As the weather grows cooler here in Eastern Europe, I expected my cravings for my favorite comfort food, homemade macaroni and cheese, would be becoming unbearable and impossible to satisfy. But luckily, Slovakia has its own alternative to macaroni and cheese, with which I have a new love affair.
Halušky (ha-loosh-key) is Slovakia’s very own warm, rich, cheesy, carb-loaded dish, and it comes with a more historical, sophisticated sounding name too, if you ask me. It is made from a base of little potato dumplings, most easily compared to gnocchi, covered in creamy bryndza, or soft Slovakian sheep cheese. The dish is then topped with tiny pieces of bacon or smoked pork fat and voila, you have Bryndzové Halušky.
While the dish is available in all typical Slovak restaurants, and always done very well, this past weekend I had the amazing opportunity to observe traditional Saturday halušky preparations in a Slovak home. Although I’m sure I will have much more difficulty and less astounding results when I try on my own, I will say the entire process appeared more simple than I suspected. This is definitely due to our chef’s practiced hands, but I think the recipe would be manageable for anyone with even minimal experience in the kitchen.
Below is a recipe I found to be closest to what I witnessed in the kitchen last Saturday.
4-5 tbsp flour
3 tsp salt
3-4 slices of bacon
100 g sheep cheese
– Peel the potatoes and shred them. Add egg, flour and 1 teaspoon of salt. Prepare a dough which is not hard in texture. Add flour or water to achieve the right consistency.
– Boil water and add 2 teaspoons of salt.
– Cut the dough into small pieces and throw in boiling water – make sure the water is boiling.
– When the dumplings or halusky are ready they will float at the surface of the boiling water.
Pick up the halusky from the boiling water.
– Cut bacon into small pieces and fry.
– When the bacon is fried, top the dumplings with the fried bacon and cover with sheep cheese.
* Variations – Our host prepared a larger serving, which required more potatoes and then added enough flower to allow the spoon to stand up on its own in the batter. She also used a special strainer-like device (pictured above) to create the dumplings and added some milk with the cheese.
Needless to say, the resulting meal was filling and phenomenal. And even after eating what will forever be on the Top Ten Most Satisfying Meals of My Life list, there was still a little room for some Babovka (Slovak pound cake).
Unfortunately, even restaurant halušky will probably never quite measure up to this meal again. Not that that will keep me from ordering it frequently. But thanks to a generous gift of a halušky dumpling strainer of my very own, this does not have to be my last homemade experience. Upon my return to the United States, or at least the next place I have a sufficient ktichen, I will be able to practice my own halušky-making skills. It may be a little more difficult than preparing a box of Kraft macaroni and cheese, but even more satisfying too.
For more about our gastronomically fantastic weekend – check out Chris’ post Some Slovak Hospitality.