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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Monday, July 30, 2007
Great British Menu & Veal Blanquette
The new series of Great British Menu has started. Having liked the first series, I've started watching the second, beginning with the contest for Midlands and the east, between Galton Blackiston and Sat Bains, which appears to be very much the contest of old school versus new, with Galton producing traditional food and Sat a style that seems to have evolved from molecular gastronomy.

It was the starters that caught mine and the judges attention. Galton produced a ham hock terrine with piccalilli and toasted spelt bread and Sat countered with ham, egg and peas. It was right here that Sat won the competition with a duck egg that was cooked for 1.5 hours at 62c, leaving it well cooked but still soft, gooey and voluptuous, partnered with air dried ham, peas and a pea sorbet. Visually it was stunning and it was no surprise that all the judges went for it.

But it was something the judges said, Matthew Fort in particular, about Galton's lamb and spring vegetable creation that raised my eyebrow. What Matthew said in effect, was just about any cook could have come up with that sort of dish, implying that it was boring even though it was well cooked, prefering Sat's boiled in the bag beef with seven different onions. It was these two dishes that summed up the chefs' differing philosophies and both were keen to disparage each other, with Sat claiming the modern high ground with his use of sous-vide.

It made me smile a bit, for there is nothing new about cooking food at a lower temperature than boiling point, good chefs have been doing it for centuries and the only difference between the way Sat cooked his beef and boeuf a la ficelle, an old classic recipe, is the use of a bag to keep flavour in, whereas boeuf a la ficelle uses good stock to add flavour, otherwise both methods use heat below the boiling point. But in Matthew's eyes, Sat was the more innovative, whereas I saw Galton's dish as far more technical in the way he prepared the lamb, a point that was lost upon Matthew, who preferred it seemed, to concentrate on the garnish.

To condemn a dish because it's been seemingly done before is to condemn all the classics. Why we keep on cooking them is because they work. It seems that was being judged in Great British Menu had more to do with fashion than good cooking. There was a time when nouvelle cuisine and cuisine minceur took the food world by storm in the way that molecular gastronomy is now doing, yet how many chefs or home cooks use those styles? Sat's dessert of raspberry sponge, doused with raspberry vinegar and served with black olive and honey puree and goat's milk ice-cream owed a great deal to nouvelle cuisine, yet was an unmitigated disaster.

What has happened is the best bits of nouvelle cuisine and cuisine minceur have been assimilated into modern cooking, as the best parts of molecular gastronomy will undoubtedly also be. Already some parts of it are being questioned, foams for instance have come under fire in some quarters for not adding much at all to a dish, other than a look. It's fascinating to watch the continued evolution of cooking as new techniques and ways of looking at food advance our understanding and knowledge, but unlike Matthew Fort, I don't think that I will ever be bored by well cooked food, regardless of what style is used.

This following dish is a case in point. Veal blanquette belongs to a group of dishes such as the boulliabaisses, pot-au-feus, choucroutes, garbures et al, that are cuisine du terroir, the great regional dishes of France and were prepared as la cuisine de femme, cooked by generations of women who had plenty of time as they didn't need to work to pay the mortgage, passing the recipes and secrets from mother to daughter. But it is something more than that, it is food cooked with love and affection for their families and friends, emotions that should inform all cooking.

It also contains a modern version of the old way of thickening the sauce, preferring to use a strong reduction along with egg yolks and cream in the nouvelle cuisine manner, rather than using flour. There is also the technique of cooking the meat at below the simmering point, a la molecular gastronomy, to ensure it doesn't fall apart, retaining a wonderful texture. It is also the sort of dish that cannot be successfully made without real chicken stock and I don't even mean the sort you can buy ready made in the supermarket, it is essential to make your own, with plenty of chicken pieces and bones. In short, a weekend dish.

Veal Blanquette

1.5kg veal shoulder, cut in large cubes
about two litres homemade chicken stock
3 carrots, peeled and quartered
2 onions, peeled and each stuck with two cloves
1 bouquet garni
6 small (pickling) onions, peeled, roots trimmed and left whole
300g small button mushrooms
300ml double cream
4 egg yolks
juice of 1/2 lemon
salt and fresh ground pepper

Place the veal in a casserole and just enough chicken stock to cover and lightly season with salt - not too much salt as there will be a large reduction later on. Bring to the boil, constantly skimming all scum until no more appears, add the carrots, onions and bouquet garni then reduce the temperature to between 80 and 90c and simmer for an hour then add the mushrooms and small onions and simmer for another hour or until the meat is tender.

Discard the large onions stuck with cloves and the bouquet garni, strain the cooking liquid into another pot and boil to reduce by half, keeping the meat and vegetables warm. Whisk the cream, egg yolks and lemon juice together and pour into the slightly cooled reduction, whisking all the time. Season with salt and pepper and cook very gently until slightly thickened, on no account boil it or the egg will curdle. Stir in the meat and vegetables and serve with some mashed potatoes. Serves six, with love.

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  posted at 8:52 am
  9 comments



Friday, July 27, 2007
Desert Island Cookbook
A Rick Stein cookbook lay idly on the couch from when I had used it for a recipe for a recent dinner party. My wife D picked it up and leafed through it, as she did so, I mentioned that the reason I bought the book was for one particular recipe, salt pork with lentils, a variation of garbure that took my fancy when watching the television series. This comment must have injured D's sensibilities, for she replied that we should cook every single recipe in the book.

Somewhat aghast, I replied that probably wasn't such a great idea and perhaps she should have a good look at all the recipes, which she did and suddenly realized not only the enormity of it but also the impracticability. The simple truth is, all cookbooks contain recipes that one would never really contemplate for whatever reason - the ingredients aren't to your liking or are much to difficult or expensive to obtain and so on.

There are cookbooks of mine that seemed a good idea at the time, but which subsequently have hardly been used at all; Stephanie Alexander's first two books, Stephanie's Menus for Food Lovers and Stephanie's Feasts and Stories for example, were two books that I rushed to buy but hardly cooked anything out of and remain curiosities on my shelf. Does any home cook sew tripe into a small pouch then stuff it? Literally, not metaphorically. However, her epic tome The Cook's Companion, Stephanie's reply to The Joy of Cooking, is an indispensable reference book that I turn to time and again.

All this got me thinking about which cookbook is the one I turn to most, my desert island cookbook if you will. The answer came quite quickly, for there is one book that is always down from the shelf in my hands and that is the Roux brother's French Country Cooking. A count revealed that some twenty-five recipes have been attempted from its pages, with two getting a rerun this very weekend. There are more recipes that I would like to try, but that may mean the end of my marriage, what the hell is wrong with snails and frog's legs anyway?!!!

It is this book I will be taking to my daughter P's house to show her how to make a quiche Lorraine after she requested it and also that I teach her to cook like me, which was quite the compliment. There is a large box of TimeLife, The Good Cook series that I'm saving for her which would go some way to helping her understand something of the culinary arts and I will also include a copy of French Country Cooking as well, for there is something in there that encapsulates the way I like to cook, snails and all.

Okay, I've shown you mine, what's your favourite cookbook, the one that you turn to all the time?
 
  posted at 8:10 am
  11 comments



Monday, July 23, 2007
A Wine Dinner
Due to diary clashes, the final bit of birthday celebrations, that started in early May, wasn't completed until last Saturday night when all my wine friends were able to get together for a night that had its beginnings some twenty-five years previous. It was then when I got my hands on a bottle of Hungary's finest - a bottle of legendary Tokay Eszencia, vintaged in 1957, one of the great years. This bottle was chosen because 1957 was generally an indifferent year for wines in most places around the world.



Hungary does have thriving vineyards, but their wines are little known outside the region, with the notable exception of wines from Tokaj-Hegyalja, which was the birthplace of the world's first botrytis wines which achieved fame, especially in Eastern Europe, in the 17th & 18th centuries, though viticulture has been practised in this area since at least the 12th century and perhaps even earlier than this. Six grape varieties are permitted with Furmint being the predominant grape at about 70% of all plantings. There are many different classes of wine made, both sweet and white and the sweet wines are classified according to how much sugar and sugar free extract a wine contains. This classification is the puttonyos number which ranges from three to six for aszu (botrytis) wines and beyond six puttonyos is Tokay Eszencia (Essence), which is only made when conditions are right.

This is what Wikipedia says about Eszencia...


The rarest of all varieties is Eszencia. This form is not only pure AszĂș, but consists of overripened, moldy, shriveled, raisiny grapes that are not pressed, but do expel a modicum of free-run juice. This juice is carefully collected and if it contains a sugar content of at least 500 grams/liter of sugar (some as high as 700 grams/liter), then it can qualify as Eszencia. Half of it is aged in small glass containers and not fermented. Another is slowly fermented over 7-10 years in small wooden barrels and, due to the high sugar, achieves an alcohol content of 2 to 7 percent. These two are blended into a wine that has 2 to 4 percent alcohol, 40% to 60% residual sugar, the consistency of honey, and extreme rarity. In times of unrest in Austro-Hungary in 1848, the Russian Czars (with the Hapsburgs, the Rakoczy family and a handful of other notables, the key consumers of this elixir), sent troops to protect the supply of Eszencia. Because of the high degree of botrytis, the wine was also thought to have medicinal powers, perhaps like penicillin.


So you can see, to have a fifty year old bottle is something special and has to be appreciated with your best friends. So eight of us gathered for a dinner party that will be long remembered, not just for the Eszencia but the quality of all the other wines. This is what we had.

Scallops with Puy Lentils
Bannockburn Chardonnay '97
Chassagne Montrachet Morgeot '97

Boeuf Bourguignonne & Mashed Potato
Henschke Hill of Grace '92
Penfolds Grange Hermitage '86
Chateau Latour '82

Cheese
Mt Mary Quintet '96
Wynns Claret '57

Creamy Apple Tart
Tokay Eszencia '57

With the exception of the Wynns (unsurprisingly) and Chassagne Montrachet (surprisingly), which had both seen better days, all the wines were outstanding, particularly the Chateau Latour which was from such a great vintage and still had decades in front of it and the Tokay Eszencia, which was sublime. It was interesting with the Grange and Hill of Grace, which are considered Australia's top two wines, that even though they are both shiraz, they couldn't be more different. The Grange was rich and concentrated, very masculine in style, whilst the Hill of Grace was more feminine and subtle. The table was divided over which was the better wine, but I will say the Hill of Grace was the better of the pair for me, but only by a whisker. I was also surprised the the Australian chardonnay outlasted a French burgundy from the same year.

The food was also a great hit, even if I do say so myself. It was designed so that chef wouldn't have his drinking time impaired! The following scallop dish was from Rick Stein's French Odyssey and by making the dressing in advance, all that was required was to sear the scallops and simmer the lentils before eating.

It is also worth mentioning that this dish seemed born of Rick's reaction to partnering scallops with everything like '...large lumps of black pudding, potato choux balls, ponzu sauce, you name it.' My own experience of this was about five years ago when all the rage was to partner scallops with pork belly, a combination that I just don't get. For me, keeping scallops simple is key. The most memorable scallop I've ever had was one I snaffled from my son's plate in Tasmania. It was just a scallop in batter that tasted so brightly of the sea, with the crunch of batter against the melting, sweet scallop flesh. Yes, you heard right, I stole it from my son and I don't care, it was bloody good!

Seared Scallops with Lentils
(Adapted from a French Odyssey) - Serves four

100g Puy lentils
2 & 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
12 - 16 large prepared scallops
salt and fresh ground black pepper

FOR THE DRESSING
7 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 small garlic cloves, finely chopped
4 medium sized vine ripened tomatoes,
skinned, seeded and chopped
1 teaspoon chopped mixed rosemary & thyme or
large pinch dried herbes de Provence
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon caster sugar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons mixed chopped parsley & basil

For the dressing, put 2 tablespoons olive oil in a pan and add the garlic. As soon as the garlic starts to sizzle, add the tomatoes and chopped rosemary and thyme. Simmer until thick, about fifteen minutes. In a small pot put the vinegar and sugar and reduce until about two teaspoons are left and add to the tomato mixture, season with salt and pepper. In a pot of boiling salted water add the lentils and cook until tender, about twenty minutes. Season with salt and pepper and 1/2 tablespoon olive oil. Keep warm.

If the scallops are large slice in half, keeping the roe attached to one half. Place in a dish with some salt and pepper and the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil, toss together. In a non stick pan heated until smoking hot, fry the scallops 1 minute on each side.

To finish the dressing add the remaining 5 tablespoons olive oil, the lemon juice and season to taste, heat very gently without boiling.

Divide the scallops between the plates in a semi-circle and place next to them a small pile of lentils. Dress the scallops with the sauce and serve.
 
  posted at 8:25 am
  7 comments



Friday, July 20, 2007
BBQ Battleground
My daughter sent this to me, author unknown. I'm not sure if she's telling me something or not, but I am sure there is more than a bit of truth to this...

BBQ Rules

It is important to refresh your memory on the etiquette of this sublime outdoor cooking activity, as it's the only type of cooking a 'real' man will do, probably because there is an element of danger involved. When a man volunteers to do the BBQ the following chain of events are put into motion:

Routine...

(1) The woman buys the food.

(2) The woman makes the salad, prepares the vegetables, and makes dessert.

(3) The woman prepares the meat for cooking, places it on a tray along with the necessary cooking utensils and sauces, and takes it to the man who is lounging beside the grill - beer in hand. Here comes the important part:

(4) THE MAN PLACES THE MEAT ON THE GRILL.

More routine....

(5) The woman goes inside to organize the plates and cutlery.

(6) The woman comes out to tell the man that the meat is burning. He thanks her and asks if she will bring another beer while he deals with the situation.

Important again:

(7) THE MAN TAKES THE MEAT OFF THE GRILL AND HANDS IT TO THE WOMAN.

More routine....

(8) The woman prepares the plates, salad, bread, utensils, napkins, sauces, and brings them to the table.

(9) After eating, the woman clears the table and does the dishes.

And most important of all:

(10) Everyone PRAISES the MAN and THANKS HIM for his cooking efforts.

(11) The man asks the woman how she enjoyed "her night off." And, upon seeing her annoyed reaction, concludes that there's just no pleasing some women....
 
  posted at 9:24 am
  12 comments



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.

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  posted at 7:42 am
  1 comments



Friday, July 13, 2007
Truffles
There was an interesting piece in the Espresso column in last Tuesday's Epicure, titled Truffle scuffle. In it, Nick Miraklis, owner of the Vegetable Connection and one of Australia's biggest importers of truffles, claimed that the early season truffles from Western Australia weren't properly ripe.

"...if the truffles aren't ripe, they don't develop the proper flavours...the WA guys have jumped the gun by selling theirs prematurely...The feedback I'm getting from overseas buyers who have bought these truffles is that the Australian truffles are no good."


Sounds okay, doesn't it? Until you look a bit further.

A truffle is a member of the mushroom family and as such is the fruiting body of a particular fungus that lives underground, the truffle itself is not the plant. It is unusual to us in that this fruiting body forms and stays underground during its entire cycle. Unless it's dug up and eaten by animals or humans. There are many truffle species worldwide, ranging from temperate to desert climates. Australia is also home to many truffle species, though no one knows or has been game enough to see if they have any culinary value.

It is also a member of the Ascomycota division of fungi, which contains several fungi that are very important to humans, chiefly the yeasts that make bread making, brewing and blue cheese possible and the production of certain antibiotics (penicillin for instance), as well as being related to morel mushrooms (Morchella spp.).

What Miraklis was saying about truffles being picked not ripe, troubled me. You see, a mushroom doesn't actually ripen. It is a structure put out by a fungus in order to disperse its spore. It's not like an apple for instance that can't really be eaten before it's ripe, as soon as you can see a mushroom, you can eat it, regardless of how big it may eventually grow. I have been picking morels for twenty-five years and I have never noticed a difference in flavour between young and older morels and in other species we pick, slippery jacks (Suillus luteus) and saffron milk caps (Lactarius deliciosus), we prize younger specimens as older ones have very often started to decay, giving them strong and bitter flavours, which has nothing to do with ripeness. Last year a friend of mine who isn't really into mushrooms gave me a box of large, wild, field mushrooms (Agaricus spp.) which had a very strong mushroom odour. On closer inspection, they proved to be on the way out and quite unusable.

The way I read Miraklis words are that a small truffle picked before the season really begins, is inferior in flavour to an in season later picked one. So what about truffles that grow after this supposed season starts and are picked small and not allegedly ripe? Truffles care nothing for arbitrary seasons and only form when conditions are right so why on earth would one truffle that grows earlier than another have less flavour? Why wouldn't the season in Western Australia start earlier than in Tasmania? I can think of several fruits and vegetables that are harvested later in Tasmania than elsewhere. It all smacks of mystique and marketing. Handily, there is no way to compare early season truffles with those from later to refute this claim. As to the overseas claim that the early truffles were no good, couldn't that also be a clever business practice from overseas buyers looking to get a better price? I mean really, the truffles were no good at all? It is also worth noting that Miraklis is being employed by Tasmanian growers to grade truffles, but apparently not the Western Australian growers he is criticising.

All the same, there may be some merit in truffles of the same species from certain locations not being as good as others, but that has more to do with terroir than ripeness and is something that can't really be changed or altered. For instance a mate of mine, a Swiss executive chef tells me that Australian morels don't have the same aroma as European ones but the flavour of ours is non-the-less excellent. It wouldn't surprise me if Australian truffles didn't taste exactly like European ones, although I've yet to meet anyone who claims that the same species of mushroom, from different areas, have different flavours.
 
  posted at 9:05 am
  4 comments



Tuesday, July 10, 2007
Edelwiess Delicatessen Closes
It looks like an iconic Acland Street shop may have bitten the dust. As I was waiting for my wife D as she perused the Polish papers in the Acland Street newsagency on the weekend, I noticed that the Edelwiess Delicatessen wasn't open at a time it would normally be. A notice was taped to the front door saying the landlord had taken possession of the premises, chilling words indeed.

Edelwiess Delicatessen has been in Acland Street for as long as I have been going there and I'm sure its history goes back further than that to a time when new migrants from Poland, Hungary and other European countries settled in St Kilda. When I first discovered the shop, it had virtually unobtainable goods from overseas. I remember purchasing a tin of foie gras from here in the seventies to top some Tornadoes Rossini when I was going through a French phase, that was virtually unobtainable anywhere else.

As the migrant population spread out from St Kilda, a trendier crowd moved in and in the face of competition from specialist food retailers such as The Essential Ingredient and Simon Johnson, not to mention the well stocked delis of the nearby Prahran Market, Edelwiess began to change. They installed seats and a coffee machine and offered fresh salads and homemade cakes to take home, but it appears to no avail.

I don't know if the shop will open again, I for one hope it does, and judging by the number of Melbourne bloggers that have written about it, I'm not the only one who will miss it, but it may be that the landscape that enabled this shop to thrive has moved too far for it to ever recapture its glory days as one of the go-to shops for hard to get items and wasn't able to move far enough away from that model to succeed.
 
  posted at 11:16 am
  3 comments



Monday, July 09, 2007
You Say Spatzle, I say Knopfli



Funny looking cheese grater. That's because it's not really a cheese grater at all. It's a spatzle maker, those cute looking little dumplings that are a mainstay of any authentic Swiss or German restaurant.

Years ago, I used to knock around with a Swiss bloke who used to manage the Swiss Club in the city. A large group of us would regularly meet there for a meal and it was here that I was first introduced to these tasty, tiny dumplings. Naturally, I wanted to recreate them at home and bought the first book I could find that had a recipe for them, it was called A Taste Of Switzerland by Sue Style. Really, finding the book was the easy part - finding the special spatzli maker was to prove a little more difficult.

Still the absence of one wasn't going to be an insurmountable problem, for the batter is so thick that it's easy to cut off small slices into the boiling water, producing a very rustic noodle, but still, I wanted to produce the spatzli as served to me in the Swiss Club. It wasn't at the top of any list that I had, but whenever in a kitchenware shop, I would keep a weather eye out for one as we consumed my hand made version.

Then a couple of years ago, I asked at one shop where I was convinced they would have one and lo and behold, yes, they did! I breathlessly followed the shop assistant as she led me to the deeper recesses of the store where sad, sick and crazy people like me ventured and produced what could really be described as a potato ricer, but there on the box it said spatzle press. I couldn't quite see how pressing the batter through the small holes would produce the shape I was looking for, but nonetheless, I purchased it.

Well, my doubts were well founded, for the press produced long worm like dumplings, still, an improvement on my hand cut slug like version, but a far cry from the shape I wanted. My search wasn't over just yet. I asked some German friends and they told me that they used a press like mine. Now really, a long noodle doesn't taste differently to the small button shape that was eluding me, but there is a certain step that makes the button shape a better choice. When my German friends make spatzle, once they had risen to the surface of the boiling water, they are scooped out and straight away served. What the Swiss Club did was to drain their little dumplings and then fry them in butter until they were a nut brown colour and ever so slightly crunchy.

This last weekend, I had some business at Scullerymade, a specialist cookware shop that I generally avoid these days as I have tendency to go weak at the knees and buy whatever they put in front of me; most of my original kitchenware came from this shop. After we were finished with my reason for the visit, I asked if they had the cheese grater type of spatzle maker and they gently led me to the nether regions of their shop and showed me a commercial one that caused me to tremble and nearly faint. Of course it was way to big and expensive for I wanted, but I was then led to the display that contained the spatzle maker in the photo...the holy grail was mine!

I bought it and took it home and produced a batch of spatzle that were the equal of what I had had all those years ago, but these noodles weren't done with me yet. In my recipe book, there are three different noodles listed - spatzli, knopfli and pizokels. The pizokels are easy, they have an addition of buckwheat. What is puzzling me is that spatzli means little sparrows and knopfli, little buttons and are apparently produced from the same batter, only the shape is different.

Well, I now have the implements to produce both shapes and what the Swiss Club called spatzli or little birds could far more accurately be called knopfli. But it doesn't stop there. My new machine is producing what is known as knopfli or little buttons and I suppose you can see that in them. Trouble is, my overactive imagination can also see little birds too, say a robin for instance, with a puffed out chest and narrowing down to a tail, but there is no way that the pressed noodles look anything like little birds (spatzle) which it seems is what they are called.

Confused? Me too, but whatever they're called, they sure are tasty and simple to make.


Spatzli or Knopfli
(Adapted from A Taste Of Switzerland)

300g flour
200ml milk & water
1 teaspoon salt
3 eggs

In a bowl place the flour and salt and make a well in the centre. Break in the eggs and start to whisk, drawing in the flour whilst adding the milk until you have a thick batter. Use either a spatzle press or grater over a pot of boiling salted water to form noodles - you can also tilt the mixing bowl over the water and slice off noodles with a knife. As soon as they puff up and rise to the top, they are ready. Scoop them out and into a bowl of hot water until all the batter is used up. You can serve them as they are, drained, or you can melt some butter until either just melted or a nut brown colour and pour over the noodles. If you like you can also melt some butter in a frying pan and add all the drained noodles and fry until lightly coloured. Serve with any dish that has a lot of sauce or gravy.

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  posted at 12:16 pm
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