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An Anglo-Romanian ice cream creation 21/11/2017

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When I headed off to university, I took with me Sophie Grigson’s Students’ Cookbook, a Sainsbury Cookbook. It has served me proud and remains a go-to cookbook on my shelves.

The Sweet Things section includes a recipe for Jam Ice Cream that intrigued me for many years: truly, is it possible to create something as delicious as ice cream with just three ingredients, one of which is jam, and a minimum of equipment? Well, I’ve tried it, and it most certainly is.

On my second attempt, I replaced the English marmalade of my first foray into the delights of Jam Ice Cream with a more Romanian flavour.

I went to my local Romanian store, The Village Shop in Norwich, which was sadly petrol-bombed following the EU referendum in a hideous act of cowardice.

Dulceata afine

I chose Dulceața afine, bilberry jam, for nostalgic reasons: bilberries take me back to my trip to the Banat. Now Dulceața afine is a jam that doesn’t hang about. It’s a powerful kick of vitamin C and ideal served with pancakes.

As you can see from the photos, I went for a raspberry ripple effect. Ideally the jam and cream should be blended more thoroughly; otherwise you risk encountering a dull lump of cream in the midst of the bilberry deliciousness.


375 g (approx.) Romanian jam
2 tablespoons lemon juice
300 ml double cream

You will also need a freeze-proof plastic box (approx. 900 ml to 1 litre capacity).


Start by making sure you have space in your freezer. The plastic box should be stored flat in the freezer, and ideally you want to be able to slip it into the freezer with minimum tipping.

Mix the lemon juice into the jam until it is smooth. Whip the cream until it just holds its shape, then fold the cream into the jam.

Pour into your plastic box, cover and freeze for at least 8 hours.
Romanian jam ice cream


Fish & chips does not equal sarmale 09/06/2015

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If a Romanian treats you to fish & chips, what do you owe them, in Romanian cuisine?

This is not a purely abstract question of food equations. A Romanian once served me fish & chips. When I reported this to another Romanian (I collect them), he said, “Well, I guess you owe him sarmale.”

To which I say, no way, José. Fish & chips does not equal sarmale. What is the Romanian equivalent of fish & chips

The Taste of the Balkans, Canned 12/10/2013

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Mir Foods Kingsbury is the answer to two pressing questions:

1)      Unde pot să cumpăr varză murată pentru sarmale în Londră?

2)      Where can I buy the taste of the Balkans in cans in NW9?

Mir Foods replaced Fruit Asia on Kingsbury Road. Outside there’s a range of fresh fruit and veg, including that varză murată, but the wonders really begin inside. Countless varieties of Turkish cheese in cans and Turkish halal sausage sit on shelves close to a fantastic variety of Romanian pork products: cârnăciori pentru grătar, pastramă de porc, pate de porc, parizer; the list goes on. There’s Romanian cheese of goat, sheep and cow variety. Then there’s zacuscă picantă, tocană de legume. Then Romanian jams, biscuits, chocolates and teas. And alcohol.

Labour is divided along ethnic lines: the shelf stackers are Asian, the cashiers Romanian. The team includes Kingsbury’s very own Romanian Megan Fox lookalike.

Sarmale 23/06/2010

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Sarmale are things of wonder. Minced pork mixed with rice, onion, herbs and spices, then wrapped in cabbage leaves and served with cream.

Sarmale also require intensive labour. The cabbage leaves need to be blanched to soften them, the meat and rice mixture needs to be made. And those little packages of culinary wonder need to be boiled for several hours.

Sarmale in English-language literature

Sarmale appear in The Yiddish Policemen’s Union by Michael Chabon, set in the Jewish homeland that might have been in Sitka, Alaska. As tough-talking, hard-drinking detective Meyer Landsman is wrapping up a murder case and achieving reconciliation with his wife, Bina, he begins to crave sarmale. Mrs Kalushiner serves them on Wednesday night – Romanian night – at the Vorsht. They are “at once light and dense, favoring hot pepper over sweet-and-sour, drizzled with sour cream, topped with sprigs of fresh dill.”1

1 Michael Chabon (2007) The Yiddish Policemen’s Union, Harper Perennial, London, p.373