Assignment 90: Moldova

MOL mapLocation: Eastern Europe
Population: 2.6 million
Capital: Chisinau
Geography: A landlocked country of plains bordered by two rivers
Language: Romanian
Signature flavours: Beef, pork, dairy, eggs, bell peppers, dill, potato

The Menu

Eric has made several forays into Eastern Europe for this blog, but it had been a while since his last adventure into the region. He found gathering recipes was made somewhat challenging by the fact that most Moldovan blogs presented their information in Romanian (the language of Moldova). In other words, most of the recipes he found were by Moldovans, for Moldovans. He was able to get around this by searching for known Moldovan dishes through sites from Romania instead, which tended to keep global audiences in mind (there is a great deal of crossover between Romanian food and Moldovan food, so Eric found this was a reliable way to get his recipes).

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Ciorba: A sour-brothed soup loaded with onions, carrots, potato, sauerkraut, white cannellini beans, and sausage.

Prep and cooking time: 60 min
Difficulty: 2/5

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Baked Mamaliga: A cornmeal pap mixed with eggs, butter, and feta cheese, then baked until golden on top. This dish is commonly enjoyed with sour cream for dipping.

Prep and cooking time: 60 min
Difficulty: 2/5

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Fried Pepper Salad: A colourful, zesty salad of bell peppers, flavoured with onion and tomato paste, and spiced with cracked black pepper.

Prep and cooking time: 30 min
Difficulty: 1/5

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Parjoale: Juicy meatballs made from beef, onion, garlic, dill and parsley, and milk-soaked bread, rolled in egg and bread crumbs, and deep fried.

Prep and cooking time: 30 min
Difficulty: 2/5

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Sfintisori: Twisted bready doughnuts folded around a ground walnut filling, soaked in syrup, glazed with honey, and sprinkled with more walnuts. Just a little bit decadent.

Prep and cooking time: 2.5 hours
Difficulty: 4/5

The Shopping List

For once, we were able to find everything at our local country supermarket!

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The Meal

Eric warned me in advance that some of our usual Wooden Spoon Wanderer secrecy (the cook of the evening shares as little as possible before the meal itself so that the feast is a surprise…read more about our process here) would be sacrificed for this assignment since he planned on having my help for his chosen dessert: sfintisori. I am always glad to help because it gives me a peek into Eric’s process and sometimes makes it easier to do the write-ups for assignments that I would be otherwise uninvolved in.

Step one for the sfintisuri was to make a soft, springy dough, and then to give it an hour of rising time. The recipe Eric was using would have made about twenty of the little cakes, so we opted to split it in half. As those of you who bake know, however, cutting a recipe by half is not as easy as it sounds, since baking is a game of ratios. With a little tweaking, I was able to make a lovely, well-hydrated dough that rose its little glutinous heart out. Next, I cut the dough into pieces and rolled out each one in turn, spreading filling across the long edge of the pastry and rolling it into a tube. The tube was pressed into a circle and then twisted into a figure eight. That done, I left the kitchen in Eric’s capable hands. He brushed each figure eight with egg yolk and baked them, then soaked them in a syrup of sugar and orange and lemon zests, and finally sprinkled them with crushed walnuts. More on these beauties later.

I spent my afternoon in the forest (how I love to be able to say that now that we have left the city) and returned to a house full of delectable smells. I had just enough time to research Moldova (again, learn more about the WSW protocol here) before Eric called me to the meal.

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The first thing we tried was the sour ciorba. If you like sauerkraut, you’ll like ciorba. Sour soup is a surprise at first, but it’s tempered by potato, carrot, and spicy sausage (Eric used vegan sausage).

Next, we tried the fantastic pepper salad. Not only was it a thing of beauty, it was bursting with flavour, had the perfect amount of crunch, and brought just a little heat. I declared it WSW Showcase worthy.

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Who doesn’t love a meatball? Eric’s were deliciously juicy. Made from soy beef, they were fried in our new deep fryer (behind us are the days of spilling hot oil all over the kitchen or falling prey to wild oil temperature swings) until slightly crisp on the outside, but perfectly soft on the inside.

We are pap experts, having WSW’ed our way through plenty of Western and Central African countries by now. Mamaliga is the national dish of Moldova, and as with many national dishes, this one can be made in a variety of ways depending on who you ask. Eric opted for this slightly richer version with cheese and egg that gets baked after being stirred on the stovetop. The cheese didn’t come through that much, to be honest, but dipped into cool sour cream, the mamaliga was the definition of comfort food.

We finished our meal with sfintisori. We were both reminded of Portuguese bakeries as we dug into these pillowy pastries. The lemon and orange zests came through in both the dough and the syrup (I can still smell it on my fingers), and the honey glaze soaked all the way into the simple walnut filling.

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Another country checked off the list! Number 90 is cause for some celebration…it means number 100 is just around the corner.

Links
https://retete.unica.ro/recipes/parjoale-moldovenesti/

Ciorbă (Week 24, Moldova)


https://www.internationalcuisine.com/romanian-mamaliga/
https://retete.unica.ro/recipes/reteta-de-sfintisori-mucenici/
https://books.google.ca/books?id=GmqEAwAAQBAJ&printsec=frontcover&dq=world+cookbook&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjJnePkpunrAhWyd98KHW2JBwEQ6wEwAXoECAUQAQ#v=onepage&q=world%20cookbook&f=false

Disclaimer: I’m not a professional chef. I’m just a passionate cook with a curiosity for flavours I’ve never tried. For great recipes from gifted local cooks, follow the links above.

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