The secret of this aromatic lentil soup is in the modern method. Generally lentil soups, from the time of the ancient Greeks and Romans to the time of the aristocratic French and Italians, were slow-cooked, the lentils allowed to dissolve slowly into the liquid. In Turkey, as we discovered during a visit to Bekir Tezçakar at his cafe in Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar, they blend the ingredients into a purée to create a creamy soup.
1.5 litres water
250 g carrot, diced
250 g red / white lentils, washed
150 g tomatoes
100 g onion, chopped small
30 ml vegetable oil
15 g flour
5 g black pepper
5 g paprika flakes
Salt, two large pinches
Sauté onions in oil over a low heat in a large pot until they take on a brown colour. Stir in flour, fry for a couple of minutes.
Add tomatoes, carrots and lentils, stir, add water and seasonings, bring slowly to the boil, reduce heat, cover.
Cook until the lentils are tender.
Cool for 15 minutes.
Blend to a pureé, return to pot, reheat, taste and season again.
One of the great traditional dishes of the Italian regions, stuffed chicken is a feast of flavours. In Bologna the stuffing will usually contain mortadella and veal with layered hard-boiled eggs. In Brescia the stuffing will have amaretto breadcrumbs, Grana Padano cheese and liver.
Generally the stuffing is pork mince with onion and salami bound with breadcrumbs, hard cheese and egg. Herbs are prominent.
We have decided to stay with the Po Valley versions, not that we don’t believe the Emilia-Romagna versions have merit.
It is also a tradition in northern Italy to have the butcher bone the chicken.
We are simmering our stuffed chicken in an aromatic stock containing garlic, onions and root vegetables.
A traditional Sunday lunch dish of the Lazio region of central Italy, associated with Christmas and Easter, the suckling lamb flavoured with anchovies, garlic and herbs gives it a distinctive taste, not unlike the lamb and anchovy tradition in other parts of the peninsula.
Some cooks like to coat the lamb pieces in flour, a technique that will produce a sauce. Anchovies are optional and sage is personal. Generally this is a garlic and rosemary flavoured lamb dish.
1 kg lamb leg / suckling lamb shoulder, cut into small pieces
120 ml red wine / white wine
9 Mediterranean anchovies, chopped small (optional)
60 ml water
5 garlic cloves, pounded with 3 rosemary sprigs
45 ml olive oil
6 sage leaves
3 rosemary sprigs
Black pepper, large pinch
Salt, large pinch
Brown the lamb in the oil in a pot with three sprigs of rosemary, about three minutes. Remove the rosemary sprigs. Add the rosemary, garlic mixture, toss in the meat. Add the wine, water, sage, anchovies (if using) and seasonings. Cover and cook slowly over a low heat until the meat is tender, about an hour.
Żurek with bread is a classic Easter dish and only one of hundreds of variations of this enduring soup.
An ancient traditional dish across the Carpathian mountains through to the Ukraine steppe, the Polish have refused to let it fall out of favour, and even make it easier to make with commercial versions of the rye sourdough leaven that is the basis for the soup.
1.5 liters water
400 g smoked pork ribs
500 g white sausages, whole
500 ml żur (rye leaven)
4 boiled eggs
400 g (4) bread slices
6 tablespoons cream
2 tablespoons of dried marjoram
2 garlic cloves, unpeeled
2 tsp vegetable bouillion
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp salt
Bring the water to a low boil in a large pot, add the vegetable bouillion and the ribs. Cook for 60 minutes.
Remove the ribs from the pot, leave to cool, then strip the meat off the bones.
Meanwhile add the sausages to the soup, reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Add the rib meat and rye leaven, cook for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile toast the whole garlic cloves in a frying pan for 10 minutes, remove and crush with the marjoram.
Take the soup off the heat, add the cream and season.
Remove the sausages from the soup, cut into slices, put it back into the soup pot.
Serve in bowls with a slice of bread in each bowl.
Traditionally made with live shrimp, this soup now requires whole prawns because the flavour comes from the cooking water and from prawn heads that have been pounded in a mortar with butter, sieved and returned to the prawn stock.
1.5 litres water
1 kg prawns, whole
500 g onions, chopped
125 g butter
125 ml white wine
30 g flour
Put the prawns in a large pot with the water, simmer until cooked, strain liquid and leave prawns to cool.
Sauté onions in 45 g of butter over a low heat for 30 minutes.
Peel the prawns, pound the heads in a mortar with a little butter, then sieve the paste.
In a separate pan melt a large knob of butter, add the flour and fry until it takes on some colour. Deglaze with the wine, add to the prawn stock in a separate pot.
Add the onions to the pot.
Deglaze the onion pan with some of the stock and add to the soup.
Add the prawn paste and slowly bring to a low boil.
Distribute the prawns equally in bowls, pour the prawn soup, season.
Traditionally this soup was made with a roux. That is not necessary anymore. Cook the peas a little bit longer and they will thicken the soup. A vegetable bouillon powder added to water will produce the vegetable stock.
It was also left overnight then reheated and served with bread, a method still in existence.
This soup compares with snert, the pea soup of the Netherlands, a winter favourite once found in railway station restaurants and high street cafes, with countless variations of the same basic recipe – dried whole or split peas, pork preparations and vegetables, and a stock made with pork hock and trotters.
Grochówka also contrasts with ähzezupp, the pea soup of Cologne and the Rhineland where the preferred sausage is mettwürst – the smoked beef-pork sausage used in soups and other winter preparations throughout Germany. The Rhenish pea and sausage soup augments the carrots, potatoes and sausages with celeriac, leeks, onions, mustard and parsley.
1.5 litres vegetable broth / stock
500 g carrots, peeled, diced
500 g dried peas, reconstituted in 1.5 litres of water for 48 hours
500 g potatoes, peeled, diced
250 g smoked pork sausage, diced
100 g steamed pork belly, diced
5 garlic cloves, chopped small
1 tbsp dried marjoram, crushed
15 g white spelt flour (optional)
15 ml water (optional)
5 g butter (optional)
5 g rosemary spears, chopped
Black pepper, large pinch
Salt, large pinch
Cook peas in soaking water, strain and sieve, retain cooking liquid.
Add carrots and potatoes to the pea liquid in a large pot, add vegetable stock and cook covered for 30 minutes,
Add the peas, pork belly and sausage, simmer for 15 or 30 minutes, depending on whether you want to thicken the soup naturally or with a roux.
If the latter, melt the butter in a frying pan, add the flour and the tablespoon of water, stir until the mixture thickens, add to the soup.
Add the garlic, cook for five minutes, then add the remaining herbs and seasonings.
This pea soup of Cologne and the Rhineland is another traditional classic making its way back into the culinary heartlands of the country since everyone started to celebrate their regional differences.
1.5 litres vegetable stock
500 g peas, dried, soaked in pot with 2 litres of water for 36 hours
A constant resident on restaurant menus across central Europe, traditional potato soup has its own unique allure. Made with a roux, vegetable stock, root vegetables, herbs and spices, it is both comforting and hearty.
In the Czechia it is still referred to as ‘Old Bohemian Potato Soup’ and may be served with fresh boletus, garnished with chives or parsley.
In the home it is the subject of much tinkering. Debates whether to add mushrooms, paprika, sausage, smoked bacon, sour cream or stock are lively and informative with much disagreement.
1.5 litres meat broth / veg stock
500 g versatile potatoes, cubed
500 ml warm water
350 g onions, chopped
150 g carrots, cubed small
150 g celery, cubed small
180 g pork sausage / smoked
130 g dried boletus, soaked in warm water
60 g parsley roots, cubed small
30 g flour
30 g sunflower oil
3 garlic cloves, crushed
3 stalks fresh marjoram
5 g caraway / cumin
Paprika, large pinch
Pepper, large pinch
Chives, chopped, for garnish
Parsley, chopped, for garnish
Fry onions with cumin or caraway in oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat, about five minutes.
Chop sausage or bacon into pieces, fry for five minutes. If the onions begin to take on colour at the edges reduce heat, stir in flour. Coat the onions and meat in the flour, add a little of the soaking water from the mushrooms, if using or if not, a little of the broth or stock.
Add broth or stock (less if using dried mushrooms), the mushroom soaking water or not, potatoes and mushrooms, bring to the boil and cook for five minutes.
Reduce heat to low, add garlic, marjoram, season and simmer until the vegetables are tender, about 30 minutes.
Peter Büchel, of Restaurant Riet in Balzers, makes this exquisite Alpine dish with strips of green cabbage and dry-roasted oatmeal. The classic version, älplermagronen klassiker, has onion rings and potatoes.
Traditionally made with mountain cheese, we recommend the neighbouring Appenzeller, and, if you are unable to get it, instead use Gruyère.
500 g green cabbage, stalks removed, cut into thin strips
500 g magronen pasta / long macaroni
500 ml milk
225 g Appenzeller cheese / Gruyère cheese, grated
150 g onion, sliced
30 ml rapeseed oil
2 garlic cloves, crushed
10 g bouillon powder
Nutmeg, large pinch
Pepper, large pinch
Sauté onion in the rapeseed oil over a medium heat in a large, deep frying pan. Add garlic, cabbage and bouillon. Sauté for five minutes. Increase heat, add milk and bring to the boil. Reduce heat to low, simmer until the cabbage is soft. Season with salt and pepper.
The Spanish believe meatballs have an Arabic origin. Albóndigas, the Spanish for meatballs, comes from the Arabic, al-búnduga, which in turn refers to the hazel shape of the balls.
While the Arabic origin is plausible, equally credible is the belief that meatballs originated with the ‘fertile crescent’ civilisations, and therefore go back over 10,000 years to the beginning of animal domestication.
Meatballs are prominent in the food cultures of the Mediterranean basin, in northern Africa, in southern Europe, the Balkans, the Causcaus, Anatolia and the Levant.
Spain, with its own food origins rooted in Arabic food culture, shares many of the meatball recipes found across the entire region, but Spanish meatball traditions utilise the method of finishing and serving meatballs in tomato sauce.
Like the countries of the east, the Spanish also make meatballs from beans and fish, and do not always resort to the use of eggs for binding. And their meatballs can be baked as well as fried.
500 g beef / veal
500 g lamb / pork
300 g Manchego cheese, grated
250 g scallions / spring onions, chopped small
100 g cured bacon / ham, cubed small
2 slices fried bread / stale bread, soaked in equally amount of milk (optional)
60 ml olive oil
5 garlic cloves, crushed, chopped
4 tbsp parsley, chopped
5 g black pepper
5 g sea salt
3 sprigs of thyme
600 ml meat stock
300 g scallions / spring onions, chopped
50 g cured bacon / ham, cubed small
45 g almonds, ground
45 ml olive oil
Sauté spring onions in the oil with the bacon or ham, add the almonds and coat in the mixture. Gradually add the stock, heating gently until the sauce starts to form.
750 g tomatoes reduced in 250 ml chicken stock
Sauté garlic and scallions in half of the oil, set aside to cool. Combine the minced meat until the fat starts to separate, put in a bowl with the cheese, garlic-scallion mixture, bacon and seasonings. Mix, then shape into 60 g balls. Brown in remaining oil in a frying pan over a high heat or bake in a 180ºC oven for 30 minutes.
Stollen was a heavy yeast-raised loaf with a high butter and fruit content associated with the German city of Dresden, found in the months up to the end-of-year festivities throughout Germany, and in Switzerland where it became known as stollen fest. Free-formed by hand and shaped into loaves, stollen now come in several sizes with various ingredients but it is the original stollen that is still the template for this iconic fruit bread.
Dresdner stollen, also known as Dresdner Christstollen, has an interesting history. In 1490 Pope Innocent VIII exempted Dresden‘s bakers from the 1450 ban on baking with butter during Advent (which was then a period of fasting). Today‘s Dresden bakers regard this ‘butter‘ letter as an historical document that establishes stollen as a traditional product exclusive to the food culture of their city. The two million stollen produced every year in the city are sold worldwide. A modern Dresdener stollen has a light aerated crumb, with an aromatic smell and taste.
Stollen is no longer associated exclusively with Dresdener food culture or with the festive bread tradition in Germany and Switzerland. It has become an integral aspect of Alpine food culture, with countless variations on the original ‘butter’ recipe. Butter is still prevalent but spices play a larger role in the Alpine version.
Dissolve 30 g of yeast in the milk with the honey, and 200 g of the flour. Knead into a loose dough, leave for at least 16 hours.
Soak chopped almonds, peel and raisins in the kirsch.
Sieve remaining flour into a large bowl, add salt, eggs, bread syrup, spices and 300 ml of the whey. Autolyse for 60 minutes.
Dissolve remaining yeast in the vanilla sugar and remaining whey.
Add yeast mixture to the autolysed dough, fold onto a clean surface, knead for 10 minutes, divide into four equal pieces. Place fermented dough on the work surface, and with wet hands work into a soft dough. Cut into four equal pieces.
Work small pieces of the fermented dough one at a time into one of the yeast dough pieces, knead until the quarter dough is soft and smooth.
Repeat this process with the remaining fermented dough and yeast dough. Bring all four pieces of dough together, knead for a few minutes, then divide the dough into two pieces. Knead each piece until it is soft and spongy.
Yeast Dough & Butter Dough
Leave to rise for 90 minutes, degas, leave for an hour. Divide the dough into two pieces, work the softened butter into each piece, bring together, knead until the dough is spongy.
Leave to rise again for an hour.
Work two-thirds of the fruit and nut mixture into dough. Do not knead. Leave for an hour.
Add remaining fruit and nut mixture.
Combine fruit purée with ground almonds to form a paste.
Divide dough into four equal sized pieces, shape into rectangles, then flatten each one in turn. Push fruit on the outside into the dough, don’t leave it exposed.
Fruit on the outside of the dough must be pushed inside the dough
Spread almond paste along the middle of each rectangle, take the long end and fold over, to create a tunnel shape.
Place on greased trays, leave to rise for an hour.
Preheat oven to 180°C.
Bake in the middle of the oven for 45 minutes.
Increase the heat to 195°C, bake for 15 minutes.
While still hot brush the surface with the melted butter, dust with icing sugar.
Leave to mature, then slice and eat.
Notes on Stollen
Traditional stollen is a long process, other stollen less so.
The fruit and nut content should be relatively high, it should be soaked in kirch for up to 14 days and 1 day at least.
Stollen should be left to to rest for 14 days (two at the least, seven is acceptable) to allow the spice flavours to mingle with the fruit, nuts and kirch.
Generally the butter-sugar coating is applied after the breads have cooled completely, at least eight hours or the following day. For Alpine stollen the coating is applied while the bread is still warm.
The spices that make up the speculaas mixture (the traditional gingerbread spices that include cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, ginger, cardamom seeds and white peppercorns) can be increased, lowered and substituted. Allspice will give a subtle flavour whereas larger quantities of cinnamon and ginger will increase the organoleptic quality of the bread, and the reason why stollen should not be consumed until the flavour of the spices has matured.
This version has increased quantites of allspice, cinnamon and ginger plus cardamon, cloves and nutmeg, and no white peppercorns.
All the traditional spices qualify for this north African condiment. It is characterised by the scent of lavender, lime and rose, and the aroma of the distinctive cardamon, galangal, lovage, orris root, sumac, turmeric and various peppers. The authentic mixture contains at least 30 ingredients (see below). Anise or fennel, cardamon, chufa or tigernut, cinnamon, clove, coriander, fenugreek, galangal, lavender, rosebud, orris root, sumac, turmeric and all of the peppers (black, long, melegueta, monks, paprika and tail) are essential ingredients. Many are indigenous to north Africa, in particular Morocco, where they have been an intregral aspect of culinary and commercial life for thousands of years.
All the ingredients need to be ground into powder, then mixed. Obviously spices like ginger and turmeric are sold pre-ground, while orris root and tigernut are generally only available ground.
So we recommend you follow the tradition in Morocco and make up your own version, to suit your own tastes, as the majority of people in north Africa tend to do, following their own ethnic traditions, whether African, Arab, Berber, Phoenician, Jewish or Iberian.
Once upon a time students bought hot chicken and sat under the statue of the great man consuming their lunch with hardly a thought about the wise words he passed down to us. In the 1990s a fast-food fad caught on in supermarkets close to railway stations across western Europe – whole hot roast chicken. Generally it was good everywhere, except for one place – the Manor supermarket on the Rue Rousseau, not far from the gaze of the great philosopher – where it was exceptional, full of flavour, succulent … and greasy.
Rousseau, in quiet contemplation, never seemed to disapprove, even when you wiped your hands in the snow under this gaze. It was a running joke that when you bought hot chicken you were never served hand napkins at the chicken counter, you were expected to supply them yourself.
So we are disappointed to learn that the Manor no longer has hot chicken. That would have made a nice start to this wonderful journey.
Jean-Jacques Rousseau saw the future when he lived in the Duchy of Savoy. He predicted the potential for Geneva and the hinterland. Now that the whole region has been shrunk by the Léman public transport system, it must be said this was obvious.
We are having these philosophical thoughts because we can imagine what Rousseau would say about a railway tunnel underneath the city of his birth. ‘I am intrigued by your perspectives, none reconcile our condition.’
So we are going to follow the sensibilities of those who want to experience this urban-suburban cross-border network – six lines that connect 45 stations over 230 kilometres. Via the new underground rail link between Geneva and Annemasse we will be in that hinterland before we have time to think.
For us it is a journey through space and time. It begins in the past, continues in the present and ends, if at all, in the future! There is nothing remarkable about this journey. What is remarkable is the traditional food of the Alps. It is rooted in the past and it is fixed in the present. Every one of the Alpine countries has a strong fidelity with its food traditions, none more than the region once ruled by the House of Savoy.
Coppet to La Roche sur Foron (train) 67 minutes
LA ROCHE-SUR-FORON Reblochon de Savoie
Here at La Roche-sur-Foron we must make a decision – remain on our Léman Express train for a ride along the plain to Annecy or exit to the bus outside for a ride into the mountains. In the sky above us is a pleasant valley where they make one of the most delicious cheeses in the world – Val de Thônes, spiritual home of the creamy cheese known as Reblochon.
The story of this cheese was legendary before it became popular. A long time ago the monks of Abondance monastery in the high mountains above Lac Léman created pastures in the Chablais valley, then developed a breed of cow that would produce high quantities of milk, to allow them to make cheese. This Alpine cheese was served at high table in Avignon during the period when the popes reigned in the 1300s. At this time farmers were obliged to pay tax based on the volume of milk produced. To pay less tax farmers in the Thônes valley partially milked their cows, then secretly went back to collect the milk used for cheese. This became known as the re-blocher method, pinching the udder a second time. Reblochon is formed into 500 gram and 230 gram rounds. Delicately arranged on thin circles of spruce, it is the essential ingredient for several traditional dishes, and we want to know why Reblochon Fermier has more taste than Reblochon Fruitier.
Our ultimate destination is Le Farto, Cooperative du Reblochon Fermier in Thônes. This is where the cow herders make Reblochon with raw milk from their own farm, fermier, compared to fruitier, which is made with milk collected from several farms.
We were told to get a Proxim iTi (proximity route) bus to Saint-Jean-de-Sixt and change to the Mont Blanc ski-bus for Thônes. We look out the window. The sky has turned grey and apparently rain is forecast. Perhaps another day.
This is a Fricot book. In the future trips like these will be commonplace because in the future the world will be sustainable and only produce that is indigenous and local will feature in the food that is brought to the kiosk and to the table. If you want to eat what the Danish or the Turkish eat you will have to travel to Denmark and Turkey, and everywhere across the world where the food is authentic. And in places where food traditions once existed there will be immense satisfaction from the pleasure of eating local produce assembled from the knowledge of history. We are what we eat and we will eat what we know and not what someone tells us we shoud eat because we have lost the culinary skills of the ancients and acquired the habits of the machine and celebrity cultures. Everyone will be used to eating food that is made from local food produce and from artisanal food products. Home cooks and professional chefs will take pleasure in producing and re-producing dishes based on traditional recipes that are rooted in the people-place-produce mantra that will ensure that no one will have to suffer starvation because someone decided that what we need to eat is a commodity. Everyone deserves to eat the food that is simply produced, fresh and local, and not from distant lands.
When is a risotto not a risotto? When it is a paniscia or a panissa! Across the Po Valley on the Vercelli plain beyond Milan in Piedmont, the saluggia bean is joined with the lard-covered Novara salami to produce a risotto rooted in local tradition.
This is neither the time nor the place to discuss the etymology of the name or decide on the origin of the dish and what the ingredients should be. The primary ingredient is rice and it is made with beans, beef or pork, lard, salami, wine and should come with a vegetable base. We will leave that discussion for the relevant chapter in The Great European Food Adventure.
What we can say now is that there are several versions of the paniscia or panissa. This is the paniscia from Novara, a dish that has genius among its ingredients.
150 g saluggia dried beans, soaked overnight / 200 g fresh borlotti beans
140 ml Barbera red wine
130 g onion, chopped
120 g carrots, diced
120 g celery, diced
120 g tomatoes, diced
90 g leek, sliced thin
90 g pork rind / pork belly, diced
35 g butter
30 ml olive oil / vegetable oil
10 g black pepper
Place the beans, pork rind or pork belly and all the vegetables except the onions in a large pot with the water. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 3 hours.
Sauté the onions and salami in the oil in a large deep frying pan until the onions are soft and beginning to redden.
Add the rice, coat in the mixture. Remove pan from heat. Pour the wine into the rice, place pan back on a medium-low heat, allow the wine to reduce.
Gradually add ladles of the bean and vegetable ‘soup’ with a good amount of the beans and vegetables among the liquid to the rice, cook until the rice is al dente. Use all the solid material in the soup.
After about 20 minutes turn off heat, add the black pepper and the butter, cover, leave to rest for 10 minutes.
Based on the Indian dish shahi khichri (more commonly known as khichri), kedgeree was the name given to a breakfast dish made with fish, lentils and rice. Shahi khichri was named after Shahjehan, ruler of the Mughal Empire from 1628 until 1658, his chefs adapting the recipe with variations on rice and lentils with onions and tomatoes, and numerous spices. The British developed a fondness for kedgeree and used suitable fish fillets such as salmon and turbot and then developed the dish with smoked haddock. It became a traditional breakfast dish in parts of England and Scotland.