Thursday, June 17, 2021

Fried Sage Leaves (Salvia Fritta) l Salbeimäuse


Sage (Salbei), was a healing plant (Heilpflanze) of great renown throughout the Middle Ages, although it was also valued as a culinary herb (Küchenkraut). Today, the tapered, gray-green leaves, are known to give dishes like stuffings and pork sausages their wonderful woodsy fragrance and depth of flavor.

Althought there are countless varieties of sage to choose from, most culinary sage used these days is "Salvia officinalis" (the common garden sage), or "Salvia fruticosa" (Greek sage or three-lobed sage).




We all know the distict texture of its supple leaves, which can be as velvety as rabbits' ears. And you will probably often find yourself rubbing them between your fingers before you start cooking, releasing an intense smell that springs from the oil glands at the base of each leaf hair. Thus, it is the fuzziest leaves that smell and taste the most intense.



Raw sage is usually too intense to eat, you have to cook this herb to bring forth its aromas. Sage is especially popular in Tuscany and other parts of central and northern Italy. For a distictively Tuscan dish called „fagioli all´ uccelletto“, white beans, tomatoes, garlic, and fresh sage leaves are cooked together until the beans are tender and permeated with sage flavor. And when you eat an Italian classic dish called „Saltimbocca“, a dish with veal scalopine and prosciutto, it is rather obvious that the bright flavor of the sage leaves is the reason the dish's name translates to "jump in the mouth".

Sage has a bracing effect on rich dishes because its astringency cuts cleanly through fat. Chopped and simmered with mushrooms and cream, it makes a succulent topping for thick slices of country bread. And sage leaves inserted beneath the butter-rubbed skin of a chicken before it is roasted will crisp themselves as the chicken cooks, adding a nice savory crunch to the meat.

And no other herb is as delectable as sage when fried, either in extra-virgin olive oil or in brown butter or when encased in a light batter as I have done in the recipe below.



As already mentioned above, sage was long considered a medicine rather than a food. That fact is obvious from its Latin name. Its Latin name "Salvia" comes from the Latin verb "salvere" (to save) an obvious nod to its medicinal virtue. The ancient Greeks and Romans are said to have used sage to treat a wide range of ailments. In tenth-century Arabia, physicians even believed that sage had the power to extend life. Sage had emerged as a presence in the kitchen by the time of the Middle Ages, when Europeans began munching sage fritters at the end of banquets to aid digestion. In America, sage was being cultivated as early as the 1630s.



For the following recipe, it is best to use only young, bright green, freshly harvested sage leaves.

If you buy sage, you should look for strong leaves with a bright, fresh color and no yellowish discolorations. The branches should be firm and if you rub the leaves between your fingers, there should be a discernable intense and woodsy smell.

For the Fried Sage Leaves recipe, the leaves are coated with a nice light batter and they puff-up during baking, making them look like little mice, hence the German name "Salbeimäuse" which, literally translated means "sage mice"


Fried Sage Leaves (Salvia Fritta) 

Ingredients

  • 20 to 30 freshly picked sage leaves, stems attached – choose large, very fresh leaves for this recipe -  NOTE: the younger the leaves, the less pungent they are
  • 125g AP (plain) flour, spelt flour or wholemeal flour
  • 3 tbsps neutral oil or melted, unsalted butter (cooled)
  • 2 eggs (L), free-range or organic, separated
  • 125ml milk, room temperature
  • some fine sea salt and some freshly ground black pepper
  • canola oil (or other vegetable oil suitable for deep-frying)
  • coarse sea salt for serving

Preparation

  1. Rise sage leaves and pat dry with paper towels.
  2. In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, oil, two egg yolks, milk, salt, and pepper until the batter has a smooth consistency with no lumps.
  3. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and let the dough rest for a good 30 minutes so that the gluten has a chance to develop properly.
  4. Then just before frying, in a clean bowl, whip the egg whites together with a pinch of salt to soft peeks.
  5. Gently fold the beaten egg whites into the batter.
  6. In the meantime, pour the oil in a pot safe for frying (or use your deep-fryer), and heat the oil until it reaches 190° C (375°F).
  7. Once the oil is hot, dip the leaves into the dough mixture individually, and allow the excess to drain off as best as you can.
  8. Carefully drop into the hot oil and fry until golden brown, about 3 minutes - be careful not to let them brown too much.
  9. Remove the leaves from the oil, and let dry on paper towels.
  10. Continue with the remaining leaves until they have all been fried.
  11. Once all leaves have been fried, sprinkle lightly with coarse sea salt, and serve immediately while still warm.


Salbeimäuse

Zutaten 

  • 20 bis 30 frisch gepflückte Salbeiblätter mit Stiel TIPP: je jünger die Blätter, je milder sind sie im Geschmack
  • 125g Weizenmehl, Dinkelmehl oder Weizenvollkornmehl
  • 3 EL neutrales Öl oder flüssige Butter, abgekühlt
  • 2 Eier (L), Bio- oder Freilandhaltung, getrennt
  • 125ml Milch, Zimmertemperatur
  • etwas Meersalz und frisch gemahlener schwarzer Pfeffer
  • Öl zum Ausbacken
  • grobes Meersalz zum Servieren

Zubereitung

  1. Die Salbeiblätter abspülen und mit Küchenkrepp trocken tupfen.
  2. In einer mittleren Schüssel das Mehl, Öl, zwei Eigelb, Milch, feines Salz und Pfeffer mischen und den Teig glatt schlagen.
  3. Mit einen Tuch bedecken und den Teig gute 30 Minuten ruhen lassen, damit sich das Gluten richtig entfalten kann.
  4. Kurz vor dem Frittieren, die Eiweiß mit einer Prise steif schlagen.
  5. Das geschlagene Eiweiß vorsichtig unter den Teig heben.
  6. In der Zwischenzeit das Frittieröl auf 190° C erhitzen  - man kann hier natürlich auch eine Fritteuse benutzen.
  7. Wenn das Öl die richtige Temperatur erreicht hat, die Blätter einzeln in den Teig tauchen und den überschüssigen Teig etwas abtropfen lassen.
  8. Vorsichtig in Öl schwimmend ausbacken. Das dauert ungefähr drei Minuten. Dabei aufpassen, dass sie Blätter nicht zu dunkel werden.
  9. Die Blätter aus dem Öl nehmen und auf Küchenkrepp abtropfen lassen.
  10. Mit den restlichen Blättern genauso verfahren.
  11. Wenn alle Salbeiblätter ausgebacken sind, mit etwas grobem Meersalz bestreuen und sofort servieren.



These fried sage leaves are wonderful as an appetizer. But you can also offer them along with a nice glass of wine, or as garnish for grilled meats or seafood. But they can also be enjoyed with a fresh summer salad for example. And they are particularly delicious if served as part of a cheese spread.



Speciality greengrocers or nurseries often sell a wider range of herbs than supermarkets do. Look out, too, when you visit farmers' markets, for more unusual varieties of robust culinary sage such as golden sage and tricolor sage used for cooking or the more delicate fruit sages such as orange and pineapple sage used in fruit salads, jams, jellies, and tea.



„Cur moriatur homo, cui salvia crescit in horto?" -

Why should a man die in whose garden sage grows?

This wonderful Latin adage is from a famous medieval didactic poem on maintaining good health, the "Regimen Sanitatis Salernitanum" (The Salernitan Rule of Health)



Sunday, June 13, 2021

Old-Fashioned Set Semolina Pudding with Strawberries l Traditioneller Griesspudding mit Erdbeeren


Dessert is always popular at our house, no matter the season. But sometimes it’s nice to prepare a treat that doesn’t require you to pull out all your baking equipment and that doesn’t require you to pre-heat your oven. As an added bonus, should you find yourself with any leftovers, they are pretty good served at breakfast time.



While I enjoy my ice cream maker a lot this summer, I still enjoy a good Old-fashioned Semolina Pudding (Griesspudding) every once in a while. Love the taste and the texture this pudding has, it reminds me of my summers spent at my grandmother’s house up North that seemed to have been filled with summer heat, wonderful food and time spent in her garden picking berries and veggies.




Semolina pudding is popular in Germany (where it is known as Griessbrei, the softer variety or Griesspudding, a more firm variety, perfect for molds), but it is also a popular dessert in a other countries including the Netherlands, Belgium and Austria. 

There are as many recipes as there are variations of the recipe. Some people use water and milk, or only milk, some use milk and cream (like I do), some add egg yolks and beaten egg whites, or butter, some like the pudding to have a more runny consistency, while my personal preference is a semi-firm or set pudding, first cooled, then chilled for a good four hours in the fridge to firm up, then carefully turned upside down onto a pretty serving platter. If you prefer a creamier pudding, you can add an egg and some butter. For this, simply separate one fresh egg. Add the egg yolk and 1 tbsp of unsalted butter to the semolina pudding (after it sat for the 5 minutes). Whisk the egg white until very stiff, then fold it into the pudding. 

Some like to eat their Semolina Pudding warm while others eat it cold.



While looking for a proper mold for my pudding, I came across some pretty and elegant vintage glass pudding molds that I have been using them ever since. And I made sure to banish all those plastic ones from my kitchen cupboards forever.



The recipe is easy and quick and will certainly be enjoyed by everyone. I like to serve this Semolina Pudding with lots of fresh berries, homemade vanilla sauce (Vanillesauce) or fresh seasonal fruits as well. Let’s face it, nothing beats a comforting bowl, or slice, of semolina pudding. You can top it with what you like, apart from fresh fruit, you can serve heated homemade jam or jelly or a generous sprinkling of cinnamon sugar (Zimt Zucker), a caramel sauce, or a local honey.

 


Old-Fashioned Set Semolina Pudding

Ingredients for the Semolina Pudding

  • 1 vanilla pod, sliced lengthways and seeds
  • 750ml milk (skim or full fat is fine)
  • 250ml cooking cream (double cream)
  • 75g sugar
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 100g fine semolina flour*

Additional

  • one Pudding dish (one large or a few small ones)
  • saran (cling) wrap

*NOTE: In Germany there are two types of semolina flour, the Hartweizengriess (“hard wheat semolina”, a durum wheat semolina) and the Weichweizengriess (“soft wheat semolina”, a semolina that is not durum and has a slightly lighter color). The later semolina flour is the one commonly used for semolina pudding in Germany, a similar product can be found in North America under the brand name “Cream of Wheat”. But my recipe will work with regular semolina flour as well.

Preparation 

  1. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean and add the seeds as well as the bean to a medium saucepan. 
  2. Add the milk, cream, granulated sugar, and salt to the pan and bring everything to a boil while whisking regularly.
  3. Once the milk/cream mixture is boiling, remove the pan from the heat, take the vanilla pod out of the milk mixture, and add the semolina flour while whisking the mixture.
  4. Place the pot back on the stove and wait for the mixture to come back to the boil while whisking regularly. Let the semolina pudding cook on very low heat for a few minutes - to avoid lumps, do not stopü whisking.
  5. Then just stir the semolina pudding in the pot with a wooden spoon until there are no lumps.
  6. Transfer the semolina mixture to the pudding/dessert mold, place the saran (cling) wrap directly onto the mixture (to prevent a skin from forming), let it cool down before placing it in the fridge for about four hours or until set and is firm to the touch.
  7. Turn the pudding out onto a plate and serve with the toppings of your choice.


Selbstgemachter Grießpudding

Zutaten für dem Pudding

  • 1 Vanilleschote
  • 750ml Milch (1,5 oder 3,5%)
  • 250ml Sahne
  • 75g Zucker
  • ¼ TL Salz
  • 100g Weichweizengrieß

Zusätzlich

  • eine Puddingform (eine große Form oder mehrere kleine Formen)
  • etwas Frischhaltefolie

Zubereitung des Grießpuddings

  1. Die Vanilleschote auskratzen und das Mark zusammen mit der Schote in einen mittleren Topf geben.
  2. Milch, Sahne, Zucker und Salz ebenfalls in den Topf geben und aufkochen lassen.
  3. Den Topf von der warmen Herplatte ziehen, die Vanilleschote aus der Milch-Sahne- Mischung herausnehmen, dann  den Grieß zugeben und mit dem Schneebesen kräftig umrühren.
  4. Den Topf zurück auf den warmen Herd geben und auf niedrigster Hitze weiterrühren und einige Minuten vorsichtig köcheln.
  5. Die Puddingform mit kaltem Wasser ausspülen und nicht abtrocknen.
  6. Den noch warmen Grießpudding in die Form füllen, mit Folie abdecken, abkühlen lassen und für zirka vier Stunden in den Kühlschrank stellen bis der Pudding fest wird.
  7. Den Pudding aus der Form auf einen Teller stürzen und mit selbstgemachter Vanillesauce, frischen Obst oder Zimtzucker servieren.




  • To take a look at my Fried Semolina Slices with a Cherry Rhubarb Compote (Gebratene Grießschnitten), go HERE


Thursday, June 10, 2021

Elderflower Shortbread l Holunderblüten Shortbread


It’s elderflower season (Holunderblüten Saison) again – one of the classic smells and tastes of early summer. These days, you can see those frothy white flowers growing wild all around as well as in our garden and there are countless ways to put them to delicious use.





As every year, I have already prepared Elderflower Cordial (Holunderblüten Sirup), baked Elderflower Bread (Holunderblüten Brot), and made Elderflower Fritters (Ausgebackene Holunderblüten). Today, I decided to bake some elegant Elderflower Shortbread (Holunderblüten Shortbread).




Basically. there are three methods for incorporating the elderflowers’ distinct flavor into the shortbread. First, you can use the elderflower cordial as one of the ingredients, second, you can infuse the baking sugar with bunches of elderflowers and thirdly, you incorporate the tiny petals into the shortbread dough itself. Or, of course, a combination of these natural flavoring methods.



In the past, I just used cordial, but found the elderflower flavor to be rather elusive. Today, my favorite way is to start by making an elderflower infused sugar and then add that and a bunch of the tiny blossoms to the dough as well . The resulting shortbread is perfectly crumbly with a wonderful distinctive flavor and tiny specks of elderflower blossoms. Please note that you will have to infuse the sugar about one hour before baking.




Elderflower Shortbread 

Ingredients

  • 3 elderflower heads, freshly picked 
  • 75g (3oz) superfine baking (caster) sugar
  • 175g (6oz) white spelt flour, plus some extra for the tart pan 
  • 75g (3oz) rice flour 
  • ¼ tsp fine salt
  • 175g (6oz) unsalted butter, plus some extra for the tart pan

In addition

  • tart/quiche pan with a removeable bottom (23cm/9in)
  • baking parchment




Preparation

  1. Make sure the elderflower heads are free of insects and any wilted bits.
  2. Snip off the little flower heads, add them to the sugar and stir in. Cover and leave at room temperature to infuse for about 60 minutes.
  3. Butter your baking pan, line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper, butter the paper and lightly dust the entire pan with flour, shaking out any excess flour.
  4. Put the elderflower-infused sugar, flours, salt and butter into a food processor and combine for about 30 seconds or until lumps begin to form. OR do this by hand.
  5. Turn the mixture out on to a lightly floured baking parchment OR baking mat on your work surface and bring together into a rough ball.
  6. Press the dough evenly into your baking pan – best done with the back of a lightly floured cup measurement or glass.
  7. Prick the top with the tines of a fork or wooden skewer to prevent it from rising while baking.
  8. Wrap well and place in fridge for about 30 minutes.
  9. Preheat the oven to 150°C (300°F).
  10. Take the pan out of the fridge, unwrap the pan and bake the shortbread round for about 35 minutes or until it just begins to turn golden (you might need an extra 5 minutes baking time).
  11. Remove from the oven on to a wire cooling rack. 
  12. While still a bit warm score the top with a knife into portions.
  13. Once cooled completely, remove from the pan and cut into pieces.
  14. Store in an airtight container for up to a week.



Holunderblüten Shortbread

Zutaten

  • 3 frische Holunderblütenköpfe
  • 75g feinster Backzucker
  • 175g Dinkelmehl (Type 630), plus etwas für die Backform
  • 75g Reismehl (hell)
  • ¼ TL feines Salz (z.Bsp. Ursalz)
  • 175g Süßrahmbutter, plus etwas für die Backform 

Zubereitung

  1. Zuerst den Holunderblüten Zucker herstellen: dafür den Zucker mit den abgezupften Blüten mischen, abdecken und zirka 60 Minuten stehen lassen, um den Zucker zu parfümieren.
  2. In der Zwischenzeit die Tarte Form buttern, den Boden mit Backpapier auslegen, nochmals buttern, mit ein wenig Mehl ausstäuben und das überschüssige Mehl ausschütten.
  3. Nachdem der Zucker ‚parfümiert‘ ist, in einer mittleren Schüssel das Dinkelmehl mit dem Reismehl, dem Salz und dem Zucker mischen, dann die Butter dazu geben und entweder mit der Hand oder in der Küchenmaschine mischen.
  4. Den Tiehg auf leicht bemehltem Backpapier zu einem Kreis fromen.
  5. Den Teig in die vorbereite Tarte Form geben, glatt drücken, das Ganze einwickeln und zirka 30 Minten kalt stellen.
  6. Aus dem Kühlschrank nehmen, auswickeln.
  7. Dann den Teig in Stücke einteilen (mit einem Küchenmesser) und mit einer Gabel oder Holzspieß einstechen und bei 150°C zirka 35 Minuten leicht braun backen (kann auch 5 Minuten länger dauern).
  8. In der Form auskühlen, dann auf einem Kuchengitter weiter auskühlen lassen. Wenn er fast erkaltet ist, die vorgezeichneten Stücke mit einem Messer durchschneiden.



For more seasonal Elderflower recipes, go to:

  • Elderflower Bread (Holunderblüten Brot) (HERE)
  • Elderflower Cake with Strawberry-Elderflower Filling and Elderflower Icing & Elderflower Cordial (Holunderblüten Kuchen mit Erdbeer-Holunderblüten Füllung und Holunderblüten Sirup) (HERE)
  • Elderflower Fritters (Ausgebackene Holunderblüten) (HERE)








Sunday, June 6, 2021

Seasonal Cooking: Hummus with Rhubarb Topping & Homemade Tortillas l Saisonale Küche: Hummus mit Rhabarber-Topping & selbstgemachten Tortillas


There is another seasonal ingredient that I really enjoy at this time of year, the humble rhubarb (Rhabarber).  As children, we harvested the very tangy stalks in my grandmother's garden, washed them and dipped them in sugar for a very unusual treat. 

Of course, there are countless recipes out there for this lovely vegetable (!) – savory as well as sweet and I have a number of them on my blog (see list at the end of this post) but for a different twist this year, I opted for a savory rhubarb topping for my hummus and I prepared some homemade whole wheat and spelt tortillas to serve alongside. If you prefer some crunchy chips with your hummus, cut the tortillas into triangles, place them on a lined baking sheet, drizzle with a little bit of olive oil, sprinkle with flaky salt and bake them in the oven for a few minutes until they have turned light golden brown and crispy.



Rhubarb: basically, ther are two kinds of rhubarb. There is the very pink forced rhubarb (sold from January until March, mostly in the UK but I have also seen it in being sold in the Netherlands and Belgium) and there is outdoor-grown rhubarb (available in late spring), the latter variety can be anything from greenish to bright red (which is what I used for my recipe). Sometimes the red outdoor variety is called "Erdbeer Rhababer" (literally translated "strawberry rhubarb") as an allusion to the reddish color as well as the somewhat sweet taste - while it's still wonderfully tangy, it is indeed a bit sweeter than the greenish variety.

You should always wash and trim the rhubarb stems before you use them. And make sure to discard the leaves as they are poisonous. If you use outdoor-grown rhubarb, make sure to remove any stringy outer layers and to cut it into equal-sized pieces to ensure even cooking.



Forced rhubarb is very fragile so poach or bake only briefly to prevent it from disintegrating into a mush. Outdoor-grown rhubarb has a sharper taste and more fibrous texture, so requires a slightly longer cooking. Both varieties of rhubarb are good in pies, tarts, fools, jellies and savory dishes.



Tortillas: the recipe calls for just 5 ingredients, namely flour, baking powder, a pinch of salt, olive oil and water. This time I used a mix of spelt flour and whole wheat flour but you can use all purpose flour instead. If using any whole grain flour variety, remember that you might need a bit more liquid/water to achieve the right consistency. These are very easy to make and can be pan fried in a few minutes – perfect scooping vessels for the hummus.



Hummus: everyone has their own favourite way of making it. Use garlic or don’t use it. Add a bit of cumin or just salt and pepper to the chickpeas, tahini and a mild olive oil. For today’s recipe you might want to skip the fresh lime or lemon juice, as the rhubarb already adds a pleasant acidity here – it is actually delicious to stir some of the rhubarb mixture into the hummus itself.




Hummus with Rhubarb Topping & Homemade Tortillas Hummus mit Rhabarber-Topping & selbstgemachten Tortillas

Ingredients

For the Tortillas

  • 100g white spelt flour (Dinkelmehl Type 630)
  • 100g whole wheat flour (Vollkornmehl) OR wholemeal spelt flour (Dinkel Vollkornmehl)
  • ½ tsp baking powder (for all of my baking, sweet as well as savory, I like to use a high-quality organic baking powder called ‘Weinsteinbackpulver’)
  • ½ tsp fine salt 
  • 30ml olive oil (mild, suitable for cooking)
  • about 100ml water, room temperature (depending on the variety of flour you use, you might need a bit less or more, particularly if you go with whole wheat/wholemeal)

For the Rhubarb

  • 1 stalk red rhubarb (preferably the red variety)
  • 4 slices fresh ginger (washed, no need to peel)
  • olive oil (suitable for cooking)
  • salt (to taste)

For the Hummus

  • Use your favorite hummus recipe

For the Roasted Chickpeas

  • chickpeas, washed, well drained and dried - othewise the chickpeas will steam and not turn crunchy (keep the aquafaba, that is the chickpea liquid, for another use such as vegan meringues)
  • olive oil
  • salt
  • paprika (not the smoked variety) or go with pepper if you prefer



Preparation

  1. For the Hummus: prepare your favorite hummus – my recipe calls for chickpeas, tahini, grated lime zest and just a bit of its juice, freshly ground black pepper, salt, a bit of chili, ½ clove of very finely squashed garlic (mashed with a bit of salt into a paste with the blade of my kitchen knife), cumin, mild olive oil and water. Cover and place in the fridge while making the Topping and the Tortillas. N.B.: Reserve a hand full of chickpeas for the topping.
  2. Next prepare the Rhubarb Topping: cut the washed stalk into slices, on low heat, cook the slices in pan with olive oil, a few sliced of fresh ginger and a bit of salt just till soft. That will only take a few minutes. Transfer to a small bowl and set aside to cool. Once the topping has cooled, remember to remove the sliced ginger.
  3. Then make the Tortillas: in a mixing bowl, whisk together the flours with the salt and baking powder. Then add the oil and water, mix well (best done by hand OR use your mixer with the dough hooks). Shape the dough into a ball, place it on your lightly-floured work surface, turn the mixing bowl upside down over the dough and let it rest for 15 minutes. Divide the rested dough into 8 equal parts. Roll out each part till flat and very thin (a bit like a strudel dough consistency). In a very lightly oiled nonstick or cast iron pan ( is wipe th epan with a lightly oiled cloth), bake each Tortilla separately, turn and cook until done and browned in a few spots, about 2 minutes or more. 
  4. While the Tortilla dough is resting make some Roasted Chickpeas to serve alongside: dump the well drained and dry (!) chickpeas on a parchment lined baking sheet, season with salt and paprika (use regular paprika, not the smoked variety as that would overpower the rhubarb) and bake for 15 minutes or more in your pre-heated oven at 180° C (356°F).
  5. To serve: add the hummus to a pretty bowl, top with some of the cooled rhubarb topping. If you happen to have fresh pomegranate seeds, add a few to the rhubarb topping. Then a splash of high-quality olive oil, a bit of freshly ground black pepper and some flaky salt - done. Place the tortillas next to the hummus and serve the remaining rhubarb and the roasted chickpeas alongside.




Rhubarb is a funny vegetable. So funny, it thinks it's a fruit.”

(The Guardian, January 6, 2007)


For more Rhubarb recipes:

  • Red Rhubarb & Wild Strawberry Tart (Rote Rhabarbertarte mit Walderdbeeren) (HERE)
  • Rhubarb Cordial and Rhubarb Almond Bundt (Rhabarber Sirup und Rhabarber-Mandel Kuchen) (HERE)
  • Spring Rhubarb Tart (Frühlings-Rhabarbertarte) (HERE)
  • Nigel Slater's Rhubarb Cinnamon Polenta Cake (HERE)
  • Old Viennese Topfen Cake & Oven-Baked Rhubarb (Altwiener Topfentorte & Ofen-Gebackener Rhabarber) (HERE)
  • Fresh Rhubarb Upside-Down Baby Cakes (HERE)
  • Springtime Baking: Yogurt Rhubarb Bundt (Frühlingsgugelhupf mit Jogurt und Rhabarber) (HERE)


For more Hummus recipes:

  • Hummus with Broad Bean & Garden Herb Topping (Hummus mit dicken Bohnen & Gartenkräutern) (HERE)
  • Pottery Love, a handcrafted Bowl and Yotam Ottolenghi & Sami Tamimi's Basic Hummus (HERE)
  • River Cottage Veg Everyday: Cannellini Bean Hummus (Cannellini-Bohnen Hummus) (HERE)
  • Red Beet Hummus & Comfort Food (Rote Beete Hummus & Wohlfühlessen) (HERE)
  • A Seasonal Delight: Wild Garlic Spring Hummus (Hummus mit Bärlauch) (HERE)



Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Flammekueche: Tarte Flambée with White Asparagus, Red Onions & Bacon l Flammkuchen mit weißem Spargel, roten Zwiebeln & Bacon


We have been enjoying white asparagus (weißer Spargel) for a few weeks now. In Germany, white asparagus is harvested from about mid-April to the end of June. Traditionally season’s end is June 24, St. John the Baptist Day – so it is high time for yet another white asparagus post.

It actually takes 3 years for an asparagus plant to produce its first tip. To produce white asparagus, soil is piled up into knee-high banks, white asparagus grows entirely surrounded by earth, which protects the slender stalks from sunlight exposure and keeps them from turning green. This also affects the subtle flavor of it. The popular vegetable grows best in sandy soil and is cultivated in almost all federal states as well as in neighboring countries such as the Netherlands, Belgium and Spain.



During asparagus season (Spargelzeit), the average German enjoys the tender stalks at least once a day. This adds up to a national total of over 70,000 tons of asparagus consumed per year. 

The vegetable’s popularity may in part be rooted in its long history as a so-called luxury vegetable. Going back as far as 2000 BCE, the prized vegetable was cultivated by the Ancient Egyptians, the Greeks and the Romans. Throughout the rule of King Louis XIV, it gained in popularity and was reserved to the tables of the courts. The first document that mentions the cultivation of this vegetable in the region around the city of Stuttgart, Germany dates to the 1686.



Flammekueche (Alsatian), Tarte Flambée (French) or Flammkuchen (German) is a speciality of the region of Alsace. Traditionally, it is composed of bread dough rolled out in the shape of a rectangle or oval, which is covered with fromage blanc or crème fraîche, thin-sliced onions and lardons (lardons are not normally smoked, they are made from pork that has been cured with salt). 

Tarte Flambée: the name translates to “pie baked in the flames” or “cake licked by the flames” but contrary to what the direct translation would suggest, tarte flambée is not flambéed but is cooked in a wood-fire oven.



Tarte Flambée is also known as a “plat du pauvre” (a dish of the poor), a dish that was created by farmers and that was traditionally made once a week on bread-baking day in a blazing wood oven. The farmers used it to test the heat of their ovens. At the peak of its temperature, the oven would also have the ideal conditions in which to bake a Tarte Flambée, for that purpose, the embers would be pushed aside to make room for the Tarte in the middle of the oven, and the intense heat would bake it in 1 or 2 minutes. The crust that forms the border of the Tarte Flambée would be nearly burned by the flames, the result looks not unlike a thin pizza. For those of us who like the taste of Tarte Flambée but do not own a wood oven, the recipe works equally well in a very hot oven and with less traditional toppings.

Tartes Flambées were originally a homemade dish which did not make its urban restaurant debut until the "pizza craze" of the 1960s



While we eat asparagus in many different ways, served with melted butter and new harvest boiled potatoes, with ham or with hollandaise sauce, this year, we are very partial to my Tarte Flambée with White Asparagus & Bacon (Flammkuchen mit weißem Spargel, roten Zwiebeln & Bacon). In addition to the herbed crème fraiche, I like to use thinly sliced red onion that I peel, mix with some olive oil and salt while preparing the remaining ingredients.



Then there is the asparagus: peel and cook in water seasoned with salt, sugar and some lemon juice. Then drain well and grill shortly in your grill pan (or on the BBQ), then roll out the dough, spread with the prepared crème fraiche, sprinkle with the onions, add your cooked asparagus, top off with some bacon slices and bake until the bacon sizzles.



In Alsace, Tarte Flambée is often eaten as a first course, cut into squares, and shared with a large group as part of a larger feast. But it’s also delicious as a simple supper, with green/seasonal salad on the side. 



Tarte Flambée with White Asparagus, red Onions & Bacon l Flammkuchen mit weißem Spargel, roten Zwiebeln & Bacon

Ingredients

For the dough

  • 275g (2 cups) white spelt flour (around here ‘Dinkelmehl Type 630’) OR strong bread flour (around here 'Weizenmehl Type 550’) or use half/half
  • 3 tbsp vegetable or olive oil, suitable for cooking
  • 1 tsp fine salt
  • 150ml (2/3 cup) water, room temperature water, divided

For the topping

  • 1 red onion, peeled, halved and sliced thinly
  • olive oil, mild, suitable, for cooking
  • 200g (1/2 cup) crème fraiche OR sour cream with a high fat content (called Schmand around here - the regular variety has a 20% fat content)
  • a few soft herbs such Italian parsley, chives, basil
  • freshly ground black pepper and salt 
  • white asparagus (about 250g), peeled, cooked, cooled, briefly grilled (on the BBQ OR in a grill pan)
  • sliced bacon (about 100g)

Preparation

  1. For the dough: place the flour, oil, and salt in a large bowl and stir to combine. Slowly stir in 125ml (1/2 cup) of the water. Continue adding a bit of water until the mixture forms a shaggy dough. (You might not need all the water.)
  2. Turn the dough out onto a clean, floured work surface. Knead until all the flour is well incorporated, the dough loses its stickiness and becomes smooth and elastic, about 1 minute. Cover the dough loosely with plastic wrap or a clean kitchen towel while preparing the toppings.
  3. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 275°C (500°F).
  4. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper OR silpat mat.
  5. In a small bowl, mix the onion slices with a bit of the olive oil and a pinch of salt. Set aside.
  6. In another bowl, mix together the crème fraîche OR sour cream, salt, pepper, and stir to combine – season to taste and set aside.
  7. Roll the dough out on a floured work surface into a rectangular OR an oval, then transfer the dough to the prepared baking sheet.
  8. Spread the crème fraiche mixture evenly over the dough, leaving a 1.5cm (1/2in) border. 
  9. Sprinkle with the onions, followed by the asparagus, then finally place the bacon strips on top.
  10. Bake until the tart is well-browned, the bacon fat has started to render and sizzle, and the tart's edges have turned golden and crisp, about 20 minutes or less. 
  11. Remove to a wooden cutting board, slice and serve immediately OR at room temperature.



For more Flammekueche/Tarte Flambée/Flammkuchen inspiration from my blog:

  • Tarte Flambée with Purple Asparagus (Flammkuchen mit violettem Spargel) (HERE
  • Tarte Flambée with White and Green Asparagus & Prosciutto (Flammkuchen mit weißem und grünen Spargel & Prosciutto) (HERE
  • Tarte Flambée with Goat's Cheese & Zucchini (Flammkuchen mit Ziegenkäse & Zucchini) (HERE
  • Tarte Flambée with Shallots & British Back Bacon (Flammkuchen mit Schalotten & Back Bacon) (HERE)
  • Tarte Flambée Sucrée with Apples and Cinnamon Sugar (Süsser Flammkuchen mit Äpfeln & Zimt-Zucker) (HERE)