2008. április 6., vasárnap

VKF Cinke á la Gourmandula - Hungarian dumplings in sage-butter sauce

Hungarian men gotta have meat on the plate. This is a pretty harsh opening-statement for a vegetarian food-blog, but when I read the ‘Hungarian cuisine’ theme for the VKF (monthly cooking assignment), this came first to my mind. The announcment called for two conditions: 1) typical Hungarian meal (ok), and 2) presented preferably in a foreign language (fine). The third and trickiest criteria is set by me: to make it vegatarian.

Face it: for most Hungarians, a meatless meal could only pass as either an appetizer or a dessert. One last excuse to the rescue: gotta be real sick. At least, this is how the great grandma of my good friend could absorb (but not comprehend) the fact that I don’t eat meat.

I don't eat Hungarian food too often (quite rarely, actually), however, if I think about it, vegetarian Hungarians could survive, as the meatless cuisine does exist, and offers a great variety of simple meals, mainly based on potato (or other common veggies) and/or flour. (...what a wondeful opportunity to highlight the fact that following a vegetarian diet does not necessarily mean eating light.)

These dishes come mainly from the poor households of the countryside, from days, when meat was not a part of the daily diet. Well, vegetarian... :) Apart from the masses of pork fat that my grandmother’s generation would put into anything from salty to sweet, sour to bitter. (Really: for most Hungarians, as long as u don't see chunks of meat in your food, it is vegetarian. A little bit of fat, meat stock or gravy sauce - according to them - could not hurt anybody, so when ordering in a restaurant, u might wanna ask how your food is prepared.)
Anyhow, the fat issue is becoming less of a a concern, since heavy health campaigns of the last 20-30 years finally paid off: most people switched to the not so much healthier sunflower oil, and the slowly-killing margarine, so now we are agonizing on how these will kill our people. But, from a vegetarian aspect, this is still relatively good news. All in all, the point I am trying to make here is: we do have killer vegetarian food, with significant amount of grease in it.

Besides the grease issue, the other big difference between today and the old times is a direct consequence of my opening statement: today we serve these - once main course - dishes on the side, mostly accompanying some meat. Well, if I can abstract from this small detail, I've got plenty of choices.

Having that realized, the new challenge became what to pick. After a lot of thinking, I decided that I’d use this opportunity to look for a less common (at least to me), or even forgotten recipe. Also, I was looking for something that is a fusion between traditional and contemporary, Hungarian and international: just like me.

My father is a real gourmand (can’t deny the roots), grew up on the countryside, and has an amazing memory. I knew he’s my man for the task: I asked him about meatless food he would eat as a child, food that he loved, and what he's been missing from our 'vegatarianMom'-run wellness kitchen. The answer came surprisingly quick and sharp: cinke.

Literally-speaking cinke means tit (the bird, not the boobs), but it has little to do with the actual bird: the dumplings' shape resemble to the tit (God, now I wish it was called flamingo), at least this is the best explanation I could find, as far as the origin of the name is concerned. It is a typical food of the poor, as it requires only simple and cheap ingredients (flour and potato), and fills the belly up quickly (still, would not qualify for nutritious these days).

Apparently, cinke is so popular that it even has a festival dedicated exclusively to it. Szatmárcseke is a bigger village located in the East, and is the host of the International Cinke-cooking Festival for exactly a decade (held every year in the beginning of February); the event – allegedly - has grown to be a major tourist attraction (why have I not heard of this before?).

Just for the record: this far-relative of gnocchi is known and just as much admired in the rest of the country, but depending on the region, it goes by the names of ganca, gánica or dödölle.

Finally, cinke is an ideal choice, meeting perfectly my expectations: it calls for creativity, and though undeniably Hungarian, just by changing the commonly used sauces (i.e. sour-cream) and toppings (i.e. sausage), we can please our beloved ones with a modern, delicious Hungarian meal.

I have no idea where this recipe comes from, but from what I could see, this is the generally accepted proportion of potatoes and flour in all sources. The rest is my own invention.

Cinke in butter-sage sauce

Ingredients (for 4 persons):
1 kg potatoes (35 oz)
40 dkg all purpose flour
2 tsp sage (fresh, if possible)
½ - 1 cup melted butter
2 medium to big size onions
Sunflower oil
Sliced almonds

Peel and dice the potatoes and cook them in salted water that almost covers the slices (remember that potato acts like a salt-sponge, so you might need more salt than u’d normally use).

When it is cooked, remove potatoes and mash them to a creamy consistency (as I realized that I still don’t own a masher, I used the blender), then put it back into the cooking water, and while stirring constantly, add flour slowly and gradually. This is a little bit of muscle-work, but it worths all the efforts. When done, put the pot back on the stove, heat it up, than pull aside and let it cool a bit.

While waiting for the potatoes to be cooked, make the sauce: simply melt butter and mix with the sage (I added some salt, too). If u don’t want to use too much butter, you can substitute ½ of the butter with oil. Adding oil also prevents the butter from browning. But u need to realize that this will not make it a lighter meal.

With an oily spoon, form dumplings from the potato mixture, and arrange them one next to the other in an oven proof dish (bottom should be greased with either oil, or butter).

Pour the seasoned butter evenly over the dumplings and optionally, sprinkle with some chili flavored oil.

Bake it in the oven (preheated to 180 Celsius degrees or 355 F) for approximately 45 minutes.

While the dumplings bake in the oven, prepare the garnish. Slice the onions, dip the separated rings in flour, and deepfry them in sunflower oil. Remove from the oil when the rings turn golden brown.

Note: for the last 15 minutes, I switch the oven to upper/lower grill, and put sliced almonds on top of the dumplings. That is just an idea (worked out beautifully), but you can jazz it up any way you want, the only limit is your own imagination.

When oven-time is up, arrange onion rings over dumplings, and serve.

For meat-lovers: if u want a non-vegetarian version, add some diced bacon to the sage/butter sauce, but then I’d recommend being easy on the butter, as the bacon will sweat some juice anyway. Then follow the same instructions.

I had my version with a simple salad on the side, but any soured or pickled vegetables go very well with it.

Personal note: I've sent some to my Dad, and I am sure he would love to have some fried bacon on top, if he could. :) Hope my Mom reads this. :)

2 megjegyzés:

Moha és Sáfrány írta...

hu erre nagyon raizgultam, nem is ertem, hogy eddig miert nem csinaltam meg ilyet, de most, hogy ezt elolvastam, azt hiszem semmi nem allithat meg. koszi! :)

pierrevelours írta...

Nagyon ott van a dolog, egy magyar ételtől meglepő ez a visszafogott, de mégis kerek ízvilág. Bár nem tudom, hogyan néz ki a madár, de alakbeli hasonlóság alapján az én gombócaim inkább floridai nyugdíjasok lettek. Szalonna nálam is kimarad, ennek ellenére még húsimádó édesapámnak is volt pár kedves szava róla.


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