Aunt Katy’s Hungarian Yeast Cake

Photo: Alex Gall.

Shabbat in Israel has unspoken rituals. People eat lunch at around noon, and then rest until 4 p.m. No one calls or rings door bells during those four hours. After the siesta, social life begins again with cake and coffee. The streets fill with people on the way to their friends’ homes for an afternoon visit. Most hosts eschew the convenience of cake mixes or store-bought cakes. They take pride in their family recipes and the pastries they bake themselves. One of my most memorable coffee klatsch experiences was with my Aunt Katy. She baked her family’s Hungarian yeast cake, filled with walnuts from the tree in her garden. [Read more…]

Ode to Arthur

Arthur Koestler.

By Marie Miguel

There are certainly more than enough horrific tales of how the persecuted lived under fascism in the middle of the 20th century, and indeed dozens of books with “Koestler” on their covers.

“Scum of the Earth” is a unique kind of autobiographical adventure, a guide to suffering atrocious treatment with as much good humor as possible. The book also describes  how a totalitarian regime can subvert the morals of both states and individuals.

For someone who wasn’t actually a criminal, Arthur Koestler certainly saw the inside of a large number of cells. Reprising this aspect of his personal history is possibly the best way to explain what the reader can expect from “Scum of the Earth.”

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Winter Goulash

As colder days arrive, many of us develop a craving for hot, hearty soups. Goulash, the Hungarian national dish, is exactly what one needs to warm up from head to toe.

T250px-Gulyas080his soup originated in the ninth century, among the cattle herdsmen of Hungary. As they drove herds of cattle from Hungary to the markets of Vienna and Venice, they prepared this spicy meal on the way.

As the cowboys guided the cattle toward the meat markets, some cows were slaughtered en route for the men’s own consumption. The meat was flavored with Hungary’s signature spice: paprika.

Paprika is made of air-dried chili pepper. It was initially brought to Europe from the Americas by Spanish and Portuguese explorers, who called it pimenton. The Spanish were the first to smoke it in the 16th century, bringing out an intense earthy flavor

Paprika spread from the Iberian Peninsula to Africa and Asia. The Ottomans, who controlled the Balkans, introduced paprika to Central Europe. Paprika derives its name from the Croatian word papar, “pepper.” Although it is considered a Hungarian spice, paprika was not widely used in Hungary until the late 19th century.

To cook goulash, the meat was browned in a cauldron with onions, salt, and smoked paprika. Water, garlic, caraway seeds, parsley roots, carrots, sweet peppers, tomatoes, celery, and potatoes were then added. White wine or vinegar was poured into the soup just before serving. Sometimes, a dough of egg and flour was mixed. Small pieces of dough were pinched and added to the soup to make tiny egg noodles. [Read more…]