Bryndzové Halušky

Bryndzové Halušky is the ultimate comfort food: potato dumplings smothered in salty sheep’s cheese and topped with crispy bacon.

Preparation time: 20 minutesCooking time: 10 minutes
Serves: 4Difficulty: Moderate


Ingredients

  • 750g/26.5oz/3 cups of russet potatoes
  • 250g/9oz/2 cups of plain flour
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 300g/11oz/2 cups of Bryndza or goat’s/sheep’s  cheese
  • 200g/7oz/1 cup of bacon

Make it vegan: You can substitute Bryndza with Vryndza, a soy-based alternative supplied online by Slovakian eco-friendly store Vegana. Alternatively, you can replace it with silken tofu, vegan feta or vegan sour cream. Replace the egg with flax egg (1 tbsp ground flax seed mixed with 3 tbsp water) and replace the bacon with smoked tempeh, smoked tofu or a vegan bacon product like Quorn Vegan Smoky Ham Slices.

Special equipment

  • A spaetzel maker or colander
  • A large saucepan
  • A sieve
  • A large mixing bowl
  • A wooden spoon
  • A spatula or large spoon
  • A hot serving dish

Method

  1. Finely grate the uncooked potato into a large mixing bowl.
  2. Sieve the flour into the bowl and add the salt and egg. Mix everything together thoroughly with a wooden spoon.
  3. Meanwhile, bring a large saucepan of water to the boil.
  4. Use a spaetzel slicer or a colander to drop little Halušky dumplings into the boiling water. Boil the Halušky for a couple of minutes: they’re ready when the dumplings float to surface. Gently remove them from the pan with a skimmer and set them aside.
  5. Meanwhile, dice the bacon. Fry it for a few minutes in a separate frying pan set over a medium heat.
  6. Pour the Bryndza into a hot serving dish and stir in the Halušky. Sprinkle the fried bacon and drippings on top and serve.
  7. Dobrú chuť!

Tips

  • If using a colander to make the Halušky: set the colander over the saucepan and drop the dough into it. Use a wooden spoon to squash the dough through the holes, so it falls straight into the boiling water as tiny dumplings. Alternatively, roll the dough into a long thin sausage and chop it into tiny segments, and drop them into the water.

Background

Home: Slovakia

Pronunciation: [ˈbrɨn.d͡zoveː ˈɦaluʃkɪ] (brihnd-zoev-yuh huh-looosh-kee)

Relatives: Nokedli (Hungary), Gălușcă (Romania), Gnocchi (Italy), Käsespätzle (Germany), Kasnocken (Austria)

History

Slovakia is a landlocked country in central Europe. It’s been populated since at least 5,000 BC, and Western Slavs began to settle the area in the 5th century AD. In the 7th century, they joined a tribal union called Samo’s Empire, which encapsulated parts of modern day Slovakia, Czechia and Austria. In the 9th century, they founded the smaller Principality of Nitra: this was then conquered by the Principality of Moravia, which merged with Nitra to form Great Moravia. The latter eventually disintegrated and its territories were incorporated into the Principality of Hungary, which emerged as a kingdom in 1000 AD. Hungary’s crown eventually merged with the Austrian Empire’s, and in 1867 the two polities were united as the Austro-Hungarian Empire, or Dual Monarchy. The empire was disbanded at the end of World War One, and Slovakia gained its independence as part of Czechoslovakia. Slovakia seceded Czechoslovakia as a totalitarian state during World War II, but after the war ended Czechoslovakia reformed as a state under Soviet influence and control. This control ended in 1989 with Czechoslovakia’s Velvet Revolution, which was followed by the country’s dissolution into the Czech and Slovak republics.

Traditional Slovakian cuisine is full of potatoes, pork, beef, game, dumplings and dairy products. The popularity of such foodstuffs can be traced back to a time when Slovakia’s rural population required hearty, locally produced meals to make it through the region’s cold winters. Slovakian cuisine is also strongly influenced by the country’s neighbors- Czechia, Poland, Austria and Ukraine- whose cuisines have in turn been influenced by Slovakia’s cuisine.

Famous Slovakian foods include a soup called Kapustinica. This is made up of Sauerkraut, meat and mushrooms, and is served up in a hollowed out round bread loaf like Polish Żurek is. Popular meat dishes include Krvavničky, Schnitzel and Chicken Paprikash, and popular sweets include Buchteln, Žemľovka and Trdelnicky.

Bryndzové Halušky is Slovakia’s national dish. Its two primary ingredients are potatoes and Bryndza. The former were first popularized in the 18th century by Archduchess Maria Theresa, who issued written notices to Slovakian villages explaining how to eat potatoes so that villagers knew to only eat the root and to throw away the plant’s poisonous fruit. The archduchess hoped this would encourage more people to plant the crop, since it had a higher yield than many other cereals.

To make Halušky the potatoes are grated and mixed with flour and salt. These thick, soft dumplings are popular across central and eastern Europe, particularly in Slovakia, Czechia, Poland, Ukraine, Hungary and Romania. Once the Halušky are cooked they are mixed with Slovakian Bryndza to make Bryndzové Halušky

Bryndza is Slovakian sheep’s cheese: it’s salty, sharp and crumbly, and is used in quite a few Slovakian dishes. It was introduced to the region in the late 14th century by Wallachian settlers- the word Bryndza derives from a Wallachian word meaning ‘salty.’ 

The modern version of Bryndza was developed by local manufacturers in Stará Turá (western Slovakia) at the end of the 18th century. These manufacturers were able to export Bryndza to other Habsburg polities. Today there are two main varieties of Bryndza in Slovakia: Slovenská Bryndza and Liptovská or Ovčia Bryndza. There is also Bryndza Podhalańska, a Polish variant. The particular variety of Bryndza depends on the proportion of sheep’s cheese used in production.

Halušky Fest is held annually every July in the village of Turecká, central Slovakia. Festival attendees celebrate Bryndzové Halušky by participating in two Halušky-based competitions. The first is a race to make and eat a plate of Halušky quicker than other contestants, and the second is a competition to make the highest quality Halušky.

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