I recently returned from a week’s trekking around the stunningly beautiful and remote Carpathian Mountains in Transylvania with friends and over the course of that time became firstly very fit and secondly very familiar with the local fayre. Walking up and down mountains all day left me with a profound hunger for meaty, fatty and carb rich meals washed down with the very drinkable and cheap local beer. I wasn’t disappointed.
Ciorbă de fasole cu afumătură – smoked pork and beans, was the unanamous favourite and most places we ate in had it down to a fine art……much like the popular breakfast choice of omelettes of 2 possible varieties – cheese or sausage. There were other items on the menu besides the above mentioned, but for our evening meal we mostly stuck with the obligatory meat and beans dish. Another favourite was the meatball soup. A Bavarian restaurant we ate in one night gave us the opportunity to sample a wider range of delicacies, and alongside the very good smoked pork and beans, Alan and Paul had pig brain croquettes and bird liver dishes ( both of which were a bit weird ). The dish I chose, which did get photographed (check out the garnish) was a beef stew with cheesy spatzle; a Bavarian pasta. The stew was okay but I’d wished I’d had the pork and beans, and spent the whole meal indiscreetly eyeing up Andrew’s plate of food. In fact the pork and beans were fairly reliable at most places we ate in and I think at least one person in our group went for the unofficial national dish at every evening meal.
We didn’t spend much time in any large cities (with the exception of Bucharest at the end of the week to recuperate from all the arduous trekking), and by that time I was given the impression that the food in Romania was a bit limited. We didn’t go to any well stocked supermarkets, where I would imagine stock a slightly wider range of ingredients than were available in the smaller towns. i.e. cured meats, deli cheese, bread, and a whole isle of various confectionary items, and we didn’t eat any home cooked meals so I’m not sure I got a true impression. On the face of it, the food in Transylvania seemed very traditional and somewhat bland, and without inadvertently criticising the whole country’s cuisine, I was a bit disappointed with the lack of diversity and seemingly unadventurous desire for anything other than meat stew. Although, as this was exactly what I wanted every night together with some Mamaliga(polenta), I can’t really complain, can I? It was only later on in Bucharest that we were recommended to an Italian restaurant near the hostel, which I’m loathed to say was fantastic, and satisfied my craving for something a bit different. Vegetables!
We ate omelettes every morning at whichever cabana (hostel) we stayed at, with bread and coffee. Lunch each day consisted of whatever we could acquire in local grocers ( see above ) and our evening meal at restaurants or cabanas was a variation on the pork and beans theme. I was amazed how the quality differed amongst the pork and beans meals from very basic and bland to succulent and mouthwateringly tender meat accompanied by very tasty and well balanced beany sauces.
Mamaliga is a type of polenta that is widely eaten in Romania. From what I could tell it tasted pretty similar to a basic Italian wet polenta. I think the Romans must have introduced it long ago.
I really wanted to do a blog about the food I was inspired by in Romania and in particular the smoked pork and beans dish. As I havn’t cooked it yet I can’t. The recipe this time is only indirectly related to anything Romanian as polenta is of course an Italian thing.
For breakfast today I fancied an omelette and had a bizarre idea that it could work well with chunks of polenta and chorizo. I had a pre cooked slab of polenta in the larder – widely available in supermarkets – that is great to slice and griddle or fry, grill or just heat in a pan to reach a porridge consistency. The polenta worked much better than I had imagined and gave the omelette the status of being the complete meal without the need for bread or potatoes. I know this sounds like a bit of a strange combination but please try it. It’s surprisingly lovely.
INGREDIENTS (serves 1)
2 or 3 eggs (beaten in a bowl)
3 slices of pre-cooked polenta (slices around 1/4 inch thick)
4 slices of Chorizo or similar cured meat (cut into smaller chunks)
1 clove of sliced garlic
a couple of fresh rosemary leaves (chopped finely)
some grated cheese – I used a bit of parmesan but some nice cheddar or even a bit of blue cheese like dolcelatte could work.
butter or olive oil for the pan.
salt and pepper
Beat 2 or 3 eggs in a bowl. In a well seasoned or non stick frying pan add the butter or olive oil over a medium heat.
Add the polenta and chorizo for a few minutes to not only heat through but to get some sticky browning going on as well. In the pan, break up the polenta into smaller pieces (thumbnail size). Add garlic and then eggs. Move the pan around to get the egg coating all over the surface of the pan and before the egg dries out too much and is still very slightly runny on the top, add the cheese. The runny egg on the top will cook with the heat of all that’s around it. Season with a little salt and lots of freshly ground pepper. Fold the omelette over or eat as is (Romanian style) Eat immediately.