presents…(drumroll)…21 books in English set in Slovakia, including 10 books to giveaway (giveaway over, look out for next year’s)!

I’m so excited to finally tell you about this project I’ve been working on.

It started with me wondering if there was a book in English that I could give friends and family so that they could understand Slovakia a little more. There isn’t much in English about Slovakia, but after some digging I found these 21 books. If anybody knows of more, let me know and I’ll include them in a future list.

I had a few criteria. I wanted stories, real or fiction, thus excluding travel books, textbook type history, and poetry. And I wanted them to be set in Slovakia or the Slovak side of Czechoslovakia (with one exception).

If you want to understand more about Slovakia, give a gift, or just like to read, then this list is for you. (psst…Christmas is quickly approaching) Make sure to scroll down to the bottom in order to enter the giveaway!

Even though I have already lived here for over a decade, I learned so so much, both about Slovakia’s history and people. I admit that I’m not a history buff – reading dry history text puts me to sleep (literally, this was my trick in college if I had insomnia. Worked every time). But in the context of a story or a person’s experience, a country’s character and history come alive even if the actual storyline is fictional.

The following books are divided into the following genres:

Youth – WWII (Slovak Jews) – Memoirs – Fiction – Slovak Literature  Click to continue reading

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