Thursday, 3 September 2020

Lichiu sau Hanklich

"Saxon style bread-base and sweet dairy topping dessert" 



'Lichiu' (pronouned 'licky-oo') or 'Hanklich' in German is a dessert most Romanians from Transylvania will be familiar with. Typically attributed to the cuisine of the Saxons of Transylvania, this dessert or pie is made up of a bread base, something like a thick pizza base in a way, which is then topped with a sweet creamy mixture and baked - ideally in a wood-fired oven. It is mostly something cooked at home, particular at times of the year when there is a surplus of eggs (my countryside neighbours frequently cook it around Easter time), and the recipe varies considerably from household to household.

The picture on the left shows the lichiu made by my neighbours in the countryside, freshly removed from the wood-fired oven, out of the tins, and cooling down ready to be sliced. As you can see, when they make it, they make a lot (it's hard worth firing up the wood oven unless you plan to do a big bake). Alongside this, they also baked bread, cozonac (a kind of traditional cake) and a few other goodies. In the end I think they made 12 tins of lichiu!

I have seen it on rare occasions in restaurants - a pizza place I visited once advertised it on the menu and out of curiosity I ordered it. It was basically a pizza base with the vaguely lichiu-like topping but with plums added. So if you want to try something less commonly known from the Romanian countryside, why not put on your baking hat and try some lichiu

Time: A couple of hours of prep and baking, depending on the oven 
Serving: 8-10 slices 

Ingredients: 

For the base dough:

350g of white flour 
25g cube of fresh yeast (or a teaspoon of dried) 
2 egg yolks (save the whites for the topping) 
Zest of one lemon 
3 tablespoons of sugar 
50ml of oil (vegetable is fine) 
1 teaspoon of salt Warm milk (have about 
250ml to hand, but you'll add it as needed) 

For the topping: 

1 litre of milk 
1 cup of 'gris' (this is semolina flour) 
Sugar to taste 
1/2 a teaspoon of salt 
6 egg whites 
4 egg yolks 
100g of butter 
350g of heavy cream 
2 small packets of vanilla (or equivalent in essence if preferred) 

Method: 

1. First of all, you should prepare the dough. Firstly, prepare a yeast starter by mixing together the yeast, one tablespoon of the sugar, one tablespoon of the flour and about 100ml of the warm milk (make sure it's not too hot or it'll kill the yeast). Mix these together well and leave in a warm place. In about 10-15 minutes, you should see it start to froth and smell 'yeasty', this means it's activated and ready to use. 

2. Once it's ready, put the rest of the flour in a large bowl (or on a surface if so inclined) and make a well in the middle. Into the well add the prepared yeast starter and the two egg yolks and the salt. Start to combined them (eggs, starter, salt) and then add the rest of the warm milk, the rest of the sugar, the zest. Start to draw in the flour and bring it all together to make a dough, adding the oil little by little once a dough it formed. Keep keep kneading the dough until it becomes more 'elastic' and stops sticking to your hands. 

3. When you feel the dough is ready (this is something bread or pasta makers amongst you will 'feel', otherwise, just kneed it until well combined and no longer 'sticky'), rub a little oil on the ball of dough, put it in a large bowl, cover, and leave in a warm place to rise to about double its original size. 

4. Meanwhile, make a thick semolina by boiling the semolina flour in the milk. Add sugar according to taste (I've had lichiu that's very sweet and other times almost savoury, but it is a dessert and I think it tastes better on the sweeter side). Leave the mixture too cool. 

5. Beat the egg whites until they start to make peaks, then fold it in gradually into the semolina, which should be luke warm. 

6. Separately, blend the four egg yolks with the butter, add the vanilla flavouring, and then gradually mix in the heavy cream. 

7. Finally, once the dough has risen, roll it out to about 3-4mm. You can use a shallow baking tray here, or maybe even a pie dish, whatever you have to hand. Traditionally they trays are greased but unlined, but feel free to use baking paper if you prefer. Lay the rolled-out dough in the tray and adjust it to go right to the edges. Pour the semolina mixture onto the dough base, then spread the cream mixture on top of that, making sure to spread it out evenly. 

8. Bake the lichiu for about 40-45 minutes (keep an eye on it) until it is gold brown on top. If using a conventional oven, pre-heat it to about 180 Celsius. 

 Pofta buna and let me know how yours turned out!

Sunday, 10 February 2019

Musaca de Cartofi

"Potato moussaka"

Moussaka is a fairly common dish over the Balkans with many different variations and using a variety of 'on-hand' ingredients. The dish is thought to have originated in the Middle East and spread throughout the region during the period of Ottoman rule. It's name suggests a dish that was continuously 'fed liquid' to keep it moist as it baked, although most common versions are more solid. Many Balkan versions spurn the eggplants so popularised by the well-known Greek version, and quite commonly have a top layer of cream solidified with egg. This version mixes the cream with the middle meat layer but its slow cooking results in a tasty and perhaps lighter-feelings dish with less stodge.

Time: 2 hours
Servings: 4 big slices or maybe 6 smaller ones.
Ingredients:

750g of potatoes, peeled and sliced
500g of minced meat (could be lamb, beef or pork or a mixture)
1 carrot, peeled and grated
2 onions, finely chopped
An egg
1/2 cup of 'smantana de gatit' (unsweetened cooking cream)
1/2 cup of white wine
1 cup of tomato bullion
1 level tablespoon of caster sugar
2 juicy ripe tomatoes
Salt, pepper and thyme
1/2 cup of soup stock (or half a beef stock cube dissolved in 1/2 cup of boiling water)
Oil for frying, butter for greasing dish, and some breadcrumbs or flour for dusting.

Method:

1. Pour a few millimetres of olive oil (traditionally you can use 'untura' (pig lard)) into a frying pan and brown off the potato rounds in batches on each side, removing them to a plate as the turn colour.
2. Gently fry the onion for a few minutes in the remaining oil and, once it has turned translucent and taken on a little colour, add the minced meat and the grated carrot and cook on a low-ish heat until the meat has changed colour.
3. Add the bullion, watered down a little if it seems too thick, and simmer the meat gently for about half an hour, being careful not to let it burn or stick (add a splash of water if and when needed), until a rich meat sauce, not too runny, remains. Allow to cool when done.
4. Meanwhile, grease a tray with butter or lard and sprinkle the sides and bottom with breadcrumbs ('pesmet') or flour.
5. Into the cooled meat sauce, mix in the egg and the cream and add salt, pepper and thyme to taste.
6. Place a layer of the potato slices in the bottom of the tray, then spread the meat sauce of top, followed by another layer of the remaining potato slices on top of the meat.
7. Thinly slice the ripe tomatoes and place them in a layer on top of the potatoes.
8. Pour the wine and stock over the top.
9. Put it in the oven on the relatively low heat and allow to cook for about an hour or until it starts browning off on top and most of the liquid has disappeared.

Saturday, 3 March 2018

Gogosi

"Traditional Romanian doughnuts"

These little puffy balls of delight are a typical home-cooked treat. The kind of thing mothers make to feed the family, and the neighbour's family, and visitors, and anyone who happens to be in the area. While they take some time to make, the are wonderful fresh and warm and can be eaten as they are, or stuffed with jam or chocolate spread.

You sometimes see them in the markets, although they might have different names or shapes, such as their bigger, flatter cousin, the "langosi" (which are often sold with sour cream or even savoury cheese). You sometimes see shops selling them as 'gogosi infuriate', which translates as 'infuriated gogosi', I suppose because they are cooked in boiled oil.

Time:3 hours
Servings: about 60 gogosi

Ingredients:

1kg of plain white flour
1 teaspoon of salt
400ml of milk
1 egg
2 small packets of vanilla-flavoured sugar (8g each)*
1 teaspoon of grated lemon rind
200g sugar
100ml of oil (sunflower) or melted butter
Fresh yeast ('a chuck the size of a large walnut' - probably about 35g)
More oil for deep frying
Icing sugar for dusting

*This is a common ingredient in Romanian shops, but if you can't find it where you are, just add a couple more teaspoons of sugar and perhaps a few drops of vanilla essence.

Method:

1. Prepare the yeast starter by mixing 3 tablespoons of milk, the yeast, a teaspoon of sugar and 2 tablespoons of flour in a bowl (better if the milk isn't too cold) and leaving it in a warm place. You should quickly see a froth forming on the top, which lets you know the yeast is good and activated.
2. In the meantime, gently warm up the rest of the milk, add the rest of the sugar, the teaspoon of salt, the two packets of vanilla-flavoured sugar, the lemon rind, and mix until the sugar has dissolved.
3. Into a large mixing bowl, put the rest of the flour, break an egg into a well in the middle of the flour, add the yeast mixture from step 1 and the milk mixture from step 2 and incorporate the flour into the liquid slowly until a dough starts to form.
4. Knead the resulting dough until it starts to become more consistent in texture and de-sticks more easily from your hands and the bowl.
5. Step by step mix in the oil or butter and knead into the dough mixture. It should be less sticky now and easier to work.
6. Sprinkle a little flour on the dough ball and put, covered, in a warm spot and leave it to prove for a couple of hours, until it has doubled in size.
7. Put about 4cm of cooking oil in a pan and bring to a high temperature.
8. While it heats up, take a handful of the mixture, and on a floured board with a rolling pin (maybe also sprinkled with flour to prevent sticking) roll it out until it's about 3-4mm thick. Take a drinking glass, dip it in flour, and use it to cut out some rounds of the rolled out dough. Collect up the remaining parts, form into a ball, roll out again, and so on until all the dough is used up. The rest of the dough should remain in the bowl, covered, until you have fried the first batch.
9. In batches of two or three (depending on the size of the pan), fry the dough rounds for a couple of minutes, turning once if necessary or making sure the oil covers them well, until they've puffed up and turned golden. Remove them with a slotted spoon, shake off the excess oil, and drop them into large bowl in which you have put the icing sugar and shake them around to coat them well. Remove them and put them on a large serving tray.
10. Repeat step 8 and 9 with the rest of the dough, a handful at a time, leaving the rest covered in the bowl, until you've used up all the dough.
11. Eat and enjoy!