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Beata Nicholson


Contents

© Beata Nicholson, 2015 © JSC “Beatos virtuvė”, 2015 All rights reserved. Published by Beatos virtuvė in Vilnius, Lithuania. No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, scanning or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the Publisher.

10 Taste Lithuania

A Brief Overview of Lithuanian Gastronomic History

14

Greatest Hits of Mom’s Kitchen

21

Fried Cakes and Boiled Dumplings Made with Fresh Cheese Curd Varškėčiai ir varškėtukai

23

Blueberry Dumplings Šaltanosiai

26

Crepes with Cheese Curd or Meat Filling Lietiniai blynai su varškės arba mėsos įdaru

29

Zucchini Pancakes with Chanterelles Cukinijų blyneliai su voveraitėmis

33

Cheese Curd Pancakes Varškės blynai

37

Meat Patties with White Sauce Maltinukai su baltuoju padažu

38

Lithuanian Schnitzel Lietuviškas karbonadas

43

Turkey Goulash Kalakutienos guliašas

44

Tyli kaip mėsą valgydami “… as quiet as people eating meat”

46

Sauerkraut with Smoked Sausages Rauginti kopūstai su rūkytomis dešrelėmis

52

Clay Pot Stew Čenakai

55

Cabbage Rolls Balandėliai

57

Shish Kebabs and Marinated Onions Natūraliose sultyse rauginti šašlykai su marinuotais svogūnais

65


Roast Chicken, Lithuanian Style Kepta višta lietuviškai

69

Fish Soup Žuvienė

117

Lithuanian Rouladen Lietuviški jautienos suktinukai

71

Porcini Soup Baravykų sriuba

119

Homemade Dumplings Naminiai koldūnai

75

Split Pea Soup Žirnių sriuba

121

Fish Cakes with Creamy Wine Sauce Žuvies maltinukai su kreminiu vyno padažu

83

Ham and Bean Soup Pupelių ir kumpio sriuba

123

Pork Rib & Barley Soup Šonkaulių ir perlinių kruopų sriuba

125

Pickle Soup Raugintų agurkų sriuba

128

89

Berry and Dumpling Soup Uogų sriuba su leistinukais

131

Fried Smelts Keptos stintos

90

Snacks and Salads, and Long Tables Laden with Finger Foods

Neįbridęs į vandenį, žuvies nevalgysi “You won’t catch any fish if you’re afraid of getting wet.”

93

Baked Pressed Cheese Keptas varškės sūris

139

Iš miego sūrio neišspausi “You can’t press cheese from sleep.”

141

Fried Bread Kepta duona

147

Zander with Fried Onions and White Wine Sauce Starkis su kepintų svogūnų ir baltojo vyno padažu Fried Carp with Caramelized Onions and Tomatoes Keptas karpis su karamelizuotais svogūnais ir pomidorais

87

137

Soup Means the World

101

Chilled Borscht Šaltibarščiai

102

Lamb and Pork Kybynlar Kibinai su ėriena ir su kiauliena

149

Chilled Sorrel and Radish Soup Šalta rūgštynių sriuba su ridikėliais

107

Home-Style or White Salad Baltoji – naminė – mišrainė

152

Beet Soup Burokėlių sriuba

109

Red Salad Raudonoji mišrainė

156

Sorrel Soup Rūgštynių sriuba

112

Tangy Egg Salad Pikantiška mišrainė

157

Sauerkraut Soup Raugintų kopūstų sriuba

114

Fried Bread, Bean, and Cheese Salad Keptos duonos, pupelių ir sūrio mišrainė

160

Taste Lithuania 11


163

Rivers of Honey

221

Tomato Salad with Sour Cream

164

223

Cucumber Salad with Scallions and Dill

164

Angel Wings Žagarėliai

Lithuanian Traditional Salads Tradicinės Lietuvos salotos

Carrot Salad with Toasted Sunflower Seeds 164

Very Happy Plain and Traditional Apple Cake 227 Tradicinis paprastasis, bet labai laimingas obuolių pyragas

White Cabbage Salad

164

Split Peas with Bacon Bits Žirniai su spirgučiais

169

Vilma’s Apple and Crumb Cheesecake 230 Vilmos trupininis obuolių ir varškės pyragas

Head Cheese Šaltiena

170

Cheese Curd Donuts Varškės spurgos

234

Chiburekki Čeburekai

175

Cheese Curd Cookies Varškės sausainiai

239

Arvidas’s Grandmother’s Cookies Arvido močiutės sausainiai

242

In Love with Potatoes

185

245

Hemp Seed Salt Kanapinė druska

186

Kuršėnai Roll Cake Kuršėnų vyniotinis

248

Potatoes with Porcini and Bacon Bulvės su baravykais ir šonine

189

Viena bitė avilin medaus neprineš “A lone bee can’t create honey.” Honey Cake Medaus tortas

257

Mille-Feuille, a.k.a. Napoleon Napoleonas

261

Meat- or Curd-Filled Cepelinai, a.k.a. Didžkukuliai 193 Didžkukuliai, visiems žinomi kaip Cepelinai su mėsa arba varške Grated Potato Pie with Ground Meat Bulvių plokštainis su malta mėsa

200

Godmother’s “Anthill” Skruzdėlynas

265

Potato Pancakes Bulviniai blynai

205

“Mushroom” Cookies Meduoliniai grybukai

269

Samogitian Pancakes Žemaičių blynai

209

Almost-a-Torte Poppy Seed Cake Aguonų pyragas, beveik tortas

273

Whistlers or Country-Style Dzukian Šuškės 212 Švilpikai, arba Dzūkiškos ir ūkiškos šuškės

Baked Apples Stuffed with Cheese Curd and Nuts Kepti obuoliai su varške ir riešutais Chocolate Salami Tinginys

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279 280


Christmas Eve – Kūčios

285

Poppy Milk Aguonų pienas

287

Homemade Fresh Cheese Curd and Pressed Cottage Cheese Varškė ir varškės sūris

Christmas Porridge Kūčia

288

Geri žmonės uoga pasidalina “Good people share berries.”

330

Lightly Fermented Pickles Silpnai rauginti agurkai

336

Marinated Pickles Marinuoti agurkai

339

Kūčiukai 291 Kūčiukai Traditional Yeast Kūčiukai Quick Kūčiukai

292 294

Duoną taupyk rytojui, o ne darbą “Save not your work but your bread for tomorrow.”

297

A Few Words of Love for Herring Herring with Mushrooms, Onions, and Tomato Sauce Silkė su grybais, svogūnais ir pomidorų padažu

303 305

329

Sauerkraut 340 Rauginti kopūstai Beets in Apple Juice Burokėliai obuolių sultyse

343

Bread Kvass Duonos gira

345

Best Cranberry Cordial Spanguolinė geriausia

347

Krupnik Krupnikas

348

Herring with Carrots and Raisins Silkė su morkomis ir razinomis

306

Layered Herring Salad Silkė pataluose

309

Pickled Herring Marinuota silkė

313

Acknowledgments 352

Borscht with “Little Ears” Barščiai su auselėmis

314

Index 355

Cranberry Kissel Spanguolių kisielius

316

Our Larders are Always Full

323

Apple Cheese Obuolių sūris

324

Pear and Lingonberry Jam Bruknių uogienė su kriaušėmis

327

Taste Lithuania 13


Dr. Rimvydas Laužikas A Brief Overview of Lithuanian Gastronomic History

The origins of contemporary Lithuanian cuisine reach back deep in time. Lithuania’s first inhabitants arrived about twelve or thirteen millennia ago. About six or seven thousand years ago, they started to farm and raise livestock. About a thousand years ago, they created a state that became known as the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. You may begin to wonder why we are looking so far back. Gastronomy is a cultural tradition that tends to be particularly conservative. Usually, we eat the things that our parents liked to eat, and they, in turn, liked what their grandparents ate. In contemporary Lithuanian gastronomy, there are various traditions with roots that date back several millennia. Not everyone grasps this, so let’s start from the beginning. We’ve ascertained that gastronomic culture is a part of general human culture. Our culinary traditions, like all forms of culture, have two main strata: local and borrowed. Local Lithuanian food culture is based on the foods produced by settled inhabitants who practiced farming and animal husbandry—it has changed very little during the past several thousand years. Local culinary traditions (and their conservativeness) were shaped by technology and prevailing natural conditions. As far as natural conditions go, there are two geographic zones that can help us classify gastronomic traditions as “ours” and “not-ours.” Vines are cultivated in the southern zone; apple trees in the northern zone. Vines do not grow in our country, but apple trees can be widely cultivated in Lithuania. From this point of view, we are very similar to most northern European countries. The principal food ingredients in this northern zone are meat, grains, milk and dairy products, and wild edibles. There is a general hierarchy that can be applied to these basic foods: meat is at the very top, and wild edibles are at the bottom. Through all eras of culinary history, all people who could afford to eat meat in large quantities did so. Wild edibles were considered poor people’s food, because cultured people ate cultivated foods (from the garden, ploughed field, or livestock shed) and wild people ate wild foods (from the forests, lakes, and rivers.) For this reason, meat dishes, especially those prepared with high-quality meat (such as beef rouladen or suktinukai) were considered prestige foods. No less prestigious were the foods that required large amounts of milk in their production, such as cheese, cottage cheese, sour cream, and butter. Milk products were the preferred food “enhancers.” People could eat plain pancakes, or they could enhance them and make

14 Taste Lithuania


special festive pancakes with fresh cheese curd. This exalted position of milk products can still be seen in contemporary green salads—sour cream is still a common salad dressing in our day. Simple dishes were also frequently enhanced with eggs. This is why we still prefer dough with a golden tinge—it represents this old tradition of bettering our baked goods. Later historical circumstances caused some adjustments to the food pyramid of the ancient Lithuanians. As I’ve mentioned, the Lithuanian state appeared on the map of Europe about one thousand years ago. What’s interesting here is that the state was created by Lithuanian tribes who lived in the least fertile lands of the eastern Baltic coast. They inhabited densely forested areas that were far from the sea but dotted with lakes. Many vestiges of those ancient times can still be glimpsed in contemporary Lithuanian cooking. When our Lithuanian ancestors used the word for bread, duona, they envisaged a loaf made from rye flour. Meanwhile, in the Mediterranean region, bread meant a loaf baked with wheat flour. In Lithuania, leavened baked goods made from wheat are referred to as cakes (pyragai). This is because back in the days of the ancient Lithuanians, rye was the only crop that could be sustainably grown in fields not known for their high yields. For them, the word “flour” corresponded to “rye flour.” Wheat was far less common. Foods prepared with wheat flour were reserved for the tables of the nobility and were only eaten by common people on special occasions. Black rye bread made an unusual appearance on banquet tables of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Nobles would sprinkle the beer in their mugs with fried rye-bread croutons. Another particularity of lands with less abundant fields is the widespread consumption of wild edible foods. When crop failures occurred, or when the fields and pastures were affected by drought (and such misfortunes occurred right up to the end of the nineteenth century), the threat of starvation forced people to revert to the forests and lakes, where they gathered berries and mushrooms, and where they hunted and fished. Culinary traditions differ from those of neighboring countries because of Lithuanians’ extensive use of berries, mushrooms, wild honey, and leafy greens such as sorrel. Recipes adopted from other cultures were frequently incorporated into Lithuanian cuisine with the addition of wild mushrooms. This was how Tatar dumplings became Lithuanian dumplings. Because Lithuanians lived so far from the coast of the Baltic Sea, the Lithuanian word for fish, žuvis, is synonymous with freshwater fish. Historically, Lithuanians prized large fish, such as zander, pike, salmon, and—later on— carp. Dishes made with freshwater fish (stuffed pike, for instance) are still considered essential dishes on feast days. Differences in culinary tradition among the ethnographic regions of Lithuania were also determined by variations in soil fertility as well as the level of availability of the four main staples.

Taste Lithuania 15


Greatest Hits of Mom’s Kitchen

This is the longest and perhaps most important chapter of the book. I wanted to make sure it included recipes that remind me of the childhood breakfasts and lunches my mother and grandmother used to make: crepes, kotletukai, schnitzels, and cakes and pancakes made with cheese curd. Also, you will find the greatest hits of Lithuania cuisine: suktinukai, šašlykai, stuffed cabbage rolls, and clay pot stew. In some cases, I have selected from among the most popular Lithuanian recipes, such as fried fish and schnitzel, and then added my own ideas for improvising them as well as for side dishes. In others, I have described my favorite ways to prepare these beloved dishes, such as turkey goulash and sauerkraut. These were my mother’s and grandmother’s recipes, which my family and friends love, too. By glancing through the pages of this chapter you’ll get a good picture of Lithuanian cuisine. You’ll find plenty of different meat and vegetable dishes prepared in a variety of ways. Curd cheese dishes feature prominently. Fish recipes make their traditional appearance, as do Lithuanian summer favorites, such as zucchini, blueberries, and chanterelles. Some of the dishes are incredibly easy and quick to make, while others require more time and attention, but none require special kitchen equipment or appliances, or advanced culinary knowledge. Best of all, most of the recipes in this chapter can be adapted to accommodate anything from a small family breakfast to a hearty dinner. You can also use them to make a sumptuous lunch for friends or a feast fit for a large family reunion.

Greatest Hits of Mom’s Kitchen 21


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Cheese Curd Pancakes Varškės blynai If you’ve already read the recipe for fried cheese-curd cakes (see p. 23) then, at first glance, you might think these are the same. They’re not, but don’t sweat it. The batter for this recipe is much thinner, and the pancakes have more moisture and are more like traditional pancakes than biscuits. You could say this is the Lithuanian response to American or Scottish thin pancakes. These have salty, sweet, and sour flavors all in one. You can substitute cottage cheese or ricotta for the cheese curd and Greek yogurt for the kefir. This is a real star at the weekend breakfast table, and it comes with a guaranteed dose of calcium for the whole family. These pancakes are tastiest fresh from the pan, with honey and fresh berries on top.

400 g fresh cheese curd or cottage cheese 1 cup • 200 ml kefir • 3 eggs • 2 tablespoons sugar 1¼ cups or 5 oz. • 150 g flour • 1 heaping teaspoon baking powder • dash of salt • cooking oil • honey, jam, yogurt, or sour cream for serving 2 cups or 14 oz. •

1. Beat the eggs and the sugar together. 2. Mix in the cheese curd. Add the kefir and the salt. Mix again. 3. Sift the flour with the baking powder. Mix them into the cheese curd batter. 4. Use a spoon to ladle the batter onto a hot, oiled pan (one tablespoon = one pancake). 5. Serve warm with your choice of toppings.

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Neįbridęs į vandenį, žuvies nevalgysi “You won’t catch any fish if you’re afraid of getting wet.” Lithuanian proverb

“When I was a kid, I liked to drill holes in the ice to fish for smelt. I’d catch a bucketful of little fish and go home. But I never thought I’d turn out to be a full-time fisherman. What I liked doing even more back then was building snow forts or playing ice hockey,” reminisces Preila resident Rimantas Lubys (who is originally from nearby Pervalka). Now he just calls himself Rimas, and so does anyone who’s ever vacationed on the Curonian Lagoon. If you’re going to travel all the way out to the sea coast, it’s because you’ve got a hankering for smoked fish—and, of course, you want the very best smoked fish you can get. Rimas and his wife, Vita, close their smokehouse only during the colder months. Ironically, though, their favorite leisure-time activity is ice fishing for smelt. Anytime they feel like taking a break for a few hours, they look out the window at the lagoon to see if the fish are biting. Then, come May, when the first vacationers descend on the spit, this fisherman and his wife go back to their busy lives. They go to work early, sometimes at 3:30 or 4:00 a.m. They wash the previous night’s salted fish, so that it doesn’t get overly salty, and then they season it. Like a coastal shaman, Rimas has many secrets, such as the amazing blend of spices he uses, which he will never divulge to anyone, and I mean anyone. And there is the mandatory ritual of drinking coffee with Vita before smoking the fish. Then the seasoned fish are hung in the smokehouse. Vita stays there to keep the heat steady, and Rimas goes back to the lagoon to check the nets for that day’s catch and bring it home. “You never know what you’ll bring home from the sea. It might be just a few fish. It might be a half-ton. Maybe just some bream and zander, or you could also catch eel and catfish. I work with my brother Zolenas, and recently I caught the fish of a lifetime,” recounts Rimas, wide-eyed, still amazed. “Imagine—a 45-kilogram catfish! A fish so huge I can’t even begin to show you how big it was. That’s a real oncein-a-lifetime fish!” Checking the nets takes a few hours, so by the time Rimas and his brother get back at 10:00 a.m., the previous day’s fish have been smoked and his customers are already circling the smokehouse. (“Like cats!” adds Vita.) Rimas and his brother put the freshly caught fish in freezers for it to cool down, because the lagoon water is warm. Then they carry the freshly smoked fish over to their shop and begin selling it.

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“It’s all gone before you know it. Often, everything gets sold before we can even sit down to take a break. If there are any leftovers, we eat them, but that never happens. At the height of the season, in July and August, we smoke fish several times a day, so we have fish hot out of the smoker all day long,” he says, laughing. “We’re fish ourselves, by the way: I’m a Pisces and so is my wife, and we were born on the say day, just in different years!” Come evening, it’s back to the lagoon to set up the net for the following day. This is done no earlier than two hours before sunset to make sure the fish don’t spend too much time in the warm water. After they’ve finished setting up the nets, they get back only at 9:00 or 10:00 p.m., and then they still have to gut, clean, and salt that day’s catch. “In summer, we get only four or five hours of sleep. It’s not easy. But I get a boost from the phone calls coming in from vacationers: ‘Rimas, we’re coming up Friday. We really miss your fish! Can you save some for us?’” Rimas trained to be a car mechanic in Klaipėda. But after returning with his wife to the Curonian Spit, they both decided it was the best place to raise a family. There weren’t many jobs to be had, so Rimas took an offer to work on a fishing boat. After his first morning fishing the lagoon, he knew it was the life for him. He didn’t find it hard to get up early. He wasn’t afraid of falling through the ice while reeling in a fish. He got used to the rain and wind pummeling his face. “This work is hard as hell, but I like it. I can tell you right now that if you don’t have patience, you can’t be a fisherman. There’s no room for irresponsibility. Just imagine if a fisherman left his catch in the warm water for too long. It would spoil! There’s no place here for lazy people. Otherwise this business could never thrive.” You might not believe this, but when I asked Rimas what he misses most, he laughed and said he missed going to the beach. “We don’t have time to go to the coastal side of the spit while we’re working. The lagoon side feeds us, but it also eats up all of our time. But besides being hard, the work is also endlessly rewarding. You might think the lagoon is most picturesque just before sunrise. But I’d recommend, if you’re looking for a fabulous view, you ask one of the boats to take you out on a cold, quiet winter day. There’s nothing more amazing than seeing the spit covered in snowdrifts. The icicles on the littles homes shimmer. Smoke rises from their chimneys. And it’s calm all around.”


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Soup Means the World

“If you don’t eat soup, your belly will stick to your back,” my grandmother used to say. I remember it so vividly. And yes, we were fed soup all the time. To this day, my favorite soup is the same as it has been since I was five—my beloved beet soup. My children love it, too. Whenever I go away, soup is the first thing I crave as soon as I come home. It comforts and nourishes me. You could say that Lithuanian cuisine is unimaginable without soup: it’s part of our weekly cooking routine. We start eating soup as babies and literally grow up eating it. In Lithuania, soup can be both a starter and main dish. It’s comfort food. Soup is very seasonal and very special: in winter and autumn, there’s hot beet soup with potatoes and dried mushrooms, and, in summer, chilled borscht with kefir, beets, cucumber, and dill. In the following section, I’ve put together the greatest hits of the Lithuanian soup charts.

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Split Pea Soup Žirnių sriuba This thick, delicate, and hearty soup deserves some discussion. It reminds me of my childhood, because I had the pleasure of eating it so often—if not at school, I’d get it at home or at my grandmother’s house. Split pea soup is especially popular in Scandinavia. It might not be at the peak of its popularity anymore, but I still adore it and want to remind everybody that the attributes and benefits of peas more than compensate for the long boil. Besides, the simple, standard version can be reborn, say, by adding green peas or parsley pesto at the end. In other words, this is true comfort food—a really hearty soup. Traditionally it was made by boiling split peas with bacon for a long time, but you can make a more contemporary version just by adding green peas or some spinach and herbs.

1 cup • about 230 g split peas 1 cup • about 140 g frozen or fresh green peas • 1 onion • 2 carrots 4 oz. • 100 g cold-smoked bacon (optional) • bunch of parsley • splash of lemon juice • salt, black peppercorns, and allspice berries • bay leaf • ½ large leek or 1 small leek 7–9 cups • 1½–2 liters chicken stock or vegetable broth, or water

1. Cover the split peas with plenty of stock and set the pot to boil. Add the bay leaf and leek. Season with pepper. The peas will take a long time to cook, but the longer they take the tastier they are. 2. Cut the bacon into cubes and sizzle it in a frying pan over medium heat so that it releases plenty of fat. (Save a tablespoon of the fat for the parsley pesto.) 3. Finely chop the onion and coarsely grate the carrots. Add them to the pan and continue cooking until the vegetables soften. 4. Remove the leek from the pot and transfer the contents of the frying pan to the pot and continue boiling. At the end, add the green peas. They only need five minutes. The soup should be salty enough from the bacon, but taste it to be sure. 5. To make the parsley pesto, put the parsley in either a food processor or a mortar, squeeze in some lemon juice, and add the bacon fat (or substitute olive oil), then add a pinch of salt and grind it up until it’s the right consistency. Drop a teaspoon of pesto into each bowl before serving the soup.

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Snacks and Salads

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Snacks and Salads 167


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Split Peas with Bacon Bits Žirniai su spirgučiais Wherever you find split peas with bacon bits, you’ll find beer. In Lithuanian pubs and eateries, this savory food can usually be found in the part of the menu labeled užkandžiai prie alaus, or beer snacks. Don’t think this is poor man’s food: peas are an excellent source of protein. It’s obvious why vegans and vegetarians like them. I know a Briton who lived in Lithuania for years. He adored this dish. He’d always order while vacationing in the town of Palanga on the coast of the Baltic Sea. He was such a big fan that he’d even order it in Lithuanian, which was no mean feat because of his difficulty pronouncing it. I don’t make this dish at home very often, and neither do my friends, but who could ever pass on these at the pub? You’ll find split peas with bacon bits on menus at bars that sell beer more than anything else. The beer washes down saltiness of the bacon, and the peas fill you up. You don’t even have to toss the peas and bacon bits if you don’t want to—the bacon bits work fine as a topping.

10 oz. • 300 g yellow split peas 5 oz. • 150 g cold-smoked bacon • 1 onion • handful of minced dill • dash of salt, pepper • cooking oil

1. Soak the peas in water overnight. Boil them in salted water for about 30 minutes, checking to make sure they don’t get overcooked. Skim off any foam. Drain the peas. 2. Slice the onion and bacon into small cubes. 3. Sizzle the bacon until some fat had been rendered. If needed, add a splash of oil. Add the onions. Cook for a few minutes until the onion softens and starts turning yellow. Turn off the heat. 4. Toss the peas with the onions and bacon bits. Season with pepper and throw in the dill. Add more salt if needed.

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7. Moisten your hands. Pick up some of the potato mixture and shape it into a ½ in. / 1 cm thick pancake in one hand. Place a ball of filling in the center and wrap the pancake around it. Press it closed until there is no visible seem and no holes. Set them aside carefully. 8. Bring a very large pot of well-salted water to a boil. Stir one tablespoon of powdered starch into a glass of water and pour it into the boiling water. Place the cepelinai in the water and boil them for 20 minutes. Reduce the heat when they float to the surface. 9. To make the sauce, dice the bacon and finely chop the herbs. Heat some oil in a pan, fry the bacon, and add the herbs. Fry for a few more minutes before seasoning with pepper.

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In Love with Potatoes 197


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Potatoes with Porcini and Bacon Bulvės su baravykais ir šonine I don’t know which of these is the sidekick—the porcini mushrooms or the new potatoes. New potatoes fresh from the garden, served without garnish—just a sprinkling of salt and some butter—are a real treat for me. You don’t have to peel them or scrub them because their skins are as thin as parchment, and I love that they are so redolent with the smell of fertile soil. This is a great, simple way to cook porcini, and it’s also very Lithuanian. Whether you’re from the country or the city, you’ll never make a better mushroom dish than this one, with its fresh scallions, dill you can smell from afar, bacon, and sour cream. There are only a few simple ingredients in this dish—the main hero is the porcini, and the rest comes straight from the garden. It’s tasty with boiled potatoes sprinkled with dill, but you can make it a bit fancier by boiling it all in the oven.

2¼ lb. 11 oz. or 3 cups 4 oz.

1. Thoroughly wash the new potatoes. (Peel them if • 1 kg new potatoes you’re using regular potatoes.) Cut them into wedges. 300 g fresh or frozen • I usually quarter them. Boil them in salted water for 5 porcini mushrooms to 7 minutes, depending on the size of the potatoes. • 100 g cold-smoked bacon They should be firm, not soft. Drain them, toss them • 4 tablespoons sour cream with oil, and place them in a baking pan lined with • handful of dill parchment paper. Put them in the oven at 400°F/200°C • handful of scallions for about 20 minutes, or until they’re nicely roasted. • salt and pepper 2. Prepare the mushrooms by rinsing them off and chop• splash of lemon juice ping them up, not too finely. Thaw them if they’re fro• cooking oil zen and drain any liquids with a sieve. 3. Slice the bacon into cubes. 4. Heat the pan, drop in the bacon bits, and fry them until crispy. Add the mushrooms, pour in the sour cream, season with pepper, and simmer for 10–15 minutes until the mushrooms are soft. 5. Finely chop the dill and scallions. Add them to the pan and splash with lemon juice. Stir them and turn off the heat. Salt them to taste. Serve with the hot potatoes.

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Cheese Curd Donuts Varškės spurgos When I was in school, during breaks, we would buy yeast buns with various fillings, such as cinnamon, cheese curd, raisins, or jam. But donuts with fresh curd cheese were something totally different—they were always prepared for trips, visits, and special occasions. This doesn’t mean to say that we didn’t have spurgos often. Donuts don’t have to be a holiday dessert only, but they’re so delicious that every time you have one it certainly feels like a holiday. The main ingredient is fresh white cheese curd, which is mixed with a little flour and some eggs. Usually, only a small amount of sugar goes into the spurgos, leaving the job of sweetening them to the powdered sugar coating. The donuts expand as they deep fry, giving them the firmness of bread but the appearance of a honey comb underneath their brown crust. It’s very important to use a large vessel—one that is both wide and deep—for deep frying them. This allows you to make larger batches. The oil has to be kept at an even temperature, and it’s best to use canola or corn oil because they’re odorless. If the oil isn’t hot enough, the donuts will absorb it; if it’s too hot, the outside will cook too quickly and the inside too slowly. Test the temperature with a small slice of bread. If the oil bubbles around the bread as soon as you drop it in, it’s time to start making the donuts. If the oil bubbles only slightly, then it’s not hot enough; if the oil starts spurting and popping, then it’s too hot. Spurgos are great for serving to guests or at children’s birthday parties. And you can prepare them on the days you crave an authentic Lithuanian dessert made with fresh cheese curd. I understand that fresh cheese curd isn’t easy to find in faraway lands, but don’t worry, you can get similar results using cottage cheese—all you have to do is drain it and press it through a sieve. You can also use quark or ricotta, and, if you’re particularly enthusiastic about making these the authentic way, you can make your own cheese curd (see p. 329).

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Viena bitė avilin medaus neprineš “A lone bee can’t create honey.”

Lithuanian proverb

Brigita stands in a meadow that’s covered in bluebells. She’s listening to the buzz of the bees. The fragrance of flowers and honey fills the air around Narbūčiai, the village where she grew up. She can tell the bees apart—drones, workers, and so forth—based on their pitch. She knows when a new queen bee has been born. This meadow music has a special place in Brigita’s heart. Perhaps it has a special place in the heart of every Lithuanian. Bees don’t know the walls of space and time that we do, which is why they unite her with her deceased parents and grandparents. Her godmother, Genovaite, though, continues to provide her with sheltering familial love. Brigita Bublytė is a well-known actress and musician. She’s a star of major films and musicals. Her latest project brings together Spanish flamenco and Lithuanian polyphonic music. The bee motif becomes clearer to me: the dance of the bees is a form of communication. Their choreographed messages let the others know where to find sustenance and where to build a home. Brigita’s grandmother lived to be a centenarian. She spent her entire life in song. She used to say that singing made it easier to work. She wove her own linen from flax she grew herself. “These curtains were made from linen that she wove by hand. My grandmother made everything by hand: towels, rugs, pillows, and much else. I even have the traditional national dress she sewed herself,” says Brigita, her light-blue eyes gazing into the distance. You can almost hear the cadence of a traditional upland song in her voice as she continues reminiscing. “This home was surrounded by fields of rye. There were meadows, too. Grandmother kept a goat. She had a playful way of coaxing us into doing work. First some work had to be done, then we would get a reward. She used to make me porridge with milk and cherries.” It was Brigita’s father, Rimantas, who came up with the idea of raising bees. Her mother had already passed away and she was living on her own by then. “We wanted to spend time together, so we started beekeeping. I was responsible for the bee smoker and for maintaining a beekeeping journal. When he fell ill, I was able to communicate my deep love for my father through the bees,” she said emotionally. “When Father passed away, I thought the bees would die too. But they recovered and survived. Then, I realized I had to continue beekeeping alone. The bees are my connection to my father and grandmother as well as to all my ancestors who lived here. They’re gone, but they’re not gone, and it’s this connection that remains very important.”

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Honey Cake Medaus tortas When I was a child, honey cake was the most popular of all the cakes. It was baked for nearly every special occasion. It made an appearance no matter whose birthday was being celebrated—Dad’s, Mom’s, a best friend’s, or a neighbor’s. It was served at anniversaries and weddings, and so on. This cake’s flavor is so ingrained in our taste buds that, in the past twenty or thirty years, I can’t recall a single instance of someone making a disparaging comment about it. Lithuanians have tried everything—tiramisu, pavlova, mille-feuille (known to us as Napoleonas, see p. 261)—but a piece of honey cake evokes only the warmest feelings of nostalgia: “Oh wow, honey cake … Delicious!” We keep coming back to it like we do to the Baltic Sea amber and like we do to white linen table cloths and real wooden benches. Honey cake is such a part of us that it will never go out of style. Everyone seems to have a unique and special recipe for honey cake, but the results are always very close. The thinner you make the honey cake layers, the tastier the cake will be. The layers won’t come out like a sponge cake—they’re closer to a light, delicate cookie. These will later be moistened with tea when you assemble the layers and filling. Lithuanian honey and sour cream work a special kind of magic together. This recipe can yield either a very broad cake or a very tall one—enough for 15 to 20 guests. For the layers: 8 oz. 9 oz. ½ cup or 4 oz. ½ cup or 4 oz.

• 220 g butter • 250 g honey • 100 g brown sugar • 100 g white sugar • 2 eggs • 2 tablespoons sour cream 1 lb. 13 oz. • 800 g flour • 2 teaspoons baking powder • 2 teaspoons cinnamon • 1 cup strong black tea (Earl Grey is best)

For the cream filling: • 1–2 lemons 2 lb. 4 oz. • 1 kg sour cream (no less than 30% fat) 5 oz. • 150 g sugar

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Christmas Eve

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Christmas Eve 299


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Layered Herring Salad Silkė pataluose This traditional recipe for layered herring salad is almost legendary. The herring is covered with mayonnaise and a variety of vegetables. This dish may not make it onto the Christmas Eve table, because usually herring with mushrooms or beets take center stage for that meal, but I do know some people who cannot imagine the festive table without it. It’s a good, satisfying snack that combines the sweetness of carrots and beets, the acidity of apples, and the softness of potatoes. The dish is always served cold. Make it at least a few hours ahead of time for the flavors to meld.

• 4 herring fillets (or two whole herrings) • 2 carrots • 1 tart apple • 2 beets • 2 potatoes 3½ oz. • 100 g mayonnaise • 3 tablespoons cooking oil • 1 teaspoon honey • salt and pepper • herbs (parsley, dill) for garnish

1. Boil the unpeeled potatoes and carrots in a pot of salted water. 2. Wash the beets, wrap them in foil, put them on an oven pan or rack, and bake at 350°F/180°C. They will need oneand-a-half to two hours, depending on their size. Check them with a fork to make sure they’re soft. 3. Peel the cooled vegetables (potatoes, carrots, and beets) and grate each one separately. 4. Heat a splash of oil in a medium-size pan. Add the carrots and season them with salt and pepper. Add the honey, mix, and fry briefly to caramelize the honey. The carrots should be shiny. Let them cool. 5. Cut the herring fillets up any way you wish. Bite-size pieces work best. 6. Wash the apple and grate it. 7. Lay the herring pieces down on the bottom of a herringdish, or a similar dish. Follow with layers of the remaining ingredients in this order: carrot, potato, salt and pepper, apple, mayonnaise, and beets. Sprinkle with herbs to serve.

Christmas Eve 309


Lightly Fermented Pickles Silpnai rauginti agurkai This is exclusively a summer food. It is prepared when cucumbers are off to the races and start to ripen so quickly that you hardly have enough buckets and baskets get them all inside. Pickles made this way retain their crispness, and they absorb the best aromas and flavors of your garden and orchard. They can be served as a garnish or used to make salads. But they’re so delicious you’ll want to eat them on their own. Making them is very simple. All you have to do is walk around and gather some aromatic leaves. But if you or your neighbors don’t have cherry trees or currant bushes, then don’t fret—salt, sugar, and dill are all you need to make deliciously fresh fermented pickles. It’s best to ferment these pickles in glass jars or clay pots. (You can also start them in a large bowl or pot and transfer them to jars after one day of soaking in the brine.) If you use lukewarm rather than cold water for the brine, they will be more flavorful and ferment quicker. Then you’ll only need to store them at room temperature for one day before eating them. The longer they sit, the more sour they’ll come out. Move them to the refrigerator after a few days to prevent them from becoming too sour.

2¼ lb. • 1 kg fresh short cucumbers (such as Kirby cucumbers) • 1 heaping tablespoon salt 4 cups • 1 liter water • 3–4 garlic cloves • 3–4 dill sprigs with leaves and florets • a few cherry and black currant leaves • small piece of horseradish leaf

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1. Wash the cucumbers and cut off their ends. 2. Cut the garlic cloves in half without peeling them. 3. Put half the herbs and garlic and all of the cucumbers into jars or a pot. Place the remaining herbs and garlic on top. 4. Dissolve the salt in cold water and cover the cucumbers with it. 5. Leave the jars or the pot at room temperature for two days, then store them in a cool place.


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Beets in Apple Juice Burokėliai obuolių sultyse After potatoes, beets are undoubtedly the most popular root vegetable in Lithuania. Beets and apples are like close cousins—they appear together frequently. Like pickles, beets can be fermented—they’ve been prepared that way in Lithuania since the days of old—or they can be pickled in vinegar and sugar, but they’re very special when marinated in apple juice. I’m not the only one who grew up eating beets pickled in apple juice. They are simply magnificent. This is a very popular recipe in Lithuania, and it’s one of the best ways to turn beets into an instantly available ingredient for making beet salad or chilled borscht (see p. 102). Honestly, the tartness of the apple juice and the sweetness of the beets work together miraculously: you could eat these plain with a spoon. They’re also great as a side dish when served with meat patties (see p. 38) or any kind of meat or fish. The longest step is boiling the beets, which can take up to two hours, depending how big they are. That said, you don’t have to read stories to them as they cook or, even, stir them. Just put them on to boil and go read a book. The remaining steps are quick and easy. This recipe calls for honey and spices, which give the beets a nice aroma, but my grandmother only ever used some allspice and a bay leaf, so you can decide the extra ingredients for yourself. You can substitute half as much sugar for the honey or skip it altogether. 4½ lb. • 2 kg small beets 1 cup • 200 ml apple vinegar 4 cups • 1 liter apple juice 3½ oz. • 100 g honey • 3–4 cloves • 2 cinnamon barks • 2 heaping tablespoons salt

1. Boil the beets and leave them to cool. 2. Prepare the jars by washing them with a solution of hot water and baking soda. Sterilize the lids by boiling them for a few minutes. Spread everything out to dry on a clean kitchen towel. 3. Peel the beets and grate or cut them to the size and shape of your preference—cubes, slices, or wedges. Place them in jars. 4. Pour the apple vinegar, apple juice, honey, and spices into a pot and boil them. 5. Pour the mixture over the beets. Screw on the lids loosely, so that the steam can escape. 6. Pasteurize the beets by putting the jars into a large pot. Fill it with water almost to the tops of the jars. Boil for 20 minutes if you’re using half-liter jars. Boil larger jars for a bit longer. 7. Remove the jars from the pot. Screw on the lids tightly. Turn them upside down and cover them with a cloth (a wool blanket will do). Allow them to cool down slowly. Once they have cooled, store them in a cool place.

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Nicholson, Beata

UDK 641.55(083.12)                         Ni-08

Taste Lithuania Beata Nicholson. – Vilnius : Beatos virtuvė. 2015. – 360 p. ISBN 978-609-8157-02-4

This is the sixth cookbook by Lithuanian food expert Beata Nicholson. It is both a culinary memoir and cooking travelogue. Childhood reminiscences are interspersed with visits to makers of artisanal foods around Lithuania. The book is a personal compendium of contemporary Lithuanian cooking. It contains more than ninety recipes for traditional dishes that are still prepared in Lithuanian homes today. They range from daily fare to homemade masterpieces for special occasions. The book’s seven chapters cover dishes for all meals of the day and vary from the simple to the elegant. Recipes for preserving and fermenting food are included. The book is intended for those who wish to enjoy homemade Lithuanian foods.

Author Beata Nicholson Acquisitions Editor Odeta Bložienė Project & Production Editor Laura Kalvelytė-Murinienė Photographers: Judita Kuniskytė, Dovilė Jakštaitė (Cover photograph and photographs on p. 9, 66, 136, 184, 203, 216-217, 264, 267, 353.) Art Director Dalia Šimavičiūtė Layout Designer Gitana Jurkienė Developmental Editor Gabjota Alūzaitė Translator Aras Viligaila Vėbra

Cooking for family and friends is pure joy for Beata, a Lithuanian-born journalist who turned her passion for food prepared with love and kindness Food Editors: Elžbieta Monkevič, Ieva Pikžirnytė, Deimantė Urbonienė into a career. Translator & Copy Editor Darius Ross Editorial Consultant Tom Nicholson

Editorial Assistant Nerius Pleškys After

working as a presenter for Lithuanian television, she met her future Tom Nicholson, and moved to London. She enjoyed all of the exciting cuisines the city has to offer. She began writing a food blog, and she studied at Leiths School of Food and Wine.

Communication Consultant Vilma Janulytė husband,

Publisher

JSC “Beatos virtuvė” Fast-forward eight years: Today Beata and her family are back in Lithuania. Gedimino Av. 27, LT-01103 Vilnius, Lithuania She is a best-selling author of five cookbooks in Lithuanian, and she hosts redakcija@beatosvirtuve.lt www.beatosvirtuve.lt Printed

a widely viewed TV cooking show.

Taste Lithuania is her first book in English. It is a love letter to her husband, to her mother-in-law, and to all of her English-speaking friends.

JSC “BALTO print”, Utenos St. 41A, LT-08217 Vilnius, Lithuania

ISBN 978-609-8157-02-4

This book is about the essence of Lithuanian home cooking. It is an invitation to discover Lithuania through its enduring culinary traditions. With these essential recipes, you will learn to make dishes that have been cherished by generations.

Beata Nicholson. Taste Lithuania  

Cooking for family and friends is pure joy for Beata, a Lithuanian-born journalist who turned her passion for food prepared with love and ki...

Beata Nicholson. Taste Lithuania  

Cooking for family and friends is pure joy for Beata, a Lithuanian-born journalist who turned her passion for food prepared with love and ki...

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