2019 Grateful 14: Bee lesson

I’m not quite sure what we’ve done to deserve such glorious weather in October. Sunshine, blue skies, and 22 degrees. Shorts and t-shirt weather, as long as you stay in the sun. Absolutely fab. It’s the sort of weather that begs to be walked in.  Read more

2019 Grateful 15

‘When you first get down here [the village], you’re grumpy as hell. But when you’ve been here a day you’re in much better humour. Remarkable really.’ I’ve noticed that myself but having himself point it out made it all the more real. Read more

2019 Grateful 24: Green Tomato Day

The responsibility that comes with having a garden weighs heavily on me. It dictates what I do and when I do it. I’m tied to the kitchen. Try as I might, I can’t seem to get Mother Nature on my schedule. Her lastest parry has been of the green tomato variety. Read more

2019 Grateful 26: Pass the Zucchini

I’m at a loss as to how to explain to her-next-door that there are only two of us. Twenty eggs. (Eggs come in boxes of 10 here.) Two kilos of uborka (pickling cucumbers). A kilo of cherry plums. Two kilos of peaches (or maybe they were apricots). And two massive zucchini. And this was just last week. With so many fruit trees in the village and so many locals growing their own veg and such, getting rid of what you can’t (or don’t want to) use is like a convoluted game of pass the parcel.

When the farmer up the road at home drops into my mother with eggs, she bakes him a tart in return. She mightn’t want to bake. She mightn’t have planned to bake. She mightn’t be in the mood to bake. But bake she will. There’s some sort of unwritten code that demands it. I always thought she was mad. I figured my city-loving genes would have long-since throttled any lurking country ones, given that a greater percentage of my life has been lived within the madding crowd than without. But no. I’m turning (or perhaps have already turned) into my mother. (And that’s not a complaint – she’s a grand woman.)

No matter what I’d planned to do that day or what I might have wanted to do that day, if the eggs arrive, I have to bake. Anything. Something. I think though that herself has gotten smarter. She’s seen the Pavlovian pattern. I’m sure she realises that if she drops off eggs AND zucchini, then zucchini bread will follow. Perhaps I’m giving her too much credit, but I certainly have my suspicions.

So, when life hands me a mammoth zucchini. I bake. Walnut and zucchini bread. Loaves of it. And then I pass the parcel to anyone who might drop by that day. Or the next. The painter got lucky last week. He’s sold on it. But when I gave him the first one to sample, his wife sent him back with uborka that I added to the bucket already awaiting pickling. Village life is a never-ending cycle of give and take.

After nearly three years, I’ve finally mastered the unregulated gas oven. I bake now by smell. But that means I can’t leave the kitchen lest I miss the crucial turn-around point and the even more crucial turn-down point. But when I get it right, I get it right.

Recipe for zucchini and walnut bread

Some of you have asked for the recipe. That, too, I’ve fiddled with to the point I can do it blind. Here it is. (Forgive the translation – it’s for me.)

In the first bowl, mix

  • 3 cups of sieved flour (finom liszt if you’re in Hungary – not the rétes liszt)
  • 1 teaspoon of baking soda (1 teáskanál szódabikarbóna)
  • 1 teaspoon of baking powder (1 teáskanál sütőport)
  • 1 teaspoon of salt (1 teáskanál só)
  • 1 tablespoon of cinnamon (1 evőkanál fahéj)

In the second bowl, mix (manually rather than electronically – am not sure why this is better but it makes a difference – I found this out the day I couldn’t be arsed taking out the mixer)

  • 3 eggs (3 tojás)
  • 1 cup of sugar (1 csésze kristálycukor)
  • 1 cup of vegetable oil (1 csésze növényi olaj)
  • 3 teaspoons of vanilla extract (3 teáskanál vanília kivonat)

Then add the dry ingredients to the wet ones (not the other way around) and when it’s mixed, add

  • 2 cups of grated zucchini at least (Legalább 2 csésze reszelt cukkini)
  • 1 cup of chopped walnuts (1 csésze dió)

Grease two pans with just enough butter to make them shine – too much and they’ll burn. Oil doesn’t work … I’ve tried.

Put in the oven and bake. I can’t help you with temperatures  because I’ve no markings on my oven knobs.  I turn it to 8 pm for about 10 minutes and then turn the pans around before turning it down to 7 pm and waiting for anywhere between 20 and 35 minutes. Again, no clue what the difference in time is – but when you start to smell it,  keep an eye on it. When you can stick a knife through the centre and it comes out clean, you’re done. Take them out of the oven but let them sit in the tins for a few minutes. I found this out because the phone rang one time and I got distracted. But letting them sit makes a difference. Then cool them on a wire rack.

Store, not in a tin, but in Tupperware in the fridge. Or freeze them wrapped in baking paper. They’ll keep for 10 days or 2 weeks in the fridge and only need a couple of hours to defrost from the freezer.

loaves of zucchini and walnut bread

I’m slowly getting the hang of village life and on a good day, I revel in the bounty. On a bad day, I curse it. But thankfully, I have more good days than bad.

2019 Grateful 27: Wallowing like Buffalo

It’s all happening in the village today. Well, technically, it’s all happening a little bit outside the village in Kápolnapuszta at the buffalo reserve. It’s their annual fete, complete with buffalo burgers, buffalo gulyas, and the Hungarian staple, kürtőskalács (chimney cake). Read more

2019 Grateful 32 – Édes cseresznye

Operation Cherry was a moderate success. I managed to save some but it was truly sad to see how much was wasted. Yes, I’m obsessing but forgive me: édes cseresznye (sweet cherries) have been my life for the last three days. Read more

Cherry blossom

Operation Cherry Begins

When I turn down an invitation to a lamb birthday BBQ, it’s serious. When I decline knowing I’m missing out on a glass or three of Zengő wine, it’s even more serious. When I pass on an afternoon with good mates, you know something is up. Read more

Life-or-death decisions

Not once, but two or three or four times a day, I make life-or-death decisions. I decide what lives and what dies. Sometimes those decisions are easy; other times I’m crippled by indecision. Read more

2019 Grateful 34: Fields of Red

I found myself explaining recently that my summer travel would be severely curtailed as it was fruit season. The cherries, the plums, the apricots, the tomatoes – they wouldn’t look after themselves. I needed to be there to figure out what to do with them so that I could still enjoy them next year. My mate looked at me, somewhat aghast and said: Okay – who are you and what have you done with my friend? Read more

The long way home

I’m not one for taking a walk just to walk. I do it, of course, but on some level it seems rather pointless. Yes, I know there’s the benefit of exercise and getting those steps in every day can be a challenge. But walking without purpose for some reason doesn’t sit well with me. If there’s a shorter way to get from A to B, I’ll usually take it. The long way home isn’t for me. Read more