About Me
I'm a Melbourne boy, hailing from St Kilda with one ex, one current wife and four kids. Love the outdoors and making new discoveries. I cook a lot at home (cheers from wife) and do some preserving, mostly jams, pickles and fruit liqueurs. This is the diary of a cooking journey.

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Wednesday, July 18, 2007
Bundner Gerstensuppe
After I recently bought a spatzle maker and looked up the recipe for the batter, I was idly thumbing through the book, A Taste of Switzerland by Sue Style. It is divided into various chapters, one of which, Wild Beasts & Wild Mushrooms I'm inordinately fond of. But it wasn't here that a particular recipe caught my eye. Lolling about in another chapter, The Federal Sausage Feast, was a recipe that I've thought about trying on and off for a number of years, but never got around to.

We had just had corned beef with all the trimmings and there was a big, old pot of slightly salty stock leftover to be turned into a soup. The weather was about to turn cold and nasty with snow all about, so a rib sticking soup would be a perfect way to nourish the soul and just as importantly, keep warm. As I flicked the pages of the book, it fell open at the recipe for Bundner Gerstensuppe, a barley soup flavoured by the addition of bundnerfleisch, cured, air dried beef that is so authentically Swiss.

Bundnerfleisch is typically sliced wafer thin and served as part of the appetizers and has a definite, strong meaty taste. In fact it was bundnerfleisch that led me to understand the taste of cured, dried meat as commonly found in salami. I used to think that the distinct flavour of salami was due to spices, but when I had my first piece of bundnerfleisch, it so reminded me of salami in its savouriness, at that moment I realized cured, dried meat has a flavour all its own, completely unlike fresh meat, best described by the Japanese word umami, which means savoury or meaty, so it should come as no surprise that dried meat has umami in spades. The taste of bundnerfleisch is so deep and strong, that one could easily make the mistake of thinking the meat was smoked somewhere along the way.

Without bundnerfleisch, this soup is similar to a variety of soups found throughout Europe and the British Isles, it particularly reminded me of soup veg soup from Ireland and my wife D of krupnik, a Polish soup based on barley with the addition of hearty winter vegetables, which are both very nourishing soups for cold, hard winters. What the bundnerfleisch brings to this soup is a mellow savoury note, not in the least bit overwhelming. The recipe called for a hard, dry, end piece of meat, in the thrifty Swiss manner, but when I asked Zep of Ormond Meat & Smallgoods for such a piece, he looked a little sheepish and told me he took those pieces home to have a nibble on after work! So I bought fresh slices of meat instead, which was no particular hardship as it added some nice colour to the soup.

Bundner Gerstensuppe
Pearl Barley Soup with Air-dried Beef
(adapted from A Taste of Switzerland)

150g pearl barley
about 2 litres stock or water
25g butter
2 onions, diced
2 small or 1 large leek, washed of dirt and diced
3 or 4 carrots, diced
50 to 100g celeriac, diced
150g bundnerfleisch, either whole end piece or diced slices
2 tablespoons flour
salt and fresh ground pepper
1/2 bunch parsley, chopped

Put the pearl barley and stock or water in a large pot and bring to a simmer. In another pot, melt the butter and sweat the onions, leeks, carrots and celeriac until soft but not coloured. Add the flour and cook for another minute, then pour the contents of the pot into the cooking barley and stock, along with the piece of bundnerfleisch or diced fresh slices. Season and cook for one and a half to two hours. Check the seasoning again and add the parsley. Serve

Note: I added quite a lot of salt without the soup becoming overly salty. The original recipe also called for two egg yolks and 250ml cream to be added at the end, but we didn't feel that this was necessary as the barley makes the soup thick and creamy. If you do add the egg yolks and cream, on no account boil the soup after. You could also garnish the soup with fine shreds of bundnerfleisch which is available from Ormond Meat & Smallgoods, 634 North Road, Ormond.

Labels: ,

  posted at 7:42 am

At 8:13 pm, Blogger MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

I'm thinking soup: I see cold watermelon soup, cold strawberry soup, cold blueberry soup . . . you get the idea.
Bundnerfleish what a really great name. I realize you are right about the flavor of cured dried meat being unique to itself, I just hadn't stop to consider it.
You duck and weave . . . my question . . . and then I'm laughing out loud.


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