Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Pirags Recipe Link

Here is one of the nicest websites that I've found with a recipe for pirags  When I make mine I also add some crushed cardamom seeds and some finely grated lemon peel to the dough mixture. The filling can be made a day ahead, it is easier to add when cold and you are less likely to get grease on the edges of the piragi. Make sure you get them to close securely or they will pull open when cooking. The filling does not have to be meat, cheese or fruit fillings such as apple or rhubarb are very tasty too.

There is nothing nicer than having a batch fresh out of the oven.   Folk law has it the a single girl will find a husband faster, if she eats the first Pirags that comes out of the oven.

Once the piragi are cooked they will stay fresh in an air tight container for 3 days but they can also be frozen and reheated either in the microwave or oven.

Piragi are often shared with friends at Jani and other Latvian gatherings.

My Recipe

2 envelopes dry yeast
1 teaspoon sugar

1 cup (about 1/2 pint) scalded milk, 
cooled enough that it won't kill the yeast or is too hot for your hands.
1/2  cup  (about 4 oz)  melted butter
up to 6 tbs sugar (min 2tsps but it is added to taste)

1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom seeds (optional)
1 tbs grated lemon peel (optional)

4 cups  or 1 lb  flour
3 eggs, well beaten

Keep the flour handy you may need to add more as the exact amount is done by feel.

2 pounds bacon, diced
1 medium onion, minced
Black pepper to taste


Cook the bacon in a fry pan over medium heat for 5 to 10 minutes or until cooked through, not crisp, stirring in the onion when bacon is partially cooked.
Remove from heat.  Leave to cool.

Dissolve the yeast and 1 teaspoon sugar in 1/4 cup warm water.

Mix the milk, butter and up to 6 tbs sugar in a bowl.
Gradually add in the yeast mixture, salt, flour, lemon rind and cardamom.
Stir in the eggs.
Knead on a floured surface until smooth and elastic.

The dough should come cleaning off your fingers.
Place in a greased bowl, turning to coat.
Let rise, covered, in a warm place until doubled in bulk. 

(1 -1 1/2 hrs approximately)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Cut off some dough, cover the remaining dough back up.  Lightly roll into a 2 1/2 inch sausage shape.  Mark the sausage roll into equal segments. 

Work with one segment (round) at time and shape the segment into a circle.

Place a spoonful of the bacon mixture on each dough circle, fold, seal and fold again, making a quarter-moon shape. Place 
seam side down onto a baking sheet lined with silicone paper. Brush with a beaten egg white and water glaze.
Bake At 375 for 10 to 15 minutes or until golden brown.(actual timing will depend on size)

Check them every minute once they have been cooking for 10 minutes piragi are very easy to burn and if overcooked become dry and brittle.

Remove from oven. Brush with butter or mist with water.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

European Latvian Song Festivals

European Latvian Song Festivals were exciting events, an opportunity to meet up with old friends and a time to make new friends.

The first one Sprīdītis attended was held 19th -22nd July in  Cologne, Germany in 1973.  The journey its self was amazing. Going by coach, sailing across the channel on a ferry followed by travelling through the Belgian countryside was quite the adventure.  Accommodation was a huge to us dorm room.  Midday and evening meals were at specified restaurants, a specially endorsed chit was required.

The days were filled with kokle practice, dance and song rehearsals. The actual performances were incredible, to be one of thousands of latvians united by music, song and dance was an amazing experience and a great privilege.

European. Latvian Song Festivals

Germany: Hamburg, 1964, Hanover 1968, Cologne 1973.
England: London 1978, Leeds1982. 
Denmark: Gotland, 1986

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Nieuport House, Almeley

Where many a Latvian child spent summer.  Nieuport House, Almeley was home to many retired Latvians.  The house also had guest bedrooms and a pair of bungalows which is were summer camp attendees and their tutors stayed.  Even if one only went to Nieuport House to celebrate John's Day
it left a lasting impression.

As we grew older. the terraces seemed shorter, the lake smaller and the walk to the village of Almeley became a stroll away. 

When we were old enough to drive we explored the city of Hereford,  the near by villages - Almeley,  Eardisley and  Woebley and would occassionally end up having a drink with the locals in the pub.

Almeley -  The Bells Inn, The Rose and Crown 
Eardisley - The Tram Inn,  The Yew Tree
Kinnersley - The Roebuck Inn, The Kinnersley Arms
Woebley - The Red Lion
Woonton - The Lion Inn

Janis drinking a yard of ale
in The Tram Inn

Wikipedia - Almeley

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Latvian Wedding Folklore

Latvian Ladies in their bonnets
A Latvian bride will often leave flowers for Maija, at the church to honour the sacrifice she made for love, before walking down the aisle.

The wedding ring is worn on the right hand.

At a Latvian wedding reception, it is customary for the new bride to be kidnapped by the groomsmen. The groom must pay a ransom, this could be a song, a round of drinks or some money to get her back.

The bride traditionally wears her wedding dress and veil till midnight. However, no one wants to wait till midnight for the veil to be passed on. This is now a part of the micosana. 

Micosana -The bride and groom, after dancing with all the unmarried guests, are made to sit on chairs. The groom will offer the bride a bonnet. The bride is expected to refuse twice, before accepting the bonnet. Her veil is given to a single female, who is expected be the next to get married. The groom is given a hat and a pipe.  These gifts signify the acceptance by the bride and groom of their new responsibilities.

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Latvian Associations, DVF, ELJA, 3x3

Part of growing up Latvian was joining Latvian Associations :

ELJA (European Latvian Youth Association)

DVF - Daugavas Vanagu Fonds
(Latvian Welfare Fund)

3 x 3 (Three Latvian Generations)

Photo: Halifax, Daugavas Vanagi Latvian Ladies

Front Row : ?, Arija Silinskis, Mary Taukulis, Rita Uzans,
Biruta Dzitars, Erika Sarkenbards, Tamara Liepins, Velma,
Back Row : Eileen Graubergs, Dzidra, Mirdza Legzdins,
Skaidrita, Maria, Bridget Lisosvkis

List of UK DVF Clubs and Properties

Friday, 11 March 2011

Out in to the World

It was inevitable that as the members grew up they would go out in to the world.  College, university and new family commitments had dancers coming to Sunday afternoon rehearsals from across the UK.  The dance practices were held between 4 and 6pm and sometimes started with a 5 minute polka. 

When performing away from Halifax Sprīdītis members would arrive in jeans, change into Latvian National Costume and then dress for the dance (balle).

One of many Latvian Weddings 
Congratulations to Mr & Mrs Klievens

Marriage and college had members leaving as they started new lives.  As they had families, they related tales to their children and many are frequently seen at Latvian functions.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Shawls, hats and gloves

Latvian national costumes are completed with embroidered linen or woollen shawls.  The shawl is draped around the body and held together at one corner with one or more saktas (decorative brooches) or pins.

Head wear for unmarried girls are crowns featuring metal, ribbons or beads.  Once married the crown is swapped for a cloth cap or scarf as it is not fitting for a married women to have her hair uncovered.

Mens costumes were fashioned after military influences and the dress of town gentlemen. Wide brimmed hats, metal buckled belts and ornate gloves which were tucked into the belt to display the owners wealth.

White was considered lucky and was a natural wool colour so was an obvious choice or making mens costumes, these were complemented with embroidered scrollwork and woven belts that incorporated lucky Lavian symbols.

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Latvian National Costumes

Originally the girls wore Nica or Rucava skirts, a white blouse, a josta (belt or sash) and ribbons braided in their hair. The boys wore black pants, white shirts a prievite (woven garter used as a necktie) and a josta.  The choice of costume was initially due to the speed with which the national dress could be made. Of course the girls all wanted a crown with glass beads, topped with crystal and so Rucava costumes were slowly replaced with Nica costumes.

Patterns for the embroidery, (mainly cross stitch) were passed between members. The women and girls came together to sew, stitch and copy designs. Friendships and appreciation beside new Latvian National Costumes were created.

The border pattern, for this blog, some may have realized, is taken from the sleeve detail of a Barta costume.

The adoption of Barta National dress, was made in the mid 70s. However, in acknowledgement and to honour Sprīdītis beginnings, one member of the dance group always wore Nica.

Saturday, 5 March 2011

Going Forward 1974-1986

Leadership passed on to Helmuts Libietis in 1974. Sprīdītis have performed across the UK and at the European Latvian Song Festivals: Cologne (19-22 July 1973); London (19-22 Jūly 1978); Leeds (27 Jūly - 1 August 1982) and Gotand (Denmark) 1986 and danced alongside Saules Josta from Canberra (1976). Toured Germany, attended the annual English Latvian Song Festivals (Leeds - Jubilee Hall and Leicester - De Montfort Hall) and celebrated their Latvian heritage either solo or alongside other dance groups and musicians.

Photo: Left to right - Tekla Becs, Aina Uzans, Gillian Pickles, Monika Lisovskis, Rita Uzans, Karen Bennett

Some Sprīdītis members also played kokle. They also formed an all female acapella quartet.

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Spriditis - Beginnings

The Latvian school's younger members were learning about dance. They were invited to take part in the group dance at one of the UK's first Latvian Song Festivals being held at Jubilee Hall, Leeds. It was here that Vera Rullins, seeing the potential of the youngsters, began working closely with Austra Račičkis. The "little ones" were ready to stand tall and "Sprīdītis" was created. They performed their first solo dance at De Montfort Hall, in Leicester in 1970, their average age was 11 years old.

De Montfort Hall -  1st August 1971

The name Sprīdītis was based on the little man, who although no taller than the span of your hand, loves his country and makes his voice heard by his courageous and considerate actions. Sprīdītis is a fictional Latvian Folk Hero, who is very determined. He was created by Anna Brigadere.

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Latvian Society, Halifax 1951-1969

Tha Halifax Latvian Club was founded in 1951. It became an established meeting place for Latvians from surrounding areas. To help new immigrants a Latvian school was started.  By the late 1960's expansion was required. A new hall was built on to the rear of the existing building, making it possible for the Latvian Club to host it's own functions instead of hiring the local Co-Op Hall.

With the new hall came concerts; music (guitar and piano), songs and poetry performed by Maija Račičskis, Eva Navarska, Baiba Dzitars, Janis Račičkis, Sandra Collins, Rasma Blaževics, Lilija Zobens.

In later years the concerts included:
Pianists - Lilija, Aina, John  

Cellists - Lilija
Harp - Alida
Opera - Lilija, Alida

Accordianists - Aina, Voldis, Nora, Rolands, Brigita, Andris
Kokles - Raimonds, Arnolds, Martins, Roger, Anna, Aina, Rita, Tekla, Gillian, Monika, Karen, Janis