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Tava by Irina Georgescu

Posted by Nigella on the 25th October 2022
Image of Irina Georgescu's Transylvanian Griddle Breads with Cheese and Honey
Photo by Matt Russell

It’s been a particular pleasure witnessing Irina Georgescu’s blossoming as a food writer. I remember greeting her first book Carpathia with grateful delight, finding in its pages the comfort of a writer who is relaxed in her authority, intellectually engaged in the endeavour to bring the cooking of her part of the world to life, investigating and disentangling the strands of influences that have formed it, and warmly generous in her desire to show us the dishes she loves in their proper context. And, as I find in Tava (subtitled Eastern European Baking and Desserts from Romania and Beyond) and to an even richer extent, Georgescu brings together the elegant, probing clarity of the food historian with the cosy, beaming bustle of a food-mama, unable to help herself proffering plate after plate — of dumplings, strudels, pies, cookes and cakes — for our edification and enjoyment. It’s a baking book, and if you are a baker, even a hesitant one, I cannot think of one good reason why you would not want to own this book. And even non-bakers would surely be grateful for its beauty, its meticulousness, its thought-provoking essays-by-stealth on the relationship between food and heritage and, oh, the food itself!

And her food speaks so directly to me. I’m not sure if my far-back Eastern European origins play a part here. Can it be some genetic factor propelling me towards Dumplings with Sour Cherries, Apple and Caraway Loaf Cake and Noodles with Poppy Seeds? Probably not, but I can tell you that the recipes here are so up my street. If I could have an uninterrupted month in the kitchen, cooking my way through this book, nothing could make me happier.

Let me show you briefly what joys await you: from Rose-Petal Jam Crescents to Walnut and Coffee Macaroons; Moldavian Saffron Buns; Golden Dumplings with Ginger Sauce; Hungarian Lard Pastries with Plum Jam; Vanilla Cream Horns with Strawberries; Noodle Pudding with Curd Cheese; Crêpes with Toffee Apple and Rosemary Sauce; Doughnuts, again with that with Zesty Curd Cheese; Saxon Rhubarb Cake; Vanilla Mocha Cake with Bitter Walnuts; Baked Cheesecake with Roasted Grapes and Chestnut Cream. It’s hard for me to stop: just intoning these names gives me a sense of safety and security!

The recipe I’m exultant to be sharing with you today is the one that just wouldn’t let me go: I returned to it again and again, happily powerless to resist its pull: Transylvanian Griddle Breads with Cheese and Honey. Thank you, Irina, for this glorious, important book.

Tava by Irina Georgescu (Hardie Grant, £27).
Photography © Matt Russell.

Book cover of Tava by Irina Georgescu

Try this recipe from the book

Image of Irina Georgescu's Transylvanian Griddle Breads with Cheese and Honey
Photo by Matt Russell
Transylvanian Griddle Breads with Cheese and Honey
By Irina Georgescu
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Chocolate Strawberry Tart