Romanian recipes bear the same influences as the rest of Romanian culture. The Turks brought meatballs (perișoare in a meatball soup), from the Greeks there is mousaka, from the Austrians there is the șnițel, and the list could continue. The Romanians share many foods with the Balkan area (in which Turkey was the cultural vehicle), and Eastern Europe (including Moldova and Ukraine). Some others are original or can be traced to the Romans, as well as other ancient civilizations. The lack of written sources in Eastern Europe makes it impossible to determine today the exact origin for most of them.
One of the most common meals is the mămăligă, the precursor of polenta, served on its own or as an accompaniment. Pork is the main meat used in Romanian cuisine, but also beef is consumed and a good lamb or fish dish is never to be refused.
Before Christmas, on December 20 (Ignat’s Day or Ignatul in Romanian a pig is traditionally sacrificed by every rural family. A variety of foods for Christmas are prepared from the slaughtered pig, such as: Cârnați – garlicky pork sausages, which may be smoked or dry-cured; Caltaboș – an emulsified sausage based on liver with the consistency of the filling ranging from fine (pâté) to coarse; Sângerete (black pudding) – an emulsified sausage obtained from a mixture of pig’s blood with fat and meat, breadcrumbs or other grains, and spices; Tobă (head cheese) – based on pig’s feet, ears, and meat from the head suspended in aspic and stuffed in the pig’s stomach to set, where after it is cut in slices to serve; Tochitură – a stew made with pork, smoked and fresh sausage simmered in a tomato sauce and served with mămăligă and wine (“so that the pork can swim”).
There are many variations of this stew throughout Romania, with some versions combining different meats, including chicken, lamb, beef, pork and sometimes even offal and Pomana porcului—pan-fried cubed pork served right after the pig’s sacrifice to thank the relatives and friends who helped with the process.
A very popular Romanian dish is the traditional Pork and Spinach stew. It is a very easy to make stew but very light and delicious and loved by all Romanians.
ROMANIAN PORK AND SPINACH STEW
- 750 g lean pork meat
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 onion, medium to large
- 1 kg spinach, weighed after removing the stems
- 250 ml tomato puree
- 50 ml vegetable broth
- 3 large garlic cloves
- 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice or more to taste
- salt and pepper
Chop the meat into pretty small cubes. Chop the onion finely.
Heat the oil in a large, deep pot and cook the onion for about 1 minutes. Add the meat cubes, stir well, cover, turn down the heat and cook for about 10 minutes.
Add half of the tomato puree, the vegetable broth and about ¼ teaspoon salt to the meat. Cover again and continue stewing on low heat for about 30-40 minutes or until the meat is very tender. Stir from time to time and add very little extra water you think it might get too dry.
In the meantime remove the stalks of the spinach and chop the spinach leaves very roughly, large leaves will only be sliced two or three times, otherwise leave the spinach leaves whole. Wash the spinach.
Add the wet spinach to the pot. Leave it for a couple of minutes until wilted, add the remaining tomato puree, then stir well and cover again. Continue cooking for about 10-15 minutes or until the spinach is cooked but not mushy. Chop the garlic finely and add it to the pot during the last five minutes of the cooking time.
Adjust the taste with the lemon juice and salt and pepper.
Serve with bread or potatoes or rice.
Recipe posted by Adam Cloete
Photo: Adam Cloete