Category: INGREDIENTS GLOSSARY

Condiments | Anchovy Sauce

The most famous anchovy sauce – Garum of the imperial Roman era and its modern variations Colatura di Alici and the Indo-Chinese sauces of Thailand and Vietnam – is an extract more than a sauce, whereas the Pissala / Pissalat of Nice is a contender for a genuine sauce, largely because it can be made in the home, unlike the filtered varieties.

The Italian caper and anchovy sauce – Salsa di Capperi e Acciughe – should qualify even if it is low on anchovies. The dressing known as Bagna Cauda in Italy and La Fondue Niçoise in France is too elaborate although it is high on anchovies. Not so the Anchoiade, a subtle blend of anchovy and oil!

Pissala / Pissalat

Used to season any number of traditional dishes in the Nice region, this anchovy sauce is associated with the flan and flatbread called pissaladiére.

  • 240 ml olive oil
  • 48 anchovy fillets
  • 10 g black pepper
  • 12 cloves, ground
  • 5 g salt
  • 12 sprigs of thyme
  • 8 bay leaves, ground

Mash the anchovies with a fork, place in a bowl with 45 millilitres of olive oil, a large pinch each of black pepper and salt plus the bay leaves, cloves and thyme. Beat into a sauce. Pour into a glass jar, store in the refrigerator.


Bagna Cauda / La Fondue Nicoise

Along from the Ligurian and Piedmont coast, in the azzure of the French Riviera, they call this dressing la fondue Niçoise, a little cheeky because the traditional ingredient is the salted anchovy of the Ligurian Sea! However, both the French and Italian versions are worth a try.

Whichever version this is a sauce used to dress sticks of celery and carrots, slices of artichokes, bulb fennel and fresh mushrooms, or pieces of any vegetable that demands a flavour shock!

The Italians suggest artichokes, cardons, carrots, endive, peppers and rape. Raw vegetables are preferred over cooked, albeit al dente, vegetables, except for new whole potatoes fully cooked.

The butter and milk can be omitted.

  • 300 ml olive oil
  • 150 g anchovy fillets / salted Ligurian Sea anchovy fillets
  • 90 ml milk (optional)
  • 60 g butter (optional)
  • 6 garlic cloves, sliced thin
  • Choice of vegetables, lightly cooked or raw
  • Bread, for collecting the drips

Milk Method

Soak garlic in the milk for about two hours, strain milk and dry garlic. Using a small pot, over a low heat, gently fry the garlic in the butter. Add the oil and the anchovies. Simmer for 10 minutes until the anchovies have melted into the butter-oil-garlic mixure, and it has the consistency of sauce.

Dip choice of vegetable into the sauce, holding a piece of bread under the stick, slice or piece to collect the drips.

Oil Method

Using a small pot, over a very low heat cook the garlic in the olive oil, about half an hour. Add the anchovies and allow to melt gradually. Whisk a little and keep warm.

Dip choice of vegetable into the sauce, holding a piece of bread under the stick, slice or piece to collect the drips.

La Fondue Nicoise

  • 125 ml olive oil
  • 8 anchovy fillets
  • 4 garlic cloves, sliced

Cook the garlic gently in the oil over low heat until it begins to soften, add the anchovies and let them slowly bind the sauce.


Anchoiade

Sauce

  • 100 g anchovies in oil
  • 60 ml olive oil
  • 15 ml red wine vinegar
  • 2 garlic cloves, sliced thin
  • Black pepper, large pinch
  • Salt, large pinch

Sauté anchovies over a low heat, add garlic, seasonings and vinegar. Cook until the mixture takes on a smooth consistency. Stir in the olive oil.

Vegetables

  • 1 cauliflower, florettes separated, sliced thin
  • 1 broccoli head, florettes separated, sliced thin
  • 4 small carrots, peeled, cut into thin strips
  • 2 celery stalks, sliced thin
  • 4 artichokes, sliced thin
  • 4 endive, sliced thin
  • 4 eggs, hard-boiled
  • 8 radishes, sliced thin

Place the vegetables in a large bowl, mix, pour anchovy mixture, serve with an egg for each diner.

Condiments | Chicken Jelly

  • 3 litres water
  • 1.5 kg chicken, roasted
  • 2 leeks, sliced
  • Chicken giblets
  • 1 sour apple, quartered
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • 2 pears
  • 60 g assorted berries
  • 2 cm cassia / cinnamon (optional)
  • 15 g assorted fresh herbs
  • 15 g assorted dried herbs
  • 5 g pomegranate seeds
  • 10 black peppercorns

For a rich jelly remove only the breast meat from the roasted chicken, place the bones, meat and skin in a large pot with the giblets, cover the chicken pieces with water and choice of berries, fruit, herbs, spices and vegetables. Bring to a low boil, cover, reduce heat and simmer for three hours. Strain the liquid through muslin into a new pot, reduce until there is about 300 mililitres (20 tablespoons) remaining. Leave to cool, store in refrigerator.

Alternatively put a whole chicken with the giblets of two chickens in a large pot with vegetables, herbs and spices, cover with water, simmer for three hours, strain as above.

BLUE WINDOW | A Walk in the Woods

From the attic window in the alpine chalet, a fine mist can be seen hovering over the valley in the pubescent dawn, the sun still to rise over the mountain peaks. Gradually, as the morning lengthens its shadows, the mist will dissipate, the valley light will shimmer in the promise of a clear day and the high mountains will be framed by a blue window. 

This momentary vista is a mere glimpse of the absolute magic of the Rhône Valley, in high summer a sumptuous land full of growth, at summer’s end a mystical land like this morning. All the way from the expanse of the lake known as Léman where cormorants gaze into the water from the rocks at Château de Chillon to the magnificence of the Aletsch Glacier where chamois look askance at solitary hikers high above the longitudinal plain of the Rhône, Ursern and Upper Rhine, this Swiss valley canton offers something unique in the world.

It is the first week of October. The grapes have been harvested, the chestnuts have been collected and apples, apricots and pears have been dried and pulped and fermented and left whole for those who like their fruit fresh. Tweaks have been made to apple pie recipes. New wines have been selected. Rounds of mountain cheese have been declared ready. Legs of beef, cured with salt and spices, steamed and dried for up to six weeks in airy attics and delicately sliced, are also ready. Batches of rye bread have been baked. Finally the apples pies have been prepared … and baked. Everyone is ready!

The legs of local cattle breeds are cured with salt and spices, steamed and dried for up to six weeks in airy attics – curing and drying techniques first recorded in the 14th century in the Valley.

Hand-picking sweet chestnuts from the woods alongside the Rhône under the high peaks is an old tradition of the people. Traditionally the chestnuts were roasted over an open fire, taken inside and served with chunks of mature mountain cheese accompanied by fresh grapes, pieces of apple and pear, grape (must) juice or young wine to wash everything down. Nothing unusual there, just the typical country fare of the canton.

Except this is brisolée, the autumn harvest plate of the people who tend the land where the Rhône is joined by the Dranse at the acute turn eastwards into the valley below the Bernese Alps at Martigny. Here chestnuts abound between the river, the town of Martigny and the adjacent village of Fully, where the annual chestnut fair is more than a celebration, it is an event characterised by the traditional produce and artisanal products of the valley.

Three elements of the autumnal brisolée © ST/swiss-image.ch

To fully appreciate this tradition the stranger must go native and go up.

There are several walks out of Martigny, all signposted in the familiar yellow well known to all hikers in Switzerland. We are starting at Martigny Croix where the railway line winds around the mountain into the adjacent Barnes valley. Beyond the old railway station building, there is a gravel path that rises gently past the rocky wide Dranse. With a sudden ascent the path turns sharply, climbing hard towards the hamlet of Les Ecoteaux. 

At 905 metres Les Ecoteaux is the tapered end of a ridge that separates the valleys of the Rhône and the Bagnes. This is not apparent deep among the stands of mixed conifer and deciduous trees. The switchback climb is arduous. Experienced walkers go slow, like mountain goats finding their way cautiously over firm ground. Gradually the path levels out onto a pleasant meadow, rising gently again towards the sprawling hamlet of Chemin, a settlement 250 metres higher. Here we consult the map, because we are facing a set of choices. To descend back down, to the town of Martigny, where the L-shaped Rhône slides into Lake Geneva, or continue upwards towards the Col des Planches, at 1411 metres the first high peak along the ascending ridge. 

At the splendid Col des Planches the path offers some respite, descending slightly more than 100 metres down to Le Placard, a panoramic viewpoint. Also a crossroads. Five paths test our resolve. Three go down, two go up! Always a good time to stop and contemplate. Eat. And make the correct choice. It is too far early for lunch, so we snack on sun-dried raisins, dried apricot halves, slivered almonds, crushed walnuts, whole hazelnuts, some wild berries, an energy bar of honeyed seeds and grains, apple juice and pear nectar. This raises our energy levels. Lunch is chunks of semi-hard cheese, wafers of air-dried beef, torn soft flatbread, a handful of spelt flakes and mineral water. That can wait. Although we are still hungry we need to continue – up or down that is the question? 

A meal not too dissimilar was found to have been eaten by a hunter on a different mission 5,300 years ago. Ötzi, a 45-year old, was found mummified by the ice in the borderland alps of Austria and Italy. His survival has become a revelation, because it has taught us that we face the same issues he did and we are not that much different, despite the generational gap. 

Anyone walking today in the high mountains without high-energy provisions might not meet the same fate that Ötzi suffered, but they would find themselves wondering why they did not respect the wild, and that would make them exactly like the ancient iceman. 

The most interesting path for us to take is the one that rises toward the ridge at Les Blisiers under the 2472 metre high peak of Pierre Avoi, towering over Verbier in the Bagnes valley and Saxon in the Rhône valley. It is interesting because the path runs alongside an intact Roman built viaduct. The Roman workers would also have been familiar  with a lunch made from berries, grains, roots and seeds. They might even have been fortunate enough to have had some kind of dried meat to savour, and perhaps a swig or two of wine from local grapes to allow it to linger. This makes us wonder how they got back down. We look at the map again. And there it is, a steep path that drops down into Saxon on the valley  flour. Anyway, before the descent, that lunch! 

Terra firma.

We are tired and decide to visit a hostelry that serves barley soup. After a hard walk, this enigmatic winter soup is a reminder of how little the world has actually changed over millennia – air-dried meat, barley, flatbread, nuts, seeds. It is hearty and conducive to well-being, just what we need. 

That hike was hard.

Fricot Feature | The Polish Chef

Polish master chef Stansław Czerniecki’s Compendium Ferculorum albo Zebranie Potraw (Collection of Dishes) is a Polish culinary monument. Published in 1682 his ‘collection’ was the first Polish cookbook, not unusual for the time because Europe’s aristocratic courts boasted countless cookbooks compiled by master chefs amidst a period that established a new sensibility about food, its preparation and presentation. That it predated the second Polish cookbook Kucharz Doskonały by 101 years is astonishing, yet there was a very good reason.

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Pork tenderloin stuffed with a cauliflower condiment, one of ten condiments 
featured in Compendium Ferculorum

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Czerniecki’s Compendium Ferculorum was a masterpiece at the time, and remains one of the greatest cookbooks ever produced. It stands tall alongside the great cookbooks of the past millennium. The decision by the Museum of King Jan III’s Place at Wilanów, Warsaw to reprint it only affirms this belief, as attested by Paweł Jaskanis, director of the museum, and by Jarosław Dumanowski, editor of the culinary monument series.

‘Relish the flavour of these pages,’ writes Jaskanis with gusto. ‘It teaches how to stimulate both taste and imagination, how to surprise banqueters, how to bedazzle them with the appearance of dishes and their presentation.’

‘It is an extraordinary work which describes that not only is completely different from the modern, but which also greatly departs from the popular perception of the Polish cuisine and history,’ writes Dumanowski, asserting the pride Czerniecki felt, ‘that thanks to him Poles had received a work describing their national cuisine’.

‘The cuisine of Stansław Czerniecki is also the cuisine of the baroque, that is the cuisine reaching to contrast, illusion, and readily resorting to surprising concepts. Flavours selected on the principle of contrasts, astonishing differences between the appearance and flavour of dishes, fish pretending to be partridges, buckwheat prepared without a grain of buckwheat and riddle dishes all come together to create a culinary style which the master cook was a strict adherent.’

It was no wonder that the Medici in situ in Florence, Cosimo the third, ordered Czerniecki’s cookbook. Cosimo would have delighted in the work of a master cook who took great delight in a tradition, whether or not Czerniecki knew of it, that began in Florence in 1512. It was called Compagnia del Paiolo (‘Company of the Cauldron’).

The Compendium Ferculorum can be purchased directly from the museum

The motto of the company was l‘arte si fa a cena (the art of dining). It innocently sought culture and conviviality, good taste and simplicity, frankness and friendliness. Its first adherents included Giovan Francesco Rustici, a painter and sculptor, artists Andrea del Sarto and Leonardo de Vinci, and Cardinal Giulio de’ Medici (later Pope Clement).

With Catherine de‘ Medici ensconced in Paris as crown consort then as regent, this new attitude to food became an aristocratic obsession. It spread through the same courts that had produced the recipe-collecting chefs of the era. The Castillian, Catalonian, Neopolitan, Sicilian, Tuscan and Venetian styles, among others from the Iberian and Italian regions, penetrated the French court with chefs, confectioners and pâtissiers trained in the emerging style, that would soon became known as the classical manner, then as haute cuisine.

Maria de’ Medici, queen to Henri the fourth, is believed to have been the instigator, following the sentiments of Pope Clement. He would have luxuriated in the extravagances taken at the grand banquet for Maria‘s wedding, where the cornucopia of flavours and architectural displays of food epitomised the Tuscan attitude to food. Within five generations a dominant aristocratic paradigm had been created, the chefs of the courts bringing exquisite care and infinite attention to detail in the provision and preparation of food.

Four generations later that ‘exquisite care and infinite attention to detail’ was practised by the master cook to the courts of the Lubomirski family at Krakow.

It might also be argued that the Polish cook surpassed the great works of the master cooks who worked for the Medicis. The ‘Company of the Cauldron’ celebrated its 500th anniversary in 2012, and two years later the Polish edition of ‘Collection of Dishes’ was published.

Such generational and culinary symmetry is sobering.

Czerniecki produced culinary art of the highest calibre, art that was not abstract or utopian, that was traditional Polish food made real, influenced by the cuisine of the Czechs and Lithuanians more than the food of the French and Italians. Like the work of the great artists of the early 1500s, who equated their art with the art of dining, Czerniecki produced culinary artworks that appealed to the senses, where flavour and taste had to become sublime to be real.

Czerniecki’s cauliflower condiment is a piece of culinary genius. The recipe is here.

Stanisław Czerniecki, Compendium ferculorum or collection of dishes, w opracowaniu J. Dumanowskiego we wspólpracy z M. Spychaj, Warszawa 2014, s. 196, il. 51, ISBN 978-83-63580-40-7.

Legendary Dishes | Pogača (bread cake)

ALBANIA BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA CROATIA KOSOVO NORTH MACEDONIA MONTENEGRO SERBIA SLOVENIA TURKEY
Punjena Pogača – stuffed version

There are hundreds of recipes for this iconic bread cake, popular across the Balkans. They all follow the same basic recipe with subtle differences between the quantity of the ingredients – liquid (milk and water or both) plus eggs, fat, oil and yeast – and the dry-wet ratio. If it is more of a bread the ratio should be 550 millilitres wet (egg, milk, oil, water) to 1000 grams dry, with a margarine fold into the dough or smeared on top. If it is more of a cake the ratio should be 650 millilitres (butter, cream, egg, juice) to 1000 grams dry. Some recipes combine the two methods to produce a pastry made with a slack dough of butter, eggs, milk, oil and yoghurt.

Punjena Pogača

stuffed bread cake

  • 600 g white wheat flour, t500
  • 200 ml sour cream
  • 150 ml margarine, softened
  • 120 g cheese, cubed small
  • 120 g salami, cubed small
  • 2 eggs, 1 with white and yolk separated
  • 20 g yeast dissolved in 50 ml lukewarm water, with two tablespoons of flour and a teaspoon of vanilla sugar, for between thirty and sixty minutes depending on the ambient temperature
  • 10 g sesame seeds
  • 5 g salt
  • 1 tsp oregano, dried, crushed

Sieve flour into a large bowl, add whole egg and egg white, sour cream, margarine, salt and yeast mixture, knead into a soft dough. Leave to rise for an hour.

Divide dough into two pieces. Roll each piece into a thin round, divide into eight triangles.

Put salami cubes and cheese cubes into a bowl, season with oregano and large pinches of black pepper and salt, place a tablespoon of this mixture on each triangle, shape into a round bun.

Coat two round baking trays with oil and a sprinkling of flour. Arrange the buns in a circle, in a tight side by side formation but leave the central area clear. Cut the remaining buns in half and fill the center with the tops of the buns round side up. Brush surface of each dough with egg yolk wash, sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake at 250ºC until the surface begins to brown, about 15 minutes.


Legendary Dishes | Khachapuri ხაჭაპურის ტრადიცია (cheese bread)

GEORGIA
Khachapuri Georgian cheese bread ‘toast’

Khachapuri is a traditional Georgian bread with regional variations. Imeruli khachapuri from Imeretian in western Georgia is the common variation, with a vein of cheese through the middle of a flatbread. Acharuli or Adjaruli from Adjarian is a boat-shaped bread. Other shapes and sizes include Achma khachapuri from Abkhazian, Guruli from Gurian, Megruli from Mingrelian, Ossuri from Ossetian, and Penovani, Rachuli and Svanuri for a total of 53 varieties. 

In her book The Georgian Feast, American academic Darra Goldstein described the bread. ‘Khachapuri is found throughout Georgia in many guises – round, rectangular and boat-shaped. The dough can be yeasty with a thick crust, many-layered and flaky, or tender and cake-like. The bread is usually filled with a fresh, slightly sour cheese like imeruli or suluguni, but salty cheeses like bryndza may also be used … even the smallest towns have hole-in-the-wall cafés where piping hot khachapuri may be consumed on the spot or taken out.’

In 2018 Levan Qoqiashvili discovered 83 versions (53 varieties and 30 fillings). These include beans, mushrooms, onions and potatoes, and this revelation crushed the purist attitude that khachapuri is a ‘cheese bread’ and only authentic with a cheese filling. 

‘I often thought, which Georgian dish is worthy of national dish status? We interviewed about 500 people and almost all of them named khachapuri. Then I shared my idea to start exploring the dish with my friend, writer Diana Amphiamid. The first questions that popped into our minds was when was the first khachapuri prepared and which utensil was used for its preparation? In order to find it out, we teamed up with a historian and an archaeologist. We also had other questions during research, for example, approximately when Georgians started cultivating wheat and which are Georgian wheat species.’

Georgians insist that the dough is the secret to a successful khachapuri, not the shape and not the filling, and each home baker has their own secret recipe for the dough. Generally the dough is  made with matzoni (the Caucasian fermented milk), although kefir or yoghurt are appropriate substitutes. Milk is preferred in some recipes. The ratio between dough and filling varies from region to region, and from baker to baker. 

Matzoni 

500 ml milk
15 ml matsoni / sour cream (for the first batch)

Heat milk, pour into a bowl or pot, leave to cool, add matsoni or sour cream, stir. Cover the bowl or pot, wrap it in a warm towel for three hours, refrigerate. 

Dough 1

1 kg white wheat flour, t500
400 ml matzoni / kefir / yoghurt
1 egg 
50 g butter, melted
20 g yeast, dissolved in 30 ml warm milk
5 g salt

Dough 2

1 kg white wheat flour, t500
20 g yeast, dissolved in 500 ml warm milk or water
150 g butter
15 g sugar
5 g salt

Dough 3

900 g white wheat flour, t500
400 g butter
300 ml water, warmed
1 egg
3 tbsp oil
3 tbsp vinegar

Filling for doughs 1 and 2

1 kg Suluguni cheese / Mozzarella cheese, grated
2 eggs
100 g butter
Salt, large pinch

Filling for dough 3

1.2 kg curd cheese / soft cheese
3 eggs

Finish for dough 2 and 3

2 eggs, whipped
Oil, for hands

For doughs one and two combine wet and dry ingredients. Knead into a smooth dough, rest for 4 hours. Divide into four pieces. With oiled hands shape into rectangles or rounds, roll out 1 cm thick and spread each piece with an equal amount of cheese mixture. Alternatively place cheese mixture on each piece, collect edges and bring them into the middle to form an envelope, then roll out 1 cm thick and egg wash. Place on oiled trays, leave to rise for 30 minutes. Bake at 300ºC for 10 minutes.

For dough three combine flour, warm water, egg, oil and vinegar to form a smooth dough. Divide butter into three parts. Roll out the dough, 2 cm thick smear surface with one third of the butter, fold into an envelope. Place in refrigerator for an hour. Take the cold dough and roll it out again, smear second third of butter over the surface, fold into an envelope and refrigerate for an hour. Repeat this process with the final third of butter. Oil a tray and preheat oven to 240ºC. Divide the dough into two pieces, roll out the first dough to the size of the tray. Place it on the tray. Whip eggs into the cheese, pour onto the layer of dough in the tray. Roll out the second dough to the size of the tray, place on top of the cheese-egg mixture. Wash surface with egg. Bake for ten minutes.

Other Fillings

Bean

1 kg beans
200 g butter
20 g green peppercorns, ground
20 g salt

Cheese

1.2 kg cheese
4 eggs
30 g butter
20 g green peppercorns, ground

Onion

900 g onions
120 g red pepper paste
75 ml sunflower oil
60 ml pomegranate molasses
10 g salt

Potato

1.2 kg potatoes, cooked, mashed
200 g butter
30 g salt
20 g green peppercorns, ground

KOSOVO — Five Traditional Dishes

Despite a strong Albanian and Balkan influence in the modern era, Kosovar food culture has not abandoned Illyrian and Ottoman dishes.

Kaçamak — cornmeal mash
Llokuma — fried dough balls
Mantija — meat parcels
Mish Qengji Të Grirë e Vezë — minced lamb with eggs
Shequerpare — sherbet biscuits in syrup


Legendary Dishes | Mele al forno con Crema Pasticcera (baked apples with custard)

ITALY

Italian apple growers have specialised in the popular varieties for many years now, producing Braeburn, Elstar, Fuji, Gala, Golden Delicious, Granny Smith, Idared, Jonagold, Morgenduft, Red Delicious, Stayman Winesap, Pinova and Topaz. This has resulted in the proliferation of traditional apple desserts, among them baked apples with custard.

Custard
  • 500 ml whole milk, warmed
  • 180 g sugar
  • 120 g egg yolks
  • 1 lemon, zest
  • 40 g potato starch
  • 5 g vanilla 
Apples
  • 4 apples, peeled, cored, cut into wedges
  • 60 ml lemon juice
  • 50 g butter
  • 50 g sugar
  • 15 g icing sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon

In a pan heat the butter and as soon as it is melted add the apples and brown sugar. Cover and cook for 10 minutes over a low heat, occasionally stirring the ingredients. Stir in the cinnamon and lemon juice.

In a bowl beat the yolks with the sugar until frothy. Add the vanilla and potato starch and gradually the warm milk. When the custard is smooth pour into a small pot, add the lemon zest and cook over a medium heat, stirring constantly.

Place the apple mixture into ovenproof tins, pour the custard over each tin. 

Bake at 200ºC for 10 minutes.

Dust with icing sugar and serve.

Legendary Dishes | Baccalà Mantecato (whipped dried cod)

ITALY
Tørrfisk aka Stockfish, Air-Dried Cod

In 2001 a calendar event of significance was noted when an assortment of Venetian artists, historians, restauranteurs, writers and baccalà lovers launched the Dogale Confraternita del Baccalà Mantecato.

Their aim was the dissemination of the traditional recipe – cod, garlic and olive oil – because baccalà mantecato is not just food. ‘It is history, religion, adventure, secrets handed down from cook to cook, from mother to daughter: the pleasure of the palate, mind, heart.’

Stockfish is imported into northern and southern Italy, to Calabria, Campania, Liguria, Sicily and Veneto, taking two-thirds of the Norwegian production.

In northern Italy they like their stockfish lean and thin, in southern Italy they prefer it fat and thick but in Venice they demand the best and it is graded as such, imported by fish merchants from the Polesine, south of the lagoon city.

In 2014 packets of stockfish cost between €23 and €40 a kilo in the shops and supermarkets. Baccalà is stick, mantecato is beaten, thus beaten stick fish.

Legend has it that Venetian merchant Pietro Querini and 68 sailors sought refuge from a storm on the Lofoten Islands, where they witnessed the art of air drying the north Atlantic cod, turning it into hard stick-like fish.

It is not known whether they brought recipes as well as dried fish back from Norway. That was in the 1430s. In 1563, after the Council of Trent and the directive on a required abstinence from meat, dried cod dishes were served every Wednesday and Friday in parts of Italy. Bartolomeo Scappi, chef de cuisine of Pius V, established baccalà mantecato as a traditional dish.

This is the original recipe and method as determined by the Dogale Confraternita del Baccalà Mantecato in Venice.

  • 250 g stockfish, soaked for 48 hours in 12 changes of fresh water, skinned, de-boned
  • Olive oil
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 lemon, quartered 
  • Salt, pinch 
  • Pepper, pinch

Put the cod in a pot, cover with lightly salted cold water and bring to a low boil, simmer for 20 minutes with lemon and bay leaf. Whip the cod by hand with a wooden spoon, letting it absorb the drizzled oil ‘as if it were a mayonnaise’ to produce a shiny homogenous mass.

Season and finish with a little of the cod cooking water.

‘The dish is traditionally garnished with chopped parsley and accompanied by fresh or grilled Venetian white pearl polenta.’

Legendary Dishes | Fegato di Vitello alla Veneziano (Venetian veal liver in onion sauce)

ITALY

Now associated with the cuisine of Venice, and the surrounding region, this veal dish is popular throughout the Alpine countries. Thought to have been brought back from northern Europe by the Romans, a plausible scenario.

  • 900 g veal liver, sliced thin
  • 900 g onions, sliced thin
  • 300 ml chicken jelly stock
  • 100 ml olive oil
  • 45 g butter
  • 30 ml wine
  • Parsley, chopped
  • Seasonings

Sauté onions in half the oil over a low heat covered until they are soft, about 30 minutes. In a separate pan pour remaining oil and fry the liver in two batches, about five minutes each time. Meanwhile add the stock to onions and reduce while the liver is being fried. Add the liver with seasonings in the pan, and cook for two minutes stirring constantly. Transfer to a serving plate. Deglaze the liver pan with the butter and wine, pour over the liver and onions, garnish with parsley. Serve with polenta.

Indigenous Ingredients | Spelt

AndrewWorkman&SpeltField
Andrew Workman surveys one of his spelt fields in Dunany, county Louth, Ireland

Lucius Annaeus Seneca was the most distinguished of the Spanish writers of the Roman imperial age.

Born in Corduba in Andalucia to a Roman equestrian family, Seneca was brought to Rome as a child and seemed destined for a political career. Instead, he became a stoic philosopher, producing wise words that carry moral echoes down the ages to us.

Seneca grew up in a Rome that distributed welfare in the form of free grain, spelt among barley and emmer, an expedient consequence of the food riots, 60 years before he was born, in 59 BC.

An ancient hardy grass thought to be native to both Persia 8,000 years ago and south-eastern Europe 4,000 years ago, spelt was cultivated throughout the continent from the Caucasus to Scandinavia.

Three thousand years ago, river valley communities in the south of Ireland were cooking with spelt berries.

The ancient Greeks and Romans expanded its use. Roman armies lived on spelt (along with barley), making an early version of polenta.

Nearly one thousand years ago, Abbess Hildegard von Bingen of Rupertsberg wrote enthusiastically about spelt. ‘It makes people cheerful with a friendly disposition,’ she said. ‘Those who eat it have healthy flesh and good blood.’

Spelt has been making a comeback in recent decades, largely in southern Germany and in nothern Switzerland, where older varieties have been cultivated.

Known as urdinkel (old spelt), the range of flours milled from spelt are going into every type of bread and pastry, replacing wheat in many recipes.

It is also becoming increasingly popular in Ireland, where Andrew and Leonie Workman grow, mill and package spelt berries and flour from their farm in Dunany, on the coast below the ancient land of Oriel above the Boyne Valley.

Spelt, with barley, einkorn and emmer wheat, remained a staple in Europe until the 20th century, when it fell out of favour for numerous reasons, not least the problems associated with harvesting, separating and milling it into flour.

The Workmans have got round these problems with modern machinery. Now spelt is one of their biggest sellers and they have high hopes for the berries, which can be used in salads and stews, to make risotto and soaked whole to be baked in bread.

SpeltBerries
Spelt Berries

Dominick Gryson, a Louth man who has experimented with ancient grains to find strong shafts for thatching, believes the Workmans have found a great artisan product.

‘Spelt does not give the same yield as modern wheats, which do not grow well here in our climate,’ he says. ‘Spelt, on the other hand, is suited to the soil and the climate and can be sold as a high-value organic product.’

Dermot Seberry, who champions the Workmans’ produce in his book, A Culinary Journey in the North-East (of Ireland), agrees. ‘They fit in with the super food group and are a substitute for risotto rice and barley in the likes of stews and black pudding,’ he says.

‘For me, it is personal. They are low-gluten and have high nutritional content, particularly for the over-thirties, who have become hyper aware of inner health. Not a trending product but very much the next big little food!’

Spelt contains beneficial minerals, unsaturated fatty acids, vitamins (B and E), and has six of the eight essential amino acids that stimulate the production of happiness hormones, just as the abbess said.

But it is the low GI (glycaemic index of carbohydrates) that makes spelt a primary health product. With 35 compared to 40 for wheat and 70 for rice, spelt releases glucose more slowly into the bloodstream, balancing out blood sugar levels.

Spelt saved the early Roman Empire but it also sustained the tribes of barbarians who brought about the fall of Rome and allowed their descendants to supplant Roman power throughout Europe.

Something that powerful is worth promoting, especially now that modern wheat has lost its allure and the wisdom of the ancients, Seneca and von Bingen among them, is finally being listened to.


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Legendary Dishes | Mămăligă and Polenta (boiled cornmeal)

Balkans | Italy

 

Polenta stares at us from the past.

Of all the foods of antiquity none bar unleavened bread has the longevity of polenta.

Coarse ground grains and pulses have been an intregral element of our daily diet for tens of thousands of years. By the time they were written into timeless history, their evolution beyond flours had been forgotten and despite archeological evidence all we can do is guess what our ancient ancestors did with them.

Modern polenta, made from dried corn meal, is a clue.

Before corn was introduced into Europe and ingenious cooks mixed it with local cheeses, herbs and meats to form the polenta dishes we know today in the Balkans, in Italy, Sardinia and Sicily, polenta was made with barley, millet, sorghum and spelt grains, and with countless varieties of peas and beans, and with chestnuts – a tradition that continues in Italy.

Like the polenta of today it was made without addition or adornment. In some regions it was enriched with whatever was at hand, fresh berries, herbs and other fruits of the forest, as was the tradition in alpine Italy.

There were no rules, and definitely no recipes.

If anyone did record polenta recipes it was the Etruscans, the Italic people who occupied northern and middle Italy before the invading Phoenicians and the conquering Romans.

These pagan people transformed the forests and swamps of Etruria into fields and gardens, growing the grains and legumes that accompanied the fauna, fish and fowl served at their sumptuous banquets and feasts.

It is not a huge stretch of the imagination to envisage the Etruscan table with a
thick pulmentario made from ground barley cut into slices and adorned with fish and meat.

Not when it is now possible to eat squares of corn polenta adorned with prosciutto or sardines in a modern Florentine cafe.

The history of polenta becomes interesting when the contrasting recipes of the Balkans and Italy are examined, and old recipes, with chestnut flour or semolina, are reinterpreted.

The potential of polenta has always been there, and the connections are closer than we think.

Pellegrino Artusi refers to a 19th century recipe that calls for corn polenta cooked in milk with salt and baked with layers of béchamel and parmigiano. This is not that dissimilar to the mămăligă and kačamak made on the Balkan side of the Adriatic.

 

Mămăligă

 

1.2 litres water
500 g corn meal, coarse ground
500 g curd cheese, creamed
300 ml sour cream
100 g butter
2 eggs, beaten
15 g salt
10 g black pepper, freshly ground
Olive oil, for greasing
Semolina, for dusting

 

Boil the water with salt.

Using a funnel pour the corn meal in a steady flow into the water, stirring vigorously with a wooden spoon.

Vladimar Mirodan describes this procedure in his Balkan Cookbook: ‘When the water begins to bubble, sprinkle two tablespoons of the maize (corn) flour over the surface of the water.

‘Allow the water to boil furiously and pour the rest of the maize flour in a steady trickle stirring all the time with a wooden spoon in a clockwise circular motion; do not change the direction of the stirring.

‘Lower the heat to moderate and allow the porridge to boil for 25-30 minutes, uncovered.’

The result is a thick polenta. Leave to cool.

Mirodan: ‘Romanian polenta dishes should be too thick to stir and have a strong, almost crunchy texture.’

Divide the cooked polenta into two equal portions, one into a large bowl with the butter.

After ten minutes stir the polenta into the melted butter.

Combine the cheese with the eggs.

When the polenta with the butter has cooled, add the cheese-egg mixture and mix with a fork into a creamy consistency.

Preheat oven to 180°C.

Lightly grease a large baking tray with the oil, sprinkle with semolina, then the pepper.

Press the plain polenta into the semolina-pepper, covering the tray.

Place the cheese polenta on top, covering the bottom layer.

Smooth with a wide blade or make ridges with a fork.

Bake for 35 minutes until the surface has taken on a golden brown colour.

 

Mămăliguţă cu brânză şi Smântână

 

2 litres water
500 g corn meal, coarse ground
500 g curd cheese, creamed
500 ml sour cream
300 g hard cheese, grated
300 g smoked bacon, diced
50 g butter, unsalted

 

Prepare the polenta using the previous method, then stir the butter in while it is still hot. This will produce a softer polenta.

Preheat oven to 160°C.

Fry bacon over a medium heat for five minutes until it is crispy, pour fat into a large baking tray.

Spread a thin layer of potenta on the tray, sprinkle the grated cheese followed by the sour cream, dots of curd cheese and the bacon, repeat until there is only cheese and cream left. Finish with a layer of grated cheese, curd cheese and sour cream.

Bake for 45 minutes, until the top begins to brown.

 

A note on cheese and cream: Mămăligă is made throughout the Balkans, the cheeses and creams being the specific difference between regions.

Generally the choice is curd cheese made from cow, goat and sheep milk, Sirene in Bulgaria, Feta in Greece, Telemea in Romania.

The choice of hard cheese is Cașcaval (aka Kachkaval).

The choice of cream varies between thick sour cream known throughout the Balkans and eastern Europe as smetana (smântână in Romania), and home made fermented cream called kajmak.

Kajmak is preferred in the eastern Balkan countries where mămăligă is known as kačamak.

La Polenta di Castagne

 

2 litres water
500 g chestnut flour
Salt, pinch

 

Boil the water with salt.

Using a funnel pour the chestnut flour in a steady flow into the water, stir to incorporate, then leave to cook over a medium heat, stirring occasionally, about 45 minutes.

Serve with ricotto, pancetta and sausage.

 

Crostini di Polenta

 

1.5/2 litres water
500 g polenta flour, fine
180 g Ricotta, creamed
180 g Emmental, grated
1 egg yolk, beaten
75 g Parmigiano, grated fine for garnish
Salt, pinch, for cooking water and sauce
Olive oil, for cooking water, frying, greasing and sauce

 

Follow the cooking instructions from the packet of polenta for amount of water and cooking time.

Boil the water with salt and a splash of oil.

Using a funnel pour the corn meal in a steady flow into the water, stirring vigorously with a wooden spoon until cooked.

Pour out into a deep sided short baking tray, lightly greased.

When the polenta has cooled turn it out onto a work surface, cut into squares, 5cm x 5cm x 1cm.

Whip a tablespoon of olive into the egg yolk, combine with the emmental and ricotta in a saucepan over a very low heat, cook until bubbles begin to appear on the surface.

Fry the polenta squares in a tablespoon of oil, two minutes each side.

Serve with the cheese sauce, garnish with parmigiano.

 

Sgonfiotto di Farina Gialla

 

This is an adaptation of Artusi’s recipe for polenta soufflé.

 

350 ml milk
105 g corn meal/polenta flour, fine ground
4 egg whites
20 g butter
2 egg yolks, beaten
10 g sugar
Salt, pinch
Butter, for greasing

 

Bring milk to the boil over a high heat.
Using a funnel pour the corn meal in a steady flow into the milk, stirring vigorously with a wooden spoon until cooked.
Remove to a bowl, stir in butter, sugar and salt.
When the polenta is cold stir in the egg yolks.
Preheat oven to 160°C.
Beat the egg whites, stir into the polenta, and transfer to buttered ovenproof moulds.
Bake for 15 minutes, until the polenta soufflé rises.
Serve in moulds.

 

Polenta di Sardinia

 

Sardinia, outside the circuit of civilisation as D. H. Lawrence put it, has always produced traditional food a class apart from the peninsula, and the method with polenta is no different. It compares with the Balkan tradition, which is interesting. Ideas being transferred by the fishers of the Mediterranean seas perhaps? It wouldn’t be the first time.

 

2 litres water
500 g corn meal, coarse ground
200 g pancetta, diced
100 g pecorino, grated
100 g salami, diced
100 g onions, chopped
50 ml passata
6 cloves garlic, chopped
Basil, large pinch
Parsley, large pinch
Salt, pinch

Follow the cooking instructions from the packet of polenta for amount of water and cooking time.

Boil the water with salt.

Using a funnel pour the corn meal in a steady flow into the water, stirring vigorously with a wooden spoon until.

After ten minutes add the remaining ingredients, continue to stir and when ready pour out onto a clean work surface, cut in slices and serve, or use cold with adornments of your choice.


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EDITORIALS     EURO SNACKS     FOOD CONNECTIONS     FOOD STORIES     
GLOSSARY     HIGH FIVES     LEGENDARY DISHES     
RECIPES     REVIEWS     STREET MARKETS

Indigenous Ingredients | Hen Egg

Egg-LayingHen-Sometimes
Egg layer – when the mood takes her

It is common knowledge among those who keep poultry that birds cannot
count! To steal an egg from a clutch is therefore relatively easy if the bird is
elsewhere keeping up its own strength.

What it cannot see it will not miss.

Eggs have always tempted those with empty stomachs but tradition shunned this activity because the little tapered ovals hatched into ducks, geese, guinea-fowl, quail and chickens, ultimately providing a much more substantial meal.

Europe’s love affair with eggs began 2500 years ago when clever chickens managed to make their way from eastern Asia into the eastern Mediterranean, and were corralled in the poultry farms of the ancient Greeks and their neighbours.

Egg whites and yolks were used in various concoctions (early avgolémono and mayonnaise), whole they were boiled, fried, souffléd and sucked, used as stuffing and in sauces. Gradually eggs became integral to the baking of cakes, biscuits, breads, confections, pasta and pastries, for the making of batters and omelettes, to bind meatballs and thicken sauces, for coating and glazing, and for turning a plain hard-boiled egg into an elegant dish through the simple process of mashing the yolk with a variety of ingredients.

Throughout Europe eggs are breakfast and brunch events, ingredients in meals that transcend the ordinary, like the Danish stjerneskud open sandwich (hard-boiled egg), the Russian blini (beaten egg) the cheese toast of Switzerland (fried egg) and the Welsh breakfast (poached egg).

A battery hen’s egg generally weighs between 55 grams and 65 grams, a free-range egg between 50 grams and 60 grams, the latter richer because of the hen’s varied diet, especially if they are not coralled.


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Indigenous Ingredients | Duck

Duck is eaten throughout Europe, continuing a tradition thousands of years old. While the Egyptians and Chinese are credited for the domestication of the wild duck, it appears the Slavs also had the same idea, more than 3000 years ago.

There are several European breeds, of which the Barbary is preferred because of its lean firm flesh.

In France a cross from the Barbary and Nantes breeds called the Mulard is raised for the production of foie gras, the fattened duck (or goose) liver that is one of Europe’s most recognisable traditional foods. Maguelonne Toussaint-Samat devotes several pages of her History of Food to the fascinating and long history of foie gras.

Wild ducks are very much the preserve of haute cuisine in western Europe these days, while eastern Europeans treat them the way they have always done – by keeping traditional dishes made with wild duck on the menu.

Mallard and Teal are the popular breeds.

Traditionally only the breasts were considered edible. When the whole duck was cooked, it was simmered in an aromatic stock and served with a punguent sauce.

Vladimir Mirodan records a dish he suspects was brought to Bessarabia by invading Tartars, who slow baked duck in a herb and vegetable stock, then served it with a cherry sauce.

Duck fat is treasured in some European food cultures. Potatoes par-boiled, then roasted in duck fat remain an essential traditional food in eastern Europe and Russia.

Whether domesticated or wild, the flesh and liver of ducks is perfect for making pâtés and terrines.


Pâté de Canard d’Amiens, version 1

This duck pâté, originally made in the 17th century, is still popular despite many changes to the original recipe.

Dough

  • 500 g pastry flour
  • 125 g butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 25 ml water
  • Salt

Filling

  • 1.5 kg duck, deboned
  • Duck heart, liver, chopped
  • 100 g veal, chopped
  • 100 g pork belly, cubed
  • 100 g mushrooms, chopped
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 onion, chopped finely
  • 2 shallots, chopped finely
  • 1 tsp allspice
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp salt Brandy, splash

Finish

  • Butter, for dough wash
  • Egg yolk, for glazing

Make the pastry dough, rest in fridge for at least two hours.

Combine the offal, pork and veal with the onions, mushrooms and shallots, seasonings and eggs. Mix well, add a generous splash of brandy.

Preheat oven to 180°C.

Lay the duck flat on an oiled surface, cover with filling, bring together and carefully sew the edges.

Roll the dough to fit into and cover your terrine or dish.

Brush dough with butter and place the stuffed duck inside. Bring the dough over the duck, sealing the edges with more butter.

Decorate, glaze, then pierce the dough lid in two places, creating small holes to allow steam to evaporate.

Bake for 105 minutes, 150°C for the last 45 minutes.


Pâté de Canard d’Amiens, version 2

This version includes ingredients that were once typical, and this has a genuine paté filling. The bacon, duck and veal is chopped and put through a mincer for a coarse mix, which is then sieved into a paté. The rabbit fillet is left whole. This recipe has a higher proportion of meat, and much less fat.

Dough

  • 2 kg pastry flour
  • 500 g butter / lard
  • 300 ml water
  • 10 g salt

Filling

  • 1.5 kg duck, deboned, skinned, chopped, minced
  • Duck heart, liver, chopped, minced
  • 250 g pork belly, chopped, minced
  • 150 g rabbit fillet, whole
  • 100 g veal, chopped, minced
  • 2 eggs
  • 75 g duxelles*1
  • 50 g butter
  • 30 g foie gras, diced
  • 10 g black truffle, sliced, sautéed in butter, cooled
  • 15 g salt
  • Brandy, splash Water

Finish

  • Butter, for dough wash
  • Egg yolk, for, glazing
  • 30 g aspic*2

Prepare the dough a full day ahead of baking. Leave in the fridge or a cold place.

Combine all the meat except the rabbit fillet in a large bowl.

Add foie gras, truffles and seasoning, then the duxelles and eggs. Add brandy and some water to loosen it.*3

Divide the dough into two pieces, one to cover the inside of the terrine and one for the lid, each with a little overlap.

Stuff the filling into the terrine with the rabbit fillet in the middle, place the dough lid on top, sealing the edges.

Decorate, brush with butter and make two small holes. A piece of rolled cardboard or foil can be used to make a funnel in each hole. This allows steam out and prevents the paté from cracking.

Bake at 200°C for 75 minutes, 150°C for the last 30 minutes.

Remove chimneys and pour the aspic into the holes, allowing some to overflow. Leave to cool, place in fridge.

*1: Sauté one chopped onion, five shallots and 25 g of mushrooms gently in butter over a medium heat. Leave to cool.

*2: Aspic for terrines is usually made with marrow-rich bones, usually pig and specifically trotters, slow cooked in a large pot with carrots, leeks, onions, seasoning and plenty of water, reduced, strained, clarified over a gentle bubbling heat with one egg white per 1.2 litres of stock and herbs, usually chervil and French tarragon, enriched with port of sherry, and strained again. For a dense aspic add some carrageen during the clarification stage.

*3: Hard apples peeled, cored and cut into cubes replace the duxelles in some recipes.


Duck Terrine

The exact quantities depend on the size of your terrine tins or suitable vessels, how much you want to make and what you want to flavour it with.

This is a guide.

  • 1.5 kg duck, deboned, breast meat cut into strips, dark meat retained
  • 500 g belly pork, rind removed, cubed
  • 100 ml brandy
  • 5 g peppercorns, coarsely crushed
  • 1 bay / laurel leaf
  • 1 sprig of thyme
  • 6 blades rosemary
  • 4 sage leaves
  • 2 juniper berries
  • 1 cardamon pod, seeds
  • Allspice, ground, pinch
  • Chillies, dried red, power, pinch
  • Paprika, smoked, pinch
  • Pomegranate powder, pinch Salt, pinch

Marinade for 24 hours.

Drain, leaving meat free of any bits, strain liquid into a pot, reduce over a medium heat to a smooth consistency, leave to cool.

Duxelles

Ratio

  • 250 g white mushrooms, chopped
  • 250 g onions, chopped
  • 30 g butter
  • Nutmeg, large pinch
  • Black pepper, large pinch
  • Salt, pinch

Saute onions in butter over a low heat for 15 minutes, add mushrooms and allow to reduce, season and leave to cool.

Forcement Rough

Ratio

  • Duck dark meat, chopped
  • 350 g pork belly, rind removed, chopped
  • 125 g red onion, chopped
  • 125 g orange, zest
  • 50 g cranberries
  • 2 eggs
  • 30 g seasonings of choice

Combine the ingredients, mix in the duxelles and the marinade sauce and stir thoroughly.

Forcemeat Smooth

Ratio

  • 500 g mushrooms, chopped
  • 350 g duck liver
  • 250 g bacon, chopped
  • 200 ml stout / malted beer
  • 3 eggs
  • 50 g onions, chopped

Blend all the ingredients.

Assembly

  • Streaky bacon rashers, stretched

Lay bacon into the terrine tin or tins, allowing each rasher to drop over the side. When the terrines are filled with the meat and forcemeat, the rashers should fold back over the top, without any gaps.

Lightly place a layer of the smooth forcemeat on top of the bacon. Follow with a thick layer of rough forcement and then the marinaded meat. Repeat the rough forcement and meat mixture layers until the tin or tins are nearly full, finish with another thick layer of smooth forcement.

Fold the bacon slices over to complete the seal.

Place the tin or tins in a bain marie, cover with parchment and weigh with blindbake balls or something heavy to apply pressure to the surface.

Preheat oven to 160°C.

Bake for 130 minutes.

Drain the liquid from the tins, reserve. Quickly and carefully place the terrines into trays with enough room around each side. Pour as much liquid into the trays as each will take. Leave to cool.

Remove from trays. When the terrines are cold, smooth residual fat and jelly over the sides, to make a seal. The duck fat poured out at the start of the process can also be used to seal and preserve the terrine.

Wrap in parchment, store in fridge.


Roast Duck

Oriental flavours penetrated the recipe for roast duck over a century ago, so much that they are no longer thought of as foreign.

  • Large duck, no smaller than 1.5 kg
  • 1.5 litres water
  • 350 ml white wine
  • 250 g carrots, chopped
  • 250 g onions, sliced
  • 150 g tomatoes, chopped
  • 50 g boletus mushrooms, fresh, chopped
  • 50 g white mushrooms, fresh, chopped
  • 30 g honey
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 30 ml oyster sauce
  • 25 g ginger root
  • 15 g sweet soy
  • 10 g black pepper, freshly ground
  • 5 g palm sugar
  • 5 g salt
  • 10 sage leaves
  • 3 sprigs thyme
  • 1 bunch parsley

Dry duck.

Season cavity with salt and pepper, garlic, ginger, palm sugar and sweet soy. Cover and set aside.
Put giblets (not liver) in the wine with the carrots, onions and tomatoes. Bring to the boil, add salt and parsley, thyme, sage and water.

Bring back to the boil, then reduce heat to low, simmer for an hour.

You should be left with roughly one and a half litres of stock.

Pre-heat oven to 170°C.

Stuff cavity with mushrooms.

Place duck on a rack or grill over a deep baking tray, cover loosely with foil, cook for an hour breast side up, then for another hour breast side down, drain fat.

Put half of the stock in the tray, re-cover with foil, cook for a hour.

Combine honey and oyster sauce.

Remove foil, pour out and reserve liquid from tray. Pour in remaining stock.

Rub honey oyster sauce mixture over all of the duck, brush and baste every ten minutes for forty minutes. Do not let the skin burn.

Reduce the reserved liquid to make a gravy.

Serve with baked apples, and potatoes roasted in duck fat.


Traditional Duck Dishes

Dodine de Canard FRANCE boned stuffed duck
Pečená Kachní Prsa CZECHIA roast duck breasts


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Indigenous Ingredients | Eel

EelWorkers
Eel workers in Toomebridge at Lough Neagh in the north of Ireland

Ireland is home to some of the tastiest eels in Europe.

Every year between May and October, Lough Neagh Fishermen’s Co-operative Society ship boxes of live eels packed in ice from Belfast International Airport to Heathrow and Schipol.

In England they are jellied, in Holland they are smoked, but in Ireland they are shunned.

An oily fish rich with omega 3, the Dutch eat more smoked eel than fresh eel.

Dutch eel-smokers only smoke the fatter fish, because it tastes better, and that is why they covet Irish eels.

When the Dutch do cook fresh eel they follow a centuries old tradition that can be traced from the Flanders shore northwards into the Fresian sands and around into the Baltic. This is eel soup.

Another tradition has eels lightly dusted with flour and fried in hot oil. This dish is still popular on both shores of the Adriatic.

In Italy it is served in a tangy sauce.

On the Balkan shore, in Montenegro, the eels of Lake Skada are a treasured delicacy. Here fried eels are served with rice.


Hamburger Aalsuppe

Hanseatic Hamburg shared a culinary tradition with the coastal and river towns from the Thames of London across to Flanders, Holland up to the Wadden islands around into the Baltic.

This was characterised by the varying methods of cooking popular fishes, which for many seafarers was the enigmatic eel. More often than not it was a choice between soup and sauce.

Jan Morris, that intrepid travel writer of the post-WWII era, described the soup as ‘one of the great seamen’s dishes of Europe’. In Hamburg’s wharf restaurants it was served with prunes and onions, garnished with herbs and ‘washed down with beer-and-schnapps’.

It still is, but it is a little bit more expensive than it used to be.

1.5 litres fish stock
1 kg eels, cut into 5 cm pieces
500 g prunes/pears, sliced
250 ml white wine
100 g peas
1 carrot, cubed
1 celery stalk, sliced, cubed
1 white leek stalk, chopped
4 parsley sprigs, chopped
1 tsp black pepper, freshly ground
Salt, pinch
Wine vinegar, splash

Simmer eel pieces in stock, vinegar and seasonings for 15 minutes, strain stock into separate pot, set eels aside.

Put the vegetables into the stock, pour in the wine, cook over a medium heat until carrots are soft, add eel pieces and prunes/pears, simmer for five minutes.

Garnish with parsley.


Aalsoep

This is the Dutch version.

1.5 litres salted water
1 kg eels, cut into 5 cm pieces
50 g capers, chopped
45 g butter
45 g flour
12 parsley sprigs, chopped
Salt, pinch

Simmer eel pieces in salted water for 15 minutes, remove eels.

Combine flour and butter with three tablespoons of eel stock.

Put the capers, parsley and roux into the stock, bring heat up, boil for five minutes.

Reduce heat, simmer for ten minutes.

Arrange eel pieces in soup bowls, cover with stock, garnish with parsley.


Paling in’t Groen

Further south in Flanders eel was served with a green sauce made with fresh river herbs and wild leaf vegetables, one or more of a choice from chervil, sorrel, spinach, watercress and wild garlic leaves.

The sauce should be aromatic and not too thick.

1 kg eel, cut into 5 cm pieces
1 litre fish stock
300g green herbs/vegetables, chopped small
25g butter
25g flour
1 lemon, juice
1 mint sprig
1 parsley sprig
Black pepper, freshly ground, pinch
Salt, pinch

Poach eel in stock over a low heat for 15 minutes. Make a light roux, add 350ml of stock, bring to the boil, add greens, lemon juice and seasonings, reduce heat and cook for five minutes. For a thinner sauce use a little more stock. Coat the eel pieces with the sauce, garnish with mint and parsley. Serve with fries.


Anguille Incarpinate

500 g eels, cut into small pieces
120 ml vinegar
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 sprig rosemary
Flour, for dusting
Oil, for frying
Salt, large pinch

Combine flour with salt, and dust the eel pieces lightly.

Heat oil to almost smoking point, fry eel pieces quickly on all sides, remove and keep warm.

Boil vinegar with garlic and rosemary for five minutes.

Arrange eel pieces in a large bowl. Drizzle vinegar sauce over eels, serve.


Jegulju na Orizu

JeguljunaOrizu-low-res
Eels on Rice

Lake fish – carp, eels, perch, pike, trout – are one of the great delicacies of Europe.

The Swiss will argue that their lake cuisine is unquestionably the most diverse.

The Hungarians will question that haughty assumption.

The Montenegrins will shake their heads at these notions and suggest a visit to Lake Skadar.

Shared with Albania, this basin of water sits inside the mountains that separate the Adriatic coastline from the Podgorica plain.

Carp dishes predominate and grilled eel is popular, but it is eel on rice that attracts diners to lake shore restaurants.

This version is courtesy of Ivan Georgijev at Kormoran.

  • 1 kg eel, cut into 4 cm chunks
  • 300 g rice, parboiled
  • 200 g carrots, chopped
  • 200 g onions, chopped
  • 1 lemon, juice
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 10 g Vegeta
  • 1 tsp black pepper, freshly ground
  • 1 tsp salt
  • Olive oil, for frying and cooking
  • Water, for cooking

Dust eel pieces with salt, dry in oil in a frying pan over a high heat, two minutes each side, remove, set aside.

Add a little more oil to the pan, and sauté carrots, garlic and onion, about ten minutes.

Add rice, seasonings and spices, stir, reduce heat to low, adding three tablespoons of water, cover and cook for 10 minutes. Remove from heat, leave to rest for ten minutes.

Preheat oven to 180°C.

Spoon rice mixture into oiled baking tray, arrange eel chunks on top, splash each with a little oil.

Bake for 30 minutes.

Serve with a squeeze of lemon juice.


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Indigenous Ingredients | Tørrfisk (air-dried cod)


Every year, between January and April, the Atlantic cod migrates to the nutrient-rich sea around Lofoten and Vesterålen off the coast of Norway in the artic circle.

And every year, since the 1100s, the fishers of this region have caught mature cod, brought it home, and hung it out to dry in the northern winds, the sun’s reflection in the snow tanning the fish a rich golden colour.

This natural process preserves the gutted and beheaded fish, reduces the water content and increases the protein content, 68-78% compared with 18% in fresh cod.

When fully dried the solid flesh has a concentrated aroma, and is stick-like, known as stockfish.

Once the stable of many coastal communities on the Atlantic fringe, cod need specific climatic conditions to dry completely in the open air. The people of northern Norway are the last to maintain this centuries old tradition.

Like the Norwegians, the Portuguese have a long tradition of catching cod in the north Atlantic.

Unlike the Norwegians, who fished off-shore, the Portuguese travelled further into the wide ocean to catch cod.

To preserve the fish they beheaded and gutted it on board and immediately immersed it in salt, completing the drying when they returned home.

This process resulted in a dried fish with a distinctive dark yellow colour, prominent flakes and an intense flavour.

The Portuguese have managed to continue this salting and drying tradition, safe with the knowledge that they are contributing to the longevity of an iconic food that is now truely legendary — Bacalhau | Bacalao | Baccalà!

Let’s start with the Portuguese tradition.

This is the basic version of their celebrated fish balls.

Bolinhos de Bacalhau

1 kg salt-dried cod, 
soaked for 48 hours in 12 changes of fresh water, 
skinned, deboned, shredded small
650 g potatoes, baked, mashed
2 egg whites, whisked into a stiff foam
30 g parsley, chopped
10 g white pepper, ground
Olive oil, for greasing
Vegetable oil, for frying
Salt, large pinch

With wet hands combine the cod and potatoes in a large bowl, knead for five minutes.

Add parsley, pepper and salt.

Fold in the egg whites.

Grease hands with oil, shape into small balls or croquettes.

Shallow fry, drain on paper towels.

Associação dos Industriais do Bacalhau

Baccalà Mantecato

In 2001 a calender event of significance was noted when an assortment of Venetian artists, historians, restauranteurs, writers and baccalà lovers launched the Dogale Confraternita del Baccalà Mantecato.

Their aim was the dissemination of the traditional recipe – cod, garlic and olive oil – because baccalà mantecato is not just food. ‘It is history, religion, adventure, secrets handed down from cook to cook, from mother to daughter: the pleasure of the palate, mind, heart.’

Stockfish is imported into northern and southern Italy, to Calabria, Campania, Liguria, Sicily and Veneto, taking two-thirds of the Norwegian production.

In northern Italy they like their stockfish lean and thin, in southern Italy they prefer it fat and thick but in Venice they demand the best and it is graded as such, imported by fish merchants from the Polesine, south of the lagoon city.

In 2014 packets of stockfish cost between €23 and €40 a kilo in the shops and supermarkets.

Baccalà is stick, mantecato is beaten, thus whipped stick fish.

Legend has it that Venetian merchant Pietro Querini and 68 sailors sought refuge from a storm on the Lofoten Islands, where they witnessed the art of air drying the north Atantic cod, turning it into hard stick-like fish.

It is not known whether they brought recipes as well as dried fish from Norway.

That was in the 1430s. In 1563, after the Council of Trent and the directive on a required abstinence from meat, dried cod dishes were served every Wednesday and Friday in parts of Italy.

Bartolomeo Scappi, chef de cuisine of Pius V, established baccalà mantecato as a traditional dish.

This is the original recipe and method as determined by the Dogale Confraternita del Baccalà Mantecato.

250g stockfish, 
soaked for 48 hours in 12 changes of fresh water, 
skinned, deboned
Olive oil 
1 bay leaf
1 lemon
Salt, pinch 
Black pepper, pinch

Put the cod in a pot, cover with lightly salted cold water and bring to a low boil, simmer for 20 minutes with lemon and bay leaf.

Whip the cod by hand with a wooden spoon, letting it absorb the drizzled oil ‘as if it were a mayonnaise’ to produce a shiny homogenous mass.

Season and finish with a little of the cod cooking water.

‘The dish is traditionally garnished with chopped parsley and accompanied by fresh or grilled Venetian white pearl polenta.’

Other Baccalà

Alla Bolognese

stockfish, butter, flour, garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, parsley, white pepper

Alla Cappuccina

stockfish, anchovies, bay leaves, breadcrumbs, cinnamon, fish stock, flour, milk, nutmeg, olive oil, pine nuts, raisins, sugar, white wine, seasonings

Alla Fiorentina

stockfish, flour, garlic, olive oil, tomato sauce, seasonings)

Alla Livornese – 1

stockfish, basil, garlic, olive oil, onion, parsley, red wine, tomato sauce, seasonings

Alla Livornese – 2

stockfish, chilli, flour, garlic, olive oil, parsley, tomatoes, salt

Alla Messinese

stockfish, celery, chilli, olives, olive oil, onions, potatoes, salted capers, tomatoes, salt

Alla Napoletana

stockfish, black olives, chilli, flour, garlic, olive oil, parsley, salted capers, tomatoes

Alla Romana

stockfish, bay leaves, carrot, celery, chickpeas, garlic, olive oil, parsley, rosemary, tomatoes, seasonings

Alla Triestina

stockfish, anchovies, breadcrumbs, butter, cream, parsley, white pepper

Alla Vicentina

stockfish, anchovies, flour, milk, grana padano/parmigiano, parsley, olive oil, onions, seasonings

Brandade de Morue

The tradition in coastal Provence suggests a relationship with the Venetian version, the differences being added milk and extra garlic.

300 g stockfish, 
soaked for 48 hours in 12 changes of fresh water, 
skinned, deboned
110 ml milk, warmed
110 ml olive oil, warmed
4 cloves garlic, crushed, chopped small
Salt, large pinch
Black pepper, large pinch
Water, for cooking

Put cod and a pinch of salt in a large pot, cover with sufficient cold water, bring to a low boil simmer for 30 minutes.

Flake, skin and remove any bones.

Warm milk and oil in separate saucepans over low heat, do not boil.

In a large bowl combine the cod and garlic, then gradually add the milk and oil, beating and breaking the flakes of fish with a strong wooden spoon to create a creamy mash.

Serve with a salad.

Brandada de Bacalao

This is an adaptation of Basque chef Martín Berasategui’s version.

500 ml cream
500 ml milk
300 g salt-dried cod, 
soaked for 48 hours in 12 changes of fresh water, 
skinned, deboned, shredded small
300 g potatoes, baked, mashed 
45 ml olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
10 g parsley, chopped
2 sprigs thyme
Salt, pinch
White pepper, pinch

Place half of the garlic and the thyme with the milk in a saucepan, bring to a low boil, add cod. Remove from heat, cover and leave for 30 minutes. Drain, flake cod.

Sauté remaining garlic in the oil in a frying pan over a low heat for five minutes, add cod and potatoes, stir, gradually adding the cream.

Reduce over a low heat for 40 minutes.

Season and serve with with toasted crusty bread, garnish with parsley.

Empanada de Bacalao y Pasas

Not every flake of cod is whipped into a frenzy. Some pieces go into these delicious empanadas from Galicia.

Dough
300 g flour
1 egg
50 ml water, warmed
50 ml lemon juice/white wine
40 g yeast
20 g lard
Salt, pinch

Filling
500 g salt-dried cod, 
soaked for 48 hours in 12 changes of fresh water, 
skinned, deboned
200 ml olive oil
200 ml water
2 onions, chopped
100 g raisins
2 red peppers roasted, peeled, cut into small pieces
1 egg
15 g tomato sauce
Saffron threads
1 tbsp chopped parsley
5 g pimentón
Black pepper, large pinch
Salt, pinch

Soak raisins in water.

Dissolve yeast in the water and wine.

Sieve the flour and salt into a bowl, add the egg and lard.

Fold out onto a clean surface, knead into a soft dough. Cover and leave to rise for an hour.

Fry onions over a gentle heat for 15 minutes, add pimentón, tomato sauce and parsley. Stir, then add the cod, peppers and saffron. Season.

Leave to cool.

Divide the dough into two pieces, roll each into a rectangle shape.

Place one sheet on a greased baking tray.

Preheat oven to 180ºC.

Place the filling on the first sheet, cover with filling, then the second sheet, crimp to seal the edges. Brush surface with egg.

Bake for 40 minutes.

Salt Cod Exporter

Frityrstekt Bacalao med Hvitløksaus

And back up in Norway they are just as inventive with their cod.

… recipes to follow …

Klippfisk Baller

dried cod balls

Klippfisk Grateng

dried cod gratin

Klippfisk med Grønnsaus

dried cod with green sauce

Norsk Bacalao Gryte

Norwegian bacalao casserole

Traditional Dried Cod Dishes

Stockfish photo courtesy of Norwegian Seafood.


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Indigenous Ingredients | European Flours

Wheat flour — White and Whiter!

In Europe flour is made largely from grains but also from legumes, nuts, roots and seeds.

Almond flour is used primarily in cakes and confections.

Amaranth flour is used as an improver in various doughs.

Barley flour is used to make pre-ferments and as an improver, malted, for rye and wheat doughs.

Buckwheat flour is used to make confections, pancakes and pasta.

Chestnut flour is used to make cakes and confections.

Chickpea flour is used to make confections.

Corn flour (polenta in the Balkans and Italy) is used various preparations.

Millet flour is used in various preparations and as an improver in wheat doughs.

Nut flour, with its high oil content, is generally used to sharpen the taste of cake, confection and pie crust preparations.

Oat flour is generally ground fresh from oat meal for use in confections.

Pea flour is used in various preparations.

Potato flour is used in bread, confections, dumplings, meatballs, soups and savoury preparations.

Rice flour is used in various preparations.

Rye flour is used to make bread and pastries.

Soy flour is used in various preparations.

Wheat (Triticum Aestivum) flour, hard and soft, is used in countless preparations, primarily in bread, cakes, confections, pastry and pasta. Durum Wheat (Triticum Durum) is used to produce pasta and semolina. Spelt Wheat (Triticum Spelta) is used largely to make dumplings and noodles, and gradually now to make bread, cakes and pastries. The origin wheat grains – Emmer Wheat (Triticum Dicoccum) and Einkorn Wheat (Triticum Monococcum) – and old heritage wheat grains are used to make artisan breads and confections.

Flours
L-R – Gluten-Free Flour from Switzerland, Polish t-550 Flour, Chestnut Flour from Italy, Polish t-450 and Rye Flour from Switzerland

Ash Chart

France, Germany, Poland, Switzerland and Turkey grade their flour according to the amount of ash, measured in milligrams, obtained from burning, the French with 10 grams of flour, the Germans and Swiss with 100 grams. This indicates the gluten content. Hard wheat flour is high (between 11% and 13%), soft wheat is low (between 9% and 11%).

This translates as:

  • Dark flour (very high gluten), for wholemeal bread – for example, Swiss type 1900.
  • White flour (high), for bread, French type 65, German type 812.
  • White baking flour (medium), for bread and pastries, French 55.
  • White all-purpose flour, cake and confection (low), for all purposes, French 45, German 405, Poland 450.

Austria

Type 700 White wheat flour. High gluten, used in bread doughs from kipfel to strudel.

Britain

In England and Wales bread and confectionary flours contain calcium, iron, niacin and thiamin.

Millers in Britain sell a variety of flours from locally grown grains, and some have adopted the Swiss habit of combining ingredients to produce mixes for specific breads and confections.

Malted flours play a huge role, for both the artisan and commercial baker, and one company, EDME in Essex, England, specialise in malted products that enhance flavour.

Flour produced from organically grown grains are prominent, especially among the artisanal millers, listed here at the Sourdough School. Marriage’s, in Essex, England, import strong white wheat flour from Canada. Shipton Mill, in Tetbury, Gloucestershire, specialise in organic flours. Stoates, in Cann Mills, Dorset, produce stoneground flours. At Lodge Farm, in Surrey, Mike Pinard grows and mills the old grains of England. In 2020 he sowed Benefactor, Chidham Red, Millers Choice, Old Kent Red, Orange Rough Chaff and Red Lammas.


France

Buckwheat Confections and pasta.
Type 45 Soft wheat white flour for pastry. Low gluten.
Type 55 Hard and soft wheat white flour for general use. Low gluten.
Type 65 Hard and soft wheat white flour for artisan use. High gluten.
Type 80 Hard organic whole wheat and white flour for bread. High gluten.
Type 110 Hard whole wheat and white flour for bread. High gluten.
Type 150 Hard whole wheat flour, bran and germ. High gluten.


Germany

Einkorn Origin wheat. Low gluten.
Emmer Origin wheat. Low gluten.
Type 405 Soft wheat white flour for pastry. Low gluten.
Type 550 Hard and soft wheat white flour for general use. Low gluten.
Type 630 White spelt flour. High gluten.
Type 812 Hard wheat white flour for bread. High gluten.
Type 1050 Hard wheat flour for bread. High gluten.
Type 1150 Rye flour. Low gluten. 
Type 1600 Hard whole wheat and white flour for bread. High gluten.
Type 1700 Whole wheat flour, bran and germ. High gluten.


Poland

Poland has a strong tradition with rye and wheat flours. Millers produce the standard type flours and specialist flour mixes for cakes, dumplings, pancakes, pastries, pies, pizza and various bread dough preparations including multi-cereal flours and rye-wheat combinations. Flours made from organic / bio grains are available in the main flour types.

Szymanowska is among the most popular in Poland with rye and wheat flours milled in Szymanów and sold under the brand Polskie Młyny (Polish Mills). Polskie Młyny specialise in the traditional range of flours and in flour combinations.

Gdańskie Młyny (Gdańsk Mills) also offer a wide range and Melvit is the place to go for flours of all types including buckwheat, chickpea, corn, millet, potato and rice.

Buckwheat Pancakes.
Spelt Wholemeal for bread.
Type 450 White wheat flour for pastry. Low gluten.
Type 480 White wheat all purpose flour. Low gluten.
Type 500 (Krupczatka, Poznań, Wroclaw) White wheat flour for baking, confections, dumplings, pasta.
Type 550 White wheat flour for bread. Medium gluten.
Type 580 Light rye flour for bread and pasta. Low gluten.
Type 630 White spelt four for various preparations. Low gluten.
Type 650 White wheat flour. Medium-High gluten.
Type 720 Rye flour.
Type 750 White wheat flour for bread. High gluten.
Type 800 Rye flour.
Type 850 White wheat flour for bread including pizza dough. High gluten.
Type 950 Dark flour for wholemeal bread.
Type 1150 Rye flour. Medium-High gluten.
Type 1400 Sieved rye and wheat flour for bread. High gluten.
Type 1750 Durum wheat. High gluten.
Type 1850 Graham wheat flour with added bran for bread. High gluten.
Type 2000 Rye wholemeal flour for bread. High gluten.
Type 3000 Rye whole grain flour for sourdough bread. High gluten.


Ireland

The Workman farm in Dunany, Louth, produce white and wholemeal flours from spelt and wheat.
Neill’s in Belfast, Antrim, produce wholemeal wheat flours for wheaten breads and wheaten farls.


Italy

ArnaldoCavallari'sCiabattaFlours
Arnaldo Cavallari’s Ciabatta Flours

Italian flour is milled from soft wheat, known by 00, 0, 1, 2 and integrale.

Types 00 and 0 are now available with different degrees of strength, denoted by the range 90W to 400W (see W chart). The higher values indicate higher gluten.

Types 1 and 2 have small percentages of bran, integrale is the whole wheat. Strong white flour from Canada, sold as Manitoba, has become popular, adding gluten to flour mixes.

Semolina from durum wheat is combined with hard wheat flour to make pasta.

Grano Duro Hard wheat, for bread and pasta.
Grano Tenero 00 Soft wheat white flour, fine ground (see W chart for gluten strength and uses).
Grano Tenero 0 Soft wheat white flour (see W chart for gluten strength and uses).
Grano Tenero 1 Soft wheat white flour, bran, for bread.
Grano Tenero 2 Soft wheat flour, bran and germ, for bread.
Grano Tenero Integrale Whole soft wheat flour, bran and germ.
Manitoba (Canada) Hard wheat.
Semolino Coarse ground from durum wheat.
Semola di Grano Duro Rimacinata Fine ground from durum wheat, for bread and pasta.

W Chart

90-130W biscuits.
130-200W breadsticks, crackers.
170-200W biscuits, bread, cakes, focaccia, pastries, pizza.
220-240W baguettes, ciabatta, dough with six hour fermentation.
300-310W pastries, dough with 15 hour fermentation.
340-400W brioche, croissants, panettone, dough with 15+ hour fermentation.

Domestic 00 and 0 sold in supermarkets ranges from 170-200W so it needs to be strengthened for use in Italian bread dough. Adapted from Professor Franco Antoniazzi, University of Parma, reported by Dario Bressanini.


Switzerland

Spelt Grains

The Swiss grade their flour for specific breads, cakes, confections and pastries and sell it as prepared combinations.

If you want to make a high energy bread you buy a packet of ‘Fitness Meal’ containing shredded wheat (type 1700), crushed rye and wheat bran, wheat flour with flakes (type 900), rye flour (type 720), wheat, oat and barley flakes, vegetable oils and fats (partially hydrogenated), skimmed milk powder, salt with iodine, pre-gelatinised wheat flour, corn flour, dextrose, lactic acid, and sorbitol.

If you want to replicate the delicious rye bread of the Valais / Wallis canton you buy a packet of ‘Walliser Flour Fix’ containing rye flour (type 700), wheat flour (type 1100), salt with iodine, pea fibre, lactic acid, roasted wheat, wheat gluten, sugar, caramel and barley malt.

Swiss millers are represented by the Dachverband Schweizerischer Müller, which brought together the regional associations of millers and the individual mill companies in 1997.

Mühlilade Balchenstahl in Hittnau specialise in the vast range of flours, grains and flakes produced in the various Swiss mills.

Type 400 Soft wheat white flour.
Type 550 Hard and soft wheat white flour.
Type 600 Spelt flour.
Type 700 Rye flour.
Type 700 Light rye flour.
Type 720 Hard whole wheat and white flour.
Type 720 Rye flour.
Type 720 Hard wheat flour.
Type 750 Spelt flour.
Type 800 Light rye flour.
Type 900 Hard whole wheat flour.
Type 990 Rye flour.
Type 990 Light rye flour.
Type 1100 Dark rye flour.
Type 1100 Hard wheat flour.
Type 1200 Rye flour.
Type 1250 Dark rye flour.
Type 1500 Spelt flour.
Type 1500 Hard wheat flour.
Type 1600 Spelt flour.
Type 1700 Shredded wheat.
Type 1800 Graham flour.
Type 1800 Rye flour fine.
Type 1900 Spelt flour.
Type 1900 Rye flour.
Type 1900 Whole grain rye flour.
Type 1900 Hard stone ground wholemeal flour.
Type 1900 Hard wholemeal flour.

Turkey

Einkorn (known as Siyez) Origin wheat. Low gluten.
Type 550 All-purpose white wheat flour for bread rolls, for pouch breads and for thin pastry dough. Low gluten.
Type 650 All-purpose white wheat flour for bread rolls, for pouch breads and for thin pastry dough.
Type 850 White wheat flour. High Gluten.


This feature is adapted from The Bread with Holes and Other Crusty Stories | The Rise of Artisanal Baking in Europe to be published by Editions Fricot in 2021.

Ingredient | Damson

DamsonTree
Damson Tree

Named after Damascus, the dark damson or damask plum gradually penetrated every region in Europe by the way of Italy, and became famous because of its association with liqueurs such as slivovitz in the Balkans.

Damsons are also used to make prunes, and for a time were the binding material in fruit mixtures for fruit breads, but that tradition has almost died out in Europe.

Even fresh damsons are hardly used anymore in fruit breads.

These delicious small plums have survived in tarts, one in particular that is now a national dish of Luxembourg, and remains popular in Austria, Germany and Switzerland.

This is the quetschentaart (quetscheflued in Austria, zwetschgenkuchen or zwetschgenfladen in Germany and Switzerland), made from the dark quetsche plum native to central and western Europe and believed to be related to the damson plum.

This is a recipe from the turn of the 20th century.

Quetschentaart

  • 600 g flour
  • 160 ml milk, lukewarm
  • 60 damsons, halved, pitted
  • 80 g butter
  • 50 g sugar
  • 25 g yeast
  • 5 g salt

This quantity will make two large pies in 26-30 cm diameter pie moulds.

Activate the yeast in half the milk with a tablespoon of flour. Leave to froth, about 20 minutes.

Combine the remaining flour with salt, the remaining milk and butter. Knead into a soft dough.

Preheat oven to 180°C.

On a floured surface, roll dough thinly, cut out two rounds with a sufficient diameter to leave an overlap at the edges of your moulds. Cut two rounds to fit over the top.

Lightly place the dough into the base. Leave both sets of dough to rise for 30 minutes.

Pack the plums tightly against each other, skin side down to keep the juice in. Sprinkle with sugar.

Cover with the remaining rounds, seal the edges.

Bake for 30 minutes.

Quetschentaart in Luxembourg is still made with variations of this yeast pastry.

Birnbrot

Damson plums or prunes were also one of the fruits included in the pear bread still popular in parts of Switzerland.

They have lost their place to apples, so here is a recipe from the early decades of the 20th century.

  • 800 g pears, cored, mashed
  • 700 g bread dough
  • 225 g walnuts
  • 200 g damsons, halved, pitted / prunes
  • 165 g apricots, halved, pitted
  • 150 g sultanas
  • 125 g candied orange peel
  • 125 g sugar
  • Egg, for brushing Water, for brushing

Thoroughly mix all the fruit with the sugar, allow to stand for an hour.

Preheat oven to 200°C.

On a floured surface roll out the bread dough, 2 cm thick, cut into 40 cm x 20 cm rectangles.

Brush the surface of each dough rectangle with water, place a deep layer of the fruit mixture down the centre, fold the dough over and seal all edges, wash with egg.

Repeat with remaining rectangles.

Place on greased baking trays. Pierce with a fork the tops of each birnbrot.

Bake for 40 minutes.


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Ingredient | Cornsalad

The Swiss call these little leaves ‘nut salad’ because of their nutty flavour

Traditionally the European green salad was an hors d’oeuvre, a light dish to whet the appetite. Its association with haute cuisine damaged its reputation in the eyes of less sophisticated diners, who could not see the point of eating tasteless lettuce with insipid vinegar and rancid oil.

The French, Italians and Swiss changed this attitude by developing varieties of wild green leaves specifically for the purpose of serving them in a salad dressed with impeccable oils and vinegars.

Perhaps the best example of this innovation is cornsalad or lamb’s lettuce.

The wild valérian variety (mache or rampon in French, nüsslisalat or feldsalat in Swiss-German, valerianella in Italian) was deliberately cultivated to produce a nutty flavour.

Grown throughout the year it is now an essential ingredient in green salad, and as the favoured lettuce in countless salads.

Nüsslisalat mit Frucht Vinaigrette

300 g cornsalad, washed, dried
45 ml olive/walnut oil
30 ml balsamic vinegar
15 ml apricot/pear nectar
Black pepper, large pinch
Salt, pinch

Combine nectar, oil and vinegar, dress cornsalad, season and serve.

Mâche et de Roquette dans l’écrou Vinaigrette

150 g cornsalad, washed, dried
150 g rocket, washed, dried
45 ml hazelnut/walnut oil
30 ml apple cider vinegar
30 g hazelnuts, roasted, cooled, chopped
30 g walnuts, roasted, cooled, chopped
10 g almonds, ground
Black pepper, large pinch
Salt

Combine oil amd vinegar with almonds, dress leaves, mix in nuts, season and serve.

Insalata di Valeriana

300 g cornsalad, washed, dried
150 g pecorino, shavings
25 cherry tomatoes, halved
30 ml olive oil
15 ml balsamic vinegar
5 g black pepper

Mix cornsalad with cheese and tomatoes, combine oil and vinegar with the pepper, dress and serve.


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Ingredient | Cherries

Birds covet cherries like no other fruit and now we know why – these shrub fruits pack healthy benefits.

The dark-red sour varieties contribute to general well-being, reduce the risk of cancer and heart disease, and control the body’s day-night rhythm.

Despite being more acidic than the sweet cherry, the sour cherry captured the imaginations of the southern Germans and the northern Swiss a long time ago.

Cultivated in monasteries since the ancient Romans brought them into northern Europe, the proliferation of sour cherry varieties in small orchards increased until they could no longer meet demand.

Production moved to the Balkans, where the climate is kinder and conducive to shrubs that will bear fruit for 30 years.

The Schattenmorelle is the most popular variety in Germany, used to make Kirsch and preferred to the Morell and Köröser varieties in kirschtorte – the famous sour cherry-dark chocolate cake.
Cake is okay, jam/jelly is good, fresh is better, but juice is best.

 

Kirschtorte

There are as many stories about the origins of this kirsch-flavoured cake as there are variations of the recipe.

Josef Keller, pastry chef in Café Ahrend in Bad Godesberg, is credited with inventing the Black Forest (Schwarzwälder) version in 1915. He passed his recipe to August Schaefer. His son Claus still makes the original cake at Café Schaefer in Triberg.

Kirsch, the clear cherry brandy made from the dark red sour berries of the Black Forest in south-west Germany), identifies kirschtorte with the region but there are occasional doubts about the cake’s geographical authenticity.

The claim that the cake represents the women’s costume of the region (black like the dress, cream like the blouse and cherries like the red balls of adornment) is seen as a tourist entrapment.

These days it does not matter where kirschtorte originated. This delicious cherry-chocolate cake is made throughout the continent.

 

Flan
200 g butter, softened 
4 eggs
200 g sugar
170 g self-raising flour 
30 g cocoa powder
8 g baking powder

Preheat oven to 180°C.

Whisk eggs and sugar until foamy.

Sieve flour, baking powder and cocoa powder into a large bowl.

Fold into egg-sugar mixture.

Pour into mould.

Bake for 30 minutes.

Divide cake into two equal pieces.

 

Topping
800 ml cream
400 g sour cherries
250 ml sour cherry juice 
100 ml Kirsch
50 g chocolate flakes 
50 g vanilla sugar

Whip cream with sugar.

Boil cherry juice until syrupy, leave to cool, stir in three-quarters of the cherries and a splash of Kirsch.

Spread on first base.

Follow with a layer of piped cream and another splash of Kirsch.

Place second base on top.

Pipe on the remaining cream.

Decorate with chocolate flakes and remaining cherries.

 

Soufflé au Kirsch

 

500 ml milk
8 egg whites
6 egg yolks
100 g flour
100 ml kirsch
90 g butter
90 g sugar
1 vanilla pod, split
Butter, for greasing
Sugar, for sprinkling
Icing sugar, for dusting

Make a roux, allow to cool.

Boil milk with sugar and vanilla pod.

Discard pod.

Whisk milk mixture into roux to make a smooth paste.

Incorporate egg yolks. Leave to cool.

Add kirsch.

Preheat oven to 180°C.

Beat whites until stiff, add to paste.

Grease with butter a baking tray, sprinkle with sugar.

Fold soufflé mixture onto tray.

Bake for 30 minutes.

Dust with icing sugar.

 

Zuppa di Ciliegie

This alcoholic dessert of San Marino, the principality in north-eastern Italy, is one of the great traditional dishes of Europe – stunningly simple and dangerously delicious.

 

400 g cherries, pitted
175 ml red wine
50 g sugar
30 g butter
15 g cornflour
15 ml kirsch
cinnamon, pinch

Melt butter in a saucepan, add cherries and sugar. Stir constantly over a low heat until the sugar has dissolved, about five minutes.

In a seperate saucepan, heat the wine with cinnamon. When the aroma of the spice is evident, stir the cherry mixture into the wine. Cook over a low heat until the cherries have softened.

With a slotted spoon, remove cherries to a warmed bowl.

Blend cornflour with the kirsch, add to the cherry-wine liquid, stirring to thicken over a medium heat, about three minutes.

Pour sauce on the cherries.

Serve with ice cream.

 

Crostata di Viscioli di Sezze

Artisan bakers make these sour cherry tarts for sale in the markets of Lazio.

 

Marmellata di Viscioli

 

1 kg viscioli/sour red cherries
300 g sugar

In a large pot cook cherries for 15 minutes.

Pour in sugar, allow to dissolve. Cook, stirring occasionally, for two hours.

While still hot, pour into sterilised jars. Seal.

 

Crostata di Visciole

 

500 g flour 
250 g sugar
200 g lard
5 egg yolks
1 egg, beaten
1 lemon grated
Sour cherry marmalade
Butter, for greasing

Preheat oven to 180°C.

Place flour on a pastry board. Break egg yolks, lemon, lard and sugar into the middle of the flour and work gently to make a soft dough.

Discard surplus flour. Rest dough for 30 minutes.

Grease ramekins with butter, shape with dough and fill with sour cherry jam. Cover each with strips of dough. Brush the tops with beaten egg.

Bake for 25 minutes.

 

Birnenweggen

 

500 g puff pastry, rolled 2 cm thick, 
cut into 20 cm x 10 cm pieces
100 g dried pears, soaked overnight in kirsch, 
chopped
100 g dried apples, soaked overnight in kirsch, 
chopped
50 g sultanas, soaked overnight in kirsch
50 g walnuts, chopped
1 tsp cinnamon, ground
Cloves, ground, pinch
45 g sugar
20 ml lemon
1 egg yolk
Water, for brushing

Preheat oven to 175°C.

Mix fruit, spices and sugar.

Spread in centre of dough pieces, fold over and seal. Brush seal with water. Repeat.

Place each weggen on a greased baking tray.

Coat each weggen with egg yolk, prick with a fork.

Bake for 30 minutes.

 

Saanensenf

Thought of today as a substitute for mustard. But really this red cherry and red wine paste stands on its own.

 

500 ml red wine
500 ml water
250 g red cherries, pitted, boiled, mashed
125 g flour
125 g sugar
20 g assorted ground spices  
cinnamon, cloves, ginger, mustard (optional)

 

Brown flour in heavy-bottomed frying pan.

Dissolve sugar in water, allow to cool. Add to flour and bring back to the boil.
Add wine and bring heat up again.

Add spices and cherry mash, cook for 15 minutes.

Spoon into sterilised jars. Seal.

 


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