Gradual metamorphosis from city slickers to country bumpkins

Celebrating the Celebrity! November 25, 2012

Filed under: Recipes,Sargahaz,The Story of Us — Rohini Berry @ 3:31 pm
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Anyone attempting home repairs, restorations and such will tell you the importance of having a good team of builders to back you up. Balazs our carpenter is the poster child of great work ethic, affordability and affability. We have dared to undertake many a departures from reality like say, come spring 2013 we commence building a library and view room in our forest, solely banking on his skills with all things wood. That and the fact that Balazs is super enthusiastic about our culinary (mis)adventures makes him a welcome presence at Sargahaz.
It therefore comes as no surprise that when he told us about his scheduled television appearance earlier today, we suited and booted up and made our way to my inlaws’ Arctic cold summer house (they have TV) just to watch Balazs on National TV.
To celebrate the occasion and keep us warm while we waited the program to commence, we sipped on hot honey lemon tea and munched hastily assembled toasted mushroom and cheese filled baguettes.
Incidentally the mushroom filling is incredibly versatile when it comes to serving. You can eat it with nice warm rotis fresh off the tava, serve it with rice, or stuff leftovers in a sandwich as I just did. Or top it on your pizza if you dare!
Here’s the recipe

Mushroom a’la Sargahaz
White button mushrooms washed, de stemmed, and finely sliced length wise.
Ginger finely sliced length wise – I usually go heavy on the ginger, it’s a love affair!
1 onion sliced length wise
A knob of unsalted butter – how much is that exactly? You decide.
1 can of chopped tomatoes in tomato sauce or equivalent quantity fresh diced tomatoes
Black pepper
Salt to taste.

Melt the butter in a pan. Add the ginger and onions and fry on a medium flame till the onions are transparent. Add the tomatoes and gently simmer till sauce thickens. Add the mushrooms and cook till whatever consistency you like. I like to cook the hell out of the fungi while Gabor prefers them more plump and less “sorry” looking. Add salt and pepper towards the end.

The flavour is amazing! You can add your stamp to the dish by experimenting with a whole host of spices. I prefer mine basic, peppery and gingery.
To serve with rice, you don’t need to cook down the tomatoes too much. I like my gravy on the thicker side so my tomatoes are cooked down quite a bit regardless of my serving it with rice or stuffing it in a sandwich akin to meatballs.

Cook it, savour it and tell me what you think!
Happy culinary kills!


To market to market…. November 2, 2012

The farmers market at Kaptalantoti is the highlight of my weekends. Four years ago, we wandered around the informal space of rickety tables and odd bits of display furniture stacked with baked goods, fresh produce, greens, plant cuttings, the occassional pup and kitten litters for sale. It was love at first sight. Over the next few months I talked Gabor into participating in the market just for the fun of it and participate we did, en force! My father-in-law carted down crates of Klapp Pears from the family orchard, my mother-in-law got bullied into baking an assortment of her phenomenal cakes, and I grabbed a few scarfs that I had designed (I moonlight as a scarf designer and my lovely indulgent father produces them for me). Gabor crafted a quick display for me from the branch of a blown over tree and Et Voila! we were in business.
We got to know our vendor neighbours, got in on some village gossip, I made a fool of myself with my grasp of the Hungarian language or rather lack of. What a fun time it was! And we actually managed to sell out of my scarfs! An entrepreneur was born that Sunday. Four years down the line, the single branch display has mushroomed to three, a roof has gone up over said branches, and a carpet underneath to boot! My scarfs have a bit of a fan following, and a no name piece of rectangle or square now has a brand of its own. Polipilla. Polip and Pillango for short. The octopus and butterfly. Nicknames that Gabor and I have for each other. Someday I shall get around to having an online website. And with it, a clientele more diverse than the loyal and friendly weekend Budapest, German and Dutch crowd. But for now, this is ambitious enough. All our home grown, scatter brained schemes – Sargahaz and Polipilla within a two mile radius. And our “Going Country” line of jams, chutneys, syrups, baked goodies that made its market debut on a Polipilla scarf covered rickety table two weeks ago. Life still is finger licking good!


Head in the clouds October 23, 2012

Filed under: Dreamscape,Sargahaz,The Story of Us — Rohini Berry @ 1:05 pm

The days at Sargahaz are getting to be shorter. We rise later than usual, do less with our time, and after marking the end of each day with a glorious colour burst sunset, we head to bed our minds full of plans for winters’ hibernation.

Picking walnuts and peeling the walnut “eggs” out of their dried up fleshy shells is Antara’s new hobby. She is fascinated by the woodsy stain it leaves on her chubby little fingers. Gabor is busy picking quince off the ground and butchering the fruit with a mad glint in his eye – this is the first time the boy is trying his hand at making “palinka”.

I spend my recently freed up time crafting dolls clothes for Anta’s “Mimi” collection – she has christened every one of her dolls “Mimi”. And I plan on teaching myself to knit or as Gabor says, getting a jump start on the grandma years. The dude has very staunch views on matters pertaining to knitting and polka dots – for grandmas only! Eyeroll please!

Yet, as we welcome and busy ourselves with the odd guest or two or dozen to Sargahaz for an autumn meal or weekend stay, our minds never stray far from the warmth of the fireplace, a book or two, candied walnuts, the scent of cloves and mugs of mulled wine to keep us in good steed and comfort.

Growing up I remember my mother remarking often on how I always had my head in the clouds and now as I wake up each fall morning in my mist covered hilltop home, the whole of me seems to have found its way to my cloud covered head and for once, life and limb are in perfect harmony.


The eggplant and I August 17, 2012

One of my favourite eats from my mom’s kitchen was ‘baingan ka bharta’ or mashed eggplant. Doesn’t sound very appetising I know, but believe you me, it’s amazing! In my travels, I have encountered various versions of mashed eggplants, babaganoush being one avatar most of us are familiar with. In Hungary I had the pleasure of tasting their spin on mashed eggplants – ‘ padlizsan crem’. While I am a fan for life, the dear husband does not “do” mayonnaise, a key ingredient of this culinary triumph. And so I had to jolt my sedentary grey mater out of retirement and come up with my very own version which combines the unbeatable flavour that comes out of uniting the ingredients key to three different cultures and kitchens.
Here is my ode to the humble eggplant – the purple zero nutritional bombastic flavourful wonder veg.

Ro’s Eggplant Spread
Grilled whole eggplant – skin charred and peeled off.
Corriander – no more than a few sprigs.
Lemon juice
Garlic – a couple cloves
Green chili – Or something similar if you like to pack some heat but don’t over do it.
Olive oil – oodles of it
Salt to taste

Grind all the above ingredients together into a smooth paste while pouring a steady drizzle of olive oil. Serve fresh with toasted pitas or similar.

You ask and rightly so “Ro! Why no real quantities!!” The answer is simple. For me, this is about the eggplant. I use more of it and restrain my hand when it comes to my all time favourite corriander or green chilli for that matter. It is an ode to the humble little fellow after all. For you, it may be all about the corriander with the smoky flavour of the eggplant playing second fiddle, or about some scotch bonnet peppers where everything else will regardless play in the chorus what with that ‘on fire’ palette of yours. In which case I would advise you keep a jug of milk handy. Nothing like a cuppa to get them burning taste buds under control.

Try it, taste it, and if you are so inclined, drop me a line about it.
Aubernaturally yours.


The Nickname Nomenclature August 10, 2012

Filed under: The Story of Us — Rohini Berry @ 10:15 am
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The first time I met the bulk of Gabor’s passé was during the street musician festival in Veszprem. Conversation with a bunch of predominantly “high and happy” fellas in Hungarian was, well challenging, given my ‘barely a month long’ introduction to the language. And so I was quite content to play the roll of a listener and did what I did best – make up possible scenarios being discussed by all sundry in the conversations at hand.
The talk was peppered with a lot of “prego”s and I wildly did a quick review of my Italian vocab – the remnants of a past romance with a lovely Northern Italian boy whose command on the English language was equivalent to that of mine on Italian. Borderline elementary at best.
Turns out “Prego” is what Gabor’s bosom buddies call him. Don’t know how the nickname came about but still. Prego. Nothing to do with Italy, Italian or otherwise. Just a whim on someone’s behalf.
Which brings me to my pet subject. Hungarian nicknames. If one scrolls down the husband’s cellphone, one gets to be acquainted with gems such as Csiz (pronounced Cheese), Csicso – short for Peter (pronounced Cheecho), ZoZo, Szsz (pronounced sssssss as in the hissing sound ending with a half eaten A). And there is the Attilla called Matzo (nothing culinary or Jewish about him), The Andras called Bandi, and hold your breath, the Istvan called Cobra ( a straight laced fellow if I ever met one). It’s hard enough getting your tongue round the Christian names but keeping up with the nicknames! Oy Ve!


Kohlrabi in the kitchen July 30, 2012

This one’s for you Sandy!
I can’t remember encountering Kohlrabi in our household unless I take into account Bansi uncle’s delicious kohlrabi pickle which to date features high on the list of the Berry Sisters all time favourite munchies.

Infact who better than my health fanatic husband to introduce me Kohlrabi culinary possibilities. Just this morning, after yanking out the sky high weeds in my kitchen garden and thereby purging myself of all accumulated guilt over not having the time to nurture my lovelies owing to a full house of guests (never a bad thing), I harvested half a dozen of these tennis ball size beauties to make this:

The Kovacs Gabor Kohlrabi Creation

Kohlrabi peeled and Sliced into disks (Gabor prefers to peel and cube while I like to invoke the image of watercress)
Fresh Ginger root slivered as much as you like, but don’t make a meal out of it!
1 tsp Mustard seeds
1 tbsp dijon mustard
Salt to taste
Olive oil
1 cup water approximately

Heat the oil in a saucepan. Splutter the mustard seeds and then add the ginger. Stir for a minute or so. Then add the kohlrabi disks or cubes and stir. Take the dijon mustard and beat into the water. Add this mixture into the saucepan. In goes the salt. Cover and simmer on a low heat till the kohlrabi is cooked. I prefer my kohlrabi to be crunchy so I cook it long enough for the kohlrabi to absorb the flavor but not long enough for it to soften. You might prefer it the other way around. And don’t be afraid to play around with mustard quantities. Trust your tastebuds, they do not necessarily function the same way as mine!

Water quantity would depend on how “wet” you like your kohlrabi. Et voila! Serve with some lovely steamed jasmine rice and you have Gabor’s version of a fragrant and watery nose inducing heaven on your plate!

Happy eats y ‘all. Tell me how it goes…..


Yes, but what DO you do? July 29, 2012

Filed under: The Story of Us — Rohini Berry @ 7:49 pm

Growing up in middle class India at a time when I did, there were but three honourable occupations or so it seemed.  Doctor, lawyer, engineer.  Box yourself into any one of these and you were a mystery or a misfit no more.  People found it easy to relate to you, to understand your thought process and plain and simple “got” you.

Needless to say I didn’t need much encouragement to follow a path not often tread. I picked a vocation in arts but somehow over the years I found myself neatly boxed into an acceptable, even admirable 9am-5pm career.  Ask me what I did for a living and I had a job and a title ready to supply.

A few years and a couple detours down the road and I find myself suddenly at a loss for words when encountering with the “Yes, but what DO you do” s??

Lets see, first and foremost we raise our child, we tend to our land – its flora and fauna, we run a guest house and that would include doing all the cooking and cleaning ourselves, no hired help here.  We are enthusiastic participants in the farmers market come weekends, we come up with mad schemes to promote our culinary kills and our wine, we dabble in photography, we travel when time permits and when we have a moment to breathe during our 5am-9pm days we, well, breathe, and ask ourselves if this life is for real.

So if you can dream up some all encompassing box and label for all that is life a la Sargahaz, do clue me in.  The girl is speechless for once.


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