Tag Archives: food

Another year in paradise!

2011 was a fantastic year for us, it seemed to pass by in the blink of an eye and it is hard to believe that we have been in our rural paradise for over 3 1/2 years!

January


Rainbow in the back garden

January is the month when Winter really hits home for us we have generally spent 3 months relaxing and we are chomping at the bit to get stuck in out on the land. However as is normal, January 2011 was a cold and frozen month with the exception of a couple of days when I managed to take a picture of the complete rainbow above, we had no idea at the time but we had a fair whack of winter left ahead of us! However life was good, we still had a fair amount of food that we had grown in 2010 left in storage (despite the poor harvest due to terrible weather) and we had plenty of planning to dig through for the coming year ahead, I cracked upon the idea of selling some of my photographs through Stock agencies and we also made contact with a couple of clients that wanted some other freelance work doing which helped keep us from twiddling our thumbs!

February


Snowdrops

Usually by February signs of Spring are starting to show and the first of those are the snowdrops that we have in front of our window, the first of which in 2011 started to poke through the snow back at the end of January. But that snow never seemed to disappear and whilst this winter was not as cold as some we had experienced over here it still dropped to -20°C on several occasions, the length of Winter was a bit of a shock to us, we had almost 5 months with daytime temperatures below freezing point. Ordinarily we would be out planting our first crops in our poly-tunnel by the middle of February, this year we had to wait another 3 or 4 weeks which certainly affected some of our crops.

March


Cherry Blossom

Finally by the middle of March things had started to improve and it was almost like someone had flicked a switch and it went from mid winter to mid spring in a single week, our fruit trees in the garden changed from a collection of twigs to being full of blossom, it is a glorious time of year and the noise of humming wasps and bees after the pollen is nothing short of remarkable. March also marks the passing of another birthday for me which in it’s turn means that it is time to break out the rotovator and clean up the lawn mower and really roll up our sleeves and return to the world of work, Mother Nature has become a tough old Mistress to us and we have to work really hard from March right through till October to reap the rewards over winter. This march was no different to the others we have spent here so far, we go from slouching around doing nothing to back breaking manual labour day in and day out and there is no time to ramp up, everything all needs to get done and get done right away so that you are not working all hours in the day in the baking heat of summer!

April


St Georges Day in Rural Hungary

By the time we had got through to April we had planted out in all of the plots that we could, 2010 was a very wet year by Hungarian standards and the long and frozen winter had not really helped us out any so the bottom part of our land was still very much water logged. We still were, as you may very well expect, very busy indeed but there is a single day in April that we always set aside, the village we live in is home to some 400 folk and it’s name literally translates as New Saint George and it would be simply rude of two English folk not to attend a St Georges Day Celebration! Now I’m not really much of a patriot and I can think of just about as many reasons to be ashamed to be British as I can to be proud to be British but we ambled along to this little “festival” a few years ago when it was first held and it was tremendous so we make a point to make the “long” walk down to the “heart” of the village every year. It is an odd old experience, folk dancing in traditional dress, good hearty gulyas, mind numbingly dull tombolas, odd comical soliloquies that we do not understand but they seem to go down well with the locals… The list could go on, but it is just one of those days where you amble around scratching your head not quite sure what is happening other than a really great time!

May


Fresh Strawberry

May is the time when things got exciting in 2011, just 3 months before our plot was a barren waste land into which you sunk 15cm in your wellies, by May we were watering every single day and we were drowning under fruit and vegetables. The strawberry season may only be 10 weeks long but we harvested some 70kg of them in 2011, some went to make a cheeky strawberry wine alongside the more traditional jams and syrups, we even have some frozen up as they make a superb winter crumble with a little balsamic vinegar (sounds odd but it tastes amazing and is a fantastic treat in the depths of winter). It is difficult to know which way to turn at this time of year you can almost do two harvests per day on Strawberries and Peas and you have to be careful not to neglect the Elderflowers as having no Elderflower Champagne on a summers afternoon would be terrible… Cherries, don’t forget the cherries they are also in need of harvesting. Did I mention May was a busy old month 😀

June


Baby Chick

As the temperature rises then the work rate drops and by June this year we had a nice little schedule worked out, we were up early watering the land and getting work done and pretty much chilling in the afternoon preparing tomatoes for soups, pasatta or ketchup or some other type of vegetable that had ripened. June 2011 though was really rather special, we may have pretty much taken our shell of a house and built it into our house, taught ourselves to grow and rear our own food, brew our own alcohol and largely be able to communicate with the locals, in an albeit cack handed manner… But nothing compared to the pride we felt when our egg laying device (chickens) started sitting, we were interupting the poor old bird everyday checking on the eggs but when we went in and found our first chick words cannot describe how giddy we were with excitement. Those that have met me would attest to the fact that I am not the “giddy” kind and as for being “giddy” at the site of something sweet and cutsey they would almost certainly scoff! I have only one thing to say to that scoffing and that is guilty, you should have seen me when the chicken hatched a duck egg 😀

July


Raspberries

July 2011 saw our worst weather of this summer, although it was nothing compared to the dramatic storms of 2010, but it did coincide with a visit from a couple of friends from the UK who we hadn’t seen since we left the UK. Their journey was quite the eventful one, they had planned to come over on a motor bike but the plan was scuppered in France when the sump of the Goldwing was torn by an entrance to a car park at their first overnight stop, so their journey, after some fraught re-jigging continued in a Peugeot Bippo. It may very well have been fortunate in the end as their two week road trip around Europe saw them traveling through some pretty serious rainstorms that did not really stop for us until they had landed safely back in the UK after a pit stop at a wedding in Italy. For us it was a frantic 2 weeks work to get ahead before they arrived and a frantic 2 weeks work after their short stop to get back on top but it was fantastic to catch up with great friends although we really should learn to advise against ordering both a starter and a main course in a rural Hungarian restaurant!

August


Harvest Time

By the time we got to the middle of August we had already harvested in excess of 500kg of fruit and vegetables and the harvest was getting pretty intense, everywhere we looked something needed collecting and either preserving, cooking, drying or setting aside in a cool dark place. 2011 was sure to become the first year where we would be able to grow and harvest all the fruit and vegetables that we could eat and have plenty left aside to try and hand off to our unfortunate friends and neighbours. Our female duck was also firing out an egg a day so I spent several afternoons on pasta duty and when temperatures are in the upper 30’s it aint fun, it also lead me to the conclusion that I am never going to challenge an old Italian woman to an arm wrestle, boy does it take some work to make pasta properly!

September


Wine Grape Harvest Time

The temperatures began to cool a little by September this year, still above 30°C but only just and we just about managed to harvest our grapes and get them crushed before Julies Mum arrived for her second visit of the year, we did the same thing as we tend to do when we are expecting guests… Work all hours to try and get as far ahead as possible before they arrive and then do the same after they have gone so we can actually relax and chill out and enjoy ourselves. Since we got rid of our car in December 2010 we have been on public transport and I am impressed, we live in the middle of nowhere but we can do all we want to do by using our local buses and trains. We met Julies Mum in Budapest and spent the night in the City and I used it as an opportunity to head out at stupid o’clock in the morning to take some stock photographs before heading back home and relaxing for a week enjoying the local Thermal Spa’s and towns.

October


Debrecen Nagytemplom

And relax, unusually we got to October this year and we had all but finished, the plots were harvested and tilled and set away for 2012, in 2010 we were still working hard on the land right through until the middle of November. It would seem that we had largely cracked this whole “grow yer own” malarky, admittedly that “Harsh Mistress”, Mother Nature had been very kind to us this year but other than our pepper crop we got it nailed… Not bad for a couple that used to drive computers for a living and in the space of just 3 growing seasons too, the interweb is a wonderful place. It was great to spend the late Hungarian “Summer” relaxing and getting out and about to places like Debrecen with friends (above) which is something we only usually do in early spring or winter as time in summer is too precious!

November


Infinity Bridge Stockton on Tees (UK)

If you have been following my blog you know that November 2011 saw me taking my first trip back to the UK in over 3 1/2 years, my Mum had an accident so I went to visit. She seems to be getting a little better know although still has on wrist in plaster and looks to be staying that way till well into the New Year, whilst it was great to catch up with friends and family the journey was horrendous with delays to pretty much every form of transport I took after hitting the Big City! It did not really come as a surprise but the trip was somewhat overwhelming and other than catching up with people was not particularly enjoyable and more than anything else I missed my wife like crazy, who would have guessed that 6 days could feel like an eternity.

December


Christmas Chestnuts

That pretty much brings us right up to December and Christmas, a time where we lock the doors and hide and spend time doing even less than we usually do in winter, most of which you can catch up with in my recent blogs. Christmas itself though was a little odd, we were only chatting to a friend in Budapest a couple of weeks ago about how we never get ill, well didn’t you just know that was going to come back and bite me on the backside! I had been feeling a little groggy, just a little cold, but I could not sleep on Christmas Eve (not due to excitement) and when it got to Christmas Day I was in a proper state although it amused Julie that I had lost my voice, in fact I think it was her favourite present 😉

Looking back 2011 was a fabulous year for pretty much everything and hope that you all have a 2012 as enjoyable as my 2011 was and I am looking forward to whatever 2012 has to offer!

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Expat Food


Curry Time

One of the undeniable truths of being an expat is that there are just some foods that you yearn after and I am no different, I would not necessarily describe myself as a “foodie” but I love to eat and I love to cook and as we grow some of the most fantastic produce it has ever been my pleasure to consume it is only natural that I eulogise it here.

Traditional Hungarian food is wonderful, it is rich and hearty fare that serves as fantastic fuel for a day working the land, but there are flavours from your upbringing that you dearly yearn for and there are but two options; “Red Cross” parcels from family and freinds or you step up to the plate and recreate those flavours and textures from back home! We really do prefer the latter, it may sound odd to the folk reading this that have never visited the UK but Indian food is incredibly popular back home, they are flavours that are part of food memories going back as far as I can remember and I have spent many a day working on getting the flavours I recognise into my attempts.


Sausages

We do not stop at a good old “Ruby Murry” though, I was bought up in a family of butchers and the good old fashioned British “Banger” or Sausage is something that life would be much poorer without. The Hungarian sausage is a very varied beast, from the Hurka to the Kolbasz they are all very tasty but still not what you would choose to have on a sandwich when you have a hangover, although they do make a great “toad in the hole”. Naturally there is only one thing to do, roll up your sleeves and get stuck in, the picture above is my effort at the Great British “Banger” and they are superb, the quality of Pork that we buy over here is quite simply spectacular and you can buy natural sausage skins in any village shop. Fortunately I had a great teacher in the shape of my Uncle George to show me how to link sausages when he paid us a visit and I may very well be biased but these are the best sausages I have ever eaten 😀


Hand Raised Pork Pie

My latest creation from “Blighty” is the traditional hand raised English Pork Pie (above), how difficult could it be right, the perenial picnic favourite of Britain? You would be surprised, I made a large one a while back for my wifes Birthday as it is one of her favourites and it takes a couple of days to get it right, at least a day making the stock for the jelly, then the preparation of the 3 cuts of pork, belly, shoulder and some nicely smoked bacon and finally the hot crust pastry (I hate making pastry) combining lard with butter, boiling water and flour.


Hand Raised Pork Pie

I used a recipe from the River Cottage Meat book by Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall which is an absolute must have for devout carnivors, at almost 550 pages long and not filled with pointless pictures it contains fantastic recipes and great background information! I changed up the recipe a little so that I could hand raise two individual 1lb (450g) pies but essentially the recipe is as follows:

Pastry

  • 450 grams plain flour
  • 150 grams melted lard (blood temp)
  • 125ml boiling water
  • 75 grams Butter
  • 1 Teaspoon salt

Filling

  • 600 grams pork shoulder (5mm cube)
  • 150 grams fatty pork belly (chopped as fine as possible)
  • 150 grams smokey bacon (chopped as fine as possible)
  • Seasoning… salt, pepper, sage, bay leaf, cayenne pepper

Jelly
Many people do not like the Jelly in a pork pie and find the concept of a meat jelly odd, but it is nothing more than a very good meat stock, we never throw any bones away from our roasted meats and save them in the freezer for making stock. All good stock really should end up being a jelly when it is cold and only turns to liquid when it is heated a little so for me it it is not all that strange.

Cooking
Bring all the elements together, egg wash the pies then cook them in an oven at about 200°c for about an hour then let cool a little, you need to heat the stock so it is pourable and then feed it into the cavity of the pie through the hole you create in the top to allow the steam to escape it is full.


Hand Raised Pork Pie

All you have to do then is try and wait until it is cooled properly and you have a Melton Mowbray style, or Magyar Mowbray Hand Raised Pork Pie, time consuming but another triumph for the expats not able to get food from home in their corner of Hungary and we will be consuming with our Anglo Magyar/Indian pickled Cucumber and Damson Chutney which wipes the floor with anything Branston produce. Unfortunately a lack of patience to tuck in meant that the pie was not perfect, my laboured stock did not have chance to set but there is another one in the fridge that hoefully will be good, still tastes great though!

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Happy New Year!


Carrot Harvest!

It may seem very premature to be wishing folk a Happy New year but since we moved to Hungary and started living the good life the arbitrary celebration of the passing of a date in a calendar seems increasingly out of place! December 31st or January 1st for that matter represents just another day in the middle of winter, we have not been sitting around since August Bank Holiday awaiting our next statutory break from work, we have had our feet up for a couple of months and our plans for next year already pretty firm. We celebrate our own little New Year when the final crops are collected, we have planted up our Garlic for next year and the land is prepared for a new season, for us the passing of time has defniately become cyclical as opposed to linear. It is a truely magical way of life, not without its own challenges and frustrations but being a slave to mother nature is infinately more rewarding than being a slave to statutory holidays, overtime, an office desk and mobile phone!


Home grown produce!

Mother nature has been exceedingly kind to us this year and we experienced far fewer difficulties than we did the previous year when we lost most of our tomato and potato crops to blight. This year we managed to harvest in excess of 500kg of vegetables including some 200kg of tomatoes and 150kg of potatoes, now many would say what on earth do you do with 200kg of tomatoes? We on the other hand are keeping our fingers crossed that it is enough, it takes 4kg just to make 1.5litres of tomato ketchup which is an essential part of the morning egg buttie ritual not to mention a key ingredient in sweet and sour sauce! Freezer space is now at a premium and we are stuffed with frozen strawberries for a taste of summer in the depths of winter, lord knows how many litres of tomato pasatta and enough curry sauce to provide us with plenty of take away curries (well as close as we can get anyway) throughout the long cold months. The year has not been without disappointments, after a storming year in 2010 for all things capsicum this year has been terrible, none of the seeds in the polytunnel really took and by the time they did the growing season was over and our sweetcorn developed an ugly and ultimately fatal fungal disease, but other than that we will be eating from our own produce well into next years growing season.


A glass of wine anyone!

It’s not just the vegetables that did well this year, our fruit harvest was also a bit of a stunner, we did not really take full advantage of our plums and cherries but the 70kg of Strawberries really went down a treat. Now with all this fruit we could easily consume our “five a day” but where would the fun be in that? We do regular exercise, get lots of fresh air and eat exceptionally well so, there can be no harm in producing the odd bit of plonk to cross over to the naughty side 😉 So we may have produced a little more than the odd drop but the Elderflower Champagne back in spring went down a storm and I am currently enjoying the happy accident that is Strawberry Champagne whilst Julie is supping some homebrew Scrumpy. Still to savour we have Cherry wine which will be good to go around Christmas which was fantastic a coulple of years ago and just to be a little traditionalist we also have a “few” litres of Red Grape Wine which should be drinkable around next March.

As the rest of the world eagerly awaits an appropriate time to celebrate new year I will raise a glass of strawberry champagne and wish you all a Happy New Year and I will get on with working out our next rotation of crops… Best get a move on though, I have only 4 months to get it finished 😉

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