I had to go to Romania with work the last week. When I think of Eastern European cuisine I (used to) think of rich meaty stews and hunks of flesh served with cabbage. However, I was pleased to learn that wasn’t necessarily the case in Bucharest.
Remus and the Wolf
A fact I didn’t know – around 87% of the Romanian population are Orthodox Christians. What is the relevance of this? There are times of the year where Orthodox Christians undergo a strict fasting period which basically means they follow a vegan diet! (More information here). So although I found that most restaurants didn’t understand the term “vegan”, they knew exactly what I meant if I mentioned fasting! And in some cases there was even an extra menu dedicated to this.
Not everyone in Romania is oblivious to veganism however. Whilst I was there I visited one vegetarian restaurant called Barca which had a very extensive menu, entirely vegan apart from the occasional guest-appearance from honey. I had falafel with a chopped parsley salad and it was very tasty and light. The restaurant itself was also very clean and fresh-faced. I wish more UK vegan joints were like this!
Falafel and parsley salad
I also ordered takeout from a place called Biofresh. I had a salad consisting of courgette, tofu, dill, wheat germ and garlic with a dressing made from tofu, basil, pine nuts, olive oil and spices. It sounds like such a simple meal but it was so delicious I was inspired to make my own variation when I got home. It was just a shame that nearly all of the desserts from these places contained honey (miere).
A non-veggie place I visited was a restaurant called “Caru’ cu Bere” (or “The Beer Wagon” in English). This place is one of the oldest beer houses in Bucharest and although it was a bit of a carnivore’s paradise, it was amazing! There were traditional dancers performing at regular intervals and it was heaving with people, even on a Wednesday night. I shared a loaf of bread with an aubergine dip and a traditional dip made from a variety of vegetables for starter, followed by a traditional vegetable stew with polenta for my main course. Both were hearty and delicious! I didn’t really have room for a pudding but then I got passed the “fasting menu” and discovered that they had egg and dairy free pancakes!!! Nom!
Dancing Romanian stylee!
Should my Romanian hosts happen to stumble across this post, I would like to thank them wholeheartedly for looking after me so well and going to such lengths to ensure that I was happy and well fed! ♥
Aww I had the pleasure of bunny-sitting the bestie’s rabbits last week. They went home on Sunday and the house seems so quiet and empty without them stamping and kicking over their hay rack, haha!
Gentle Sir meets Kate
Bad Lad and his tube o’cabbage
Since they were being dropped off in the evening I promised bestie and her fella some noms. I was trying to think of a meal which would cover all tastes (her fella is scared of fruit, hubby is scared of greens and bestie likes everything covered in hot sauce!) when it came to me… pizza party!
So I gave everyone a pizza base each and plonked a variety of toppings on the table: homemade sauce –one spicy, one mild and herby – capers, olives, pineapple, faux chorizo, faux chicken, homemade pepperoni chunks, sweetcorn, onion, vegan cheese and I even used a pastry cutter to cut some Violife mozzarella slices into authentic circles. Then we swapped gossip whilst sipping wine and building our own individual masterpieces, which went into the oven whilst we scoffed some starters.
Since it was quite an easy tea to prepare, I felt I couldn’t cheat on the pizza bases so I made my own dough. I added pesto to make things a bit more exciting and I was pleased with the results – it gave the dough a subtle depth of flavor without hijacking the taste.
Pesto pizza dough
Ingredients (makes 2 x 10” bases):
2/3 x cup warm water (if it burns, it’s too hot!)
1 x tbsp. soft brown sugar
1 x tsp salt
1 x sachet of dry active yeast (7g)
1 x cup plain wholemeal flour*
1 x cup plain white flour*
1 x tbsp. olive oil
2 x tbsp. pesto (make sure its Parmesan / dairy free)
Extra flour for rolling out.
*you can use any ratio of the wholemeal and white flour if you want.
Dissolve the sugar and salt in the warm water.
Sprinkle the yeast over the top and leave in a warm place for 10 minutes.
In a large mixing bowl, add the flour, olive oil, pesto and yeasty-water mixture. Stir with a wooden spoon until dough starts to form.
Finish forming the dough with your hand and knead for 5 minutes. I try to only use one hand because the dough is very sticky! (If it is too sticky you can add a bit more flour, but don’t add too much or else it will become too dry when you roll it out in flour later).
Cover the bowl with cling-film or a clean tea towel and leave in a warm place for 1 hour to prove.
Remove the cling-film / towel and punch gently to deflate. Knead for another 5 minutes before cutting in half.
Dust a clean surface with flour and roll out each half of the dough into your bases using a floured rolling pin.
Transfer to a baking tray (you can lightly grease but I found I didn’t need to).
Pre-heat the oven to 180oC.
Add your base sauce and toppings. If using vegan cheese, I suggest adding it first after the sauce as it burns faster than normal cheese and the other toppings will offer it some protection.
Bake for 15 – 20 mins or until the edges of the pizza are a lovely golden brown colour.
Eat with a nice glass of wine in the presence of good company. Or in front of the telly with a beer!
Hubby is begging me to make another one already :o)!