slovakia

Slovak Stuffed Peppers (with cooking poems)

stuffed peppers blog

Instead of being baked, Slovak stuffed peppers are stewed in a rich tomato sauce for a juicy flavour-packed meal. 

To be honest, getting food on the table day after day can get to be a bit of a drag. And have you seen the amount of food kids can consume? I remember when my brother was a teen, I swear pans of cookies just got inhaled.

It’s certainly a luxury to be able to complain about the burden of cooking though. In the not so distant past, Slovaks had a handful of meals they cooked over again and were glad for it, as most of them knew the gnaw of hunger. And we know that in various parts of the world, people are starving.

But still…what am I going to cook for dinner tonight? I now marvel that my mother laid out a feast for us every evening, although as a child I didn’t think anything of it. I do remember, however, on one occasion my father went back to Japan for a visit and we ate a lot of eggs and toast (my father can’t eat many eggs).

A friend recently wrote a poem on Facebook to share her conundrum of shopping vs. putting crazy ingredients together, and it prompted a number of humorous responses with impressive poetry writing skills.  Click to continue reading

Veľký Choč: the most beautiful view in Slovakia

View of west tetras from Choc in Slovakia

It all started with an Instagram picture of a cabin in the middle of the forest somewhere in Slovakia. I decided wanted to go there, basically bulldozed my husband into going for our vacation, and we went. Well, not that exact cabin, but in the area.

Going on annual family vacations wasn’t something I did growing up. And now as an expat, it seems like vacation is either going to visit family (which is awesome and beautiful) or saving up for it.

Just being

But this summer I badly wanted to just get away from it all. Not just from the daily grind of where we live, but from noise and technology and speed of life; I wanted to get away to the woods and just be.

We found a cabin in the hills of the Liptov region and the first day did nothing else but be there – some reading, a hot dog roast, exploring the immediate area. I roamed the hill cleared by a blow-down, picking mullein leaves and flowers. My oldest came along, picking strawberry leaves for winter tea; it was one of her favourite parts of the day. With no electricity we kept our phones on airplane mode, packed water in a bucket from the nearby spring (dear mountain water, how I miss you), and basked in the not-too-hot sun.  Click to continue reading

Radler: a refreshing beer cocktail

elderflower lemon radler

Radlers are not originally Slovak, although they are now popular here. Basically, a radler is a beer cocktail, a mix of beer and a sweet drink. Beer connoisseurs may scoff, but I find radlers very enjoyable and perfect on a hot day.

Radler means cyclist in German. In many areas, cycling around the countryside is very popular, and people stop off for a drink at cafes along their journey. A radler can quench thirst without getting one tipsy, and are not as sweet as pop/soda. A radler is the same as a shandy in British English.  Click to continue reading

Heľpa Folk Festival: beautiful beautiful textiles

Putting gulky into the water

This weekend I was so fortunate as to visit two folk festivals. As I took about a million photos at each one, I’ll divide them into two posts.

Heľpa has held a festival for the past 52 years, Horehronské dni spevu a tanca, the region Horehronie days of singing and dancing. It was a wealth of folk costumes and, this year, textile arts.

I was looking forward to the trip, to take as many pictures as I wanted without running after kids or hurrying up for bored companions. On Saturday, I woke up before the crack of dawn to get an early train, and met a friend on the way to HeľpaClick to continue reading

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

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

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