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The Cross and the Cleaver: Food Travels

I am assuming most of us have had Chinese food, or Italian, or Mexican, or Sushi, or Greek, or Ukrainian perogies or cabbage rolls, or Polish this, or German that … the list can go on and on. Some of those dishes might have been original and unique, and some… not so much. The point is that food allows us to travel without going far. It also allows us to experience other cultures at the level that we can all connect with … food.

In the past I invited you to connect with sensation of the food that Jesus would have eaten. The smell, the texture and the taste allow us to connect with peoples and places that might otherwise be foreign to us. One of those very first tastes of the “other” was when my father cooked a dish, he tasted in Great Britain in the mid 1970s. He brought it home along with Matchbox© and Majorette© model cars and mandarins with green leaves still attached – something I have never seen before. The dish was a simple beef tenderloin slices, pan-fried with onion and red wine. I still remember that the juices, mopped up with baguette, were to die for.

But I digress. In the spirit of the “food travel” I would like to take you to the shores of Lake Balaton, or the slopes of Western Carpathia. I would like to take you to… Hungary. At either location, imagine a sunset, cool breeze, amazing view, and glow of coals upon which a pot hang. The pot (pictured) is called “bogrács”… as is the dish we are going to make.

Bearing in mind that a Google search can yield numerous recipes, I am sharing with you that which takes me if not to Hungary, than certainly home, because that is what my mother used to cook. If you do not have a pot to hang over fire, a good Dutch oven on the stovetop will do just fine.

Bring it up to medium heat, add some oil and then:
One large onion sliced medium thick. Sauté 2-3 minutes.
Add a tsp. of Hungarian paprika (sweet or hot – depending on your taste).
1.5lb stewing beef cut into cubes. Sauté 2-3 minutes
Several minced garlic cloves
1 pepper cut into bite-size pieces
A mid-size can of crushed tomatoes.
Stir and sauté 2-3 minutes.
Splash of chicken stock, stir, cover, sauté until meat feel soft.
2 lb potatoes cut into cubes similar in size to beef.
Top up with chicken broth and simmer for 15 min.
1 cup of pasta (shells, large macaroni, larger fusilli – similar size to the beef).
Top up with chicken broth and simmer for 10 minutes.
Stir and simmer altogether for another 10-15 minutes.

Serve with a glass of dry red wine (Egri Bikavér if you can find it) and a wholesome, rustic bread to mop up the juices.

Well, say the above is too much work. Then how about a simple dish called “Lecsó”?

Once you heat up your Dutch oven, and drizzle it with oil, all you need is:
One large (1lb) onion cut into strips. Sauté until translucent.
Add a tsp. of ground paprika (sweet or hot – depending on your taste)
2-3 garlic cloves
Generous tbsp of tomato paste.
Stir and sauté 2-3 minutes.
1.5 lb of whatever peppers are on sale, cut into strips. Stir and sauté 2-3 minutes.
Mid size can of crushed tomatoes. Stir and sauté for about 5 minutes or until everything is heated through.

Serve with grilled smokies-style sausages or pan-fried pork chops, and a cold glass of Pilsener style beer. Either dish can be seasoned with one of paprikas from the tube or shaker. You can find them in several European stores in Saskatoon.

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