Potatoes and trauma
Trauma and nostalgia are linked in the taste buds of our grandmothers. My grandmother loved potatoes. But not quite like any other person I have known. She loved cooking them, serving them, eating them, she loved talking about them. As a child, my grandmother lived alongside war, coups and regimes. During times of hardship for people in Bulgaria, often potatoes were the only thing to eat. I always felt that due to the shortage of food, her memories were focused almost entirely on food.
Talking about food is an effective way of developing relationships ‘woman-to-woman’, and of establishing shared perceptions and experiences. Trauma and nostalgia are linked in the taste buds of our grandmothers. “Traumatic” past can move between generations, aka "intergenerational trauma". Potatoes have become carriers of that trauma. They have to be handled delicately, with respect and care in order to satisfy my grandmother's expectations. They had to be peeled paper thin, so as to waste as little of the edible material as possible. If the potatoes had to be cut, it was crucial to cut them into stripes in such a way that each one turns out to be odd shaped and has a minimum of four corners, in order to reduce chances of sticking.
The following recipe is not a potato puree, it is not mashed potatoes, it is mashed potatoes expanded with eggs, cheese and citrus fruits. It is a celebration of eating every damn cubic millimeter of that potato. It is the taste of the trauma and nostalgia of post conflict societies, in the taste buds of our grandmothers.
Potato spread aka Бърканина (Barkanina) recipe:
Boil the potatoes. Here you face two choices, to peel and cut into big chunks and boil, or wash and boil the whole, uncut potatoes with the skin. Then cool and peel them. In the episode we pre-peeled and cut them in order to boil faster. Originally my grandmother boiled them whole with the skin.
After the potatoes have been boiled, they have to be smashed. In the original recipe, my grandma used a hand-cranked meat grinder to smash the potatoes and grind the onion . That machine was an absolutely universal tool, she used it for this recipe, to make tomato juice, cookies and rarely to grind meat. In the show, we used a potato ricer for most of the potatoes, and then a regular potato masher for about 10-15% in order to make some fariety in the structure and prevent smooth, uniform blend. After the potatoes are smashed, leave them in the pot. You can grate the onion, or use a chopper. Ideally you have a blend, mixed with fine as well as slightly bigger pieces. Add the onion to the potatoes. Add 4 eggs, 250 grams of ricotta, the lemon juice and the sunflower oil. Add salt to your taste.Then mix with an electric mixer on a low speed until homogenous.
Spread a thick layer on toast and sprinkle a bit more lemon. Eat and weep. Consume within a day or two (raw eggs inside).
On recipe notebooks with Patricia Becus
Recipe notebooks have always been part of my life - every few weeks, my mother would decide it's time to bake a cake - choosing usually between 2 recipes - one just called cake and the name of a relative (chec Lena), the other one called cake with coconut (prajitura cu nuca de cocos). On these occasions, she would pull out an old, overstuffed school notebook, occasionally stained with eggyolks or butter, prop it up on a chair and consult it every now and again. Sometimes, she would skip a step, or add things in a different order than in the notebook. The cake would turn out great regardless.
Mix the first 8 ingredients together. Add more dry ingredients (flour or semolina) if the consistency is too sticky and doesn't hold when you try to roll it. Flour your hands and roll the mix into balls (bigger than a bitterbal). Bring a pot of water to a simmer, then drop each ball carefully into the water. When they rise to the surface, take them out witha slotted spoon or a sieve. Melt some oil into a frying pan. Add a bit of sugar and some breadcrumbs (no measurements here, whatever ratio you like). Toast the mix until golden brown, then toss the boiled papanași with warm, crispy breadcrumb mix. Enjoy warm or cold.
Whose is this recipe with Angeliki Diakrousi
A dozen modifications of the same dish are at the bottom of a deep culinary dispute on the Balkans. The Bulgarian banitsa, the Serbian gibanica, the Greek pita, the Macedonian maznik and the Bosnian and Turkish börek are in constant competition over the hearts and stomachs of millions of heavy dough snack fans. And there is more.
Banitsa aka Баница aka Börek aka Gibanica aka Tiropita and many more
Start by buttering generously the bottom and sides of a baking tray (a relatively deep baking tray). Grind the yellow cheese. Crumble the feta cheese with a fork or hands. Mix the cheeses together. Lay out the phyllo sheets and unfold them.
Start by taking a sheet and curling it in to one of the corners of the baking tray. Do this gently. Then sprinkle cheese on it. Be generous and open up the folds to let the cheese fall inside all folds and cracks.
Repeat this process until you fill the whole tray with curled up phyllo sheets with cheese. Every time you add the next phyllo sheet you can compress the previous onen and therefore be able to fit in more pastry. This way you will be having the sheet loose when you fill it with cheese but then make it tighter by compressing it afterwards. When the tray is full, beat the five eggs and then slowly add to the mixture one glass of sparkling water. Put the ready mixture over the entire tray of banitsa, carefully covering all of it. Finally cut small pieces of butter and place it on top of the banitsa at even distances. Bake for about 20-25 mins in 190 degrees. Take out when golden and puffy. You can optionally take out the tray and turn it upside down on some little bowls in order to have distance from the table. My mom does this in order to not lose the fluff of the banitsa.
Best enjoyed with some fresh ayran!
Sandwiches with Inge Hoonte
Kids in school were always split between those who brought sandwiches from home and those who got pocket money and could buy themselves pastries - in my case that was the most coveted lunch in highschool, a triangular puff pastry filled with ham and ketchup. I brought a sandwich with me every day in my 12 years of school - ok maybe that's not true, sometimes I had homemade pizza or french toast or a red pepper filled with salty cheese. But I always had food from home.
Types of sandwiches I used to bring - thick white bread, red peppers, butter or pate, ham, salami, cucumber, pickles, schnitzel, cascaval, cream cheese, breaded courgette . A combination of these, usually. Rarely it would be bread and zacusca, which smelled very potent and would always grease up the tissue my sandwich was wrapped in, which made me embarrased and sometimes I skipped lunch so I don't have to eat it in public.
There were some kids whose parents worked in other countries, usually Italy, and would send them nice cakes and tuna and salami from Italy
Other kids brought tostis, warm sandwiches which had become cold and greasy wrapped in now oily tissue paper with congealed cheese.
The cool kids never brought sandwiches.
Grated egg open-faced sandwich
Spread margarine or butter benerously on the slice of bread. Peel the egg and grate it in its entirety on the side of the grater with the smallest holes. Slice the pickled cucumbers (1-2 depending on their size) and arrange the slices onto the bread. Sprinkle the grated egg on top, and add a pinch of salt and pepper over everything. Enjoy the bits of egg that inevitably fall from the bread as you try to eat it!
Boterham Whatever's in the Fridge
This is typically a sandwich I make after a medium to long morning bike ride. About ten to twenty kilometers before I get home (depending on the snacks I've had along the way), I mentally start scanning my fridge. Sometimes I have some leftover pasta or a rice dish that I can just heat up. But if I don't, the cooking prep starts with choosing tempeh, tofu or seitan. Based on that, I think about spices to add. With scrambled tofu on toast, I tend to go the curry course, while tempeh and seitan are nice to fry in soy sauce and sambal or hot sauce. Up next, bread. I usually have a loaf of rye or sour dough, sliced in the freezer. While biking past the last bits of countryside before getting back to town, I wonder, which veggies are left? But honestly, mostly, I'm looking forward to all the fried goodness! As you can imagine, this recipe can go many directions, depending on your appetite and zest for certain flavors. I sometimes add canned beans and tomato, going the Mexican influenced route, sort of an open faced burrito if you will, with mango salsa. It all depends on... whatever's in the fridge. It easily falls into place once you start somewhere, and let the ingredients guide each other. Below is the sandwich I prepared for Recipes on the Radio hosts Yoana, Alice, and myself.
Heat up a larger frying pan, add some oil. Cut the seitan in smaller bits, throw it in the pan. If you also just got home from a bike ride, yoga class, morning run, or other activity, this is the point where you turn down the heat, let it simmer, and take a quick shower. If you have a bit more patience, better regulated blood sugars, or habits, you can add the rest first. Cut up the leafy greens, including the stems. I cut the stems quite small, and throw them in first, they need a bit more time. Then cut up and add the rest of the greens. If you like, you can mix in chili pepper, sambal or hot sauce right before it's all done.
Lightly toast the bread. I happen to have a small toaster oven, but you can also use the same pan. Add a
generous layer of peanut butter, and (if you haven't already mixed it in with the seitan and veggies) top
this with your choice of sambal or hot sauce. Generously spread all the ingredients over the bread, and the
rest of the plate. Experiment with toppings you like that go nicely with the other flavors. I like nasturtium
flowers for some extra spice, diced up pickled gurkins for that little bit of tangy vinegar, and sweet chili
sauce cause it drips and nestles between everything... even your fingers... YUM.
Serve immediately. Enjoy!
Fermentation with Santiago Piñol
We chatted with Santiago about fermentation helping us connect more to the microcosm of bacterias that surround us and live on our bodies while preparing a big batch of banana wine.
Musa Paradisiaca/Banana Wine
Recipe taken from The Garage School of Fermentation recipe book
Ingredients untuk 5L of air.
Ingredients untuk 2L air (water)
Untuk > for , Air > water, Pisang > banana, Jeruk > orange, Gula pasir > sugar, Gula jawa > panela Ragi > levadura
1. Clean the bananas, peel them, and chop them into pieces. Choose the sweetest banana (pisang) or sweet plantain (manis) or the tastier (enak), even “rotting” bananas (busulk) taste well and have lots of sugar. Maybe (mungkin) we can trace which tropic does it come from, what kind of banana is it, from all the types there are. Bananas also have a complex and long history of travelling from New Guinea, to Africa and the American continent. The caribbean produces a lot of bananas, a staple commodity in global markets in Europe and the USA, and which has also been at the core of many violent conflicts around land ownership. Fair trade bananas are a good option, but just keep in mind these stories while you make this recipe.
2. Set aside 100 gr of sugar or panela. Put the banana in a large pot, add the water, the juice of 1 orange, and the rest of the sugar or panela. Bring to a boil until your whole kitchen smells like banana.
3. Let the mix cool after boiling, covered with a cloth.
4. Meanwhile, feed your dry yeast or your ginger bug with a cup of water and the 100gr of sugar you set aside. This will wake your microorganisms up, so that they’re active and ready to digest all the sugars in your concoction. You can use wild yeast (ragi liar) cultivated from the bananas and from the air, in which case you don’t have to add anything else. However, if you want to experiment with the speed or the taste, you can add dry commercial yeast or half a cup of ginger bug, or a mix of both. Experiment with the quantity depending on how strong (keras) you want the taste to be (rasanya), but if you use a ginger bug you might have to increase the level of sugar.
5. When cool, add the mix to a large plastic container, and smash it very well.
6. Add the wakened yeast. Mix everything well.
7. Cover the plastic container with an airtight seal but with an air lock (a one-way valve for fermentation) to let it degas. You can buy the air lock or DIY!.
This episode was inspired by the book Vibrations Cooking by Vertamae Smart Grosvenor.
Recipes are all around us - on websites, Instagram, in books, in supermarkets, in magazines. But do we actually read them and follow them when we cook?
During this episode we discuss our favourite food publications and share some readings from Alice's own food zine Magiun. The recording of the full episode is not yet available. The audio pieces above were kindly recorded by Alina Turdean, Ana-Maria Gușu, and Valentina Vella, and were included in the original episode.
Links to the publications we mentioned in the episode:
This Christmas episode is the only one not recorded in the Worm kitchen, but in another warm kitchen instead.