Recipe book review: Carpathia: Food from the heart of Romania

Clearly travel is impossible in these times of Corona. As much as I miss it, including all the planning – one of my favourite ways to spend a rainy day – I’ve come to terms that I’m not going anywhere. Not any time soon anyway, and probably not for the duration of 2020.

Only one thing for it – make the most of time spent at home. And one of the lovely ways to do this is to travel through cooking. So today we’re going to Romania through Irina Georgescu’s inspiring recipe book Carpathia: Food from the heart of Romania.

Irina grew up in Bucharest under communist rule. She lived with her parents and grandmother in a 40 square metre apartment in a tower block. Central heating was only on four hours a day, the working week was Monday to Saturday and television was restricted to two hours a day. The family would queue for rationed food two or three days in a row and sometimes go home empty handed. And we think we’ve got it tough in lockdown!

Irina describes Romania as a culinary melting pot. There are Greek, Turkish and Slavic influences in the south and east and Austrian, Hungarian and Saxon ones in the north and west. So there’s a lot going on. I’ve tried several recipes from the book and have found them easy to prepare and very tasty. Like the beautifully garlicky fasole batuta – Romanian butter bean dip with sweet caramelised onions.

And this tasty mackerel dish that I’m sharing with you.

Carpathia is available on priced at £15.99. So take a journey to Romania now. Definitely one for the post-lockdown real travel list, too.

Salată de peşte

Smoked mackerel salad with tarragon and mayo

Irina says: “This is one of the first dishes I ever made on my own. My mum trusted me with it completely, mainly because it was an assembling job rather than proper cooking. But I took it as a compliment. Mayo is time-consuming to whisk by hand, so she was more than happy to park me in the kitchen with something useful to do. The tarragon is my own ‘adult’ addition – its subtle aniseed flavour goes so well with fish.”

Serves 2

For the mayo

230ml sunflower oil

20ml  rapeseed oil

2 egg yolks

Juice of 1 lemon

1 tsp Dijon mustard

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the mackerel salad

250g smoked mackerel

1 large onion (half finely diced or grated; half finely sliced)

3 gherkins, diced and drained on kitchen towel

1 bunch of tarragon, chopped

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

To make the mayo, combine the oils in a jug. Place the egg yolks into a bowl and add the oil a little at a time, whisking continuously and incorporating each addition fully before adding more oil. Do this with an electric whisk or by hand if you like a good challenge! Once all the oil has been added, the mixture should have formed a smooth, shiny, thick mayo. Add the lemon juice, mustard and seasoning and stir to combine. Refrigerate until ready to use.

To make the mackerel salad, carefully shred the mackerel, removing the skin, and place into a large bowl. Mix in all the onion and gherkins, making sure they are evenly distributed. Add just enough mayo to bind everything together then sprinkle over the tarragon. Serve with more mayo on the side.



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