Thursday, 22 March 2012

Boti (galuste cu branza de vaca)

"Cow’s cheese dumplings"

These boti (/botz/) are from Ardeal, particularly the mountainous Apuseni region. I guess they are something like a Romanian scotch egg, but without the meat, and with cheese instead, and without the egg being whole inside, and with some cornmeal (the stuff used to make polenta/mamaliga) added to it, and not fried. So actually not at all like a scotch egg despite a passing resemblance from the outside. If you can’t find cornmeal (malai in Romanian, but for sure you’ll find it if you’re reading this in Romania) you can substitute finely ground bread crumbs. It can be eaten as a snack or as a starter, and I like to serve it with some finely sliced mild red onion and a simple dip made of chopped skinless tomatoes (out of the tin is fine) combined with some paprika, salt, and pepper. They’d also go well with some smantana (sour cream) or mayonnaise or any other sauce or dip really. A little crispy bacon would be a welcome garnish too.

Time: 30-40 minutes
Servings: 15 balls (enough for 4-5 starters)

500g of fresh cow’s cheese
2-3 eggs (depending on size)
1 cup of cornmeal (malai)
Oil of some kind (pork dripping is traditional, but it works with butter or even olive oil too)
Paprika (optional)
Red onion and parsley to garnish (optional)

1. Put a large pan full of salted water on the stove and bring to the boil
2. Melt a tablespoon of oil/dripping in a wide saucepan and when it is warm, pour in the cup of cornmeal. You want to cook it on low-medium until the cornmeal has taken on a brownish tone (about 5 minutes or more). At this point you can add a pinch or two of salt and some paprika if you wish.
3. Meanwhile, beat the eggs in a bowl.
4. Empty the fresh cow’s cheese into another bowl and mash it up with a fork.
5. Start adding the beaten eggs to the cheese and combine until it makes a reasonably thick dough. Don’t add all the egg at once because you don’t want the dough too runny or you won’t be able to form balls.
6. Add half of the browned cornmeal and a teaspoon of salt to the cheese/egg mixture and mix in. Now you should be approaching a stiff batter, almost a dough. It should be able to retain its shape. If it is too stiff, add a little more egg. If you’ve over-egged it and it’s too runny, stiffen it up with a tablespoon or two of flour. It’s hard to get it just right as it depends on the size of the eggs and the moisture of the cheese, so it’ll almost certainly need a little adjusting.
7. When the water comes to the boil, start forming the dough into balls. Take a golf ball-sized piece of the dough and roll it between your palms and drop it into the boiling water. Repeat until you have enough balls in the water. Don’t over-crowd it: remember, the balls will swell as they cook. Do it in two batches if needs be (and unless you’re using a monster of a stock pot, needs will be!)
8. Boil the balls for about 10-12 minutes until they are floating and swollen and have hardened up a little. When they are done, remove them with a slotted spoon and let steam for a minute in a dish.
9. Finally, roll the balls in the remaining browned cornmeal and arrange on plates to serve.

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