Bread Project: Csiga Noodles

21 02 2011

This past week was an extra special Bread Project because my grandma Anne was sharing her recipe for Hungarian csiga noodles. Anne makes bread, lots of it, I have never had anything but homemade bread at her house my entire life (all 29 years :)). She makes the most amazing white and whole wheat bread the old fashion way. Kneading, letting it rise, kneading it again. It has a crusty outside and is best toasted in her toaster oven. It takes too long to make the bread with the Bread Project but sharing flour related recipes with the other members is just as important. The other thing that grandma has always made from scratch is noodles, a few different kinds, matched for the dish they are reserved for.

Csiga noodles, or csigateszta, are one of the finest of them all. Csiga (pronounced chee-ga) are a basic egg noodle, but with a very unique shape, a ridged spiral. Csiga in Hungarian means ‘snail’ and the csiga noodle has been traditionally linked to fertility. I am guessing that is the snail analogy??? Small squares of finely rolled dough are rolled into spirals on a specially grooved csiga board that are made from wood or even bamboo. Hungarian women roll csiga together or on their own, to add to chicken soup. This chicken csiga noodle soup is especially made for weddings. When doing research on csiga I found a few church and Hungarian groups in North America that meet weekly to make csiga. My grandma is a csiga-making-machine, but it takes a lot to feed a family, never mind a wedding! Growing up this is one of the many jobs we had in the kitchen as kids, rolling csiga. I hadn’t done it in many years, but it only took me a few minutes to get the hang of it again. One of the csiga boards that grandma has is over 100 years old, compared to the newest addition in her collection, ones that Tony made for her.

Noodle making is a lost art. Like pasta, it is so easy to make, inexpensive and goes a long way. While making csiga we talked about this and how far a dollar can go when it comes to food. A couple of eggs, cups of flour, water and a few extra moments can make noodles to feed an entire family. We spend so much on a package of noodles, literally and the expense and industry that goes into that package of noodles. I know it is a time thing but if we think about how much time we don’t spend preparing the most important part of our day, sustenance, it makes you realize how our priorities have shifted over the years. It is inevitable that food prices, quality and access will become an issue  in years to come. Peak oil, climate change etc will have an impact. Projects like this are critical to passing on a connection to our food to generations to come. Sounds dooms day I know. In the least, thinking about food and the ‘slow food movement’ that is making its way to mainstream, has so much benefit, to ourselves, our communities and will be a critical part of our healthful existence and survivability.

2 eggs
2-3 cups all purpose flour
1 tbsp water
pinch salt

  • In a bowl mix the eggs, water and salt with small parts of the flour until the dough is a soft but firm texture, not sticky. There might be flour left over. By using egg it keeps the dough together, if only water was used the noodles would fall apart in the water
  • Knead the dough for 15 min
  • Let the dough sit at room temperature for at least 2 hours, covered
  • Pinch off a golf ball size piece of the dough, flatten out by hand into a thick disc, but no wider than what can fit into the noodle roller
  • Using the noodle roller, roll it thin, with each roll adjust the roller to be a bit thinner, until the dough is thin, but not translucent and flimsy. If it feels sticky, then wipe a small amount of flour on either side of the dough before rolling
  • Cut into 1.5 cm strips and then 1.5 cm squares
  • Using a csiga board, roll each square using the csiga stick, going from one corner of the square to the other, ensuring the end is pressed into the noodle well, or they will unravel in the water when boiling
  • Dry the csiga well, over night, by leaving them on a cloth. They will shrink when dry. Csiga will keep in a container for months
  • The same dough can be rolled through the roller to make longer thin or thicker soup noodles. As well, the same dough is rolled out thin and cut into a 1.5 cm diamonds and even smaller squares for different types of soups.

Eat well, Be well,