German new year

January 6, 2013 § Leave a comment

Twelfth night is behind us, the decorations are down and I’m almost into the second week of the now traditional alcohol-free January. Time to take stock of the new year festivities which this year took the form of a German-themed 3 day event hosted by our friends Mike and Janet. We ate our fill of homemade bratwurst (and that was just for childrens’ tea!), Mike’s excellent seeded and rye breads and lots of good wine.

Here’s the menu for the main event on New Year’s Eve:

Silvestermenu und weinkarte 2012

Wurst and leberkäse canapés

2006 Joh. Jos. Prüm Zeltinger Sonnenuhr Riesling Auslese
NV René Muré Crémant d’Alsace Brut Prestige

~
Bräustüberl Weihenstephaner Obatzda mit Bretzeln
Soft pretzels with the original cheesy dip (Bräustüberl Weihenstephan)

1999 Joh. Jos. Prüm Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Kabinett
~
Gugelhofer Riesling pochierte Forelle mit Thymian
Riesling-poached trout with thyme (Gugelhof, Berlin)

1999 Albert Boxler Riesling Brand
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Rheinischer Sauerbraten mit Spätzle von Wolfgang Puck und Kümmel Krautsalat
Traditional beef sour-roast with spätzle and caraway cabbage salad

2009 August Kesseler Spätburgunder Cuvée Max
~
Birnenküchen
Roasted pears in a yeasted cinnamon-hazelnut cake

1996 Reichsgraf von Kesselstatt Scharzhofberger Riesling Beerenauslese
1976 Hugel et Fils Riesling Sélection de Grains Nobles

~
Käse von Deutschland,England und die Republik Irland
Tilsiter, Colston Bassett, Coolea, Westcombe, Kirkham’s, Cornish Yarg, Tunworth

1983 Grahams Porto Vintage
1977 Warre Porto Vintage

~~~

Janet blithely announced on the morning of the 31st that our work preparing this feast would be “relatively light”. As if! It took us most of the day to get everything ready, and once we were done, Janet and Shelley set up the mincer, stretched the skins and produced several pounds of home made bratwurst. I watched in amazement as Shelley and Janet coaxed the pork and veal filling into seemingly endless pink links. My contribution to the project was a bit of washing up.

Back to the main event. My task was preparing the obatzda cheese spread and home made pretzels to serve alongside. I’d made pretzels before using an authentic Greg Patent “Baker’s Odyssey” recipe which I did again, this time dipping the pretzels in a bicarb solution rather than full-on caustic soda. I didn’t want to take the risk of chemical burns to self and children and damage to someone else’s home that working with caustic soda solution entails. After the effort of making the pretzels, whizzing up the obatzda was relatively simple. It was served deumurely from a small earthenware pot rather than in great scoopfuls on a big rustic wooden board as is traditional in Munich.

Next course was the trout, poached in a delicate riesling wine along with leeks and carrots for flavour and colour.

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The main course was a long-marinated and 5 hour simmered majestic beef Sauerbraten served with authentic spätzle noodles and a crunchy cabbage and caraway salad alongside, a good contrast to the meltingly soft been and noodles. Janet took charge of the spätzle, laboriously pushing the batter through a colander into boiling salted water in true Hausfrau style. The technique of cooling the cooked spätzle in iced water then briefly sautéing in hot oil and butter when ready to serve makes them practical for a dinner party.

Pudding was a magnificent yeasted pear and hazelnut cake which Shelley made. We managed to dovetail our use of the Kenwood mixer and oven very amicably. This was a truly magnificent cake, perfect served warm in delicate slices with billowy whipped cream. If there’d been any left, I’d imagine it would have been rather good served with coffee next morning!

L1050346

The meal concluded with cheese and port, then a rousing team demonstration of “Gangnam Style” to bring in the New Year and embarrass the children. Start as you mean to go on.

Recipe for Obatzda – Bavarian cheese spread

Traditionally served with soft pretzels as snack. Adapted from a recipe from the Bräustüberl Weihenstephan in Munich. Serves 6 as a starter or snack.

Ingredients

300g piece of Brie cheese, skin and all
23 g softened unsalted butter
50 g cream cheese
1/2 teaspoon ground paprika
pinch of ground caraway seeds
2 tablespoons German beer (Weihenstephaner Vitus Weizenbock or Weihenstephaner Weißbier for authenticity)
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
40 g finely chopped red onion (or less depending on your preference).

Process the Brie to a mass in a food processor. Add the butter, cream cheese, seasonings and beer and process again to combine. Remember that the cheeses are already quite salty so go easy on adding salt at this stage.

Finally add the chopped red onion and process very gently once more just to combine.

Refrigerate for a couple of hours to allow the flavours to combine and mellow. You can serve the spread packed into a pretty earthenware pot as we did, or more traditionally, serve in scoops or quenelles on a rustic wooden board alongside the soft pretzels and garnish with red onion rings, chives, and lettuce – a Bavarian ploughman’s lunch I suppose.

Recipe for Spätzle – Germanic rustic noodles

Austrian born celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck’s recipe from Epicurious.com. Serves 8 as a side dish.

Ingredients

4 large egg yolks
1 large egg
1 3/4 cups whole milk
1 pound (about 3 cups) all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup peanut oil
1/2 cup (1/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, minced

In a small bowl, beat together egg yolks, egg, and milk.In medium bowl, whisk together flour, nutmeg, salt, and pepper. Add egg mixture to flour mixture and mix with wooden spoon just until well blended. Do not overmix. Refrigerate, covered for at least 1 hour.

Bring a large pan of salted water to boil. Fill a large bowl with iced water. Place a large-holed metal colander on top of the pan. push one-third of the batter through the holes into the water using a flexible spatula. We think that a food mill set on the large hole screen might do this job pretty well but haven’t tried it out yet. Cook for a minute or two then transfer quickly with a slotted spoon to the bowl of iced water. Make 2 more batches in the same way.

When the spätzle are cool to touch, drain well and toss with 1/4 cup oil. (They can be prepared up to this point and refrigerated, covered, up to 2 days.)

When you are ready to serve, place a large sauté pan over high heat and in it heat the remaining 1/4 cup oil. Add the spätzle and cook, without moving the pan, until undersides are brown, about 2 minutes. Add butter and sauté until golden brown, about 2 minutes more. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with parsley and serve.

Recipe for Birnenküchen – German pear cake

Serves 8 generous portions for teatime or 12 dainty portions for dessert with whipped cream. Adapted from a recipe on Epicurious.com.

Ingredients

For the enriched yeast dough

3/4 teaspoon fast acting instant dried yeast (2-3g – the type that can be added directly to flour)
1 1/2 cups strong plain flour, plus additional for dusting
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup milk
1/3 cup golden caster sugar
1 whole large egg
1 large egg yolk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
7 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces and softened

For the pear topping
3 ripe but still firm Conference pears (about 1 1/2 lb total)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons plain fine dry bread crumbs
3 tablespoons hazelnuts, toasted and chopped
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Begin by making the enriched yeast dough. Ideally you need a stand mixer (Kenwood or Kitchenaid ) to attempt this recipe.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, stir together the flours, fast action dried yeast and salt. Pour in the milk, turn the mixer on to a low speed and mix for one to two minutes until the flour is moistened and you have a fairly dry shaggy mixture.

Scrape down the sides of the bowl using a plastic dough scraper or rubber spatula. Turn the mixer back on to a low speed and add the egg mixture little by little, then the sugar. Increase the speed to medium and beat for about 3 minutes by which time the dough should have formed into a ball.

Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the butter in 2 tablespoon sized chunks, beating until almost incorporated before adding the next. You will end up with a very soft cake-batter-like dough. Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat until the mixture comes away from the sides of the bowl, about 10 minutes.

Cover the bowl with cling film or a plate and let the dough prove until doubled in size, at least 1 and 1/2 hours, maybe longer.

While the dough proves, prepare the roast pear topping. Preheat oven to 180°C fan.
Peel pears, cut lengthwise into eighths, and cut out the cores. Toss pears with melted butter and 2 tablespoons brown sugar in a 13- by 9-inch glass or ceramic baking dish and arrange in 1 layer.
Roast pears, gently turning and stirring occasionally, until just tender and lightly caramelized, about 45 minutes. Transfer pears to a plate with a slotted spatula. Stir bread crumbs into baking dish, scraping up all brown bits and butter, then transfer to a bowl. Stir the hazelnuts, cinnamon, and remaining 2 tablespoons brown sugar into bread crumbs.

Line a deep 24cm round cake tin, ideally spring form, with a baking paper.

Now you are ready to assemble and bake the küchen. Reduce the oven temperature to 160°C fan.
Knock back the proved dough and transfer it to the lined cake tin and and spread it evenly across the base of the tin with a rubber spatula.

Sprinkle half of the crumb mixture over the dough, leaving a 1-inch border. Gently toss the roasted pears with the remaining crumb mixture and scatter the pears over the dough. Let the küchen rise, covered with plastic wrap for about 30 minutes.

Bake the küchen for about 40 minutes until firm to the touch and deep golden brown. Cool the küchen in its tin on a rack for about 20 minutes, then carefully remove from the tin. Serve warm or at room temperature with softly whipped cream.

Swiss new year

February 11, 2012 § Leave a comment

Yikes, we’re well into February, it’s almost the half-term holiday and I still haven’t written-up our New Year meal. It’s high time I put this right. We’ve been doing the new year thing since the big millennium celebration in 2000 and have taken turns hosting along with Neal & Shelley and Mike & Janet.

It fell to us to host this year and it occurred to me that despite my enthusiasm for all things Alpine I’d never yet chosen a Swiss theme. The challenge would be to avoid as many Swiss clichés as possible – cheese, chocolate, cowbells, cuckoo clocks and similar tat, and to keep the dishes relatively light so we’d all make it into 2012 feeling fit and raring to go.

Here’s the menu I came up with. You’ll see I didn’t entirely succeed with no cheese/light cuisine idea as the Malakoffs – deep-fried battered chunks of gruyère sound like the (Scottish?) first cousin of the deep fried Mars bar, but I couldn’t resist:

Canapés

(i) Bundnerfleisch (thin slices of air-dried cured beef)wrapped around celeriac remoulade; and (ii) Malakoffs – deep fried gruyère sticks

First course

Hay soup -light chicken/vegetable cream soup infused with meadow hay

Second course

Individual Luzerner Chugelipastete – puff pastry dome filled with braised veal pieces in cream and saffron sauce

Main course

Venison medallions with preiselbeer sauce, rösti and braised red cabbage

Salad

Lambs’ lettuce (the cutely named Nüsslisalat in German)

Pudding

Walnut and cinnamon parfait with mulled prune sauce and Zimtsternen – cinnamon star biscuits

Cheese

Vacherin Mont d’Or

Menu decided, next step was to set the scene. There’s never time to sort out a table centrepiece when you’re preparing a meal so I called in professional help in the form of Vicky Clements’ magnificent Swiss flag inspired floral arrangement in red and whie, a veritable alp in miniature (see her contact details below if you’re in or around S Manchester/Cheshire):

Vicky was responsible for the fairy-lit hearts too. Sehr gemütlich, Ja?

I dusted down my piping skills to write dinner guests’ names on an experimental batch of moulded biscuits using my newly acquired Swiss Springerle moulds. They were a little involved to make but I was quite pleased with these as my first attempt. My piping is rusty though and it took a few attempts to steady the hands and create something legible:

Air dried beef is usually served as part of a large platter of cured meats and cheeses in Switzerland. We chose to roll the beef around celeriac remoulade which created a light and fresh-tasting canapé packed with flavour. Janet made the celeriac – very simply made by mixing raw grated celeriac into a Greek yoghurt, lemon and parsley dressing – and assembled the canapés and very pretty they looked too. Celeriac makes a fantastic winter salad and we’ve eaten it several times already since then:

The doyennes of cookery and entertaining always tell you not to try out new recipes on your guests don’t they? Well, I think rules like this are meant to be broken, but sometimes minor disasters will ensue. I think it’s fair to say that the malakoffs didn’t work. Tim was banished to the garage to deep fry these battered cheese parcels. I can’t abide the smell of deep-frying fat in the house, so our deep-fat fryer lives very happily in the garage which means that, with the assistance of the barbecue it’s pretty easy to rustle up a mean steak and chips for al fresco consumption in the summer.

I thought we’d followed the malakoff instructions on the Swiss food blog http://www.fxcuisine.com to the letter. Maybe the batter was too light, maybe the oil was too hot, maybe we cooked them for too long, but when we came to consume the malakoffs, they turned out to be hollow as all the molten cheese had leaked out into the frying oil creating an unholy mess (which I have yet to properly clean up I’m ashamed to say). The fritters looked the part and retained enough of the ghost of a flavour of cheese to allow you to imagine how delicious a correctly cooked malakoff might be. Another time…

We began the meal proper with an unusual hay soup, expertly prepared by Shelley. This is a traditional Swiss soup, different versions of which come from the mountainous cantons of Valais and Graubünden. I’d tasted this in Klosters a couple of winters ago, and it looked so pretty presented on its bed of hay and garnished with dried meadow flowers that I had to put it on our menu.

I couldn’t find a definitive recipe but found several different versions by searching under “Heusuppe Rezept”. Our version used a hay-infused light stock, a flavour base of sweated vegetables and a little pearl barley to thicken. I think I’d like to try out the other versions before publishing a definitive recipe.

Sourcing the hay proved to be harder than I’d thought. I scoured farms in the Lake District and Yorkshire Dales for an elusive handful of local organic meadow hay but without success – all I was offered was silage which I don’t think would make a very pleasant tasting soup. In the end, The Hay Experts (see contact details below) came to my rescue. They really do know their hays (even if the end consumer is usually a pet rabbit) and despatched just what I needed very promptly.

Our next course was a miniature version of the Luzerner Chugelipastete – an exuberant puff pastry dome filled with braised veal and veal sausagemeat in a creamy saffron flavoured sauce. In order to cut down on the pastry, I made pastry lids to cover the braised veal which was served in individual ramekins.
I posted last year on the subject of this dish:
https://rhubarbfool.co.uk/2011/03/03/lunch-in-lucerne/

I used a couple of cheat steps when I made the miniature version of the dish. Short of time, I used Dorset all-butter puff pastry – reliably good if you don’t have time to make your own. Instead of veal forcemeat balls made from scratch I used a pack of veal meatballs from Waitrose. These are made from ethically sourced British rosé veal and are delicious and versatile. Actually, I didn’t follow the Marian Kaltenbach recipe for the sauce which I’ve quoted before at all. I flash fried strips of veal tenderloin, combined them with the cooked veal meatballs, added a little stock and cream, reduced the whole lot down to make a sauce and added grapes macerated in a Swiss grappa type schnapps to finish. I was reasonably happy with the end result:

We were now well set up for the main event, a fabulous-looking venison tenderloin supplied from The Blackface Meat Company who are based up near Dumfries in Scotland. I’ve used them a couple of times before for game and rare breed meat. They may be a little expensive but they supply top quality meat, expertly butchered and delivered promptly and efficiently to your door.

I did try and obtain some local venison from Dunham Massey. Each year, the deer are culled and just a few of the younger deer are butchered and sold to the public via a local farm shop. Unfortunately because of problems with poaching this year I didn’t know if my tenderloin was going to turn up on time. When finally I did get the call that the venison was available, I was a little disappointed with what the butcher had done as this tenderloin was nowhere near as expertly trimmed as the Blackhouse meat. So Dunham’s answer to Bambi is in the freezer ready for a future Sunday lunch.

The Blackhouse website lists useful recipes and I followed chef Mark Hix’s instructions for marinading the venison in red wine before flash-frying and serving with a red wine reduction. Not an authentic Swiss recipe but very Swiss in character as you’ll find lots of robust game dishes cooked with red wine in restaurants during the autumn and winter hunting season.

The venison was expertly cooked by Janet and was served with everyone’s favourite Swiss dish, potato rösti,braised red cabbage and a spoonful of Preiselbeer sauce. The Preiselbeer is a smaller, tastier European relative of the more familiar North American cranberry. It’s also known as the lingonberry in Swedish and here in England it’s known as the cowberry but is not a popular forager’s fruit as yet.

Sorry my pictures of the finished dish are too dark to be meaningful, but here are photos of the meat bathing in its marinade, the same meat cooked and carved, and a jar of the Preiselbeer sauce brought back from a little shop in Klosters:

Avoiding the temptations of triple Toblerone chocolate mousse and the like, I chose a simple walnut and honey parfait for pudding served with prunes cooked in red wine and spices to give a delicious festive mulled-wine flavour. Alongside the parfait and prunes I served a traditional Swiss/German advent biscuit, the Zimtstern – a cinnamon flavoured dough made like a macaroon from ground nuts, sugar and whisked egg whites, topped with a crisp meringue icing. These are nutty, chewy and delicious and a tad difficult to make. I’ve not given the recipe in this post as frankly it’s too long already, and they merit a post all of their own.

To conclude the meal as we approached midnight, a superb Vacherin Mont d’Or cheese from the Jura region of Switzerland, one of my favourite cheeses. It’s soft and creamy and can be spooned out of its wooden box when properly mature and ready to eat. It’s only available during the winter months. Ours came from the Duty Free shop at Zürich airport, but you can find it over here sometimes either in a specialist cheese shop or occasionally in Waitrose. If you find one, grab it, you won’t regret it.

I couldn’t possibly list all the evening’s recipes in a single post – in fact to help with the preparations, I photocopied and printed them all out and have enough material for a small cookery book!

I’m just going to give two recipes, both straightforward and both now in my regular repertoire.

Recipe for celeriac remoulade

My lighter, fresher version of this bistro classic, replacing the usual mayo with Greek yoghurt.

Serves 4 or more as part of a selection of salads

Ingredients

1 small or half a medium celeriac grated in a food processor
juice of half a lemon
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons thick Greek yoghurt
2 tablespoons half fat crème fraîche
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon chopped flatleaf parsley

Grate the celeriac quite finely (easiest to do this in a food processor) and in a medium bowl mix thoroughly with the lemon juice to stop the celeriac turning brown. You can prepare the celeriac to this stage then refrigerate it several hours ahead of time and it will still be fine. When you’re ready to serve, add the other ingredients to the bowl and stir to combine.

Recipe for walnut parfaits with mulled prunes

Translated from the German and adapted from a little Swiss cookbook called “Geliebte Schweizer Küche”.

Serves 6

Ingredients

For the mulled prunes

1 bottle fruity red wine
200g prunes
2 cinnamon sticks
1 vanilla pod
2 cloves
1 large piece of peel from an unwaxed orange

For the parfait

2 eggs
2 dessertspoons runny honey
1 pinch powdered cinnamon
1 dessertspoon Grand Marnier
180ml whipping cream
50g walnuts, coarsely chopped

Begin by making the mulled prunes the day before you plan to serve the dish. Put all the ingredients into a saucepan, bring to the boil then leave to cool and infuse overnight.

Next make the parfait. You can make this a couple of days ahead of time as it’s frozen. Mix the eggs, honey, powdered cinnamon and Grand Marnier together in a bowl. Using an electric whisk, beat together until the mixture is light and foamy. In a separate bowl, whisk the cream to the soft peak stage and combine with the egg mixture and chopped walnuts. Divide the mixture between 6 or more small moulds (china teacups or ramekins are fine) and freeze for at least four hours.

When you are ready to serve, dip the moulds briefly into hot water, loosen with a knife if necessary and invert onto individual serving plates. Spoon the prunes and red wine sauce around and serve.

Contact details

Vicky Clements – “Inside Out” flowers and gardening, Bowdon, Cheshire
Mobile 07762 387 372

The Hay Experts – suppliers of organic and other hays
http://www.thehayexperts.co.uk/

The Blackface Meat Company – suppliers of rare breed meat and game
http://www.blackface.co.uk/

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