Culinary Adventures on the Orient Express | Extracts and Recipes


Roasted Corn Seller At Eminönü, Istanbul

Berlin’s main transport hub was built on the site of an old railway station and yard in the Moabit district inside the intersection of the Nordhafen canal and the Spree river, opposite the heat rows of parliamentary pillars, the green heart of the city a short hop away.

Our train is the one minute to seven intercity express to Prague, a four and a half hour journey eastwards towards Dresden near the border with the irresistible region known as Bohemia in the Czech Republic. We have enough time to pick up an assortment of pretzels from one of the bakeries in the central concourse under the tracks of Berlin Hauptbahnhof. Pretzels and small breads called brötchen are a fact of fast-food life in Germany’s railway stations.

Pretzels are rarely made bald and are never ordinary, coming in various shapes (rolls, sticks and twists, not least the famous knotted-handles). They are coated with coarse salt, seeds or with a topping of cheese and, depending on the region you are in, are available with an assortment of savoury or sweet fillings.

DDR Brötchen — Small Breads Of Old Berlin

Among the brötchen, one particular variety has made a come-back. This is the DDR brötchen. Ostalgie, the nostalgic trend for the good old days of the German Democratic Republic, has brought with it a yearning for the simple traditional food once served in the cafes and canteens of Berlin, Leipzig and other former East German cities. These breakfast rolls were soft and salty, and were made more often than not with margarine and whey.

Our connection at Prague will be the 11:50 train for Nyugati railway station in Budapest, 15 minutes after the Berlin train arrives. So we have decided, from experience, to play it safe because delays are commonplace on the German rail network. A 15-minute delay is not unusual (in fact it is common) and we are not chasing after trains, too old for that nonesense. We are going to stay over for two good reasons.

It is hard to imagine why anyone would want to travel non-stop from Berlin to Istanbul, or from Paris to Istanbul for that matter, unless there was money involved in the form of a wager. The rail route was interrupted for many years by the closure of Sirkeci railway station in Istanbul, the construction of the Bosphorus rail tunnel, new rail track around the ancient metropolis and replacement track in Bulgaria. Now, with fast direct trains through western Europe into the Balkans and eastern Europe, the route is a sub-50-hour, non-stop two-night trip with three changes. So what’s the hurry?

The other reason is the traditional food of this wonderful Bohemian city. Right now in this moment, standing on platform one alongside the cantilevered railway and despite a bellyful of pretzel, the delicious apple loaf of Prague has more appeal than a heart attack in a vain attempt to catch an illusive train. Trains have been known to disappear! Then there is that delicious potato soup still known as old Bohemian soup probably because it still tastes earthy. Bohemian dishes are defined by an unrequited love for crispy roast meats, delicious vegetables, fat dumplings and melt-in-the-mouth sauces. Among these are the pan-sealed slow-baked duck breasts served with light potato dumplings and pear sauce.

Many a long year ago we arrived unannounced in Budapest just after six in the evening and nearly came to regret it. This time we arranged accommodation, primarily to allow us to get a table at Kéhli, one of the city’s most popular restaurants. Buda and Pest are among the few centres of civilisation in Europe where the peasant culture is still reflected in the choice of traditional foods available in restaurants.

In Budapest soups and stews start every meal. The exception is gulyàsleves, the beef soup that is a bit of both. It is also served as a main course accompanied with egg-flour noddles. Kéhli specialises in traditional food including bean, beef, chicken and fish soups and the range of stews including goulash, the beef soup that can be a beef stew — if you want! We are especially keen to try their version of lecsó.

Paprika Flakes

Aromatic onions, fresh paprika peppers and juicy tomatoes, being plentiful throughout the region, are stewed and bottled for use as condiments and in restaurants as a stew or a side-dish. Most households make their own, and restaurants like Kéhli have secret recipes passed down. The home-made versions include numerous additional ingredients and variations of ratios between the peppers and tomatoes. The base sauce is one part peppers to one part tomatoes, a third onions and sufficient oil to sauté the onions and coat the ingredients. The quantity of ground or flaked paprika is always personal.

We have decided to stay overnight because our train into the east leaves at ten past seven in the evening, no time at all to savour the culinary delights of Buda and Pest.

There was a time when this train left at seven in the morning. Now it is an overnight stopping train, with stops up to one o’clock in the night and frequent stops from just after four o’clock in the middle of the night, no time at all to get some shut-eye unless you can sleep like the dead.

You can can find every type of food you desire in Bucharest, just don’t expect to find too many indigenous traditional dishes among the Greek-Moldovan-Ottoman-Russian influences. Cornmeal or corn grits (polenta in Italy, malai in Romania) remain popular throughout eastern and southern Europe, and are now found adorned with savoury toppings and garnishes. In Romania their polenta is called mamaliga and is generally enriched with cheese and cream. But the days when Romanians were known by Russians as mamalizhniki, because they consumed so much cornmeal, are in the past. They still like their malai though. And so do we.

Beef And Paprika Stew

We also like their bean and sausage tradition. Arguably Romania’s most popular dish, the combination of two indigenous traditions (growing beans and sausage making, particularly in the home) has produced a classic. Not far behind is the meat and paprika stew known as tokány. Believed to have been brought south into Bucharest by young Transylvanian girls, marjoram, mushrooms, paprika and sour cream are essential to the success of this stew. Without them tokány does not have the distinctive flavour that make it one of the region’s most popular paprika dishes.

Direct trains between Bucharest and Istanbul have been re-established with the completion of the new track between Dimitrovgrad and Svilengrad in southern Bulgaria and the opening of the new railway terminus for the Marmaray line at Halkali in the south-west of Istanbul. The Bosphorus-bound train now leaves Bucharest North station just after noon and arrives in Halkali at just after seven in the morning. Travellers can now connect with the west and east of Istanbul from Marmaray stops at Yenikapı (for the old city), at Sirkeci (the old terminus station for the Orient Express), and at Üsküdar and Pendik on the Asian side of the Bosphorus.

With high-speed tracks between Halkali and Kapikule, on the border with Bulgaria, between Dimitrovgrad in Bulgaria and Nis in Serbia, the original southern Orient Express route is back. A direct service would require the collaboration of Turkish Railways with Bulgarian and Serbian Railways, and with Croatian, Slovenia, Austrian, Swiss and German Railways. With a direct service between Serbia and Switzerland already in place, the return of the Orient Express is only a matter of time.

The streets of Istanbul are full of aromas that tease and tempt but none capture the tastes of this wise old city like the smell of grilled mackerel. Still known as a street food because of ancient associations with the fishers of the Bosphorus, balık ekmek is synonymous with the tourist centres of Eminönü and the Galata Bridge. Crunchy loaves and oily fishes are a throwback, one of the oldest traditional foods in the world.

Gustave Flaubert thought Istanbul would become the capital of the world and during the first half of the 20th century it was the destination everyone desired, for reasons that are not obvious to us today. Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk insists that Istanbul suffers from end-of-empire melancholy, and it is this state of mind that defines the city on the Bosphorus. Does this emotion touch the souls of the tourist and the traveller? It must do because the overwhelming character of the people themselves is humbleness … and friendliness. If that is a consequence of melancholy, surely it is the city that will benefit?

Anatolia is a food basket, and all Anatolian food is in Istanbul. Traditional Turkish food is, with French, Iberian and Italian, among the best in Europe, shaped by centuries of interaction with the world to the east and west. The cuisine of the Ottoman era is still with us, albeit disguised in the clothes other cuisines have dressed it in.

From fried Black Sea anchovies to doner, şiş and yoghurt kebabs, meat-filled flatbread to rice and chickpeas, sesame breads and stuffed aubergines, sweet honey and pistachio (baklava) pastries and all kinds of börek (rolled) pastries with countless fillings, Turkish traditional food is diverse, reflecting an amazing harvest of fishes, fruits, meats, nuts spices and vegetables.

Bekir Tezçakar In His Old Cafe in 2001

We first met Bekir Tezçakar in November 2001 at a junction in his life as a cafe resident of the Grand Bazaar. We met him again recently. He is older and wiser, a veteran of the sloping streets of the old bazaar with its stone pillars and uneven pave-stones. Cafe Life sits inside a portico adjacent a carpet shop, a skip and a step from the original Cafe Tezçakar on Halicilar Street. He opened Cafe Life in 2004 to compliment Cafe Tezçakar. He now serves espresso, cappuccino and western-style foods, keeping with tradition by offering Turkish coffee, Anatolian tea, apple tea, mint tea and sage tea, and Turkish kebabs and sweets.

‘We must keep our integrity,’ he says. ‘The bazaar is not a museum, it is a very original building, a centre of commerce, a centre of tourism, a place of culture. We can learn many things but we must not lose our tradition. If you lose your culture you lose yourself.’ These sentiments are on his mind because the Turkish people have a fear for their diverse cuisine, their unique culture.

Banu Özden is a food historian. She is also concerned about Turkey’s food traditions. ‘Our recipes go back thousands of years. We place a special emphasis on traditional methods and artisan ingredients. There are certain dishes from the palace cuisine such as kuzu incik (braised lamb shanks with vegetables), karniyarik (split belly aubergines stuffed with ground beef), and revani (semolina cake soaked in syrup).’

‘Some dishes are from Anatolian regional cuisine such as stuffed leaves and vegetables, vine, chard, cabbage, dried aubergines, dried peppers, fresh peppers and tomatoes. Depending on the region and season, these dishes are made on a daily basis. One of these specialties is analı kızlı (yoghurt soup with lamb chunks, chickpeas and bulgur balls).’

Köfte, the word for minced meat in the Farsi language, have been integral to Turkish cuisine since the 1300s when they were introduced to the Ottoman palace kitchens and quickly became popular. Although meatballs have been around much longer, the varied use of minced meat, cooked and raw, in Turkish cuisine has transformed köfte culture. Traditional köfte will contain various meats generally enriched with the same ingredients — breadcrumbs, eggs, onions and seasonings — much like the European tradition. What makes the Turkish meatball different is in the method, established a long time ago. One of the best recipes originated with Mehmet Kamil‘s Melceü‘t-Tabbâhîn (Resource of Cooks). It was adapted by Özge Samanci and Sharon Croxford, of the Istanbul Food Workshop, for their Flavours of Istanbul book.

This painting of a pomegranate seller is hung in the stairwell of Vaha Cafe and Restaurant on the corner of Şehit Mehmetpaşa and Su Terazisi Sokak in Istanbul old town.

The train for Sofia leaves Halkali at 21:40. Until it reaches the Bulgarian border it is slow. It arrives in Sofia at 08:33. As you will see, if you have not made the trip and want to follow in the footsteps of all the fictional characters who have enjoyed rides on the Orient Express, nothing really changes. We will leave them for you to experience yourself.

The restoration of Hadji Dragan’s old houses on Kozloduy near the Vladaya river took four years. Now Hadkidraganov’s Houses present traditional Bulgarian food (and music), and what a feast they offer. Their specials require patience, but the wait is worthwhile, especially when the mushroom and sausage stuffed whole chicken in a clay egg (three hours) and the sofra — beef knuckle, skewered meat, sausages and pork steaks with aubergine purée, beans and potatoes, bread, chutneys and sauces — are at the end of it. But it is the savoury patatnik and the sweet banitsa that we have come here for.

Banitsa — Cheese Spiral Pie

When the farmers of the Rhodope mountains in southern Bulgaria began to grow potatoes, it was a natural progression to cook them with the rural ingredients that formed their traditional culinary heritage — cheese from sheep‘s milk, strong onions, and aromatic herbs such as spearmint. These are the basic ingredients for a good patatnik, but there are always options. Meat enriches the dish, red peppers replace onions, savoury replaces spearmint, but cheese is the constant. Keeping with the Balkan tradition of making pies with filo pastry, patatnik should also be encased in the thin sheets.

Direct trains from Sofia to Belgrade and from Belgrade to Zürich make the return journey to Paris on the old Balkan route of the Orient Express relatively comfortable, if not thoroughly tedious. Sofia to Belgrade is an 11 hour journey, on a day train that begins at nine thirty each morning. Belgrade to Zürich is a 23 hour journey, day and night, and interesting because it stops at Zagreb, Ljubljana, Jesenice, Villach and Innsbrück — all places that should be visited for their amazing traditional food.

It is no longer possible to navigate a timetable that follows the Simplon Orient Express route because there are no through services between Ljubljana and Trieste, the Austrian city on the Adriatic coast. There is no longer a direct service linking Istanbul and Venice, not a bad thing now that the lagoon city is sinking into the Adriatic under the weight of several hundred years of expectation. Intrepid travellers get around this by boarding the train at Ljubljana for Villa Opicina on the border, then a bus or taxi down to Trieste Centrale and from there onto Venice, Verona, Milan, Brig and Lausanne en route back to Paris and the north-west of Europe. The new route through to Zürich is great for our travel story, not so good for our food story because we miss out Italian and Swiss cuisine. So we recommend the stopping trains, that allow for diverse distractions, amiable assignations, memorable moments and, if you are lucky, amazing adventures to recall. Meanwhile …

Belgrade is a culinary gateway. It leads in various directions to the fabulous food of the people who have inhabited these lands for thousands of years. The Ottoman influence is still present but as each of the Balkan countries and regions assert their own cultural identities in the fast lanes of the 21st century, the slow food of past centuries becomes prominent. Among these are the methods used to cook meat, especially beef, chicken, pork and veal.

At Cevap kod Dekija on Strahinjića Bana 71 in old Belgrade, between the Danube and Sava rivers, they make the argument that the grill does not always indicate fast food. ‘It is one of the best and healthiest ways to prepare meat,’ they say and it is hard to argue with them or with this food identity.

Their specialties, made with high quality cuts and products of beef and veal cooked over beech charcoal, epitomise the mešano meso (mixed meat) snack culture of Serbia. These include the burgers, sausages and rissoles known as cevap made from ground beef and paprika — the amount of ground paprika is something between 5% and 20% of the meat. Eveything washed down with strong beer.

Cevap — Paprika Meat Rissoles

Our direct train to Zürich is at 10:35, a reasonable time to get back to the new central station, and we are making good use of it. All we have to do now is make a decision. Do we endure all 23 hours on the train or do we get off at Zagreb (at six o’clock after more than eight hours on the train) or at Ljubljana (at nine o’clock) or at Villach (at eleven o’clock), and then rejoin it for the overnight ride through the Austria Alps?

Do you know! We are going to stop at Zagreb, spend the night, pick up the next cross-border train to Ljubljana tomorrow, spend the night and most of the day in the Slovenia capital, take a local train to Villach over the border in Austria, and then think about our next move.

Is it a roll or is it a strudel? This is the question the peoples of the Balkans and their central and eastern European neighbours have been arguing about for centuries. Potica is the sweet nut roll bread of the Balkan countries, it is also the sweet roll bread of the Czechs and Hungarians. It can’t be a strudel because it is a bread dough rolled thick whereas the strudel is a bread dough stretched thin. What can be agreed is that both types are filled and rolled up.

Potica — Sweet Nut Roll Bread

Believed to have originated in a village called Strukljeva Vas, štruklji is one of the oldest traditional dishes of Slovenia. They are made with stretched thin dough spread with a variety of fillings, rolled up and wrapped in cloth, boiled and cut into short slices. The fillings are variously bacon, beans, bread, breadcrumbs, cheese, crackling, cream, eggs, potato, tarragon, walnuts and more.

Strudel are slightly different.

The ascent of strudel was thought to have reached its nadir when this delicate pastry came to epitomise the Viennese kitchen in the 1800s. The thinly drawn dough that makes the strudel iconic definitely has its origins in ancient Assyria. It was associated with the Seljuk and Ottoman Turks and the Spanish Moors, and known as ‘Spanish Dough’ in cookbooks of the 1700s. By then it was an established aspect of pastry baking throughout the period of the Austro-Hungarian empire, moving westwards from Budapest to Vienna and Salzburg.

The strudel went through various changes until it started to resemble a coiled pastry. Fillings included beans, cheese, fruit, gourds, leaf and root vegetables, meat, nuts and seeds and rice. When Anna Dorn mentioned ’solid apple strudel’ in the Great viennese Cookbook in 1827, the strudel had been boiled and baked over open fires for 200 years.

Strudel cookery changed with the emergence of oven baking and white flour. The translucent dough became thin and crispy, and the apple strudel became legend and permanent. Ground cinnamon, soaked raisins and toasted breadcrumbs (from flaky kipfel bread) complimented the tart apple filling to produce a sweet-sour taste.

In Vienna sour cream was added to accentuate that sourness. In Salzburg the apfelstrudel was sweetened and softened with warm milk. In Innsbruck and alpine regions the old style remains constant. And in Berlin kirschwasser was added to the raisins, and walnuts were included in the filling. Sugar was used to offset the acidity of the tart apples, which included a variety that became known as ‘strudler apples’. Gradually, throughout the 20th century, apfelstrudel epitomised the art of the Viennese patisserie, and its Assyrian, Arabian, Moorish, Turkish and Slovenian origins were forgotten, except in Slovenia.

Alpine cookery is characterised by an enduring love affair with the traditional produce of the valleys — apples, barley, beef, cabbage, cheese, freshwater fish, game, goat, herbs, mutton, onions, pork, potatoes — which come together in soups, stews, strudels and stuffed dumplings, and sometimes in leftover combinations. Among this tradition is the pot-stew, known collectively as eintöpf — one of the oldest traditional dishes in Europe, going back eight thousand years. It started as a pot of reconstituted dried meat, greens and cereals, and over the generations evolved with no one basic or standard recipe. This alpine stew is now made with an assortment of flower, leaf, pod and root vegetables, potatoes, dumplings or rice, and meat (bacon, beef, chicken, pork, sausage, veal) cooked in a stock accentuated with cream, fresh or sour, or tomatoes or both for the sauce. Herbs are a typical garnish, and bread is usually served with the stew. The ingredients are seasonal. In the homes the recipes for the stews throughout the year will be based on family traditions.

Schmarrn — Torn Pancake

We cannot travel through the Tyrol without tasting their varieties of schmarrn. Originally known as Kaiserschmarrn, for obvious reasons, this is an aristocratic dish that has been transformed into a traditional dish because of its enduring popularity. Ask an Austrian to suggest their favourite food, and one that is traditional and representative of the country’s food culture, and this is the answer. It was untouchable. Made only with cream, eggs, flour, raisins and sugar it epitomised haute cuisine. Then it lost its kingly status, no more so than in the Tyrol where this torn pancake became all things to all people. The raisins were replaced by red cherries, pine nuts were preferred by those with a creative streak, almonds and hazelnuts got in on the act, and then Radio Tyrol decided that the schmarrn could become an oven-baked version of rösti. They came up with a recipe using streaky bacon and waxy potatoes combined with the basic schmarrn ingredients — cream, eggs, flour, milk.

Zürich main station is an amazing place if you love food, and especially the traditional food of the Swiss. There are fast food and slow food outlets, and across the tram tracks at the front of the station there is a supermarket set up to supply food for those on the go.

The train to Paris is a TGV. It leaves at 34 minutes past the hour every two hours and takes just over four hours to get to the Gare de Lyon. If you have arrived in Zürich in the morning we recommend the mid-afternoon trains. They still go at the same speed, travel the same distance and arrive after four hours on the tracks, they are just less busy!

Bon voyage. Bon chance! Opps. Gute Reise. Viel Glück!

Of course we did not travel to Paris from Zürich, we returned to Berlin from Villach on the night train to Munich, thought about a bleary-eyed change to an early Berlin-bound train and decided against it. After all that travelling we decided we needed a beer, and the Löwenbräu Celler was just around the corner from the main station.

The Bavarians believe they have the best traditional food in Germany, and sometimes you have to agree with them.

Here are some recipes to whet your appetite.


Lye Breads


500 g / 16⅔ oz white wheat flour, t550 
245 ml / 8 fl oz water
40 g / 8⅓ oz butter
25 g / 1 oz yeast
15 g / ½ oz malt extract
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar

Lye / Soda Solution

2 litres water
50 g / 1⅔ oz baking soda

Sieve the flour into a large bowl, crumble yeast into the flour followed by the sugar and half of the water, stir with a wooden spoon into a loose dough, cover and leave to rise for 30 minutes.

Desired dough temperature is 23°C.

Add remaining water, butter, malt and salt. Work into a soft smooth dough, knead for ten minutes. Leave to rise for an hour.

On a floured surface cut the dough into 16 pieces (roughly 50 g / 1⅔ each), shape into rounds or oblongs. Place on heavily greased baking trays.

With a sharp knife cut a cross in the rounds or several slashes in the oblongs. Leave to rise covered for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 220°C.

Bring the soda solution to a rolling boil, drop the dough into the water four at a time for no longer than 60 seconds.

Place on greased baking trays and bake for 25 minutes until golden brown.

Small Bread Rolls


250 g / 8⅓ oz strong white wheat flour
250 g / 8⅓ fl oz milk / whey
20 g / ⅔ oz yeast

Second Dough

250 g / 8⅓ oz white wheat flour t505
75 g / 2½ oz sugar
30 g / 1 oz butter / lard / margarine
15 g / ½ oz salt
5 g / large pinch barley / wheat malt
Milk, for brushing

Dissolve yeast in a little of the milk or whey. In a large bowl stir remaining milk or whey into the flour with the yeast mixture. Rest overnight at room temperature.

Sieve second batch of flour into a large bowl, add malt, salt and sugar, incorporate the butter, lard or margarine, then add the pre-ferment.

Knead into a soft smooth dough.

Cover the dough and leave to rise until doubled in size, about an hour. Degas, leave for an hour, cut into 10 pieces (roughly 87 g each), shape into balls, arrange on baking trays. Cover, leave to rise for an hour.

Preheat oven to 220°C.

When they have risen, brush lightly with milk. Place a tray of water in the bottom of the oven. Bake for 20 minutes.


Roast Duck Breasts

600 g / 20 oz duck breasts, skin scored
600 g / 20 oz small potatoes, cooked whole, cool
250 g / 8⅓ fl oz chicken / duck stock
2 pears, halved, cored
120 g / 4 oz bacon, cubed small
100 ml / 3⅓ fl oz double cream / yoghurt
80 g / 2⅔ oz spring onion
80 g / 2⅔ oz honey
35 g / 1 oz butter
20 ml / ⅔ fl oz vegetable oil
20 ml + 20 ml / ⅔ oz + ⅔ oz pear juice
10 g / ⅓ oz white wheat flour
Cumin seeds, large pinch

Marinade duck breasts in honey and half of the pear juice for 90 minutes, squeeze out liquid and rub with salt, thoroughly seal in hot oil, transfer to oven at 80°C for 90 minutes, 60 minutes if duck skin is thin. Brush all but one half pear with honey marinade and bake in oven for 45 minutes. Make a creamy mash with butter, cream and potatoes. Drain honey from pears.

With 15 minutes to go until duck is done, heat three teaspoons of oil in frying pan. Incorporate two teaspoons of white flour into the oil until browned. Add stock. Season with salt and crushed cumin seeds. Add honey liquid, pear juice and half pear cut into small pieces. Bring to boil, reduce. Strain.

Sauté bacon in butter and oil with chopped spring onions, pour in cream or yoghurt, keep warm on a low heat.

Slice duck breasts. Serve basted with pear sauce, potatoes or mash, gnocchi and bacon.

A simpler version is produced when the duck breasts are seasoned with salt and pepper, sealed with olive oil in a frying pan,splashed with a liqueur, then allowed to simmer in ground cinnamon, chicken or duck stock for 20 minutes. A squeeze of lemon juice is added to the stock after 10 minutes. The breasts are served with ripe pears dressed with a drizzle of the stock.

Apple Loaf

650 g / 22 oz apples, peeled and cored
500 ml / 16⅔ fl oz milk
200 g / 6⅔ oz cottage cheese, crumbled
3 eggs, separated
175 g / 6 oz white bread, sliced into thick rounds
60 g / 2 oz vanilla sugar
50 g / 1⅔ ozraisins
30 g / 1 oz icing sugar
10 g / ⅓ oz cinnamon
Butter, for greasing

Prepare the apples, keep in water until ready to use.

Soak raisins in some of the milk, about an hour. Then soak the rounds of bread in milk.

Separate the eggs, mixing the yolks with icing sugar and cheese.

Whisk the egg whites with the vanilla sugar.

Preheat oven to 160°C.

Grease an ovenproof baking dish, dust with breadcrumbs.

Lay the bread on top of the breadcrumbs.

Grate the apples onto the bread, dust with cinnamon and half the raisins.

Place the remaining bread on top, followed by the remaining apples, grated or sliced, the cinnamon and raisins.

Pour in the cheese mixture evenly across the surface.

Bake for 45 minutes.

Remove and gently spoon the egg foam over the top, making peaks with a fork.

Turn oven up to 200°C and bake for a further 15 minutes.


Beef Soup

5 litres / 20 cups water
900 g / 30 oz beef, cubed 2 cm
500 g / 16⅔ oz potatoes, diced small
500 g / 16⅔ oz onions, chopped
300 g / 10 oz parsnip / turnip, diced
300 g / 10 oz tomatoes
250 g / 8⅓ oz carrots, diced
250 g / 8⅓ oz green or red peppers
100 g / 3⅓ oz celery, cut small
30 g / 1 oz lovage leaves
4 garlic cloves, mashed
10 g / 2 tsp paprika, hot or sweet
1 tsp caraway seeds
2 bay leaves
Black pepper, pinch
Salt, pinch
Oil, for frying

Sauté the onions in the oil for 30 minutes, increase heat and brown the beef.

Reduce heat, stir in the tomatoes and peppers, add the garlic and cover. Leave to simmer for 30 minutes. Add the bay leaves, caraway seeds and paprika.

After five minutes add the vegetables, remaining seasonings and water.

Cook until the potatoes are al dente.

Freshwater Fish Stew

3 kg / 6 lbs 9oz freshwater fish
2 litres / 8⅓ cups water
1.5 kg / 3.3 lbs onions, chopped
80 g / 2⅔ oz Hungarian hot paprika

Wash, top, tail and fillet fish.

Set fillets aside, place the heads, tails and bones in a large pot of water with the onions and half the paprika. Bring to the boil and simmer for an hour. Strain stock into a clean pot.

Cut the fillets into equal sized pieces.

Bring stock to the boil, turn heat to low and simmer fish pieces for 15 minutes. Add remaining paprika, serve in bowls.


Cornmeal with Smoked Bacon, Curd Cheese and Sour Cream

2 litres / 8⅓ cups water
500 g / 16⅔ oz cornmeal, coarse ground
500 g / 16⅔ oz curd cheese, creamed
500 ml / 1 pint sour cream
300 g / 10 oz hard cheese, grated
300 g / 10 oz smoked bacon, diced
50 g / 1⅔ oz butter, unsalted

Prepare the cooked corn using the previous method, then stir the butter in while it is still hot. This will produce a softer mamaliga. Preheat oven to 160ºC.

Fry bacon over a medium heat for five minutes until it is crispy, pour fat into a large baking tray.

Spread a thin layer of cooked corn on the tray, sprinkle the grated cheese followed by the sour cream, dots of curd cheese and the bacon, repeat until there is only cheese and cream left. Finish with a layer of grated cheese, curd cheese and sour cream. Bake for 45 minutes, until the top begins to brown.

Beans and Sausages

1 kg / 2 lbs 3 oz home sausages / smoked sausages
500 g / 16⅔ oz dried white beans, soaked in water overnight, boiled with a pinch soda, drained
500 g / 16⅔ oz tomato sauce
250 g / 8⅓ oz onions, chopped
200 g / 6⅔ oz carrots, cubed small
150 ml / 5 fl oz beef broth
1 red pepper, de-seeded, roasted, skinned, blended into a paste (don’t use any liquid)
45 ml / 1½ fl oz sunflower oil
6 garlic cloves, crushed
5 g black pepper
2 bay leaves
Salt, large pinch
Parsley, chopped for garnish

In a large, deep frying pan brown sausages whole in the oil, remove, cut into large pieces. Saute onions in the oil, about 15 minutes. Add the carrots and garlic, cook for five minutes. Deglaze with broth, reduce heat, add beans, red pepper paste, sausages and tomato sauce followed by the bay leaves and seasonings. Cook for 45 minutes.

Alternatively, brown sausages in oil, remove, sauté onions and garlic. Place garlic, onions and sausages in a large pot with the beans, broth, tomatoes and seasonings, and bake in a 180ºC oven for an hour.

Serve with a combination from bread, pickles and salad. garnish with parsley.


Lentil Soup

This is Bekir Tezçakar’s lentil soup.

1.5 litres / 6 cups + 2 fl oz water
250 g / 1 cup red / white lentils, washed
150 g / 5 oz carrot, diced
150 g / 5 oz tomatoes
100 g / 3⅓ oz onion, chopped small
30 ml / 1 fl oz vegetable oil
10 g / ⅓ oz white wheat flour
5 g / 1 tsp black pepper
5 g / 1 tsp paprika flakes
Salt, two large pinches

Sauté onions in oil over a low heat in a large pot until they take on a brown colour at the edges. Stir in flour, fry for a couple of minutes. Add tomatoes, carrots and lentils, stir, add water and seasonings, bring slowly to the boil, then reduce heat, cover and cook until the lentils are tender. Leave to cool for 15 minutes. Pour mixture into a blender, blend to a paste, return to pot, reheat, taste and season again.

Garnish with paprika flakes.

Beef and Lamb Meatballs

700 g / 1 lb 7⅓ oz beef and lamb, double minced
90 ml / 3 fl oz water
60 g / 2 oz onion paste
30 g / 1 oz butter
2 tsp green pepper, ground
1 tsp cinnamon, ground
1 tsp salt

Combine meat, onion paste, cinnamon, pepper and salt, knead for five minutes until the fat comes off on the hands, shape into 25 g balls. Place small bowl in the middle of large frying pan. Put butter and water into bowl, arrange köfte around bowl. Cover, cook over low heat for 45 minutes. Serve with a sauce made from the cooking juices reduced with the butter-water liquid.


Cheese Filo Spiral


300 g / 10 oz strong white wheat flour
150 ml / 5 fl oz water, warmed
1 egg
10 ml / ⅓ fl oz sunflower oil
Flour, for rolling

Sieve the flour onto a clean work surface, make a well, add egg, oil and water, form into a soft dough, knead and leave to rest for an hour. On a floured surface roll the dough into thin sheets 1 mm thin, no less than 25 cm x 35 cm, for 24 sheets.

Filling (for 12 sheets)

350 g / 10 oz Bulgarian brined white cheese
4 eggs, beaten
100 ml / 3⅓ fl oz yoghurt
50 g / 1⅔ oz butter
1 egg yolk, for glazing
Oil, for brushing
Bicarbonate of soda, pinch

Crumble cheese into yoghurt, add eggs, butter and soda. Oil a filo sheet, drizzle with four tablespoons of filling. Twist the roll into a tight spiral in the middle of a greased baking tray. Repeat process, arranging each roll around the previous roll, to form an elongated spiral. Preheat oven to 180ºC. glaze top with egg yolk. Bake at 175ºC until golden brown, about 30 minutes. Serve with yoghurt.

Cheese and Potato Pie

300 g / 10 oz potatoes, mashed
150 g / 5 oz sausage meat, cooked
100 g / 3⅓ oz Bulgarian brined white cheese
2 eggs
Parsley / Mint
Butter, melted
12 filo sheets cut to size of baking tray, greased with butter

Preheat oven to 180ºC. Mix eggs into cheese, meat and potatoes, season with salt and some chopped parsley or mint.

Grease tray with butter, place a sheet of filo lightly on the bottom, repeat with four more sheets. Spoon mixture into tray. Place remaining greased sheets on top.

Bake for 40 minutes.


Ground Beef Rissoles

1 kg / 2 lbs 3 oz beef, minced
45 ml / 3 tbsp water
2 tsp paprika, ground
2 tsp seasonings
Olive oil, for greasing

Bring all ingredients together in a large bowl and knead until the fat in the meat starts to separate onto the hands. Leave to stand for an hour in a cold place. Shape into large or small croquettes, thick or thin. Oil a baking tray and place them together without touching each other. Bake at 200ºC, 30 minutes for the large cevaps, 15 minutes for small cevaps.


Sweet Rolled Cake Bread


750 g / 3 cups + 1 oz white wheat flour, t550
500 ml / 1 pint milk
250 g / 8⅓ oz strong white wheat flour
250 g / 1 cup vanilla sugar
4 egg yolks
50 g / 1⅔ oz yeast
30 ml / 1 fl oz brandy
2 lemons, zest, grated


300 g / 10 oz walnuts, ground
150 ml / 5 fl oz cream
4 egg whites
50 g / 1⅔ oz vanilla sugar
25 g / 1 oz biscuit crumbs
1 lemon, zest
5 g / 1 tsp orange, zest
Cinnamon, pinch
Brandy / Kirschwasser / Maraskino, splash
1 egg
Icing sugar

Sieve flours together. Dissolve yeast in 300 ml / 30 fl oz warmed milk with 50 g / 1⅔ oz of sugar. Stir in 200 g / 6⅔ oz flour, whisk into a smooth batter. Leave to ferment for eight hours.

Mix egg yolks with remaining milk, sugar, lemon peel and brandy. Add this mixture to remaining flour, then add the liquid dough. Knead for 15 minutes. Leave to rise for an hour, degas. Leave to rise for another hour, degas a second time. Roll the dough out to a rectangle about 1 cm thick. Spread filling on top of dough, roll up, seal both ends and shape into a cylinder. Place on greased baking tray. Leave to rise for 30 minutes.

Brush the top of the potica with beaten egg and bake at 180ºC for 60 minutes. Finish with a dusting of icing sugar.

Stuffed Potato Pasta Dumplings

This quantity makes 150 pieces.


300 g / 10 oz white wheat flour
2 eggs
20 ml / ⅔ fl oz milk
20 ml / ⅔ fl oz olive oil


500 g / 16⅔ oz floury potatoes, baked, cooled
50 g / 1⅔ oz pork belly / smoked bacon, chopped small
50 g / 1⅔ oz onion, chopped
5 g / 1 tsp chives, chopped
5 g / 1 tsp marjoram, chopped
Olive oil, for frying

In a large bowl combine the flour, eggs, oil and milk. Fold out onto a clean work surface, knead into a smooth dough. Leave for an hour in the refrigerator. Pour a splash of olive oil into a frying pan and give the bacon or belly five minutes, remove with a slotted spoon. Sauté onions for 15 minutes in the same pan, leave to cool.

Scoop the potato into your bowl, add the bacon or belly and onions, knead into a soft dough, add herbs, season. Form the mixture into small balls, the size of hazelnuts. Roll the first dough thin, place balls at 3 cm intervals, fold dough over and press between each dumpling to form ears. Make a hollow in the top of each dumpling.

Freeze or use immediately.

Cook the stuffed dumplings in boiling salted water until they float to the surface. Serve with meat sauce.


Roast Goose

4 kg / 8 lbs 12 oz goose
6 sweet-sour apples, peeled, cored
30 g / 1 oz sugar
10 g / ⅓ oz marjoram sprigs
Apple compote / Redcurrant Jelly

Season skin and cavity of goose thoroughly, place marjoram inside. Put apples in the cavity with the sugar. Preheat oven to 180ºC. Place on a rack in a baking tray, baste with fat and juices every 20 minutes. Roast for three hours at 180ºC, until the skin is crisy. Rest for 30 minutes. Serve with compote or jelly.

Apricot dumplings are a suitable accompaniment.


Old-Style Apple Pastry


300 g / 10 oz white wheat baking flour
160 ml / 5⅓ fl oz water
30 ml / 1 fl oz vegetable oil
Salt, large pinch


5 kg / 3 lbs 4⅔ oz apples, peeled, cored, cut into 3 mm slices
250 ml / 8⅓ fl oz sour cream (optional)
200 g / 6⅔ oz caster sugar
125 g / 4 oz breadcrumbs
125 g / 4 oz raisins
90 g / 3 oz butter


100 g / 3⅓ oz icing sugar
60 g / 2 oz butter

Combine flour, salt, oil and water, knead into a smooth dough, cover with clingfilm, leave for 45 minutes.

Melt butter in frying pan, increase heat and fry breadcrumbs. Remove from heat, mix in sugar. Place dough on a floured cloth, roll out until transparent.

Preheat oven to 220ºC.

Spread sweetened breadcrumbs and raisins along a third of the dough. Arrange apple slices on top. If using cream, spoon onto apples.

Dress the other two-thirds of dough with melted butter.

Using the cloth, fold the buttered dough over the filled dough, seal at ends, brush surface with melted butter. Bake for 20 minutes. Take out and brush with remaining butter.

Bake for 15 minutes. While still warm, sprinkle with icing sugar.

Torn Sweet Pancake with Pine Nuts

300 ml / 10 fl oz cream (or 200 ml / 6⅔ fl oz milk)
240 g (4) eggs, separated
175 g / 6 oz white spelt flour
45 g / 3 tbsp pine nuts
45 g / 3 tbsp vanilla sugar
40 g / 1⅓ oz butter
Salt, pinch
Icing sugar, for garnish

Whisk egg whites into a stiff froth. Beat egg yolks and cream or milk, add flour, sugar and salt, then the pine nuts. Fold in egg whites.

Melt butter in a very large frying pan, pour in the mixture, fry over a medium heat until brown. Turn and brown the other side. Break with two forks in a quick movement, add a little more butter and brown thoroughly.

Place on serving plates, garnish with icing sugar.


Toasted Potato Lumps

1 kg / 2 lbs 3 oz potatoes, whole, boiled, rested overnight, peeled, grated
300 g / 10 oz white spelt flour / white wheat flour / cornmeal
50 g / 1⅔ oz butter
10 ml / 2 tsp peanut oil / vegetable oil
10 g / 2 tsp sea salt

Mix potatoes with the flour and salt to form small lumps. If they are too sticky add more flour. In a large heavy based frying pan over a high heat, melt the oil and half the butter.

Reduce heat to low, throw in the floured potato pieces. using two wooden spatulas, distribute around the pan until the maluns are brown, about 30 to 40 minutes.

Finish with the remaining butter. Serve with apple sauce, a few slices of cheese on the side.

Zürich Pan-fried Potatoes

1 kg / 2 lbs 3 oz Urgenta potatoes, grated, squeezed, dried
4 onions, sliced
30 g / 1 fl oz oil
15 g / 1 tbsp caraway seeds, soaked
Salt, large pinch

Mix onions and potatoes, sauté in a frying pan over a medium heat for 15 minutes. Place a plate on top of the frying pan, invert onto the plate. Oil pan and slide potato cake back. Cook for 20 minutes.


Spinach Dumplings

160 g / 5⅓ oz semolina, fine
100 g / 3⅓ oz spinach
70 g / 2⅓ oz breadcrumbs
70 g / 2⅓ oz butter, for dough
50 g / 1⅔ oz curd cheese
3 egg whites, beaten until stiff
3 egg yolks
1 garlic clove, crushed, chopped
Nutmeg, large pinch
Salt, large pinch


60 g / 2 oz semi-hard cheese, grated
30 g / 1 oz butter, browned, for finish

Blanch spinach, squeeze out excess liquid, chop finely. Beat butter with egg yolk until foamy. Add semolina, breadcrumbs, spinach and cheese, season with nutmeg and salt. Add garlic, then gradually fold beaten egg whites into the mixture.

With wet hands shape mixture into eight dumplings.

Simmer in boiling salted water for 20 minutes. Remove dumplings from the water with a slotted spoon and sprinkle with cheese and a drizzle of the browned butter.


Toasted Cheese and Ham Sandwich

This Parisian snack has travelled to the four corners of Europe since it appeared in 1910. The buffet car on the TGVs between Paris and Geneva once served croque-monsieur as good as any Parisian café, proving the maxim that quality ingredients make the dish! These being rustic country bread, good cheese and cured ham. The deluxe version contains a béchamel sauce topping, and some versions include mustard. A baked or poached egg on top turns monsieur into madame!

16 slices (8 cm x 8 cm) appenzeller / gruyère / semi-hard cheese
8 slices (10 cm x 10 cm) thick white bread, crusts removed
8 slices (8 cm x 8 cm) cured ham
4 baked / poached eggs (optional)
60 g / 2 fl oz béchamel sauce (optional)
60 g / 2 oz mustard (optional)
Butter, for spreading

Place a slice of ham between two slices of cheese, then between slices of buttered bread.

Grill for five minutes each side until the bread takes on a light toast. For a richer croque-monsieur, spread béchamel or mustard made with a large quantity of cheese on top after grilling one side, grill until a brown skin forms.