Legendary Dishes | Leberkäse / Leberkäs (meatloaf)


The red colour that distinquishes leberkäse (leberkäs in southern Germany) in a German artisanal butcher shop comes from pökelsalz (nitrite salt), and the true success of a liver meatloaf are the various agents known as kutterhilfsmittel that keep it solid.

German food specialist Tim Schneider and author of My German Table describes the science.

‘The nitrogen reacts with oxygen to form nitrogen oxides. The nitrogen oxides then bind the myoglobin molecule which is responsible for the color of meat to form nitrosomyoglobin. Nitrosomyoglobin is the stable red coloring agent. Without the pökelsalz, it’s impossible to get a red colored loaf like at the butcher.’

Kutterhilfsmittel is a citrate-based chopping agent that typically contains emulsifiers. It contains sodiumdiphosphate, sodiumtriphosphate, ascorbic acid, sodium ascorbate, citric acid, and dextrose. These sodium salts are known as emulsifying salts and these are the ones that are also used in American process cheese. They give a very good meltability to cheese and prevent it very effectively from separating in the oven.’

Without the kutterhilfsmittel the home cook is faced with a challenge, that is not unsurmountable, says Tim. ‘I think there’s no reason not to recommend adding an egg or emulsifying salts to leberkäse for home cooks. Especially if you want a very fine leberkäs, this eliminates the risk of overprocessing the meat paste.’

This is crucial. ‘If you don’t use kutterhilfsmittel the water separates from the loaf. Then when you bake it in the oven the meat proteins can’t hold onto the water and you end up with a dry and crumbly loaf and a water bath at the bottom of your loaf pan.’

The mixing process does require knowledge and skill, which is gained from experience. ‘If the mass has been mixed well,’ explains Tim, ‘it will be very smooth and a bit sticky. It’s easy to see if you have gone too far with mixing because the fat will separate from the water. If you’ve under mixed the mass, the final product will be crumbly and have a little chewiness. You have to look at the meat fibers to judge the mixing process. They will become very smooth. At the beginning of the mixing process, the mass is a bit rough.’

‘In the old days,’ says Tim, ‘people used phosphate-rich warm meat directly after the animal has been slaughtered to produce leberkäs. This binds much better because the natural-occurring phosphates in muscle fibers serve as an emulsifier. In stored meat, the binding capacity of the meat proteins is worse (because the phosphates get broken down within a few hours after the death of the animal). If you’re a butcher, it is possible that you can get pork meat from a pig that has been recently slaughtered, but this is no option for a home cook.’

In Bavaria the leberkäse is actually fleischkäse, a meatloaf without the liver. ‘The naming issue is very complicated,’ says Tim. ‘There was never any liver in the dish in Bavaria. In most places outside of Bavaria we say fleischkäse if we refer to the Bayerischer Leberkäse without liver. There’s a food law that allows fleischkäse to be sold under the name Bayrischer Leberkäse in Germany. Outside of Bavaria, in the rest of Germany, you can distinguish fleischkäse and leberkäse by their liver content.’

Ostheimer Leberkäse

While the good people of Baden and Bavaria argue over who makes the best leberkäse, in Ostheim vor der Rhön in north-western Bavaria their leberkäse is a terrine packed with pork. A butcher who fought during the Franco-German war of 1870-71 returned home to Ostheim determined to replicate the farmhouse terrines he had tasted in France. Using local pork he developed a recipe that is now an integral aspect of traditional Ostheimer gastronomy.

  • 200 g pork shoulder, minced
  • 150 g pork belly, minced
  • 100 g pork cheek, minced
  • 50 g pork liver, minced
  • 2 pork caul sheets
  • 10 g nitrite salt / table salt
  • 5 g nutmeg, grated
  • 1 tsp white pepper

Preheat oven to 180°C.

Combine the meat and seasonings, wrap tightly in a sheet of caul, then again.

Place in a greased earthenware dish, bake for an hour.

Leave to cool, slice and serve with pickles and salad.

Stuttgarter Leberkäs

In Baden-Württemberg their liver cheese contains liver. If it does not contain liver it is called fleischkäse. The Stuttgart version is also more aromatic than the versions made in other areas of Germany, where rivalries over the authentic product can be comical. This recipe will produce an authentic leberkäs.

  • 300 g beef shoulder, minced
  • 300 g pork shoulder, minced
  • 300 g pork belly, minced
  • 200 g ice, crushed
  • 100 g pork liver, chopped small
  • 1 egg (optional)
  • 50 g onions, chopped small
  • 20 g nitrite salt / table salt
  • 10 g white pepper, freshly ground
  • Nutmeg, grated, large pinch
  • 1 lemon, zest
  • 1 tsp allspice, ground
  • 5 g marjoram
  • Butter, for greasing

Put the meat through the grinder twice.

Combine the liver with the meat, mix in the ice, onions and seasonings, place in freezer for an hour.

Preheat oven to 150°C.

Traditionally the mixture was bound with an egg, then baked in a greased loaf tin in a low oven.

Modern versions call for the cold ingredients to be blended in a food processor to produce a smooth homogeneous mass, which should be no warmer than 12°C.

Pour into greased loaf tin, bake for 90 minutes.

Bayerischer Leberkäse

The 4000 Bavarian butchers who specialise in leberkäse cannot afford to deviate from tried and tested recipes. Attempts to introduce an ingredient they believe will improve the quality of the finished product are usually rejected. 

More often than not that ingredient is an egg, because the Bavarian leberkäse is made with an emulsion that can fall apart during baking. Butchers prevent this by freezing the meat, adding ice and keeping air bubbles out of the emulsion, so that when it bakes in a low oven it holds both its shape and texture. An egg would achieve that end. 

A Bavarian leberkäse should not be grey, it should be a pale pink with a reddish brown crust. This is achieved with nitrite salt.

The end slice, called scherzel, is coveted because it combines the crunchiness of the crust and the melt-in-the-mouth softness of the loaf. 

Leberkäse should taste delicious hot and cold. Hot it is cut into thick slices and served with potato salad or two fried eggs, and with sweet mustard. Cold it is eaten as a snack, usually with gherkins and a bread roll.

  • 600 g pork shoulder, lean, fat, sinew and tendon removed, chopped small
  • 400 g pork belly (without rind), chopped small
  • 300 g ice, crushed small
  • 125 g onion, chopped small
  • 20 g nitrite salt / table salt
  • 10 g marjoram
  • 10 g white pepper, freshly ground
  • Butter, for greasing

Freeze meat for an hour.

Preheat oven to 160°C.

Blitz ice into snow, combine with meat, onion and seasonings.

Blend smooth in a food processor, pour into a greased loaf tin, pushing the mixture into the corners.

Bake at the bottom of the oven for 90 minutes.

Remove from tin and brown under the grill, about four minutes each side.

Österreich Leberkäse (Fleischkäse)

The traditional meatloaf in Austria is a throwback to the days when bread was a bulk ingredient, the egg was a binding and the stock was a liquid medium to enhance the flavour. This is Austrian coarse to German smooth.

  • 500 g beef, minced
  • 500 g pork, minced
  • 250 ml cream
  • 240 g (3) white rolls soaked in 250ml milk, squeezed
  • 125 ml meat stock
  • 125 g onions, chopped small, fried
  • 60 g bacon, chopped small
  • 1 egg
  • 30 g breadcrumbs
  • 30 ml sunflower oil
  • 15 g parsley, chopped
  • 5 g white pepper
  • Salt, large pinch
  • Butter, for greasing

Preheat oven to 160°C.

Work the minced meat into the soaked bread until the fat starts to separate.

Add the bacon, egg, fried onions, parsley and seasonings.

Sprinkle breadcrumbs around the bottom and sides of a large greased tin, add the meat mixture, pressing it into the corners. Top with oil.

After 15 minutes pour the stock over the loaf.

After 30 minutes baste the loaf with the liquid that seeps out, repeat every 15 minutes until it has been baking for 90 minutes.

Pour the liquid from the loaf tin into a saucepan, add the cream and bring to the boil. Simmer and reduce until it thickens into a sauce.

Serve sliced in the sauce.

Lough Neagh | IRELAND | Giving Eels A Chance

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

LoughNeaghEelsonthe Run
Eels of Lough Neagh

It’s mid-morning and the fish shop on West-Kruiskade in the centre of Rotterdam is selling out of smoked eels. The demand these days always seems to exceed the supply. Lovers of this treat are worried.

Pat Close of the Lough Neagh Fishers insists they have nothing to worry about. He sends the same message out to those who have been predicting the end of the Lough Neagh eel fishery and others like it.

Toome-born into a farming background, Close gave up a good job as an advisor in the Department of Argiculture, accepting the call of the eels.

They needed help and he was ready to give it.

Like everyone in the area of Lough Neagh he knew about the crash. Two years before he joined the coop, the young eels migrating along the Gulf Stream from the Sargasso Sea off the coast of Florida didn’t turn up.

After years of between eight and fifteen million eels coming into the Bann at Coleraine every year, the number was down to 726,000. It was a global problem. Every estuary in Europe that attracted eels saw a decline.

To alleviate the problems caused by the crash, the coop started buying young eels from other fisheries. ‘Lough Neagh is a commercial fishery being exploited, not over exploited, and in order to maintain the intensity we need to maintain that stock, not only would that affect our business it would have an impact on the eels stock of Europe.

‘If we weren’t here the eels would be depleted, this is a finite resource and needs to be managed. We let 40% go back to the Sargasso Sea.’

The real issue, Close insists, is local. No new fishing licences have been issued for 20 years and this presents Close with a conundrum. At its peak there were 200 boats licenced to go out on the lough, now there are 113. A hundred on the lough is the limit and will remain so while eel stocks are low.

Because the costs of running a boat is high, the fishing has remained with the families who have the tradition, passing from father to son. This knowledge base and the skills that go with it, Close acknowledges, are the key to the future of eel fishing on Lough Neagh.

With a turnover of £3m a year, the vast majority going into the communities around the lough, he knows the fishers and the fish must be sustained. And with the fishers getting older, Close wants to see younger people involved but fears the seasonal nature of the work and the long days are a deterent.

‘They go out after 4am, all out together, they look after each other, a couple of hours to lift the lines, grade out the young eels, back in for 7-7.30, into the coop at 8.30, and go out at midday again, to continue a couple of hours, running lines, quite a long day, and I would like to see more young people in it.’

In the Netherlands they hope so too. They know what Close knows.

‘Lough Neagh eels are unique, the flesh is perfect for smoking, which is why they are regarded as the best in Europe.’

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. This is a typical dressing for smoked eel.

  • 1 small cucumber, chopped
  • Half a lemon, juiced
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons basil, torn
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • Black pepper, pinch
  • Salt, pinch
  • 6 blades of chive, chopped


Legendary Dishes | Arancino / Arancini | rice balls

Train in Boat on Messina Strait

On the ferry across the Messina Strait (an experience soon to be consigned to history), delicious arancini can be found in the spacious café. Some days they are round in the fashion of the migrant bakers, other days they are tapered in the style of the rural mama.

Broken open they reveal a ragù usually made with minced meat, thick tomato paste, peas, a bit of onion, and the occasional herb. In the centre of the tapered ball is a cube of melted cheese.


If you ever get the chance to look into a Sicilian kitchen you will notice the cooks making their Arancini on marble slabs. First they will take the rice that has been cooked al dente and lightly salted, mixing it with the pecorino, saffron and two beaten eggs.

With a dexterity refined by long experience they will mould the rice into a large ball with one hand, making a hole in the centre.

The other hand is then free to spoon some ragù into the hole, finishing the operation with a cube of cheese. More rice is added to seal in the filling, and the shape is completed.

The cook will already have prepared the flour and breadcrumbs on separate plates and beaten the third egg in a cup. The Arancini are then floured, egged and breadcrumbed, fried in hot oil and baked in a hot oven for 15 minutes.

Round Arancini are generally stuffed with ragù and with cheese but a version not unlike the Albanian rice ball containing spinach is now apparent in northern Italy, especially in Venice and Verona, where vialone nano rice was born.

  • 500 g vialone nano rice
  • 200 g ragù (or 100 g minced beef fried with 80 g peas, 60 g tomato sauce and a little water, cooked until sauce is thick)
  • 3 eggs
  • 100 g mozzarella, cut into two centimetre cubes
  • 50 g breadcrumbs
  • 50 g flour
  • 50 g pecorino cheese, grated
  • Saffron, softened in warm water

Follow the instructions above. Don’t worry about the marble slab.


[PLACE] NANCY | FRANCE | Quiche Lorraine (Custard Cream Pie)

Much maligned in the English speaking world, quiche lorraine is loved throughout continental Europe. When it is artisanal made with fresh ingredients it is unbeatable.

A round pie or tart mould lined with pastry made from puff or shortcrust is filled with a mixture of bacon, cheese, cream, or crème fraîche, eggs, milk, nutmeg and seasoning. This is the traditional version.

Dough Base
250 g flour
125 g butter
45 g cold water
1 egg
Salt, pinch

300 ml cream
250 g pork belly, cut into strips 
4 eggs
1 tsp nutmeg, grated
Butter, for frying 

Make the pastry dough, roll into a ball, wrap in clingfilm, chill for several hours.

Roll out to a thickness of 4mm, place in a buttered, floured mould 22-24cm in diameter, overlapping the edge.

Preheat oven to 180°C.

Make small holes in the pastry base, bake for 10 minutes. Leave to cool.

Blanch pork in boiling water for five minutes. Dry, fry in butter.

Spread bacon strips over the pastry base.

Beat eggs, add cream, pour over bacon.

Bake at 180°C for 30 minutes.

The modern quiche is a different creation.

When it is large, creme fraiche and milk replaces the heavy cream, smoked bacon is preferred to belly pork and grated cheese, usually emmental, gives the dish a golden appearance.

When it is small, ham replaces the bacon and Gruyère cheese thickens the filling; chard and spinach are common additions to cheese quiches, especially in Paris.



[PLACE] ROTTERDAM | NETHERLANDS | Kruidnootjes (Spice Nuts)

The Spice People

The Dutch love spices. Peter at Verstegens explains why.


A freshly ground sweet spice mix is the starting point for these aromatic winter nuts. It can be bought ready packaged but home grinding and grating whole spices gives a fresh kick to these nuts. Traditionally the spice mix is 2:1 cinnamon to each of cloves, ginger and nutmeg with a lesser amount of white pepper. Intrepid bakers spice up this combination with cardamon, coriander, fennel and anise.

  • 250 g flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 15 g traditional spice mix (speculaas)
  • Salt, large pinch
  • 125 g brown sugar
  • 100 g butter 45 ml milk

Sift flour and baking powder into a large bowl, mixing in the spices and salt, add sugar, cut in the butter, the milk, one tablespoon at a time until the dough is firm but soft. Rest dough for one hour.

Preheat the oven to 150°C.

Cut the dough into 10 gram pieces, roll into balls and place on a lightly buttered baking tray.

Bake for 15-20 minutes, shorter for softer nuts, longer for harder.

Kruidnootjes are part of the gingerbread tradition associated with the spiced molded biscuits produced on Saint Nicholas Day – known as speculaas in Belgium and the Netherlands, spekulatius in Germany and as gingerbread throughout Europe.



Breads of Europe | Lepinje (flatbread)


Lepinje! Pide? Pita?

Pita bread is associated with middle Eastern and north African baking and with kebab shops who stuff meat and salad into the flat pouch.

Despite its origins in Arabic countries, pita is an integral aspect of European bread making. Known as pita in the Balkans and Greece, pizza in Italy (before its famous topping) and pide in Turkey, the common denominator for a successful flatbread is a hot airy oven.

Not as well known is the flatbread of Bosnia-Herzegovina and Serbia, a deliciously soft pouch called lepinje usually made with milk. We have used yoghurt. Kefir is also a good medium.

It can be made with kefir or with yoghurt. We have used yoghurt.

  • 1 kg strong white wheat flour
  • 500 ml yoghurt at room temperature or no lower than 20ºC
  • 175 ml lukewarm water
  • 100 g white sourdough
  • 30 g salt
  • 25 g yeast
  • 15 g white wheat flour
  • 15 g sugar
  • 2 teaspoons sesame seeds
  • Flour for dusting (optional)
  • Oil for greasing
  • Warm milk / warm water for washing

Put yeast, sugar and three tablespoons of flour in the warm water. Stir and leave to rise for two hours.

Sift the flour into a bowl, add salt, yeast mixture and yoghurt, knead for five minutes.

Add sourdough and knead for ten minutes.

Leave to rise for an hour, degas, leave to rise for a further hour.

Grease baking trays lightly with oil.

Divide dough into eight equal pieces, shape into balls, rest for 15 minutes.

Shape with palm of hand into long teardrops.

Cut squares into the dough.

Wash with warm milk or warm water, cover and leave for half an hour.

With 15 minutes to go pre-heat oven to 240°C.

Sprinkle each pouch with black sesame seeds and dust with flour.

Bake in two batches, until the breads have puffed and turned a red-brown colour, about 13 minutes.



Ask any baker or chef in Switzerland to guess how many different breads there are in the confederation, and more often than not they will come up with the same figure — 300!

That sounds high until you consider the number of flours and flour variations that exist. Meyerhans Mill list 51 different flour mixes.

So if you want to make the popular morning breads known as gipfel and weggli all you have to do is buy the respective mixes.

Their gipfel mix contains wheat flour (types 400 and 720), starch, salt (with iodine), sugar, barley malt flour, skimmed milk powder, wheat gluten, butter powder and an emulsifer.

Their weggli mix contains wheat flour (type 550), vegetable oils and fats (partially hydrogenated), skimmed milk powder, salt (with iodine), sugar, starch, barley malt, dextrose and emulsifier.

Obviously this makes the job of baking so much easier and the result is appropriate.

Swiss Milk list 112 bread recipes.

These recipes understandably feature breads that contain butter, cheese and milk, are decorative, diversive and typically Swiss. They include:

BIRENBRÖT – the delicious bread made with pears
BUTTERZOPF – the traditional braided loaf
DINKELBRÖT – spelt bread
KARTOFFELBRÖT – potato bread made with brown flour
MAISBRÖTCHEN – yeast-free bread made with cottage cheese
MILCHBRÖTCHEN – popular breakfast and lunch bread roll
PLIGÄTSCH – sweet spiced fruit and nut bread
RÜEBLIBRÖT – the original carrot bread
WALNUSSBROT – this walnut rye bread is among the best rye breads

Mutschli – Breakfast Bread Rolls

Among the most popular breads in Switzerland are:

BÜRLI – St. Gallen bread rolls served with St. Galler sausage
GIPFEL – crescent breads
MUTSCHLI – the eponymous breakfast roll
SEMMELI – the crunchy breakfast roll
WEGGLI – the soft breakfast roll

See Brötchen Contents for a selection of brötli and Swiss Alpine Breads for more information and other versions of the recipes .


The majority of bread eaten in Europe takes place early mornings to mid-day in the form of various shaped buns, flat and pocket breads, hot and cold toast and a range of pastry breads that have disputed origins. We know some of these as croissant au beurre, pain au chocolat, croissant aux amandes, pain au chocolat aux amandes, pain aux raisins au beurre, chausson aux pommes, chouquettes … and the plain old croissant. This enigmatic crescent-shaped pastry bread is more than mere food, it is the stuff of legend. Popularily associated with royalty and resistance, the origins of the croissant go back to ancient pastry traditions. Whether they are Jewish, Italian, Austrian or Hungarian no longer matters. Viennoiserie has been a success since it was introduced at the World Fair in 1867. Gradually it seduced every pastry chef from Paris to Copenhagen, where the Danes claimed it as their own. The real irony is that a pastry bread originally made as a communal activity only to be adopted by the aristocracy is now within reach of everyone, albeit as a machine-made factory product. The real danger is that the original waxing moon-shaped delicacy will be lost as the world decides there is only one crescent – the croissant! This is the original crescent-shaped breakfast bread.

  • 500 g soft white wheat flour
  • 280 g milk
  • 50 g sugar
  • 50 g butter, softened
  • 30 g yeast
  • 1 egg yolk (optional)
  • 10 g salt

Bring milk gently to lukewarm in a saucepan. Dissolve yeast in milk. Sieve flour into a large bowl with the salt and sugar. For a salty flavour double the amount of salt. Add yeast mixture, and work into a loose smooth dough. Leave to rest for 15 minutes. On a floured surface roll out the dough, dot with pieces of butter. Spread butter on the dough and fold over three times. Place dough in a plastic bag, leave in a cool place to rest for three hours or leave overnight. Cut the dough into 80 g pieces, roll into oblong sheets 12 x 18 cm. Starting at one edge roll tightly and form into a crescent shape. Place on a baking tray covered with greaseproof paper, the seam underneath. Spray with cold water, cover and leave to rise for an hour. Preheat oven to 190°C. Spray again with water or wash with egg yolk. Easier than making croissants and just as satisfying, just like the sweet crescent of choice in central Europe – the perpetually popular


Made in the 19th and 20th centuries with ground almonds, butter, flour, vanilla-flavoured sugar and salt, modern trends are moving back to the older method of using grated almonds, egg yolks and vanilla seeds. Some recipes call for the almonds to be toasted ground or whole in a dry frying pan. Butter also plays a huge part in the success of these crescents. Soft rather than hard butters help relax the dough.

  • 250 g soft white wheat flour
  • 210 g butter, softened
  • 125 g almonds, ground
  • 75 g vanilla sugar
  • 2 vanilla pods, deseeded
  • 2 egg yolks
  • Salt, pinch
  • Icing sugar, for dressing
  • Vanilla sugar, for dressing

Crumble the butter into the floor, add the egg yolks, salt, sugar, vanilla seeds and finally the almonds, working quickly to make a smooth dough. Rest dough in the fridge for two hours. Roll out dough to a thickness of no more than one centimetre, cut into four centimetre square pieces, about 15g each, roll and shape into crescents. Preheat oven to 180°C. Place crescents on a baking tray covered with greaseproof paper. Bake for 12 minutes. While still hot, roll crescents in the icing sugar then the vanilla sugar.


Traditionally made with white flour, yeast, milk, butter, malt, sugar and salt, artisan and home made weggli are superior to the mass produced varieties that use improvers and milk powder to prolong the shelf life. Spelt gives these weggli a kick. Made with kefir instead of milk, they are mouthwatering.

  • 350 g strong white flour 
  • 150 g white spelt flour 
  • 200 g kefir, brought up to room temperature
  • 50 g butter, softened
  • 50 ml milk, warmed
  • 1 egg yolk, beaten
  • 15 g honey
  • 15 g yeast
  • 10 g salt
  • Milk, for glazing

Dissolve the yeast in the honey and warm milk. Put the flours and half of the salt in a large bowl and allow it to come up to 20°C. Crumble the butter into the flour, add yeast mixture and kefir, knead until firm and elastic. Leave to rise for an hour. Degas, leave for a second hour. Desired dough temperature is 25°C. Divide dough into 60 g pieces, shape into ovals and place on a greased baking tray. Leave to rise for 30 minutes. Add a tablespoon of milk and remaing salt to the egg yolk. Brush buns liberally. With a dough cutter or large blade make a deep cut in each piece of dough down the middle without dividing it into two pieces. The two halves must still be joined Bake at 220°C for 15 minutes, or 210°C for 20 minutes for a slightly softer bread.

Legendary Dishes | Basler Läckerli (gingerbread biscuits)

Basler Läckerli SWITZERLAND gingerbread biscuits

The Basler Läckerli is a small, rectangular gingerbread biscuit (without the ginger), thin glazed and dusted with icing, a much harder bite than the Belgian and Dutch variety. It is one of several Swiss variations of gingerbread that began when oriental spices arrived in 11th century monasteries.

  • 700 g flour
  • 500 g liquid honey
  • 300 g sugar
  • 150 ml kirsch Glaze (100 ml water to 150 g sugar)
  • 100 g almonds and hazelnuts, chopped
  • 100 g lemon and orange candied peel, chopped
  • 30 g cinnamon, ground
  • 20 g baking powder or 10 g potash
  • 15 g clove, ground
  • 15 g nutmeg, grated
  • Cardamom, pinch
  • icing sugar

Bring honey and sugar slowly to a boil, simmer until sugar dissolves, cool. Mix nuts, peel and spices with the zest and kirsch. Sift the flour and baking powder into a large bowl, gradually adding the honey syrup and the nut paste. Knead into a pliable dough.

If using potash, mix with cherry brandy.

Rest overnight.

Roll the dough out to a depth of roughly 6mm onto two greased parchment sheets, place on baking trays making sure the dough is evenly distributed all around.

Rest for an hour.

Preheat oven to 200°C.

Bake for 20 minutes.

Make the glaze and apply evenly, dust with icing sugar.

Cut into 5 x 5 cm rectangles.

Making a large batch is worth the effort. Kept in air-tight containers they will stay fresh for several months, slices of apple will soften them.

Läckerli are broken into pieces and dissolved slowly in the mouth.

Replace wheat flour with rye flour to get the authentic 17th century version.

Older recipes use more almonds, usually the same amount as the sugar.

Many homes added milk to the mixture, at a ratio equal to the honey and flour, the milk mixed with the honey. Some homes added eggs, mixing them with the sugar.




Legendary Dishes | Snert (pea soup)

Snert NETHERLANDS pea soup

Snert is the iconic staple dish of the Netherlands, a winter soup once found in railway station restaurants and high street cafes, with countless variations of the same basic recipe – dried whole or split peas, pig bones and marrow, pork meat and vegetables. Traditionally whole peas were soaked overnight, boiled in the soaking liquid with pig trotters slow cooked for several hours, left to tenderise in the jellied stock, then reheated. The double cooking of the peas is still essential to the method, less so the fatty and marrow bones, milk and potatoes which made the soup thick and hearty. A modern snert will contain smoked bacon, pork chops, smoked pork sausages and the ubiquitous stock vegetables – celeriac, carrots, leeks and onions, plus seasonings, usually celery leaves, parsley, pepper and salt. The following version combines the traditional with the modern.

  • 2 litres water
  • 1 pork hock / 2 pig trotters
  • 250 g potatoes, small, whole
  • 250 g smoked pork sausages
  • 200 g pork loin chop
  • 200 g split / whole peas
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 150 g carrots, chopped
  • 150 g celeriac, cubed
  • 100 g onions, chopped
  • 100 g smoked bacon
  • 1 leek, sliced thickly
  • Celery leaves handful, chopped
  • Salt, large pinch
  • Pepper, large pinch
  • Rye bread / toasted bread

Soak whole peas overnight, retaining the soaking liquid.

Bring the hock or trotters to the boil in the water in a heavy based saucepan. Skim off scum on the surface. Simmer for three hours with half of the carrots, all the celeriac, leeks, onions and chops.

Strain, leave to cool and remove meat from bones and chops.

Bring the stock, the soaking liquid of the peas and the peas to the boil. If using split peas add them at this stage.

Cook the peas for two hours until tender.

If using potatoes add them with the cooked meat, smoked bacon and pork sausages, the remaining carrots, and celery stalks. Cook for 15 minutes.

Season with salt, pepper and celery leaves.

Leave for at least four hours or overnight. Reheat slowly over a low heat.

Serve with slices of rye bread.



Legendary Dishes | Panzanella alla Fiorentina (bread, red onion and tomato salad)

Panzanella alla Fiorentina ITALY bread, red onion and tomato salad

Only in Tuscany would they make a bread without salt and then use the fruits of the fields to flavour it.

  • 500 g Tuscan bread, sliced
  • 200 g mature tomatoes, diced
  • 1 red onion, sliced
  • 1 cucumber, diced
  • 1 celery stalk, sliced (optional)
  • 30 g basil, handful, torn
  • 30 ml Tuscan vinegar / red wine vinegar (optional)
  • 25 ml olive oil
  • Mineral water
  • Salt, pinch
  • Pepper, pinch

Vinegar defines the regional differences with this dish. Some recipes call for the bread to be soaked in vinegar and water, others have a red wine vinegar dressing and many have no vinegar at all.

Soaking the bread in water for five minutes is not optional, cutting it into slices or making it into breadcrumbs is.

Mix all the ingredients together with two wooden forks. Celery is popular with panzanella eaters.

Put in a cold place for two hours or more, garnish with a little more basil before serving.



Legendary Dishes | Shashlyk (skewered meat)

Shashlyk GEORGIA skewered meat

Small cubes of meat are marinaded overnight in oil and vinegar, sometimes with herbs and spices depending on the nationality of the chef, Georgian, Russian or Turkish.

Shortly before the shashlyk are ready to cook, the meat is skewered with one or more vegetables, dressed with oil and brought to a high heat – a grill or hot plate or outside charcoal fire.

Shashlyk was unheard of outside the Caucasus until the Russians interrupted centuries of exclusion. They immediately fell in love with spit-roasting and, unlike the sheep herders of the Caucasian mountains, the invaders introduced the concept of putting everything in the marinade and anything on the skewer – beef, lamb, pork or fish.

The Russians also started to use vinegar to soften and tenderise the meat, but they realised quickly that the acidity overwhelmed the other flavours. Gradually marinades were introduced that brought out all the flavours.

These included secret ingredients no longer best-kept, like thick kefir and thin pomegranate.

In the Caucasians shashlyk meat has traditionally been taken from the shoulder, or leg of well-hung mutton. The old recipes always suggested four parts meat, one part vegetable on the skewer. Modern recipes request lamb and a variety of vegetables, but the meat remains prominent.

This is the original shashlyk.

  • 1 kg lamb/mutton, cubed 4cm
  • 3 tomatoes, quartered
  • 150 ml wine vinegar
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 60 ml sunflower oil
  • 40 ml oil, for brushing
  • 4 bay leaves
  • Wooden skewers, soaked

Marinade meat in bay leaves, oil, onions and vinegar overnight.

Thread meat, four cubes at a time tight together, onto skewer, then a piece of tomato, repeating until there is no space left.

Brush with oil.

Grill for 15 minutes, turning several times, brushing with more oil.

Serve with rice, and lemon juice.



Dough Up

Pre-Ferments, Sourdough and Starters

Successful bread requires an understanding of the relationship between yeast, water and flour, the importance of temperature and the wonderful relationship with the pre-ferments or sourdoughs known as starters.

Readers who want to learn more about European bread making should consult the work of master bakers, especially in France, Italy, Germany, Poland, Switzerland and Turkey.

English language readers should search for copies of Wilfred Fance’s The Students’ Technology of Bread Making and Flour Confectionary and Jeffery Hamelman’s Bread, then start practising.

The majority of bread baked in Europe is made with pre-ferments, known as a biga in Italy, pâte fermentée in France, poolish in Germany and Switzerland and sourdough generally.

There is also a pre-ferment made with nothing more than a piece of sourdough, flour, water and the bacteria that exists in the air.

Barley, rye and spelt flours mixed with water are popular pre-ferments, which are a law onto themselves; every baker has their own version.

Formula, Method and Temperature

Dough temperature controls the speed of fermentation.

Fance gives a method for ensuring the correct dough temperature, ideal when the ambient temperature is unreliable.

Determine the desired dough temperature, then double it.

For 23°C that would be 46.

Take the temperature of the flour, subtract from the doubled figure. This gives the desired water temperature.

Therefore if the flour temperature is 15.2, the liquid temperature needs to be 30.8.

Generally this is achieved with lukewarm milk or water, which can be used to dissolve the yeast.

All bread is made to a formula based on the amount of flour and to a specific method.

The rest is uncomplicated.

Dough generally starts with the pre-ferment, a yeast mixture (flour, liquid and yeast, and sometimes sugar), liquid (usually milk or water, or a combination of both), flour and salt. Malts and molasses can be added to boost fermentation and provide colour and flavour.

The role of the pre-ferment needs an explanation longer than this book can allow. Essentially starters aid the fermentation of the dough and produce a required effect. See Adria.

For specific breads a specific flour must be used. See note on flours.

Salt is an essential element in bread making because it affects crumb and crust colour, assists moisture retention, influences fermentation, stabilises the gluten in the dough and gives the bread flavour.

But it can retard the yeast so its use is determined by the requirements of the particular recipe, in some instances not at all as in the Tuscan pane. See Malta.

All the breads featured in this book were tested using the hand-kneading method. A spiral mixer is quicker but hand-kneading is an experience every baker should know, especially in the home where small quantities are used.

Yeast referred to in this book means fresh pressed yeast, not dried!

Bakers will sell fresh yeast. Many shops and supermarkets carry baker’s yeast.

Handmade Small Breads

The above is an extract from Handmade Small Breads, which contains the recipes for dough starters. Buy it now directly from Fricot Editions.


Legendary Dishes | Pizza (topped flatbread)

Pizza ITALY topped flatbread

In old Napoli around the corner from the porn cinema off the Piazza Garibaldi, a crowd stands in an alleyway. Clouds of smoke and steam drift like competing phantoms in the sultry evening air. At a window in the wall men in stained white uniforms exchange rounds of folded bread for folded note. Boys and girls, old and young men tear at the thick bread, revealing tomato, mozzarella, basil and an aroma that is enticing and intriguing. It is a daily activity, and the pizzaioli who make these red, white and green pizzas of legend never seem to stop or take a break. The not so humble pizza is an old fast food, arguably one of Europe’s most loved. Rarely made in the home without a pizza oven, those who know what they are doing produce pizza to die for. Why else would you want to see Naples.

  • 250 g 00 flour
  • 350 ml water
  • 250 g strong white flour
  • 225 g biga
  • 25 g olive oil
  • 15 g yeast
  • 1 tsp salt

Activate yeast in 50ml of lukewarm water, add to flour and salt in a large bowl, the remainder of the water and mix with a wooden spoon.

Gradually add the biga in small pieces, mixing with the spoon.

Finally drizzle in the olive oil, using the spoon to bring the ingredients together.

Turn out onto a floured surface. Begin kneading, about 25-30 minutes.

Leave to rise for two hours, degas once.

Dough temperature should be 23-24°C.

Divide dough into desired sizes, roll out and leave for 20-25 minutes while preparing the classic pizza topping, the Margherita of 19th century Italian legend.

Bake in the hottest oven you can find, about eight to ten minutes.

The days when this pizza was topped with tinned plum tomatoes and sheep’s cheese with a hint of mozzarella are long gone from serious trattoria. Nowadays the topping is likely to be San Marzano tomatoes squeezed and stretched over the dough, dotted with pieces of mozzarella.

If you are lucky you might get more olive oil and one or two basil leaves to complete the picture.



THE GREAT EUROPEAN FOOD ADVENTURE | Berlin | Berliner Bulette | The Story of Meatballs, Part 2

The story of the bulette was featured in a major Berlin daily

Brought to the former Prussian capital by the Huguenots in 1700, the bulette is established as an institution, and now that we are in Berlin we can debate the peculiarities that make Berliners agree to disagree about ingredients and methods, then we can reflect on the meatball versions across Europe.

Berliner Bulette

  • 500 g beef / pork / veal, minced *1
  • 150 ml milk / water
  • 100 g onion, chopped small
  • 100 g soft white roll or two thick slices of a baguette, soaked whole in milk or water
  • 1 egg
  • 50 g speck (bacon) *2
  • 30 ml vegetable oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped *3
  • 1 tbsp marjoram, chopped small *4
  • 1 tbsp parsley, chopped small *4
  • 5 g caraway seeds *4
  • 5 g dried green peppercorns, fresh ground
  • Nutmeg, about 1/6 of nut grated
  • Salt, large pinch

*1 A two to one ratio of beef to pork is usual but buletten can be made with equal amounts or all of beef, pork or veal.

*2 Small cubes of bacon can be fried in onion until crisp, added cold to the mix.

*3 Garlic can be added fried with the bacon and onions, or added raw.

*4 The herbs are optional. The amount of caraway is a personal decision because of its pungent flavour.

Preheat oven to 175ºC.

Squeeze out the liquid from the buns. Add to the mince with the egg, onion, nutmeg, herbs and seasonings. Combine into palm-sized balls, about 50 grams each, flatten.

Brown in a frying pan over a high heat in oil.

This will take a couple of minutes, turning constantly.

Remove to oven and bake for ten minutes.

Bavarian Fleischpflanzerl GERMANY Bavaria meatballs

The rival to the Berlin meatball is the Bavarian meatball. Dijon mustard is the principle difference between them. Despite similarities the two recipes have different origins, and are not related to the frikadellen family prevalent throughout northern and western Europe. The same applies to the Danish frikadeller and the frikadellen of Germany. And that story comes in part 3.

  • 300 g beef, minced
  • 200 g pork, minced
  • 100 ml milk / water
  • 100 g onions, chopped small
  • 100 g soft white roll, soaked whole in milk or water
  • 1 egg
  • 50 g breadcrumbs
  • 30 ml oil
  • 25 g mustard (traditional Dijon made with verjuice or wine is favoured)
  • 15 g butter
  • 10 g salt
  • 1 tbsp parsley, chopped small
  • 1 tbsp marjoram, chopped small
  • 5 g black pepper, fresh ground

Incorporate soaked bread with the egg, onions, parsley, mustard and marjoram. Add mince and seasonings. Mix by hand.

Spread breadcrumbs sprinkled with salt on a large plate. Wet hands and take a palm-sized lump of the mixture, about 50 grams each. Form into a compact ball, roll in breadcrumbs.

Continue until the mixture is used up.

Brown in butter and oil over a medium heat. Cook for 12 minutes, turning constantly.

Meatball Combinations

ALBANIA Qofte — minced beef / lamb, breadcrumbs / bread, egg, feta cheese, flour, garlic, mint, milk, olive oil, onion, oregano, parsley, sunflower oil, seasonings

ALBANIA Qofte me Oriz-Qifqi — rice, eggs, mint, seasonings

ALBANIA Qofte Shtëpie — lamb, biscuit crumbs, onion, egg / feta cheese, breadcrumbs, milk, mint, oregano, black pepper, large pinch

BELGIUM Ballekes — minced beef / pork, braised onion, white bread soaked in milk, egg, parsley, seasonings

CYPRUS Keftédes — minced lamb / pork, potatoes, egg, onion, mint, parsley, vinegar, seasonings / cumin / oregano / garlic

DENMARK Frikadeller — minced pork, milk, onion, egg, flour

DENMARK Köttbullar — minced beef / pork / veal, onion, egg, flour, milk

FINLAND Lihapullat — minced beef, sour cream, onion, flour, egg, mustard, paprika, seasonings

FRANCE Attignole — minced pork, pork fat, white bread soaked in milk, eggs and flour, onion, pepper, shallot

FRANCE Attriaux — minced pork, liver, garlic, onion

GEORGIA Abkhazura — minced beef, pork, caul fat, vinegar, black pepper, garlic, onion, cayenne, coriander, fenugreek, salt, sumac

GERMANY Gehacktesbällchen — minced beef, onion / shallots, whigte bread soaked in milk, egg, mustard, sage, thyme

GREECE Keftédes — minced beef / chicken / lamb / pork / veal, eggs, onions, bread soaked in water, flour, seasonings, parsley, mint / oregano, thyme / garlic

GREECE Soutzoukákia — beef, spiced tomato sauce

ITALY Etruscan — pork caul with minced pork, crustless bread, wine, ground pepper, garum, myrtle berries, pine nuts, whole peppercorns

ITALY Polpette — minced beef / veal, egg, cheese, breadcrumbs, seasonings / sausage / salami, herbs

KALININGRAD RUSSIA Klopse — minced beef / pork, bread roll soaked in water, onion, eggs, breadcrumbs, anchovies / mustard, seasonings / spices

NORWAY Kjøttkaker — minced beef / chicken, egg, potato flour or starch, oats, onion, milk or water, ginger, nutmeg, seasonings

POLAND Breslauer Klopse — beef, white bread, onions, Polish mustard, egg, capers, anchovies, seasonings

POLAND Klopsiki w Sosie Pieczarkowym — minced beef / pork, etc with mushroom sauce

POLAND Klopsiki w Sosie Sery Pleśniowe — minced beef / pork, etc with blue cheese sauce

POLAND Pulpety — minced beef / pork / veal / turkey, rice, semolina, onion, hard boiled egg, seasonings

ROMANIA Perişoare — double ground beef / lamb, rice, egg, onion, parsley, paprika, flour, seasonings/mashed beans

SPAIN Albóndigas — minced pork, veal / beef, lamb, garlic, manchego cheese, scallions, thyme, seasonings (Albóndigas — in almond sauce)

SWEDEN Köttbullar — minced beef / pork / veal, onions, breadcrumbs soaked in milk, egg, parsley, pureed potato, seasonings

TURKEY Köfte — double ground beef / lamb, egg, onion, flour, red pepper paste, seasonings / bulgur, walnuts, paprika flakes, parsley

TURKEY İçli Köfte — double ground beef mince, onions, walnuts, mint, parsley, red pepper paste, pomegranate molasses, red pepper flakes, sumac in bulgur-semolina-walnut spiced crust

PLUS Anne’s Quick Meatballs + in Broth + in Curry Sauce + in Soup +

… continued in part 3.



[PLACE] CHARLEROI | BELGIUM | Chicons au Gratin (Endive Cheese and Ham Wraps)

Chicory is versatile, a traditional vegetable loved by many across Europe. In Belgium, Flanders and northern France they produce a variety called endive, a white vegetable known as chicon, witloof (white leaf) and Brussels endive. They combine it with ham and cheese to make a heavenly dish.

Endive, 1 head per diner
Ham, 1 slice per head
Béchamel sauce made with gruyère or edam cheese
25 g sugar
Gruyère or comté, grated
Nutmeg, grated

Preheat oven to 180°C.

Wash endive, removing bad leaves and hard root, braise or steam for ten minutes, leave to cool.

Roll each endive head in a slice of ham, place in a casserole dish, and fill the spaces between the heads with béchamel sauce.

Season with salt and pepper.

Bake for 40 minutes, sprinkling cheese on top after 25 minutes, and cook until a golden skin has formed. Finish with nutmeg.



Breads of Europe | Black Bread | Rye Bread

Rye Bread


Rye bread was once the staple food of mountain, steppe and valley people because rye thrived on stoney ground.

Traditionally baked in wood-fired communal ovens, rye bread has lost none of its attractions in the modern era of bread making as old methods and new techniques combine to produce great tasting bread, with a hint of nostalgia.

Rye flour plays a strong role in the bread culture of Europe. Despite the rise and rise of white breads and the gradual emergence of chemical-free flours, rye flour provides the baker with options.

American master baker Jeffrey Hamelman explains why: ‘Rye breads have a rich fullness of aroma, a unique and bold flavour, excellent keeping quality, and a delicious eating quality quite different from wheat breads.’

Icelandic Rye Bread

Swiss Rye Bread — Roggenbrot / Pains de Seigle



Legendary Dishes | Bratislavské Rožky | crescent bread

Recently given the stamp of approval by the European Union despite opposition from Austria, Germany and Hungary, the Bratislava sourdough-poppy seed / walnut paste crescent deserves recognition.


  • 30 ml milk, lukewarm
  • 20 g yeast
  • 15 g sugar
  • 15 g flour


  • 500 g flour
  • 150 g butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 45 ml oil
  • 1 tsp salt


  • 400 g poppy seeds, ground / walnuts, minced
  • 200 ml water / milk
  • 200 g sugar
  • 25 g vanilla sugar
  • 1 lemon, zest
  • Breadcrumbs (optional)
  • Cinnamon, pinch Rum, splash


  • 100 g icing sugar

Dissolve yeast in milk and sugar in a small bowl, stir in flour, cover and leave overnight.

Cut butter into small cubes and cream into the flour, add the salt, yeast mixture, eggs and sufficient oil to make a soft dough.

Knead for ten minutes, rest for an hour.

Cut into 25g pieces, shape into balls and leave to double in size, about an hour.

For the poppy filling, dissolve the sugar slowly in the water. Stir in poppy seeds, bringing the heat up. Incorporate vanilla sugar, then and lemon zest. Leave to cool.

For the walnut filling, dissolve the sugar slowly in the milk, bring to a gentle boil, add walnuts, then the vanilla sugar, cinnamon and rum.

Thicken with breadcrumbs if the paste is loose.

Roll the balls into thin ovals, place two teaspoons of filling in the central area, shape into a tube. Roll and twist into crescents.

Leave to rise for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 180°C.

Bake until golden, about 20 minutes.

Sprinkle with icing sugar.



Indigenous Ingredients | Apricot

On August 7, 1953 apricot growers and their supporters besieged the small town of Saxon in the Swiss Valais canton to protest about the huge amount of Italian imports they claimed inhibited the sale of their produce. Freight trains carrying the Italian imports were looted and burned. The railway line and main road through the Rhône valley were blocked for several days. Consequently an agreement was made to restrict the foreign imports to aid the sale of the domestic produce.

Eight years later the growers faced another challenge when hazardous emissions from a factory in Martigny began to damage their crops. An 18-year campaign finally brought sanctions against the factory owners and in 1982 the Swiss Federal Court issued an order for compensation to be paid to the growers.

Of the 176 apricot growers in the Valais today most develop the luizet variety, supplying two-thirds of the one million kilos needed to make approximately 120,000 bottles of 70 centilitres Abricotine at the distillery in Martigny.

Two hundreds years after they were first cultivated in the Rhøne valley, apricots (and apricot brandy) are now established in the food culture of the region, the warm, dry Valais climate perfect for the sensitive luizet. Planted on the south-facing embankments of the valley, apricot trees thrive in alluvial soil.

Despite the success of this Swiss apricot story, the best apricots in Europe still come from Anatolia, where the climate and soil has always been conducive to consistently high quality production.

While the Austrians of Wachau and the Swiss of the Valais / Wallis turn their delicate fruit into apricot brandy (and liqueur), the Turks treat the apricot like a fruit from the gods and produce a quarter of the world crop to prove it. They eat apricots fresh, dry them in the sun and extend their usefulness in various ways, because they have always known the health benefits.

beta carotene to thwart cancer
fibre to aid digestion
iron to prevent anaemia
potassium to boost the heart and kidneys
and vitamins A, C and E to keep the body functioning

Nine tenths of the dried apricot market arise from Anatolia and are shipped around the world, where they are appreciated for their nutritional value – 100 grams of dried apricot contains 24 grams of dietary fibre, one gram less than an adult’s daily requirement.

Apricots make their way into a range of baked, cooked and processed foods in Turkey. They preserve their shelf life and consequently their health benefits by making them into jam and paste, starters for countless products.

Turkish apricots are of a higher quality, primarily because they are original cultivars (native species, not cross-cultivated) and have the best growing conditions in Anatolia.

The native roxana is being developed because it is early (July), has a large fruit (80-120 grams) and is resistant to cold. Red with orange flesh, the kernel is sweet.

Armenian, Austrian, Greek and Hungarian apricots are also old species varieties.

The European season is May to July and through to September in some regions.

Breeders are constantly working to produce sweeter apricots by identifying the original cultivars.

Kayısı Reçeli (apricot jam)

  • 1 kg apricots, fresh unblemished
  • 1 kg / 800 g sugar
  • 400 ml water (optional)
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • Apricot kernels

There are two distinct methods of making apricot jam.

Halve the apricots (retaining the stones) and steep overnight in the juice of one lemon and one kilo of sugar.

Crack open the stones to extract the kernels, which should be blanched to remove the skins.

Put the apricot-lemon-sugar mixture in a heavy-bottomed pan. Bring gradually and slowly to the boil until the sugar crystals have dissolved, about 15 minutes. Add the kernels for the last 10-15 minutes, testing the mixture for solidity.

This done by placing a plate in the refrigerator, spooning some mixture onto the plate. If it forms a skin and begins to set it is ready to go immediately into hot sterilised jars.

The second method calls for less sugar, which should be dissolved in the water before the apricots are added. Boil them in the sugar mixture for 10-15 minutes, add the lemon juice and kernels, reduce and test.

The first method retains the shape of each apricot half, the second produces the consistency of jam and is almost like a paste, which brings us to the next popular apricot product in Turkey.

Kayısı Pestili (apricot paste)

  • 1 kg apricots
  • 100 ml water

Halve the apricots, discarding the stones, and simmer in the water until they are soft, about 20 minutes.

Liquidise, pass through a sieve and place the pulp on a buttered baking dish. Cover with cheesecloth and leave to dry in the sun until dry and leathery.

Alternatively, placed the tray in a low preheated oven, around 90°C, and bake for about two hours.

This apricot leather can be cut and reconstituted in warm water for various uses, in soups and stews, and in cakes and pastries.

One such is the Viennese Sachertorte, arguably Europe’s favourite aristocratic chocolate cake.

Sachertorte (chocolate and apricot cake)

The smooth consistency of the chocolate icing gives this cake its celebrated Viennese appearance but it is the inner apricot glaze that makes it iconic. The recipe for the original Sachertorte, made by 16 year old apprentice chef Franz Sacher at the court of Prince Metternich in 1832, remains a secret.

There are now many versions of the cake. Among the best are found in Bologna at the Neri Pasticceria beyond the gate on via Saragozza and at the Caffe la Serra near the Arsenal in Venice.

Only the Italians!

This is an adaptation of the version provided by Austrian Tourism.

  • 7 eggs, separated
  • 200 g apricot jam or paste, smooth for spreading
  • 200 g dark chocolate (70%)
  • 150 g butter, softened
  • 150 g flour
  • 100 g icing sugar
  • 75 g almonds, ground
  • 50 g vanilla sugar
  • 50 g sugar
  • Salt, pinch
  • Butter and flour for cake tin / mould
  • Icing (200 g dark (70% cocoa) chocolate / 250 g sugar / 100 ml water / 50 g butter)

Melt chocolate slowly in a bain-marie. Cream the butter with the icing and vanilla sugars, stirring in the egg yolks one by one.

Preheat oven to 180°C.

Grease a cake tin with butter and sprinkle with flour.

Vigourously beat egg whites with sugar to form a stiff peak when lifted. Stir the melted chocolate into the butter-egg paste and carefully fold in the whipped egg whites alternately with the flour and salt, and the ground almonds if preferred.

Pour the mixture into the tin and bake for 55-60 minutes.

Turn the cake onto a board and allow to cool, turn again after 25 minutes. This will give the cake a flat surface on each side.

Reconstitute apricot paste in warm water to make 200 grams of soft jam.

Divide the cake into two equal bases. Smooth jam over each base and place one on the top of the other, coating the edges with the remaining jam. Leave to set.

Dissolve the sugar in the water gradually over a medium heat until it begins to boil. Cook for five minutes, turn off heat and allow to cool.

Break chocolate into small pieces, add a few at a time stirring until the glaze is smooth. In a single movement pour the chocolate glaze over the cake, and with a broad-bladed knife smooth out until the surface and edges are coated.

Apply decorations and leave to cool at room temperature.

Traditional Apricot Dishes

Milk bread rolls with apricots

Amaretti ITALY almond, apricot kernels and honey macaroons

Aprikosen-Brötli SWITZERLAND milk bread rolls with apricots

Aprikosenkuchen mit Streuseln SWITZERLAND apricot crumb cake

Aprikosentörtli SWITZERLAND apricot tart

Birnbrot SWITZERLAND fruit bread

Brac de Gitano ANDORRA apricot cream roll

Hutzelbrot GERMANY festive fruit cake

Marillenknödel AUSTRIA apricot potato dumplings

Marillenkuchen AUSTRIA apricot cake

Oie Rôtie aux Fruits FRANCE roast goose with apple, pear, dried apricot, prune

Plov, Shirin EUROPE basmati rice with apricot, date, plum, raisin, saffron

Plov, Shirin AZERBAIJAN basmati rice with apricot, date, plum, raisin, saffron, fried meat

Tarte Tatin FRANCE apricot tart

Yaini ARMENIA AZERBAIJAN GEORGIA RUSSIA beef soup with dried apricots

Apricot Varieties

Swiss apricots

Aprikoz TURKEY (700,000 tonnes)

Bebeco GREECE (41,000)

Bergarouge FRANCE (160,000)

Bergeron FRANCE

Búlida SPAIN (83,000)

Canine SPAIN


Klosterneuburger / Kegelmarille AUSTRIA


Mitger SPAIN

Orangered FRANCE

Red Galta SPAIN

Rouge du Roussillon FRANCE


Rózsakajszi HUNGARY

Tyrinthos GREECE

Adapted from Fruits of Europe.

[PLACE] ADRIA | ITALY | Ciabatta (Slipper Bread)

‘This is the one you made.’ Arnaldo and Georgio admire a batch of the new ciabatta.

Above the confluence of the Po Delta on the Adriatic is the town of Adria, halfway between Venice and Bologna. It was the home of retired miller Arnaldo Cavallari, a former rally car champion who is celebrated locally as the co-inventor of Il pane con buco – the bread with big holes.

Alongside the abandoned buildings of the family mill Molini Adriesi attached to the sprawling grounds of the Cavallari mansion on via Ca ‘Cima is the experimental bakery where on the afternoon of September 21, 1982 three wine-sodden bakers celebrated a eureka moment.

Arnaldo Cavallari had invited Arnaldo Cremonese of Bovolone and Francisco Favaron of Verona, bakers he had met at the Verona Trade Fair, to help with his experiments to make a new bread centered on the soft wheat flour of the region.

The miller had designs for a new flour mixture, the bakers had designs for a new bread that would rival the baguette. Favaron had experimented with various flour combinations over the years and had come to the conclusion that the secret to the perfect dough was a high gluten flour that could absorb a large amount of water.

Cavallari told Favaron about his conversation with Professor Raymond Calvel, an expert on bread in the Sorbonne in Paris, and his desire to produce flour that would make great bread with organoleptic characteristics.

Calvel had told Cavallari to increase the amount of water. ‘You are a miller, you can make strong flour, try to put 70%.’

Baguette makers put 65% water in their dough and this was believed to be the limit. It produced a great bread – a soft crumb on the inside, a crispy crust on the outside. Cavallari and Favaron believed thee could improve the baguette.

‘Our mentality was to put a lot of water in the flour and a lot of wine in ourselves. Francisco looked at the bread and it was flat, shaped like a slipper. “Ciabatta,” he cried, slurring the word.’

Cavallari had identified the aromatic pre-ferment known in Italy as the biga as the key ingredient in good quality French and German breads. ‘The biga is like the starter motor, its primary function is to turn on the engine.’

Cavallari called his new bread Ciabatta Polesana, after the communal area. ‘When tasted, happiness exploded. I had gotten a double success, an innovative product that absorbed water to unexpected values from 70% to 75%.’

It was exactly the sensual experience Calvel had predicted.

Cavallari had perfected the holy trinity of breading making – the flour, the pre-ferment and the water. Flour was the key, but the biga and water unlocked the flavour.

Bakers who took part in the Ciabatta Italiana project promised to use Cavallari’s new flour, authenticating their slipper-shaped bread with a stamp of guarantee for the customer.

Cavallari went out into the world to promote his product, travelling to five continents. ‘We believe it is better to teach the baker to make bread with the right yeast and natural flours because this produces breads nutritionally valuable and genuine, in the best tradition of italian bakery.’

The ciabatta was a light and airy digestible flat loaf made without artificial  improvers. It was a global success. Bakers, who had at first feared the process, began churning out the crunchy soft-centred bread with a nutty fragrance.

Soon they began to experiment themselves.

The author in Ciabatta!

By 1996 American bakers were winning the Coupe du Monde de la Boulangerie with their version of ciabatta.

Artisan bakers and domestic cooks grabbed recipes that replicated the magic formula, but that was all they could do.

Back in Italy Cavallari continued to experiment. In October 2014 he believed his new method for ciabatta developed over the previous five years was the best. ‘The ciabatta recipe has always evolved. We will always evolve, this is experimental baking. I ask for feedback, to see what people think.’

The flour was crucial to the method, and the end result. ‘I wanted to make a better flour to make a better bread. I wanted the best, the best flour, to make the best bread. To make the best bread you must understand how to make the best flour.’

When Cavallari closed down his mill he gave the recipes of his flours to a Padova mill. They now produce a red bag containing flour milled with grain from Australia, Canada, Italy and the USA. This is a strong flour made from high quality grain, high in gluten. ‘If ciabatta is not made with this combination it is not ciabatta,’ says Cavallari squirming and twisting his upper lip.

Dr. Clorindo Manzato of the Adria Commune Office says this fact is not always recognised. ‘Many believe that this form of bread has roots in folk traditions sunk in rural Italian medieval history, but this is a colossal mistake. The real secret lies in the combination of the flour produced, which still nobody so far has managed to copy, and the same bread recipe.’

Cavallari’s various recipes for ciabatta all have a common denominator. ‘The difference between the baguette and the ciabatta is 5% water and better flour but the real difference is the biga, the method of making the ciabatta.’

In January 2013 the mayor of Adria, Massimo Barbujani, launched a campaign to put ciabatta on the map as a designated food product with that precise method.

‘Unfortunately many produce our ciabatta bread without respect to the value of purity and naturalness in the original recipe,’ Barbujani argued, acknowledging that it is going to be difficult to standardise the recipe.

Some would say impossible. Ciabatta, born in Adria, now lives in the world.

This is the modern version of the recipe, which is for a large batch, mixed by machine.

  • 10 kg Italian type 1 flour (aka ciabatta flour)
  • 5 litre water
  • 25 g yeast

Mix these ingredients in the bowl of a spiral mixer at low speed for five minutes. Leave to ferment, covered, for between 16 and 22 hours (depending on the time of year and ambient temperature) and cover with cloth until the temperature reaches between 23°C and 25°C.

Start second stage.

  • 2 litres water
  • 250 g salt
  • 100 g sugar
  • Olive oil

Add sugar at low speed for five minutes, drizzling in the water at high speed for eight minutes, then the salt for two minutes.

Dough should be at a temperature between 25°C and 27°C.

With wet hands transfer dough to an oiled container and leave for 40 minutes.

Cut dough into 300 gram pieces, and leave to rise on floured surface for an hour. Heat baking tray, transfer dough with floured hands to tray and bake at 240°C for 30 minutes.

The ciabatta story is told in full in The Bread with Holes: The Rise of Artisan Bread in Europe, to be published in 2021.


Text & Photo © Fricot Project 1998-2020


The stone cottage shrouded in greenery at the end of the lonely boreen is picture postcard perfect. Raindrops fall reluctantly from the trees, caught by the rays of sunlight that suddenly appear in the aftermath of another thunder shower. Emerging out of a grassy wall, a woman weeding the verge indicates the modern building behind a white van. ‘Silke is in there,’ she says in a guttural accent.

There is nothing incongruous about this setting in rural Cavan, a few kilometres from the border with Fermanagh. Artisan Ireland requires the EU stamp of approval and, just to prove this point, cheesemaker Silke Cropp explains that an inspector from ‘the department’ is arriving to take away some cheeses for testing.

In the 1950s, artisanal production in Europe was back in the ascendancy, and cheese – followed by sausages and salami, breads and pastries, jams and sauces – led the way.

Ireland was an exception. Artisanal cheese production did not become established until the 1970s. When cheese-lovers like Silke Cropp arrived from Germany in the 1980s it seemed the industry had a future. Suddenly it got harder and Corleggy Cheese had to make a name for themselves.

Silke Cropp is an artisan cheese maker in Ireland

‘The road to market was the biggest problem,’ Silke Cropp says of the days when transport was painstakingly slow and couriers were city-based. ‘I thought about exporting to Germany but that was too expensive. It only started to work when I joined the Food Co-op in Dublin in 1989 and travelled in our old Morris Minor, getting up at four in the morning. It was a long day.’

Her children got involved, daughter Tina setting up her own stall in the new Temple Bar Market in Dublin when she was 15. They sold cow’s, goat’s and sheep’s mature cheeses made with raw milk and vegetarian rennet. At the Food Co-op their cheese had a strong appeal for vegetarians who shunned animal rennet made cheese.

‘I felt that I needed direct customers if I wanted to make any money at all and that hasn’t changed. We sell to restaurants and shops and still attend the markets. My son Tom goes to Bray and I go to Dublin.’

‘We are an endangered species,’ she adds sanguinely. ‘The artisan is always going to be quite a small producer. Artisan to me means handmade using raw and first-class, quality ingredients, putting expensive stuff together to make something as best as you can, that people will talk about as something fabulous you can only get in Cavan or Kerry or Waterford.’