A wood stove is the law!

21.3.2020 | 12:15 p.m

The delicacies from Mirjama’s kitchen were tasted and rated by journalists – together with the hostess, her husband Tone Jakše (right) and Milan Markelj (left), who also toasted the 70th anniversary of Dolenjski list.

Metlika – Just like she was Mirjam Bezek Jakse from Metlika, until recently a diligent journalist of Dolenjski list from Bela krajina, is also a diligent and caring housewife. Her kitchen smells good every day: whether she’s preparing lunch, baking Bela Krajina cakes and bread, cheering up her husband or grandson with dessert…

The kitchen was her respite when she was still busy in journalism from morning to night, and now that she has been a content pensioner for two months after 38 years of journalism at the central regional newspaper.

“Time is no longer my master. I’ve settled into retirement and now have more time to cook. Apart from that, my mother taught me that I never used ready meals, but always freshly prepared everything from my own garden, which is definitely the healthiest and tastiest,” says Mirjam, turning around skillfully at three years of age the beautifully renovated kitchen and the preparation of lunch “for the readers of the Dolenjski List”. But more on that later.

He grows almost everything at home

Freshly baked bread – well and good!

Miriam has a large garden and orchard surrounding the house and this shows her love for the country that she has had since she was young. She enjoys growing vegetables, herbs, spices and fruits, and it must be said that she grows more than thirty kinds of vegetable seedlings herself. It was not uncommon for our friends to receive treats from their garden at work, the first of the season.

Mirjam has been cultivating the garden using the biodynamic method for more than ten years. Vegetables from her garden get neither artificial fertilizers nor sprays. He fertilizes the soil with manure that he buys from a farmer, fights pests with natural preparations, has several composters… “We grow everything for the household at home. If salt would grow, we would be self-sufficient,” he laughs. He only goes to the market to buy homemade cottage cheese, eggs and the like, and to the store to buy just the bare essentials.

He cannot do without a wood stove

A wood stove is the law!

Before we start with the menu that Miriam has chosen, something needs to be said about the specialty of her kitchen – a wood-burning oven.

Miriam swears by him and says she wouldn’t let him leave the kitchen for anything in the world. Her mother had already cooked for one and Miriam had had one in her household since 1986 when they moved into a new house. Even after the recent renovation of the kitchen. “I used to have a gas stove, which is my least favorite, I also have a glass-ceramic stove, which is handy in the summer heat, but not over a wood-burning stove. The best food is cooked on it – delicious, that’s what! There are many advantages: you can have a lot of pots at once, you can move them from hot work to less, everything cooks nice and slowly, food stays warm for a long time, there is an oven next to the stove, homemade rolls, where you can do something else you bake cooker warms the kitchen pleasantly even in winter,” our interlocutor lists the advantages of a wood-burning stove.

Vegetable soup, steaks with mushrooms…

vegetable soup

She prefers to cook vegetable dishes and vegetables were the common thread in this menu as well.

As an introduction, Mirjam prepared a vegetable soup, which she and her husband Tonet put on the table at least once a week. “I cut up all kinds of vegetables, from potatoes, carrots, peppers, broccoli and cauliflower, into small pieces and cook them. I usually bring everything from the garden, and off-season I take things from the chest. I don’t normally blanch vegetables before freezing them,” says our cook. There are no beans or peas in the soup, and they also make a roast dish – saute in finely chopped onion in oil or homemade lard. Add the parsley, a stick of celery, a little homemade tomato puree and all the spices to the pot with salt to make it delicious. And the stew is already simmering on the stove.

She offers homemade bread with the soup – this time she chose white. It managed to be light and nicely baked. “We hardly ever buy bread in the shop. I like to bake it at home, mostly with whole buckwheat, rice or corn flour,” he says.

And now the main course. In addition to delicious fried potatoes and green bean salad – we won’t waste a word about that – Mirjam offered turkey steaks in mushroom sauce and stuffed zucchini.

Mushroom steaks could be complemented with the adjective Swedish, since the recipe for it was brought from Sweden years ago by her husband Tone Jakše, a longtime journalist of Dolenjski list. He spent more than a decade in the far north and enjoyed cooking there himself. He got to know this recipe from an Arab immigrant, among others, changed it a bit and brought it home with him. Mirjam added something of their own…

In the pan she baked turkey steaks and medallions, respectively, and at the same time she fried the finely chopped onion in the other to yellow it. She added chanterelles (she picked them herself, being an avid mushroom picker) — and when they were baked, finely chopped parsley and sour cream. She added a little salt and pepper to everything, poured the mixture over the fried steaks, and then waited a little longer in the oven for a hot meal.

Zucchini with meat filling

Stuff zucchini

Mirjam and Tone often have fish and seafood on their menu and often stuffed zucchini. Our chef washed the courgettes, cut them in half, hollowed out the flesh with a spoon and salted it. So they drop the water. She chopped about a third of the zucchini flesh for the filling. In a pan, sauté the chopped onion in oil, add the minced meat. Season with salt, pepper and ground red paprika, add the tomato puree and simmer until all the liquid has evaporated. She added chopped zucchini seeds, an egg, crushed garlic, and some grated cheese to the chilled meat. She filled the zucchini with the filling and baked them in a baking pan on baking paper at 200 degrees Celsius for about twenty minutes. Then she sprinkled some more grated cheese on them and put them back in the oven for about five minutes to melt the cheese nicely.

Chestnut strjenka

The chestnut handle succeeded.

There was also a dessert on the menu. Mirjam chose her chestnut cake specialty, although she can bake many other things – including cakes, which is not surprising since her mother Martina was an excellent cake baker and only prepared them when she was old.

“I once found a recipe for a cake in a magazine that I found interesting. Now this dessert is always on our table for special occasions,” he says. It takes a lot of time and effort to prepare it. Chestnuts are a must, that is, you have to harvest a lot in the fall, dry them and then put them in bags and in the chest When preparing the dessert, boil the chestnuts and then peel the thin shells.

Pour the dessert into the mold and leave to cool overnight. Then he turns it on a plate and offers it to the guests. Add sweet whipped cream if you like.

The husband took care of the wine

Sick table with Mirjana’s treats

A good lunch goes with a good wine, provided by Miriam’s husband Tone. As a main course, he served excellent Metlika black, and for dessert he chose a Christmas carol, late harvest, vintage 2015. It was delicious!

Mirjam will continue to love to please her loved ones with various delicacies – in addition to her husband, her children Saša and Tina and her grandson: 12-year-old Lana and 8-year-old Gala, who are a great joy to them. Otherwise, she has so many hobbies that she cannot get bored when she retires. Growing vegetables requires a lot of time and work, as does the garden, which Mirjam mows herself – she is no stranger to rotary or lax mowers, she recently bought an even smaller tractor with a mower. She learned how to cut fruit trees years ago and this is a special challenge for her every year. She also likes white and color, she has never hired craftsmen for such work on the house. Mirjam acquired this knowledge from her father Julius, a master painter and varnisher who was known as a very precise and conscientious craftsman. She loved working with him in the fields when she was young.

Mirjam enjoys walking in the forest, reading crime novels and still attends interesting cultural events in Bela krajina – although she has been there for decades. “But now it’s different. My husband and I calmly go out, sit in the back of the room and enjoy ourselves without worrying about how I’m going to draw something that I’m going to write down,” says our interlocutor, who still has a pen and a mini-camera in hers Purse. She bought it when she retired, “you never know when something will be interesting,” she says. Apparently you’ve been a journalist all your life.

The article was published in Živa, supplement to the Dolenjski list, on February 27, 2020.

Text and photos: Lidija Markelj

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