Roasted Heirloom Tomato Soup, a Salute to Summer

roasted heirloom tomato soup

When I told him I’m writing a post on tomato soup, the Husband pointed out I once said  – in front of an audience to make matters worse – that I quote despise unquote said meal. In so many words, yes. Anything I said about tomato soup, I meant and I stand by.

Mind you, the conversation was about the Hungarian variety and I’m sorry to say this, but it’s really, truly appalling. Sweet (like, really sweet), thickened with plain flour and often further aggravated with overcooked alphabet pasta. A fond school cafeteria memory for some, a dreadful flashback for me. I never made it, and my mother gave up on it long ago as well.

Then I’ve learnt about this rustic, Italian approach and I was immediately smitten. This soup is not in heavy rotation at my house, merely because I’m only willing to make it with in-season, sun-ripened produce, nothing less: heirloom tomatoes, yellow onions and garlic from my parents’ garden. A celebration of the wonderful flavors of summer.

(I understand not everyone’s as lucky as I am to have a personal farmers’ market in the form of a childhood home. Your next best option is buying fresh, locally grown fruits and vegetables directly from the source.)

Roasting makes all the difference in this soup, so do not omit this step! Going the little extra really isn’t any trouble, it’s just time the tomatoes spend on a sheet pan in the oven while you carry on with whatever household chore you’re choosing to entertain yourself with. The added flavor is just incomparable! Close your eyes and imagine your ingredients going soft, caramelized and sweetened naturally with their own juices… that’s right!

After they come out the oven, you’re just minutes away from the best tomato soup of your life. Everything goes into a pot to simmer some more, then in the blender to be pureed to smooth greatness. (It can be blitzed with a stick blender instead, no worries.)

On a sidenote, let me tell you a story about me and blenders: after two broken cheap-ass units (one of which flooded my kitchen with raspberries and plastic shrapnel at stupid o’ clock in the morning while prepping a post-workout smoothie), I finally invested in a high-power one.

Should’ve done it way earlier – my Philips ProBlend 6 is a workhorse. So far it tackled everything I’ve thrown in the durable glass jar: hot, cold, raw, cooked, frozen, fruits, vegetables, even ice. I use it to make smoothies, soups, purees, frozen drinks, even dutch babies. It’s multi-speed function will blend, crush or cut to the consistency you want. It has an easy clean option, and the parts are machine washable too, bless their little souls.

Back to the soup, it’s best served warm, garnished with a few drops of extra virgin olive oil and a splash of cream, scattered with more basil. Some crunchy croutons, or a cheesy-garlicky toast might be in order too.

Go dip in!

Roasted Heirloom Tomato Soup

  • Time: 45 + 15 min
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

A hearty, creamy soup bursting with the best of summer’s flavors. Serves 6.

Ingredients

1 kg (2 lbs) sun-ripened tomatoes

2 medium yellow onions

1 head of garlic

¼ cup olive oil

¼ cup balsamic vinegar

salt, black pepper

handful of fresh basil, chopped

2 bay leaves

1 l (1 quart) chicken or vegetable stock

200 ml (3/4 cup) cooking cream

1 tbsp sugar, if needed

 

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 230°C/450°F
  2. Wash and cut tomatoes in half, peel and quarter onions. Peel most of the paper off the garlic, trim the top off the head to expose tops of cloves.
  3. Spread tomatoes, onions and garlic onto a baking tray in 1 layer, season with salt and pepper, drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
  4. Roast for 30-40 min until caramelized, remove from oven.
  5. Press on the bottom of the garlic cloves to push them out of the paper (careful, hot!). Including the liquid in the tray, transfer vegetables to a pot.
  6. Add stock and bay leaves. Simmer for 15 min or until liquid has reduced by a third, discard bay leaves.
  7. Transfer soup to a blender and puree until smooth. Pour back to pot, add cream and basil, bring to a boil. Taste to adjust flavors (if tomatoes were too acidic, add a tbsp of sugar). Turn heat off.
  8. Serve warm. Enjoy!

Love,

Fruzsi

*Disclaimer: I like and use the products mentioned in posts on My Chest of Wonders, what I write about such items represent my genuine and unbiased opinion. I am not being compensated through sponsorship or gifts, but this post contains an affiliate link: I may get a commission for purchases made through it. Thank you for helping me earn a little something on the side!*

5-min Creamy Feta Dip

creamy feta dip spread

Hors d’oeuvre? Warm, a little to the East. Antipasto? You’re getting there, but further eastwards. Mezze – now there you are!

Mediterranean mezze or meze, typical in the Balkans and the Near East, is a selection of small appetizer dishes just like the more renowned French and Italian varieties. Hot or cold, spicy or savory, served at the beginning of a multi-course meal or a meal in its own right, meze is a social event – you are not expected to finish every dish, but rather share at ease.

The recipe I have for you today is meze at its best: not only it is a total no-brainer to make, but also ready in under 5 and full of flavor. You might even have all the ingredients at home as we speak, and hopefully also the wine to go with it!

Fact: I am a feta addict (but you already know that). And after careful and completely unscientific observation of people, I came to realize it’s not just me. So meet your new way to obsess over feta cheese: a smooth, tangy spread Greeks call Kopanisti.

Base your end-of-summer party formula around this dip and lots of complimentary fresh veggies (think zucchini, carrots, cucumbers, radishes, celery sticks) and freshly toasted baguette or crusty ciabatta. Seriously, eff those carbs! Just slather on.

So, without further ado, here it is. Because you can never have too many easy, cheesy recipes up your sleeve! 🙂

Creamy Feta Dip

  • Time: 5 min
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

The taste of the Mediterranean in a schmear that’s so so easy to make.

Ingredients

500 g feta or similar white cheese

1 cup sour cream

1 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice

freshly ground black pepper to taste

extra virgin olive oil to garnish

optional: lemon zest, red pepper flakes, crushed garlic

Directions

  1. Use a food processor, or mash feta with a fork in a medium bowl.
  2. Season and mix in other ingredients.
  3. Garnish generously with olive oil.
  4. Serve with warm, toasted slices of baguette or ciabatta, or as a dip with raw vegetable chunks.

creamy feta dip spread

creamy feta dip spread

Love,

Fruzsi

Eggs à la Chrissy & a Controversial Question, Answered

Ok so before everyone’s imaginary BFF Chrissy Teigen and her cookbook, let me address a question I am asked frequently, sometimes with thinly veiled hostility by fellow Hungarians – family, friends and strangers alike:

But why do you write in English?

The language of my blog was an intentional decision, reach being quite high on the list obviously. How about this as a demonstrative example: more people follow Chrissy’s Insta (which is required reading BTW!) than there are Hungarians in the whole wide world (duh!)

And then there’s this: I like writing in English (and hereby apologise for any grammar mistakes, typos and idioms used incorrectly). My language choice has had a most heartening effect on me – through food and the personal stories I post along the recipes, I am able to give a glimpse to non-Hungarians into our culture, the way of life here in the heart of Europe.

Now that we’ve cleared that up, moving on to today’s topic.

Chrissy is one of the most relatable celebrities out there. I absolutely adore her for a list of reasons: she’s got tons of personality – a supermodel with a refreshingly frank tone, being freaking hilarious and with an attitude towards food I can so relate to.

Her first cookbook Cravings – Recipes for All the Food You Want to Eat was #1 best pre-seller on Amazon, an instant success. ICYMI, here’s my short review:

Yes, there is no shortage of celebrity cookbooks, so is it worth all the hype seems to be a valid question. Spoiler alert: it absolutely does! Cravings is lively and fun just like her, filled with enthusiasm and happiness.

It’s broken up into sections with witty titles and it’s studded with Aubrie Prick’s really pretty pictures. There are Thai recipes inspired by her mom, there’s a chapter on breakfast and a chapter on carbs and a chapter on toasts as well. No dish is too difficult; her recipes are accessible and un-fussy, in the realm of hearty comfort food.

I wanted to be honest in this book about the kinds of food I love, the kinds of food I crave she claims. Dear Chrissy, my husband says hi and thank you. Also thanks for liking my post on insta. It made my day, I really appreciate it!

1st recipe made from #cravingscookbook and it is soooo #delish 🍳☕️🍽🔝

A post shared by Fruzsina Farkas (@ffruzsina) on

Thumbs up for my brother-in-law as well for squeezing Cravings in the tiny carry-on allowed on board London-Budapest flights and hauling it all the way here as it wasn’t available in Hungary at the time.

I’m not really accustomed to feeding on crumbs from others’ tables, but this brunch recipe is perfect. I can hear you rolling eyes like those are just eggs but believe me when I say this is downright awesome. For me Cheesy Cheeseless Eggs justifies the purchase of the book by itself.

Although it’s supposed to be cheeseless, I still give them a good sprinkling of grated parmesan before serving and I have a strong feeling she wouldn’t find this move in poor taste. 🙂

As for the burst tomatoes, I make them in the oven, not in a skillet. While the temperature is rising to 200°C, I arrange the tomatoes with the stalks on in a baking dish. Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, season with coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, then roast until tomatoes are blistered and a little shriveled.

I always did the bacon as Chrissy does: roasting in the oven too, on a parchment-lined baking sheet. No skillet means no oil splatters and undercooked parts. Seasoned with freshly ground black pepper and crushed garlic, it’s crisp and wonderful in under 15 min.

Make this meal for a lazy weekend breakfast and watch with undisguised satisfaction as your loved ones gulp it down!

Cheesy Cheeseless Scrambled Eggs

  • Time: 5+20 min
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

A breakfast feast from Chrissy Teigen’s Cravings cookbook. Serves 4.

Ingredients

12 eggs

½ cup heavy cream

1 tsp salt

¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper

2 tbsp olive oil

2 tbsp butter

Directions

  1. In a bowl, whisk eggs, cream, salt and pepper until homogeneous.
  2. Heat oil and butter over low heat in a large, heavy bottomed skillet until butter is melted.
  3. Add egg mixture and cook, stirring slowly but constantly until curds form and eggs start to thicken, 10+ min. Remove from heat.

Good news: I hear a highly anticipated Cravings Part 2 is coming!

Love,

Fruzsi

Disclaimer: This post contains an affiliate link; I may get a commission for purchases made through it. Thank you for helping me earn a little something on the side!

Balsamic Reduction Sauce

balsamic reduction sauce

Hmm, balsamic vinegar. Either you absolutely love it or hate it, there’s no other way around the matter. You could probably guess which side I’m on based on the fact this post is bearing the name in the title.

This aged elixir of grapes is known since the Middle Ages. Highly valued by chefs and increasingly popular in everyday cooking, balsamic vinegar is not only the base component of my favorite vinaigrette and marinades, but is great as a glaze, brings the flavors nicely together in soups and sauces, and definitely a partner in crime when braising.

My latest obsession is Crema di Balsamico, a thick, sweet-and-sour syrup over, well, a great many things actually. My go-to used to be Deluxe Crema di Balsamico and Italiamo Crema con Aceto Balsamico di Modena from Lidl. A real treat, I can only recommend both. I’ve always found the price a bit steep for those tiny bottles, but a girl has to splurge occasionally, isn’t that so?

You’ve recognized I used past tense though. The reason being, my current idée fixe just got cheaper. I was reading a recipe the other day which called for reducing a sauce instead of a classic roux, and you know what? Turns out the same thickening method is used to make balsamic sauce.

I had two bottles of the less expensive supermarket own brand Acetino (also IGP – Indicazione Geografica Protetta of Modena) in my pantry, so I’ve decided to give homemade Crema di Balsamico a go. And guess what, it is amazing! That rich, sweet, complex taste… still tangy but not offensively acidic at all.

Even the first batch turned out so good I found myself licking fingers to save every last drop from the pan. Now that I’ve acquired the know-how, I have a long list of dishes both sweet and savory in mind I want to drizzle with my very own balsamic reduction. And since I’m not one to keep knowledge like this to myself, here’s how you can make it too:

Balsamic Reduction Sauce

  • Time: 1 h
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

A sweet glaze with a lovely complex flavor.

Ingredients

500 ml (2 cups) balsamic vinegar

1 tbsp sugar

Directions

  1. In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, bring vinegar and sugar to a boil.
  2. Reduce heat to a gentle simmer, stir occasionally.
  3. When half of the liquid has evaporated (somewhere around 45 min to 1 hour), your sauce is ready.
  4. Let cool to room temperature, transfer to an airtight container. No need to refrigerate.

It should outlive all of us, but only if you forget where you kept it. Otherwise it will be gone very soon.

Love,

Fruzsi

*Disclaimer: I like and use the products mentioned in posts on My Chest of Wonders. What I write about such items represent my genuine and unbiased opinion, I am not being compensated in any way through sponsorship or gifts.*

Image via The Creative Bite

Sour Cherry Slab Pie

sour cherry slab pie

Pie. One of world’s favorite desserts, an affaire de coeur no matter where you live. Yet it only cleared on me know that I’m writing this post, that slab pies are quite under the radar over at your end in America. That needs to change!

When we use the word pite (pron. pee-tech) in Hungary, 9 out of 10 times it comes in rectangular form. Ditch your circular dish for once and try baking pie in a shallow, rimmed baking pan. It feeds more mouths with less mess ’n fuss, and with the bar outfit you get more crust too. Sensible. Yes, that’s the word for slab pies.

Side by side, sweet quark and sour cherry filled slab pies must be the most popular around here; almost every house in our neighborhood has a sour cherry tree in the front yard. My family moved from the capital to the suburbs some 20 years ago so ours is old now, but we still get a steady supply of the tart fruit year in, year out.

And so it pains me to see how my parents are the only ones there taking the time and effort to harvest the crimson-to-near-black delicacy when these are so sought after at the farmers’ market. Fresh sour cherries don’t show up often in stores as their shelf life is quite short: they bruise easily. That said, packages from the frozen goods section of the supermarket is your next best option.

More acidic and having greater nutritional benefits than sweet cherry, the sour type also holds its shape better when baked. And there’s no need to restrict lovely sour cherries to just pie either! Dry, can, freeze, or make jam from a batch to enjoy later in many kinds of sweet and savory dishes.

sour cherry slab pie

In this recipe, a little cinnamon goes a long way, and a woven lattice-top is making the pie visually pleasing. This crust recipe works with any berry or stone fruit that’s in season near you. Serve warm with a dollop of whipped cream or a scoop of vanilla ice cream, or cold after a good sprinkling of powdered sugar.

Yet another reason to love pie!

Sour Cherry Slab Pie

  • Time: 40 + 40 min
  • Difficulty: medium
  • Print

The #1 summer pie in Hungary, coming in a sheet pan.

Ingredients

For the crust:

500 g AP flour

250 g cold butter, cut to cubes

pinch of salt

2 tbsp sugar

½ tsp baking powder

1 medium egg + 1 for eggwash

1-2 tbsp sour cream

For the filling:

1 kg sour cherry, washed and pitted

4 tbsp sugar

1 tsp cinnamon

1 packet vanilla flavor pudding mix (not the instant variety) or 40 g / 2 ½ tbsp cornstarch + 1 tsp vanilla extract

Directions

  1. Mix pitted sour cherries with sugar, set aside.
  2. For the crust, in a medium bowl mix flour with salt, sugar and baking powder.
  3. Working quickly, cut in cold butter until rough crumbles are formed. Do not overwork, clumps should not yet collect.
  4. Add egg, plus 1 to 2 tbsp sour cream and work with your hands until dough comes together. Wrap in cling foil and refrigerate while you make the filling.
  5. For the filling, drain the juice from the previously sugared sour cherries. If it’s less than 300 ml (1 ¼ cup), add water. Mix juice thoroughly with the pudding mix or cornstarch (watch out for lumps).
  6. Heat mixture in a medium pot, stirring continuously, until it starts to thicken. Turn heat off, add sour cherries and cinnamon. Mix well, set aside.
  7. Preheat oven to 180°C / 356°F. Divide chilled dough to 2 equal parts, roll out one half on a lightly floured surface to the size of your pan. Gently lift and fit dough into the pan.
  8. Pour filling over dough (no need to pre-bake), and spread evenly.
  9. Roll out remaining dough, cut strips with a knife or pizza cutter. Weave lattice top, wash with the other egg.
  10. Bake until crust is golden, about 40 min. Enjoy!

[/recipe-dirctions]

Love,

Fruzsi

Baked Ricotta, the Appetizer You’re About to Fall For

baked ricotta

When I told you guys my plans for at-home cheesemaking and the culinary course I’ve attended, I said I’d report the results – if any – of my attempts. Well, I’m here to make good on that promise, and I’m topping it off with a recipe which defines easy entertaining.

So, ricotta. I was surprised to learn that behind the posh Italian name (simply meaning re-cooked by the way), you’ll find the very same dairy product we call orda, urda or vurda in Central-Eastern Europe. It’s a creamy, neutral tasting fresh cheese made from whey, the leftover of cheesemaking.

I don’t exactly know why, but only a few supermarkets carry it around here and it’s quite expensive for what it is. But good news! Ricotta is easy to make at home and a great secondary use for the whey which still has a lot of the goodness of milk in it, and would therefore be a waste to discard of.

For this fresh cheese, all you need to do is heat the whey from 5 litres (about 1.3 gallons) of milk to 85-92°C (right below boiling) and add 5 g (1 tsp) citric acid. Turn the heat off and wait for the proteins to coagulate: after a few minutes you’ll notice tiny “flakes” floating in the greenish-yellowish liquid. Pour through a sieve lined with cheesecloth and wait a few hours for the curds to strain. This amount of whey yields around 1 cup of fresh ricotta.

I like eating it as-is, but you may find this dairy to be a little bland. That means it’s a blank page and you can flavor the sh*t out of it! Wether you make or buy your ricotta, the following cheese number is a hugely versatile dish you can whip up in a blink of an eye even ahead of time, and play around with spices and other additions to suit your fancy.

Rich, creamy and indulgent, baked ricotta will rise nicely in the baking dish. Like a fancy soufflé, just easier – no need to worry about your folding technique. Only a few ingredients, but a gourmet addition to your repertoire.

baked ricotta

baked ricotta

Your baked ricotta will somewhat collapse after taking it out the oven but this is only natural, the steam holding it up evaporates. Serve warm on fresh baguette or as a dip with crackers.

baked ricotta

Here I made it with basil and oregano, but since then a few other variations emerged from my oven: sage and lemon zest, sun-dried tomatoes and garlic, rosemary and thyme… Can’t seem to get tired of this! 🙂

Baked Ricotta

  • Time: 5 + 40 min
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

A versatile, creamy cheese number. Makes 4 ramekins.

Ingredients

500 g (2 cups) fresh ricotta

2 medium eggs

½ cup grated parmesan

pinch of salt and black pepper

any variety of fresh or dried herbs to taste

Directions

  1. Grease a medium baking dish or 4 ramekins with a few drops of olive oil, preheat oven to 190°C / 375°F
  2. In a medium bowl, mix ricotta with eggs, salt, pepper and parmesan until combined with a fork.
  3. Fold in herbs of your choice, fill ramekins 2/3 full.
  4. Bake until “soufflé” has risen and set, top starting to turn golden (about 40 min).

Love,

Fruzsi

St. John’s Magic: Greenwalnut Liqueur

greenwalnut liqueur

Sol (sun) and sistere (to stand still): the two Latin words solstice derives from. Celebrating the summer solstice, or Midsummer, is originally a pagan feast; June 24th was designated later as the holiday of Christian martyr St. John the Baptist.

Some pagan rituals continue to live on in Europe – during the eve preceding St. John’s Nativity bonfires are lit to protect against evil spirits, for witches and demons are said to roam freely during the shortest night of the year. It’s also believed that treasures are waiting for the lucky finder, and I believe green walnuts are among the prizes.

In Roman times walnuts were worshipped as Jupiter’s plant, even the gods dining on them. This time of year they are in their unripe stage, still green and immature, kernels just starting to harden. Perfect for making a traditional aperitif popular throughout the Mediterranean: greenwalnut liqueur.

I’ve first encountered this aromatic drink at the Croatian seaside where it’s called orahovac. It is available commercially, but everyone has a cousin, an uncle or neighbour making it by the gallon, and Dalmatians being hospitable as they are, you simply can’t go home from a holiday without a plastic bottle filled with the murky liquid as farewell gift/souvenir.

Nocino in Italy, nocello when in Spain, liqueur de noix vertes in France are the names to look for. These are basically the same drink, although the spices added vary from region to region, from family to family.

Folklore has it that for the best greenwalnut liqueur, barefoot virgins are to gather an uneven number of dew-laden green walnuts, which should then be left to dry by the bonfires of St. John’s Eve. Riiight… I decided to go with the uneven figure thing from these criteria and hope for the best.

Actually, making rich and intense greenwalnut liqueur is not difficult at all, but does require some patience. When I say some, what I mean is you’re supposed to wait 40 days first, and even after that you shouldn’t drink your elixir before November as it needs to mature.

If you somehow managed to hide it forget about it until late autumn though, besides the spicy and warming taste, perks allegedly also include fending off evil spirits of the night, remedy for eczema and curing sore throat. Different strokes for different folks, right?

If all this magic, tradition and benefits are not reason enough for you to give greenwalnut liqueur a go, fine, but know that the aforementioned evil spirits will hunt you down. Just sayin’. So, let’s roll up our sleeves and set about doing it! Not just figuratively, as the walnuts stain everything they touch. It’s highly recommended to wear rubber gloves and an apron.

Greenwalnut Liqueur

  • Time: looong
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Warm and spicy, ink-black liqueur infused with green walnuts from the Mediterranean.

Ingredients

25 green, soft, unripe walnuts

750 ml vodka (or other 40% alc/vol or 80-proof, neutral tasting alcoholic beverage)

1 ½ cups sugar

optional: cinnamon stick, cloves, allspice, vanilla pod, citrus peel, coffee beans

Directions

  1. Cut walnuts in half or quarters (wear an apron and gloves to avoid stains)
  2. Place sugar, walnuts and spices (if using) in a jar twice the capacity of the volume of the liquid, pour alcohol over ingredients.
  3. Close jar tightly, place on a sunny windowsill for 40 days. Gently shake every now and then to mix. Liquid will eventually turn from transparent to brownish, getting darker and darker over time.
  4. After 40 days, strain liqueur, bottle up and let mature until fall.

Salute! Salut! ¡Salud! Živjeli!

Love,

Fruzsi

Pogácsa, the Savory Hungarian Scone

hungarian pumpkin seed pogacsa

Okay, so we need to talk about the concept of borkorcsolya (pron. boar-core-chow-yaah) first. Author’s note: Like, I’m sorry for frying your brains with illegible Hungarian words from time to time, but it’s kind of necessary when you talk about local stuff. Literally, it means wine-slider or wine-skid which explains it right away, but let’s just call it wine snack.

What is a wine snack? When you’re in Italy, most likely bruscetta. A cheese plate in France, and up North they have their salted herrings. Here in Hungary, we’re not that specific – every food you’d find on a charchuterie plate falls into this category, anything at all you’d enjoy along wine can serve as wine snack, really.

But, there’s always a first among equals: most admired of all the bite-sized amuse-bouches is pogácsa (pron. pou-gah-cha), official BFF of Wine. And beer. It’s the most appreciated snack at every party, ceremony, soiree, backyard barbecue, game night or any such social gathering. Pogácsa FTW!

hungarian pumpkin seed pogacsa with wine

What’s in a name? Linguistic evidence suggests this pastry used to be a type of unleavened flat bread: focus is latin for fire. The Italian flat bread is called focaccia, and the Southern Slavic version of that name was adopted by us. I will still call this scone-like thing a Hungarian specialty, as the recipe evolved and became distinct of this region.

There are two basic types of pogácsa: the fluffier leavened, and the crumblier unleavened. Neither require special skill to make, and both taste awesome – if you use quality ingredients, that is. Butter, or rather lard instead of vegetable shortening, good cheese, creamy quark, organic seeds.

The dough is rolled out, the top is usually cut in a diamond pattern. Pogácsa is then formed using round cookie cutters, the smaller the diameter the better. Egg wash gives the desired color during baking, favorite toppings include grated cheese and various seeds. Needless to say, it’s best eaten warm.

Also, my granny’s is better than yours. 🙂

Today I brought to you the easier unleavened variety, but a leavened, laminated pogácsa will also make its way to the blog soon. This recipe is from the April issue of Magyar Konyha magazine, and it turned out so good I did not alter it in any way.

hungarian pumpkin seed pogacsa

hungarian pumpkin seed pogacsa

Pumpkin seed flour and tangy quark cheese gives this one a nice twist. I used Gouda cheese on top. If you don’t have pumpkin seed flour at home, don’t worry, neither do I! Just pulse pumpkin seeds in the food processor until you reach the desired consistency. I like to keep it a little coarser. Here we go:

Pumpkin Seed Pogácsa

  • Time: 30 min prep + 45 min baking
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

A savory, scone-like Hungarian pastry enriched with pumpkin seeds and tangy quark cheese. Makes cca. 65 4 cm pieces.

Ingredients

250 g AP flour

250 g quark

250 g butter

100 g pumpkin seed flour

2 tsp salt

1 egg + 1 for the eggwash

grated cheese for topping

Directions

  1. Mix all ingredients except one egg and topping cheese until incorporated in a large bowl with your hands.
  2. Wrap dough in cling foil and refrigerate for an hour, or as long as overnight.
  3. Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper, preheat oven to 180°C/350°F.
  4. Roll out dough around 1” thick, cut out rounds.
  5. Place scones on baking sheet, wash with egg, top with grated cheese.
  6. Bake until golden, about 45 min.

Love,

Fruzsi

Elderflower Cordial, the Season’s Must

elderflower

Weather has turned from Red Wine Please to Rosé S’il Vous Plait. In other words – if you happen to be the designated driver – it’s lemonade season! Today I’m here to help you step up your refresher game with elderflower-infused syrup, a drink very popular here in Central Europe.

Fragrant and refreshing, elderflower cordial is great mixed with seltzer water, makes sensational spritzers with white wine, or add a dash to a gin or vodka and tonic to start an early summer party in style. Also available commercially year-round, but I think you need no convincing that home-made is the real deal.

Elder plants are very common, frequenting woodland fringes and hedgerows. They are not really tall enough to count as trees, but rather too big for a shrub as well. Elderflower season runs from late May to early July.

Culinary uses of the flowers and berries are varied and many, from tea to relishes to flavoring in several food products. Note that leaves, twigs, roots and uncooked berries of the elder plant are toxic and should not be consumed!

The flat-topped sprays of white flowers have a distinctly sweet, heady fragrance. The best cordial is made from freshly picked elderflowers; choose the morning hours of a dry day to harvest. Collecting the flowers is a good excuse to get your SO on a walk by the way. 🙂 Oh, and do yourself a favor not to pick from roadsides, you don’t want petrol fumes infusing your drinks.

I’ve read somewhere that half-opened clusters have the most flavor in them. Trim as much stem off as you can, than place carefully in a bag or basket so pollen, the source of flavor will not be lost. Do not wash them back home, try brushing off insects and any other dirt instead before you start.

The rest is easy, cordial is based on simple syrup. All you need besides the pretty blossoms are sugar, water, lemons, citric acid and a little patience. High concentration of sugar and sterilized containers give the cordial decent shelf life.

Elderflower Cordial

  • Time: 30 min + 24 h
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Fragrant and refreshing cordial made from the cream flowers of the elder plant.

Ingredients

30 elderflower clusters

1,5 kg / 3.3 lbs sugar

1,5 l / 6 cups water

2-3 lemons

50 g / 3 ½ tbsp citric acid

Directions

  1. Make simple syrup: pour water and sugar in a large pot, heat until sugar is dissolved, stirring occasionally. Bring to a simmer, turn off heat.
  2. Wash and slice lemons, put slices in the syrup.
  3. Place elderflowers in the syrup, stems up. Cover pot with lid.
  4. Let infuse for 24 hours.
  5. Drain liquid through a fine sieve or a piece of muslin fabric.
  6. Add citric acid and bring to a boil. Simmer for a few minutes, than fill into sterilized bottles with the help of a funnel.
  7. Store refrigerated after opening.

How easy is that? Bring a bottle of cordial to the next garden party you’re attending! The 0,5 l (17 oz) reusable Ikea KORKEN bottle makes a perfect vessel for just $1.99, or you could finally put those beer bottles with stoppers you kept to good use. (Why did I use second person when those were my beer bottles?)

If, for some incomprehensible reason you’re not into the aroma of elderflower, you can always refer to my post on lavender syrup to give your rose spritzers or plain old lemonade a twist. Mint syrup, an essential to every well-represented home bar is also made similarly.

Love,

Fruzsi

*Disclaimer: I like and use products mentioned in posts on My Chest of Wonders. What I write about such items represent my genuine and unbiased opinion, I am not being compensated in any way through sponsorship or gifts.*

Healthy (Kinda) Fig Shortbread Bars

Healthier Shortbread Fig Jam Crumble Bars

You know the ‘How to have a bikini body’ meme right? I’m positive we shouldn’t stress so much about our appearances (at least lot less than the media would suggest anyway), but I also don’t want to be a hypocrite.

I do watch what I eat and work out regularly, not so much as to fit any mould but to respect my body by treating it right. At the same time I also allow myself the occasional indulgence which I think is necessary for balance in life, and those treats are the things I like to post about.

Today’s recipe is an in-between in a sense that it’s most definitely a dessert, but it’s way less bad for you and that beach bod of yours than the average sweet. That’s what I call a win-win! Read on for my healthier take on classic jam shortbread bars.

Shortbread is one part white sugar, two parts butter and three parts flour. Here I have:

  • substituted 2/3 of the flour with oats, nuts and protein powder
  • swapped the butter for margarine and used just 40% of the initial amount
  • used brown sugar instead of white and reduced it with more than 50%
  • the jam was a naturally sweet, no-sugar-added fig spread

And believe it or not after all this messing around, it turned out amazing! Let’s see why altering the original recipe is good for you:

White flour is heavily processed, the most nutritional aspects of the grain like fiber, vitamins and minerals are stripped away. The downsides to it are an overall lack of nutrients, highly refined carbs and also the gluten if you have sensitivities.

Oats on the other hand are among the most nutrient-dense foods you can eat. They are packed with important vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, and are high in fiber and protein compared to other grains. Nearly all of the carbs in oats come from complex starches, which you digest slowly. Also, they are naturally gluten-free.

Nuts were walnuts in my case, but the recipe would work with almonds, pecans, hazelnuts or pistachios as well, so knock yourself out! They are nutritional powerhouses: complete packages of protein, heart-healthy fats, fiber, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals.

I’ve been drinking protein shakes post-workout and just lately started replacing some of the flour with protein powder in baked goods. My favorite whey protein is gluten, lactose and also sugar-free, plus the vanilla flavor complements my sweets well. Work with 1:3 conversion, that is 1/3 cup of protein powder for every 1 cup of flour.

Figs are a great source of fibre and they are full of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants as well. They contain prebiotics, which help support the good bacteria in your gut. Moreover, their potassium content helps regulate the amount of sugar which is absorbed into your body. The natural sugar content of figs also allows you to cut down on the amount of processed sugar used in recipes.

On to the old debate: butter or margarine, as fats and calories in them are about the same. The cold hard truth is, the healthiest option would be to skip both. The problem with butter lies in saturated fat and cholesterol, while the main concern with margarine is trans fats, the result of hydrogenation. Experts suggest consuming monounsaturated fats whenever possible (olive oil uncooked or vegetable oil for cooking). When baking, use a hard stick of trans-fat-free margarine in place of butter but whichever you select, limit your overall consumption.

What I also love about this healthier take is the texture; how crunchy it is thanks to the oats and nuts. Frankly, there’s still sugar and a fair amount of fat in these bars too, but they are incomparable to simple shortbread squares in nutritional value when being every bit as delicious as the guilty cousin.

But you know what? It’s perfectly fine to go a little harder on the dreaded sugar-butter-flour triumviri ocassionally. Just remember: portion size is key!

Shortbread Fig Jam Bars

  • Time: 15 + 50 min
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Healthier, crunchy-crumbly squares filled with a yummy fig spread.

Ingredients

1 cup rolled oats, fine

½ cup walnuts

1 cup AP flour

½ cup vanilla protein powder

1/3 cup brown sugar

170 g (12 tbsp) margarine, cut to cubes

¼ tsp salt

1 tbsp baking powder

1 ½ cup diabetic fig preserves

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 175°C (350°F), line a 22 by 22 cm (9×9”) baking dish with aluminium foil, covering the sides as well.
  2. In a food processor, pulse nuts until chopped but not too fine.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer equipped with the paddle attachment, mix oats, nuts, flour, protein powder, sugar, salt and baking powder for a few seconds.
  4. Add margarine cubes one by one and mix until a coarse crumb is formed and margarine is evenly distributed.
  5. With the back of a spoon, push 2/3 of the crumb mixture in bottom of tray. Bake until golden, about 20 min.
  6. Remove from the oven, spread preserves evenly on crust. Crumble remaining streusel on top.
  7. Transfer back to oven and bake until topping is golden, about 30 min.
  8. Remove from oven, let cool before slicing. Enjoy!

Healthier Shortbread Fig Jam Crumble Bars

Healthier Shortbread Fig Jam Crumble Bars

Healthier Shortbread Fig Jam Crumble Bars

Love,

Fruzsi

*Disclaimer: I like and use the products mentioned in posts on My Chest of Wonders. What I write about such items represent my genuine and unbiased opinion, I am not being compensated in any way through sponsorship, commissions or gifts.*