Conopida Saseasca (Saxon-style Cauliflower)

This Romanian version of Cauliflower Cheese is a great side dish and a comforting winter warmer.

Preparation time: 25 minutesCooking time: 30 minutes
Serves: 4 (as a side dish)Difficulty: Moderate

Ingredients

  • 500g/18oz/4 1/2 cups of cauliflower
  • 2 white onions
  • 300g/11oz/1 1/3 cups of sunculita, pastramă or smoked bacon
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 200g/7oz/just under a cup of sour cream
  • 2 eggs
  • 150g/5oz/1- 1 1/2 cups of cascaval, cheddar and/or emmental cheese
  • 1 tbsp paprika
  • Pinch of salt and pepper

Make it vegan: This is a bit of a tricky one as it’s a dairy and meat heavy dish! Replace the sour cream with vegan sour cream, or with an equal amount of vegan yoghurt, or with soya milk with a teaspoon of lemon juice. Replace the eggs with 2 tbsp of aquafaba, and use vegan bacon or Quorn BBQ strips instead of pastrami. Replace the cheese with vegan cheddar or a mix of vegan cheeses.

Special Equipment

  • A large saucepan
  • A colander
  • A frying pan
  • A casserole dish

Method

  1. Remove any leaves from the cauliflower and cut the florets into small chunks.
  2. Bring a saucepan of water to the boil and add the cauliflower florets to the pan. Boil for 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. 
  3. Drain the cauliflower florets and place them in a casserole dish.
  4. Preheat the oven to 200’C/400’F/Gas Mark 6.
  5. Peel and finely chop the onions and garlic. Heat the oil in a frying pan over a medium heat and add the onions to the pan. Sauté for about five minutes, stirring occasionally. 
  6. Meanwhile, chop up the pastramă or bacon and add it to the pan along with the garlic. Sauté for another five minutes, stirring occasionally. Then remove the pan from the heat and pour its contents over the cauliflower.
  7. Stir the sour cream, eggs and cheese together, and pour the mixture over the cauliflower and onions. 
  8. Gently toss the contents of the casserole dish together, then sprinkle the paprika, salt and pepper on top.
  9. Bake the cauliflower in the oven for 20-30 minutes, then serve straight away.
  10. Poftă Bună!

Background

Home: Romania

Relatives: Cauliflower Cheese (UK), Macaroni Cheese

Mediaeval Râșnov Citadel, Transylvania
Neighbor’s goat, Cetatea Râșnov, văzută din șoseaua Cristian-Râșnov., 2014 <https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Cetatea_R%C3%A2%C8%99nov,_v%C4%83zut%C4%83_din_%C8%99oseaua_Cristian-R%C3%A2%C8%99nov..jpg> [Accessed 19/06/2020] ( (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/ro/deed.en)

History

In the medieval era, there were several instances of German speaking populations who emigrated from relatively highly populated areas of the Holy Roman Empire into less populated regions in central and eastern Europe, a phenomenon known as Ostsiedlung.

The ‘Saxons’ this dish was inspired by were German speaking settlers who emigrated to Transylvania from the twelfth century onward. Transylvania is today located in central Romania, but at the time it was a voivodeship, or governorate, of the Kingdom of Hungary. This first wave of German speaking settlers were encouraged to migrate to Transylvania by King Géza II of Hungary: it was hoped they would help to defend the region from the invading Cumans and Tatars, and that they would use their mining expertise to help improve the local economy.

Though they were known locally as ‘Saxons’, these German speakers actually hailed from the north-west of the Holy Roman Empire: modern day Luxembourg, north-east France and north-west Germany. The German language they spoke was likely one or more Franconian or West Germanic languages, and the particular dialect they developed in Transylvania became known as Såksesch. Later German speaking settlers emigrated from Bavaria, the Rhineland, and the low countries: by the thirteenth century, the Teutonic Knights were asked to join them by King Andrew II of Hungary.

These waves of German speaking settlers began to build their own towns and fortresses, which they used to continue defending Transylvania’s borders for the Kingdom of Hungary. Over the years these German speaking groups became increasingly urbanized. They remained relatively linguistically, culturally, economically, and – after the Protestant Reformation- religiously distinct from other local groups, and had their own cuisine, which inspired this ‘Saxon-style’ Romanian dish.

Historic Centre of Sighișoara, founded by 12th century Transylvanian Saxons
Sanoi, Sighisoara. Biserica din deal, 2007 <https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Sighisoara._Biserica_din_deal.jpg&gt; [Accessed 19/06/2020] (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en)

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