Author: Fricot Editors

Legendary Dishes | Griby v Smetanie Грибы в сметане (mushrooms in sour cream)


One of Russia’s traditional dishes made with indigenous ingredients,  pan-fried mushrooms in sour cream 

This mushroom and sour cream dish is typically Russian despite being common across northern and eastern Europe. Our first version has a rustic pragmatic quality to it, and may be regarded as the original recipe. Traditionally this dish is fried, it can also be baked but generally there are no rules except the basic ingredients – mushrooms, onions and sour cream. Mushrooms play a strong role in traditional Russian food. Russian mushroom encyclopedia. For images of typical mushrooms in sour cream dishes go to Yandex and put griby v smetanie in search box.

Fried – Large
1 kg fresh mixed forest mushrooms / oyster mushrooms / 
white mushrooms, chopped
500 ml sour cream 
400 g onions, cut into half rings
5 garlic cloves, mashed
30 ml vegetable oil
1 tbsp dill
Black pepper, large pinch
Green pepper, large pinch
Salt, large pinch
If using wild mushrooms boil in salted water for five minutes, leave to drain and dry. Fry mushrooms in the oil for 10 minutes over a 
high heat, add onion and seasonings, fry for another five minutes at the high heat. Add the sour cream, cover and cook over a low heat 
for 10 minutes. Add garlic and half of the dill. Turn off heat, 
leave to rest for ten minutes. Serve, garnished with remaining dill.
Fried – Small
This version is mushrooms in a sour cream sauce, based on a roux.
500 g fresh mixed forest mushrooms / oyster mushrooms / 
white mushrooms, chopped
250 ml sour cream
200 g onions, sliced, quartered
60 g butter
30 g white wheat flour
30 ml water, heated
30 ml vegetable oil
Black pepper, large pinch
Green pepper, large pinch
Salt, large pinch
Fry mushrooms in the oil for 10 minutes over a medium heat, add 
onions and seasonings, reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Make a roux with the butter, flour and water in a separate pan. Stir into 
the mushroom-onion mixture, gradually add the sour cream. Simmer for 
five minutes on a low heat, stir and cook for a further five minutes.
Baked
 
500 g fresh mixed mushrooms, chopped
250 ml sour cream
8 scallions, coarsely chopped
60 g cheese, grated
45 g butter
30 g white wheat flour
15 ml water
1 tsp lemon juice
Dill, handful
Salt, pinch
Pepper, pinch
Fry mushrooms and scallions in butter until soft. Whisk flour into 
sour cream to make a loose batter with a few drops of water and some lemon juice. Stir into mushrooms, add dill and seasonings. Pour 
mushroom mixture into an ovenproof dish, top with cheese and bake 
for 20 minutes at 180°C.
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TGEFA — Gingerbread Architecture

From Rome to Radovljica … the GINGERBREAD traditon …
In north-west Slovenia at Radovljica, family hotel Lectar hosts a gingerbread museum. Here one of their bakers puts the finishing touches to personalised gingerbreads.

Gingerbread has been an established European food tradition for over 800 years. Known in Roman times as a vehicle for the exotic spices rom the east, it gradually spread to the rest of Europe. Celebrated as a festive food, in the form of cakes, balls (or nuts) biscuits and pieces (used to make elaborate designs such as houses), gingerbread is whatever you want it to be. There is sufficient evidence to show that clever cooks took advantage of the myriad ingredients to produce big and small culinary masterpieces. The base for gingerbread was honey (and still is in many countries) combined with a variation of six spices – cardamom, cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, pepper and ginger, dried and ground into a powder.

The clever cooks of Slovenia and Sweden in particular do not regard gingerbread as a mere food item. For them it is more, a warehouse of hard and soft biscuits to be erected and decorated, adorned with creams and icings and nuts and candied sweets. For them gingerbread and its adornments are bricks and slabs made with butter, cream, flour, honey or molasses, milk, nuts, peel, soda, spices and sugars, mortar and plaster made with butter, cream and sugar in much the same way that a real house is filled with beauty, creativity and love, a gingerbread house is filled with flavour, creativity and all things sweet and unctuous.

Gingerbread Slices

Elsewhere in Europe gingerbreads are celebrated with creations that are simple, such as the spice nuts of the Netherlands, or with creations that are complicated, such as the gingerbread biscuits and cakes of Germany.

And in Switzerland they make gingerbread without ginger!

It is there in the plateau below the Alps, bordering France and Germany, that the bakers continue to follow the older tradition by producing honey biscuits and pastries flavoured with spices.

These honey gingerbreads tend to be made in all shapes and sizes, and none taste the same. Each baker uses recipes passed from the generations but are fond of a tweak now and again. They also follow the tradition of using potash (calcium carbonate) instead of bicarbonate of soda to put air into their gingerbread creations. What elevates their gingerbread onto a different level is their deliberate choice of fresh ingredients. The quality of honey is the difference between a piece of gingerbread with a depth of flavour so strong you can taste the forest and one that is inferior. This also explains why their gingerbread bears are expensive.

Gingerbread Loaves

Gingerbread Cake ENGLAND

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This is an old English recipe adapted from the imperial measurements. Moisture is the secret to the success of these spongy gingerbread cakes, so expect to make several attempts to get it exactly right. We used Chinese stem ginger soaked in syrup. Suitable flour is types 405 and 450.
450 g white wheat flour, sieved
336 g syrup
284 g milk
225 g ginger nuts, chopped small
225 g brown sugar
175 g orange, juice and grated rind
170 g butter
55 g egg
15 g ginger powder
12 g baking powder
Tip of knife bicarbonate of soda
5 g salt

Line three loaf tins with greaseproof paper and scatter ginger pieces along the bottom of each tin. In a saucepan melt the butter, syrup and sugar over a low heat. Grate the orange rind into the butter mixture, add the juice and leave to cool. Sieve the flour into a large bowl and add the baking powder, ginger powder and bicarbonate of soda. Add the egg to the milk. Use an electronic whisk or mixer to combine all the ingredients. Divide the batter between the three tins. Preheat oven to 180ºC on the fan, put tins in oven. Bake at 180ºC for 30 minutes, reduce heat to 170ºC for ten minutes. Test with a small knife or skewer, if it comes out clean the cakes are ready. Allow to cool in the tins.


Pepparkakor SWEDEN gingersnaps

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Nigerian ginger powder

Crispy pepparkakor are known in Europe as gingersnaps despite being more like ginger breads than ginger biscuits. Another product of the monastic life, pepparkakor got their name because ground ginger was believed to be a member of the pepper family.

They made a good travelling food, eventually making their way into Sweden in the 13th century. Adopted as a traditional treat, they became associated with Saint Lucia during the end of year festivities. Originally made with flour, honey and ginger, they evolved to include cinnamon and cloves, raising agents and softeners like butter and cream.

The round shape gave way to numerous shapes, from christmas trees to hearts and stars, while the old rounds and squares were made thicker to be used as building blocks for the construction of gingerbread houses.

These days the gingersnap is more like a gingerbread, and is flavoured with all kinds of spice, fruit essence and coated with icing. They are crushed in cheesecakes and trifles, served with cream cheese and smoked salmon and stacked with cream fillings. Gradually the recipe evolved, molasses or syrup or treacle, butter, egg and sugar replaced the honey, and other spices were added.

350 g white wheat pastry flour
125 g honey
125 g butter
100 g almonds, ground
100 g brown sugar
1 egg, beaten
15 g cinnamon, ground
15 g ginger, ground
10 g cloves, ground
5 g baking powder

Melt butter, honey and sugar over a low heat for ten minutes, add spices, bring to the boil, leave to cool. Pour into a large bowl, whisk in the egg. Sieve the baking powder, flour and ground almonds into the bowl, work into a dough. Cut into four pieces, refrigerate for an hour. Roll first piece on a floured surface as thin as possible, without letting the dough break. Cut into rounds, about 80 pieces. Arrange on greaseproof paper on baking trays. Repeat until dough is used up. Preheat oven to 180ºC. Bake each tray for 10 minutes. Cool pieces on a wire rack.


Pepparkakor Modern Version

Cream or milk started to replace butter, ginger came to the fore, soda was used to give the biscuits a lift and the dough was rested before rolling.

500 g white wheat pastry flour
150 ml cream, whipped
100 g brown sugar
100 g golden syrup / molasses
30 g ginger, ground
10 g baking soda
5 g white pepper, ground

In a large bowl add the sugar to the cream, fold in the molasses or syrup, then the ginger and soda. Sieve flour into the mixture, refrigerate for eight hours. Cut dough into six pieces. Roll first piece on a floured surface as thin as possible. Cut into rounds or squares, about 80 pieces. Arrange on greaseproof paper on baking trays. Repeat until dough is used up. Preheat oven to 200ºC. Bake each tray for 12 minutes. Cool pieces on a wire rack.




Kruidnootjes NETHERLANDS ginger nuts

Ginger Nuts

A freshly ground sweet spice mix is the starting point for these aromatic 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 also use cardamom, coriander, fennel and anise.

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

Sieve flour and baking powder into a large bowl, mix in 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 g pieces, roll into balls and place on a lightly buttered baking tray. Bake for 15-20 minutes, shorter for softer nuts.

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


Lebkuchen GERMANY gingerbreads

These gingerbreads are neither one thing nor the other anymore. Traditionally made into a sticky dough with candied fruit, eggs, nuts, honey and spices, and associated with Nürnberg (in 1643 the city’s gingerbread bakers formed a guild), lebkuchen are baked throughout alpine Europe, with countless variations that have nothing in common. Even the traditional spice mix is missing from some versions. Other versions omit ginger, some are known to contain cream, and several use spelt instead of wheat flour. This version remains faithful to the honey, nut and spice content. It includes all of the spices that were known to 11th century bakers, and suggests the wild flower honey that made them irresistible to children of all ages through the generations.

Dough
255 g sugar
215 g hazelnuts fine ground 
180 g (3) eggs
80 g forest / wildflower honey
60 g spelt flour
50 g candied lemon peel, chopped small 
50 g orange, zest
25 g walnuts, chopped small
45 g vanilla sugar
10 g candied ginger, chopped small
Spices
4 g cinnamon, ground
3 g allspice, ground
3 g ginger, ground
1 g anise, ground
1 g baking powder
1 g cardamom, ground
1 g cloves, ground
1 g coriander, ground
1 g nutmeg, ground
Glaze
65 g icing sugar
10 ml kirsch / brandy
10 ml red wine

Blend eggs and sugar into a froth, add remaining ingredients and leave to rest overnight. Spoon 80 g of the mixture into 12 moulds. Bake at 180°C for 30 minutes. Leave to cool, then apply the glaze.


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. Läckerli is believed to mean ‘to lick’.

700 g flour
500 g liquid honey
300 g sugar
150 ml kirsch
100 g almonds and hazelnuts, chopped
100 g lemon and orange candied peel, chopped
1 lemon, zest
30 g cinnamon, ground
20 g baking powder or 10 g potash
15 g clove, ground
15 g nutmeg, grated
Cardamom, pinch
Glaze
150 g sugar
100 ml water
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 5x5cm rectangles.

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.

TGEFA — Cauldron Stew Tradition – Cuchêla

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Cuchêla / Val Divedro Cuchêla

Once inhabited by Etruscans and Ligurians, the Divedro valley is one of the ancient routes across the Alps. Trekkers know its hidden secrets, especially the traditional dishes based on local produce, including the valley’s signature dish, a pot stew known as cuchêla. Traditionally slow-cooked in a brunzin, the classical bronze cauldron, or in soapstone pots, the ingredients were layered and allowed to heat gently without any attention, except for the occasional shake of the pot. Discussions continue about the origins of the dish and whether it started with the arrival of potatoes in the mountains. Some villagers argue it pre-dated the arrival of potatoes by hundreds if not thousands of years and was made with root and leaf vegetables and dried meat. This is the modern version, not really for those watching their weight.

1 kg potatoes, whole
1 kg broccoli, whole / green cabbage
500 g onions, sliced
500 g pork ribs, in several pieces
500 g salamelle suino / pork sausages, grilled until brown, cooled
250 g carrots, cut into large pieces
250 g pancetta della Valdossola / fatty pancetta / pork belly, cubed
30 g butter / 30 ml sunflower oil
Borage, Lovage, Marjoram, Rosemary, Sage, Thyme, any quantity
5 g black pepper, large pinch
5 g salt, pinch

Sweat onions in butter or oil with the fatty bacon, pancetta or pork belly in a large deep heavy-bottomed pot for 30 minutes, add remaining ingredients, seal with a tight lid, and cook slowly for three hours, until the potatoes are cooked, and the meat is coming off the bones. For crispy ribs finish under a grill. if using herbs add them 30 minutes before the end of cooking.


The people of Domodossola, the major town of the Divedro Valley, are no longer as fond of cuchêla as they once were. A wine merchant we became acquainted with patted his stomach when we asked whether it was still regarded as a trusted traditional dish. In the street market one of the women in the food truck was not aware she had pancetta della Valdossola, the fatty pork belly that is an essential ingredient, on the shelf until we pointed it out. We made it with the local sausages and green cabbage, and with potatoes from further afield. It was delicious, and a long walk was required. Unfortunately the light did not allow us to take a photo of that particular creation. The featured photo is of an earlier version not made with the local Piedmont ingredients!


TGEFA — Smørrebrød Succession

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The front cover of Af Ole Troelsø’s Insiders Guide to Smørrebrød shows two pieces of breaded plaice, topped with large shrimp on a layer of creamy yellow mayonnaise, garnished with dill.

It all began in the 19th century in the Tivoli Gardens, the heart and soul of Copenhagen, where restaurant Nimb introduced these open-faced sandwiches, Oskar Davidson later setting the record with 177 different smørrebrød pieces. Troelsø recommends the Grøften and Kähler restaurants in Tivoli but he issues a word of  warning.

‘Smørrebrød contains hundreds of choices, but Danes have rules regarding the succession. The traditional way is to start with herring on rye bread, with butter or lard as the spread. Yes, it is contradictory to begin with such a fat and spicy dish, but that is why we drink akvavit, to clear the palate. After the herring it is time to savour the smoked eel or the smoked salmon, and it is considered correct to change your plates after the herring.

Having done away with the elements of sea, you change your plates once more, and move on to chicken salad or directly to the pork. This could be sausage, liver paté and roast pork. Afterwards it is time to taste the red meat – raw beef tartare, slightly fried tartare and the roast beef. The cheese is your guarantee of not leaving the table without being absolutely full.

Dessert is out of the question.’

Troelsø reviews 31 restaurants and lists 13 classic smørrebrød recipes in his book, his symmetry as precise as a smørrebrød piece. Among the recipes are pieces made with the shrimp from the north Atlantic and with breaded plaice or turbot from the same ocean. Put together with myriad ingredients they are known as stjerneskud.

A shooting star because this is an out-of-the-world introduction to smørrebrød. Troelsø’s cover is emblematic.

Stjerneskud Shooting Star

3 plaice / pangasius fillets
8 large shrimp, cooked
30 g sour cream
15 g caviar
1 slice of brown bread
1 egg, beaten
1 lemon, juice
Asparagus piece
Breadcrumbs
Butter
Cayenne, pinch
Cucumber slice, twisted
Dill, pinch
Egg, hard boiled, halved
Lemon slice, twisted
Lettuce piece
Paprika, pinch
Salmon slice, cooked or smoked
Sunflower oil
Tomato, sliced
Flour, for dusting
Black Pepper, large pinch
Salt, pinch

Speed is of the essence. Whip a pinch each of cayenne and paprika into sour cream, mix in caviar. Bring a steamer pot of salted water to the boil, turn heat low and put a plaice fillet in the tray, cover and leave for three minutes. Roll up. Heat a small piece of butter in a frying pan with a splash of oil. Break and beat an egg into one dish, put breadcrumbs in a second dish, coat a fillet in the egg, then the breadcrumbs. Fry each side, two minutes each. Repeat with final fillet. Toast the slice of bread, butter it, place one or two small leaves of lettuce on top, followed by the fish. Garnish with shrimp, and a large splash of lemon juice. Spoon cream mixture on top. Finish with the salmon rolled around the asparagus, tomato slices, twisted cucumber and lemon slices, the egg halves and the dill.

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Sun over Gudhjem is one of the most iconic members of the smørrebrød family, named after the Bornholm island town where the silvery-white herrings of the Baltic sea are transformed into golden fish by the smoking process, ‘the gold from the sea’. Sun Over Gudhjem is made with a slice of rye bread, two smoked herrings, chives, radish and a fresh raw egg yolk on top, the aforementioned sun. There is really only one place to taste this delicious treat and that is on Bornholm itself.


Flæskesteg med Rødkål Roast Pork with Red Cabbage on Rye
Pork-Tenderloin-Stuffed-with-Caulflower-Condiment-LowresTraditionally smørrebrød is made with buttered rye bread (Troelsø’s book contains an amazing recipe for rye bread). When each piece of smørrebrød is presented in an array, they provide a perfect glimpse into Denmark’s culinary traditions, past and present – fish, meats, vegetables with dressings, seasonings and toppings. Among these are flæskesteg (roast pork) and rødkål (red cabbage). Together on dark rye bread they epitomise Danish food, crispy and crunchy. This is one of Denmark’s signature dishes – flæskesteg med rødkål og brunede kartofler (roast pork with crispy crackling and red cabbage with caramelised potatoes) – in minature, minus the potatoes. Flæskesteg med rødkål usually comes topped with cucumber slices, orange slices and halved prunes.

Leverpostejmad Liver Paste on Rye
Anchovies-Cut-Out-LowRes Buttered bread (the literal meaning of smørrebrød) is an inadequate term for these high-topped luncheon enterprises, but one piece sits nicely with the concept of a simple open-faced sandwich. Butter is lavishly spread on a thick slice of rye bread, followed by a sprinkling of salt and a thick layer of liver paste. After that the choice of modest toppings is personal. Danes choose a combination of cucumber, fried bacon, fried onions, lemon, lettuce, mushrooms, pickled beetroot, pickled gherkins, red pepper, salted meat, savoury jelly. Leverpostej was among the first smørrebrød pieces in the late 1800s and it remains popular.

Brötchen | Crumpets and Pikelets (raised bread rounds)

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Crumpets and Pikelets

These breads were baked on stones, on irons over coal, peat or wood fires, on griddles over ranges and stoves, and on cast-iron frying pans. Crumpets are baked in warmed rings set on greased griddles, where the bottom heat forces the batter to create a honeycomb effect as the steam attempts to escape. Pikelets are baked directly on the griddle as pancakes, also oven-baked.

First Mixture 
600 ml water, warmed to 38ºC 
500 white wheat flour 
30 ml olive oil (optional) 
30 g yeast 
15 g sugar

Second Mixture 
90 ml water 
10 g salt 
3 g bicarbonate of soda
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Crumpet
Finish and Equipment 
Butter / oil, for greasing 
Bakers Rings, 7-8 cm diameter 
Cast-iron frying pan / heavy-bottomed frying pan / griddle pan 
Trays with in-built cups
Sieve the flour into a large bowl, add the water and yeast, stir and leave to rise for 90 minutes. Add the ingredients from the second mixture, leave to rise for 30 minutes. For crumpets warm the rings and heat the pan, grease it with butter or oil. Test the heat of the pan by dropping a little of the batter onto the surface, the correct temperature will bake it in one minute, if it starts to burn it is too hot. Pour the batter to a thickness of 2 cm into the ring, bake for 10 minutes until the crumpets come away from the sides of the rings. Flip the crumpets to brown the tops, about two minutes. For pikelets preheat oven to 200ºC top and bottom heat, warm the trays and grease the cups, allow to cool a little. Pour the batter into the cups up to the rims. Bake for 15 minutes. Each is toasted and served with butter.  

Brötchen | Apfelmost-Brötchen (bread rolls made with apple juice)

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This is one of the recipes in the Fricot pocket book Brötchen | Small Breads



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500 g strong white wheat flour, warmed 
225 ml apple juice, natural cloudy 
70 ml full cream / sour cream, brought up to room temperature 
30 g apple purée 
30 g sugar 
20 g yeast 
5 g salt Butter, for greasing

Grease a large rectangular baking tray with butter. Combine flour and salt in a large bowl in a warm area. Dissolve yeast in apple juice, add the cream and sugar. Add yeast mixture to the flour and salt, knead into a smooth dough. Leave to rise for 50 minutes, degas. Rise again for an hour, degas. Divide dough into 85 g pieces, shape into rolls, place on buttered tray, leave to rise again, for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 200ºC. Bake for 25 minutes.


Legendary Dishes | Polędwiczki Wieprzowe nadziewane Przyprawą Kalafiorową (pork tenderloin stuffed with cauliflower condiment)

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Roast Rolled Stuffed Pork Tenderloin

This recipe originated in Collection of Dishes, Poland’s first cookbook. It was compiled by master cook Stansław Czerniecki, a culinary artist. We have tweaked his recipe, because it was more of an instruction and did not include quanitities. Poles liked their food spicy, so we have followed suit. Czerniecki used this condiment to flavour roasts by inserting it into cuts in the flesh before roasting. We have also used it as a layer in our rolled pork dish.

Condiment

500 g cauliflower
80 g salted butter
half a nutmeg
10 g black pepper
5 g green pepper, fine ground
Water for steaming

Steam the cauliflower until soft, leave to cool a little. Add the butter and mash into a pureé. Grate the nutmeg into the mixture, add the ground pepper, incorporate. Refrigerate overnight.

Finish

500 g pork tenderloin, beaten thin
300 g cauliflower condiment
35 ml olive oil / sunflower oil
5 g black pepper
5 g salt
6 toothpick sticks

Preheat oven to 200ºC. Season the tenderloin, dress with a teaspoon of oil, layer with the cauliflower condiment. Roll up the long end, secure with sticks. Pour a tablespoon of oil onto an oven tray, carefully place the pork roll onto the tray, drizzle remaining oil over the top. Bake for 30 minutes at 200ºC. After 30 minutes reduce heat to 160ºC, baste roll with the hot oil in the tray. Bake for 30 minutes, baste, and bake for a further 30 minutes. Rest for ten minutes, serve.

INDIGENOUS INGREDIENTS =  Butter | Cauliflower | Pork Tenderloin

LEGENDARY DISHES


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RECIPES     REVIEWS     STREET MARKETS

Brötchen | The Story of the Bread Roll

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The modern bread roll emerged out of one of those mother-of-invention  moments in the 1800s, when necessity  decided that different sized breads were needed throughout the day in the various work environments.

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The bread roll emerged out of the  tradition of baking small bread loaves. These gradually became smaller and  became known variously across Europe as a bap or a bun, and then simply as a roll or as a small bread (brötchen in Germany, brötli in Switzerland).

In the beginning these bread rolls were made with white wheat flour, warmed water, fat (usually lard), bakers yeast and salt. These were usually the breakfast bread rolls and the lunch bread rolls.

Depending on the environment  (factory or field, mobile or office) they were designed large – to hold fillings – or small – to accompany confits and jams and pastes. In some countries whole milk replaced water, and, unsurprisingly, these became known as milk bread rolls.

Milk was an ingredient in tea bread rolls which were enriched with eggs and a higher quantity to fat, to produce a soft, silky bread. They might contain dried fruit and dried peel.

Dinner bread rolls were characteristised by a crisp crust and a soft sponge. They contained less fat and more yeast.

Sugar featured in most breakfast, lunch, tea and dinner bread rolls throughout the 1900s, until it was decided that the quantity of salt determined the quality of the bread, and sweetness was not a criteria.

Small breads were not always round, and for a long time they were shaped like tubes, shorter versions of the Vienna roll. Exceptions included the bagel, the ring-shaped bread of northern Europe, the pirogi, the oval-shaped filled bread of central Europe, pouch-shaped bread of eastern Europe and the crescent-shaped breads that emerged out of Anatolia and Asia.

Viennoiserie defined breakfast breads from the late 1800s, with the baquette and the croissaint. Suddenly bread was light or it was flaky. Hydration became a factor and instead of breads with a 2:3 liquid-solid ratio, the amount of water or milk increased to over 70%. This technique could only be achieved with machinery but it produced an aerated crumb with a softer sponge.

Then it changed again, toward the close of the 1900s, as bakers experimented with numerous ingredients. Milk began to feature prominently in recipes that had previously required water. Cream, kefir and yoghurt became popular liquid mediums and apple juice was found to work if it was combined with cream.

Biscuit ingredients, such as grains and nuts and seeds, were adopted and recipes that were once associated with confectionary became bread ingredients, especially in Switzerland where a bread roll revolution took place in the early 2000s.

Small breads began to feature toppings and traditional breads made a comeback, like the onion and poppy seed topped bread of Poland.

Oils began to replace lard in small breads as bakers realised that olive oil and rapeseed oil added a delicate flavour.

And not before time the sourdough techniques found their way into the ‘brötchen’ tradition and wheat began to lost its dominant position.

Pre-ferments or starters made with rye and water crept into small bread recipes, but it was the advent of spelt flour, white and whole, that changed small bread culture.

At first spelt flour was mixed with the various soft and strong wheat flours, then it broke out on its own, usually with a pre-ferment. Rye flour left its traditional position in northern Europe as the desired flour of the encased pie, to gradually become an essential ingredient in small breads.

Even barley flour, used as a pre-ferment and as an improver, got in on the act.

White Wheat Flours, type 405 and strong white, notice the difference in texture and colour …
Smalls breads made with apple juice, apple puree and sour cream

Generally though small breads are made with soft wheat flours. Soft wheat has more flavour than strong wheat.

Some recipes use a small amount of strong to increase the gluten content. 
We begin with a bread made with strong white wheat, and high fat, salt and water content.

TGEFA — KONYA PLAIN: From Foraging to Farming (the beginning of Anatolian food culture)

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Experimental firing of an oven inside a reconstructed building (Photo: Jason Quinlan)

We are on the outskirts of Hayıroğlu village trying to imagine what it was like to live here 10,500 years ago. This is the western edge of the Konya Plain in south-central Anatolia, roughly 250 kilometres from the Mediterranean coast. It is a steppe landscape, a patchwork quilt of fields designed for agriculture and pasture, crucial to an indigenous food culture that is being reshaped as we speak.

It was also a steppe landscape 10,500 years ago – with a huge difference. It was encased by mountain ranges and an enveloping forest that had emerged in the millennia after the gradual closure of the last ice age roughly 5,000 years earlier, with a climate characterised by constant rainfall – unlike the conditions today that require irrigation from the nearby Çarşamba alluvial river during a summer climate that is generally dry and hot. The inhabitants were foragers who ate ‘everything that walked, flew or swam,’ content to live in oval-shaped mud-brick houses on a hilltop amidst a wet-land habitat fairly similar to the area around lake Beyșehir to the west today.

Boncuklu Höyük, Turkish for beaded mound, was found on the last day of an eight-year survey begun in 1995. Led by Liverpool University archaeologist Douglas Baird, the surveyers sought to identify ancient settlements as part of the Konya Plain Project (of which more later). Named by the villagers of Hayıroğlu because of the occurence of beads on the surface of the site after heavy rain, the advent that was Boncuklu has shattered most of the long-held assumptions about nomadism and sedentism, agriculture and herding, the domestication of animals, symbolism and belief systems and the sorrowful descent into unhealthy sloth and selfish desire. It holds clues, which may take several generations to reveal, about this change in human lifestyle, after millennia as nomadic foragers and clever hunters. It is one of the most exciting finds in the history of archaeology because it tells us about the gradual transformation from nomadism to sedentism.

Before the secrets of Boncuklu were revealed, archaeologists concluded that Çatalhöyük (fork mound), a stone’s throw away to the south, was the challenge to the traditional view about the neolithic transition. Instead of a coterminous revolution, the belief was that a shared cultural event sparked the change in lifestyle, something so appealing that everyone left their old tools behind in the wilderness and settled down with new tools. Ian Hodder, the Cambridge University archaeologist who led the excavation at Çatalhöyük for 25 years, said ‘trying to understand why these people bothered to come together’ remained their shared ambition.

He was not alone in his assumption that Çatalhöyük was special. Ulf-Dietrich Schoop argued in 2005 (three years after Baird began to excavate the Boncuklu mound) that the people of the central Anatolian plain weren’t much interested in sedentry because they had adapted to their environment. ‘In general, a steppe landscape is very favorable for a hunter-gatherer economy; there the hunt of gregarious animals – those that run together in herds or flocks – is much less labor intensive than that in areas with dense vegetation, where sight is hindered and wildlife tends to be smaller and moves individually or in small clusters.’

‘Furthermore, some of the wild progenitors of those plant species which later became an important part of the neolithic package – generally those preferring the habitat of the steppe – were at home in Central Anatolia, e.g. einkorn wheat, lentil and bitter vetch. Thus, even before domestication, the region must have been quite favourable for gathering.’

When Dr Andrew Fairbairn of the University of Queensland discovered archaeological life at Boncuklu, and began to place the site in the context of other settlements, he came to a startling conclusion. ‘Boncuklu is just a little bit more way out. It’s these funny little huts. For me it’s just something slightly more distant and a little bit more alien. It feels quite different. A little bit like you’re on a slightly different world.’

‘There’s some kind of use of crops but it seems to be quite small – it seems to be almost quite marginal in a lot of ways. What we have is, basically, a hunter-gatherer society there that is settling down, using some crops – importing them or trading them with other settlements.’

The inhabitants of Boncuklu were mobile. Fairbairn’s team found sea-shells from the distant Mediterranean, animal bones included wild goats from the mountains and some of the plant species were not indigenous.

So what did they eat? They ate the food of the wet-land – birds and waterfowl, fresh-water mussels and snails, fish and frogs and tortoises. They also enjoyed cuts of meat from the wild animals – aurochs (large wild cattle), goats and pigs. They foraged for berries and eggs, and for roots and tubers like clubrush that still grow in the wet-lands of the Konya Plain. They traded for wild and domesticated wheat grains and probably for almonds and other nuts.

How did they cook? There is evidence that they roasted animals whole over a slow fire and it is fair to say that cuts of meat, small animals and whole birds were also spit-roasted. Mollusks would have been cooked in the embers of the fire. Tubers were probably cooked the same way. Did they make pastes with the almonds and berries? That is plausible, but there is no evidence that they had the ancient equivalents of mortars and pestles. Did they make bread with the grains? That is harder to ascertain. Did they crack the wheat to make bulgur and cook it in earthenware pots? Perhaps not, there are no signs of pottery at Boncuklu.

What is interesting is the belief among some archaeologists that the people of Boncuklu were the ancestors of the people who founded Çatalhöyük, but that convenient similarity (because of their close proximity) does not explain the existence of two other contemporaneous settlements – Can Hasan, south-east of Konya near the modern city of Karaman under the Taurus mountains and Aşıklı Höyük, north-east of Konya near the modern city of Aksaray and the volcanic tufa cones of Cappadocia. Clearly other hunter-gatherers had heard about this settled life!

Aşıklı Höyük (approximately 9,500 years old), Can Hasan (9,500) and Çatalhöyük (9,000) are synonymous with one fact – these communities in ancient Anatolia are farmers, they herd goats and sheep, they harvest grains and legumes, cook in stone hearths and eat bread! Anatolia’s rich bread culture has begun and will continue into the modern era where the tradition of baking bread in stone ovens remains undiminished.

As for the cooking of cracked wheat, well that probably did take place at Çatalhöyük and still does today in nearby Hayıroğlu – 12 kilometers away.

What made these people come together? Was there a specific event? No one really knows. It might have been the domestication of goats and sheep for meat and milk or for the convenience of a carbohydrate-rich food in the form of grains and bread or perhaps it was something else. Whatever it was there is hardly an argument against the belief and the informed opinion that it was centered in Anatolia. Keep reading!

FEATURE | The Carbonara Conundrum

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Fried Pork Cheek

Via di Ripetta radiates from the Piazza di Popolo, the poplar tree lined square at Rome’s northern gate, continues away from the chapel of the miracle toward the tomb of Augustus and the museum of his solar clock, the ara pacis, parallel with the meandering Tiber. Here street and river depart, the Tiber twists like a snake toward the Vatican City, the Ripetta runs straight as a die into an odd-shaped four-sided junction and becomes Via della Scrofa, the alley of Scrofa.

American soldiers arriving in the city from Anzio in the south-west and Cassino in the south, attracted by the ruins of the Colosseum and the Forum, the contrast of modern and contemporary Rome with Michelangelo’s hilltop square, the marble temple monument to the fallen of the First World War, the statue of Vittorio Emanuele II – Italy’s last king, and the expansive Piazza Venezia wouldhave drifted into a warren of streets around the high-sided domed Pantheon. And found themselves in a nearby street known for its taverns and trattoria – the alley of Scrofa.

Here, in June 1944, a cook in a trattoria produced a pasta dish dressed with bacon, cheese and eggs to feed the liberators, believing they would devour anything with eggs and bacon. The dish spread through the city and became known as spaghetti alla carbonara.

A nice story, yes? True? Let’s look at the evidence.

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American quartermasters would have had access to smoked bacon and eggs (fresh and powdered). American soldiers’ Italian girlfriends graciously repaid gifts of bacon and eggs with a pasta dish that was a wonderful repast compared to war rations. Did a trattoria chef benefit from this arrangement? And produce an iconic dish?

Italians find amusement in the stories about the origins of their traditional dishes. Popular traditional recipes resided for centuries in the consciousness of those who cooked in the home and in the trattoria, and rarely did the stories – never mind the ingredients and methods ever get written down. They were passed down by rote.

Carbonara has numerous origins. There are the woodsmen in the central Italian regions of Abruzzo and Lazio who brought eggs, pecorino and guanciale (preserved pork cheek and pork belly) and dried pasta on their trips. Because guanciale was preserved with black pepper, when it was added to the dish it produced dark specks that resembled charcoal. Add the coincidence between carbonara and carbonada, the Abruzzese word for pancetta. And the fact that the region’s charcoal farmers known as the “Carbonari” were very fond of pasta with pork, cheese and eggs.

That pasta dishes should be made with bacon, cheese and eggs – ingredients that are associated with the type of pastoralism practiced in the hills and mountains of Abruzzo and Lazio – that such dishes should have a generic name among the people, and that migrant workers from the Apennines should bring them to Rome is equally plausible. Not so plausible is the argument that this combination has always existed in Rome. Carbonara did not become generally known until the 1950s, when variations of the recipe began to appear in cookbooks.

This brings us back to the “American” origin. Before the Anzio landing in January 1944, the Americans found themselves in Naples, with ample time to frequent the port city’s alleys and lanes. Along with folded pizza, spaghetti was a Neapolitan street food served with a meagre garnish of grated black pepper and grated pecorino cheese. According to legend an American G.I. tasted the spaghetti and decided it needed more flavour. This ingenious soldier added some powdered egg, a little smoked bacon and canned evaporated (condensed) milk.

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Italians like to believe spaghetti alla carbonara comes from both traditions. The Americans arrived in the province of Lazio at Anzio on the coast, and at Cassino in the mountains, in January 1944. They fought a battle for the abbey at Monte Cassino and gradually moved through the valleys of Lazio to arrive in Rome in early summer. During almost six months in central Italy they adapted the traditional pasta dish known as carbonara, and thrived on it.

They replaced the guanciale with their smoked bacon, they added condensed milk but they preferred the local version made with fresh eggs. Remembering the name the dish was known by in the mountains, they adopted it. Within a year of the ending of the war, trattoria in Naples and Rome were offering pasta alla carbonara.

In 1947 the English cookery writer Elizabeth David began to compile recipes for “A Book of Mediterranean Food”. She mentioned three spaghetti dishes, vis: Neapolitan with garlic and olive oil, Neapolitan with garlic and tomatoes and Sicilian with anchovies, bacon, garlic, mushrooms, olives, onions and olive oil. In 1954 she returned to Italy to research her “Italian Food” cookbook. She mentioned the various types of pasta available in Italy and she gave a recipe for maccheroni alla carbonara. She said it could also be made with rigatoni.

Her version, for four people, included two eggs beaten, 120 g cured pork cut into strips fried in butter and grated parmigiano. She suggested mixing the pork into the eggs and adding the mixture to the hot cooked pasta, stirring until the eggs thicken and “present a slightly granulated appearance”.

She said it was “a Roman dish”.

As for the authenticity of carbonara, we would like to think there are two versions, one that is traditional to Apennine rural life (and Rome) and one that is traditional to the event that was the American liberation (and Naples), one without cream and with cured pork, one with cream and with bacon.

Today the choice of pasta is crucial, it should be a thin strip pasta that can hold the egg or cream-egg mixture, macaroni and penne are too thick!

The Roman recipe is simple, it is as much pasta as you like, one egg per person, a good quantity of cured pork and as much grated cheese as you want.

The Neopolitan recipe is only different because any type of bacon can be used, with cream to make the dish rich enough to fill empty bellies.

Carbonara Recipes 

Who is Killing the Cheese Makers? Part Two


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36-month old Malga Stravecchio

Producing cheese from raw milk and natural rennet, heat and fermentation is older than history. Archaeologists and historians have an idea when it started. That idea, or story if you prefer, is based on a presumption.

The story involved a merchant in an ancient caravanserai – a camel train – on a journey under the hot sun across ancient lands. When the merchant arrived at the destination, milk carried in a bag made from a sheep’s stomach was discovered to be lumpy, churned into curds by the constant jogging of the camel on uneven ground under the heat of that sun.

The same argument has been made for the discovery of yoghurt. Same principle.

Of course it is possible it might have been a deliberate experiment. Meat was tenderised under the saddles of the horsemen who travelled long distances, a tradition that continued until horses became sports stars and lost their natural status in society. Our ancestors never ceased to discover methods to preserve their food, using microbial fermentations and elaborate techniques that are still in use today and cannot be replicated fully by modern methods.

It is the old cliche, if it isn’t broken …

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The Making of Bryndza, the soft sheep’s cheese of Poland and Slovakia

Whether it was accidental or deliberate is no longer relevant. Somewhere, somehow, someone realised that the character of milk could be altered to produce a food with a longish life – cheese!

Whether this happened 5000 years ago or 3500 years ago is relevant for one reason. The pasteurisation of milk is modern – very modern, a speck in time.

This leaves us with a dilemma. In the countries where cheese has become an integral aspect of the character of farming – ancient and modern – there is a strong raw milk tradition in its preparation.

This includes many European countries, in fact mostly European. That should not be a shock to anyone who knows the history of food. It is also not a surprise that cheese making is a mountain and valley occupation, that goat’s milk rather than sheep’s milk and certainly not cow’s milk has been the driver through time.

The environment is the medium.

Goat’s milk makes fresh cheese, sheep’s milk makes cheese that is adaptable, and cow’s milk makes cheese that has a relatively long life, certainly in the maturation period. Each has a tradition that is unique in the countries where these animals graze the fields and meadows and upland slopes.

It is not a surprise that some of the best cheese in the world comes from countries with high country snow, where the flora is rich in the organoleptic qualities that are transferred to the cheese via the milk.

America does not appear to have a milk or a cheese tradition, yet it is the Americans who are driving the campaign, if it can be called that, to eradicate cheese made from raw milk. They would prefer to ban all products made with raw milk.

Deaths from food poisoning have generally come from mass-produced industrial food or from food that has been contaminated by industrial processes or food tainted by toxic waste. Deaths from eating cheese made with raw milk do not compare.

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Pouring the Rennet

Is there an agenda? People who know cheese believe there is.

It starts with the microbes that inhabit the world, the single cell organisms called bacteria. They are present in the milk and are present in the rennet, the enzymatic preparation that clots milk, changing it into curds. These microbes digest the lactose in milk and, in the process, produce lactic acid, which acts as a preservative.

The enzyme is called chymosin. It is found in the stomachs of ruminants – which is why the milk curdled on that famous journey.

When chymosin is introduced to the milk as rennet it converts the proteins from liquid into solid. This coagulation process is the result of a catalytic action. Casein makes up the majority of milk proteins. There are four casein molecules in milk – alpha-s1, alpha-s2, beta and kappa.

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The First Curds

Without kappa casein, milk would spontaneously coagulate. Milk proteins are soluble because of kappa casein. When chymosin interacts with kappa casein it converts it into a protein called macropeptide. The milk can no longer hold its liquid state. It clots and changes into curds.

Bacteria are maligned, yet not all bacteria are malignant, many are beneficial and without them our food web would disintegrate. We would have no fermented food, including the aromatic cheeses that allow you ‘to taste the animal’.

The secret of cheese making is the skilful management of microbes, and the management of moisture before and after the process. Therefore cheese should be made with milk that is as fresh as it comes, before any kind of harmful microbial activity can take place. It should be stored in conditions that are not receptive to microbial activity. And, ideally, cheese consumers should be knowledgable when they buy and store cheese.

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Cutting the Curds

The pasteurisation of milk will destroy harmful bacteria but it will also produce a different kind of cheese. In their book, Reinventing the Wheel – Milk, Microbes and the Fight for Real Cheese, Bronwen and Francis Percival are typically patronising in their approach to this issue. If the book was less about them and more about cheese, it would be educational. It is not the first book on cheese to patronise its potential readers and it won’t be the last. There is knowledge and wisdom in the Percival book, unfortunately it is hidden among the paragraphs that state ‘look at us, aren’t we clever when we write about cheese?’

Campaigners for real cheese, they are not!

This is the problem and sadly it is not confined to the likes of the Percivals. Ignorance of ‘real’ cheese among the general population has allowed supermarket chains to sell ‘cheap’ cheese, especially in the English speaking world. In their profit before people behaviour, supermarkets dictate what the people purchase. Cheese connoisseurs naturally go elsewhere and are not typically concerned about those who have no understanding of ‘slow food’ and no informed knowledge about artisanal products. That said, not everyone can afford to shop at Neal’s Yard Dairy, where Bronwen Percival is the cheese buyer.

Sadly we now live in a world where ‘real’ cheese is for those with purchasing power and ‘plastic’ cheese is for everyone else. If there is concern about the demise of ‘real’ cheese makers in the English language-speaking countries, it is not manifest among those who are used to hopping over to France, Italy or Switzerland to buy the cheeses that do not travel, like the best Abondance or Appenzeller or Fontina or Malga or Tomme or Sbrinz – all cheeses with strong local traditions, that become expensive when they are purchased at specialist outlets in Dublin or London or New York.BerneseCheeseShop-low-res

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Front counter in Rene Ryser’s cheese shop in Gstaad, Switzerland

Cheese, as Bronwen Percival is not slow to demonstrate, is a continental European sensibility, where cheese can be bought from a dedicated artisanal shop – a fromagerie – or from a market stall, sometimes from the cheese maker themselves, or from a supermarket chain that is sensitive to the desires of its customers.

In Britain and Ireland it is difficult to find a supermarket that has on its shelves ‘real’ cheese. Abondance, the wonderful cheese of the Savoyard region of the French Alps, found its way into the Tesco chain in Ireland, interestingly at a price lower than at Auchan and Carrefour in France and Italy. Miracles do happen!

But we digress.

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Published by Bloomsbury

The most interesting chapter in Reinventing the Wheel is chapter seven. For those not as knowledgable about the cheese world as Bronwen Percival, this chapter is worth the price of the book.

When the Percivals state that the regulation of cheese – ‘deciding what is and what isn’t safe to eat’ – is ‘caught up in the fraught discussion of milk hygiene and safety,’ they make a very important point, which they are not slow to elucidate: ‘cheese is not liquid milk’.

As someone who is lactose intolerant and was forced to drink warm milk in school as a child, I find it difficult, 50 years later, to trust those who are entrusted to look after public health. Anyone with a brain, who was forced to drink raw milk as a child during the middle decades of the 1900s in certain countries, worked that out and were told to keep quiet. The pasteurisation of milk solved one problem, authority and morality remain.

Food safety has been an issue since the first nomads settled down in central Anatolia over 11 000 years ago, it came with civilisation and remained all the way into the modern era. Those with knowledge might argue that the French and the Swiss have better standards of food safety than the Americans, yet there is an argument that American-led laboratory science has been let loose on a world that is now scared of its own shadow – rightly so in many instances, but not with cheese made with raw milk and prepared in traditional ways. The Reblochon story in the Percival book is an example of the kind of ‘rational pragmatism’ that should be adopted toward raw milk cheese making.

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This is the Swiss reblochon

If the Americans want to impose a zero risk regulation to ensure food safety, that is their prerogative. For those of us who love raw milk cheeses, from the Camembert of Normandie to the Reblochon de Savoie – two cheeses singled out by the Percivals, we will continue to take our chances. Thankfully not everyone lives in the USA.

Unfortunately the future of raw milk cheeses in Britain and Ireland is bleak, because of the American influence. A tradition that is young and weak cannot compete with a tradition that is old and strong. Elizabeth Bradley makes a cheese just as good as any of the similar cheeses made in France and Italy. Her years do not compare with their years. America’s baleful influence on other countries is a worry to those who care about ‘real’ food, never mind ‘real’ cheese.

Of course we here in Fricot are biased. We have absolute faith in traditional methods. All the preserved foods come from an ancient lineage of expertise that resulted in techniques that have been passed down the generations and work as well today as they did thousands of years and countless generations ago.

Mechanisation does not produce good food, that is obvious to anyone who understands the lack of an organoleptic characteristic in anything that is mass produced. It certainly does not produce food as good as cheese made from raw milk.

So what is the real issue?

It might be obvious to say it is about food corporations and their desire to make profits from the mass production of cheese made with ‘safe’ milk. Certainly making money is a strong criteria for those who need to make money.

That would be the easy explanation, the truth this time is hard and complicated.

For now we should celebrate those who want to make cheese because they have a strong desire to produce a product that has organoleptic qualities, that has a unique taste and a depth of flavour, that is the consequence of its environment and their skill.

Fromage "TÍte de Moine"
Tète de Moine (Photo: Ezequiel Scagnetti)

… continued in part three.


Who is Killing the Cheese Makers? Part One

FRICOT EDITORIAL

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AUGUST 2018

Who is Killing the Cheese Makers?

Goat farmer Elizabeth Bradley is a cheese-maker in Ballybrommel in the flatlands below Mount Leinster in east Carlow, south-east of Dublin. A few kilometers away in Shillelagh under the gaze of the mountains in west Wicklow dairy farmer Tom Burgess uses a portion of his summer milk to make cheese.

They make two of the most aromatic cheeses in Europe, one with goat’s milk, one with cow’s milk. In industry parlance they are artisanal, making hardly enough to mark the shadow of an impression in the billions of exports in dairy products. That is because they sell to local markets. That is one of their problems!

They have other problems, that have nothing to do with making and selling cheese. These problems are shared by most cheese makers across Europe, especially artisanal producers who are not concerned with packaging and supermarkets, with dairies, commerce and exports, and with the glossy promotional images of farmers and cheese that have nothing to do with reality. People who like to be small and be very good at what they do.

Cheese-making in Ireland was an ancient activity. It was part of the fabric of society. Michael Ó Sé, writing about old cheeses (and other milk products) in the Journal of the Cork Historical and Archaeological Society in 1948 referred to the traditional coagulants used in cheese-making. Binit (calves rennet) and binit uain (lambs rennet) were used as animal rennets, and mothan (bog violet) as a vegetable rennet. Sadly this tradition died with many of the old ways and for several hundred years Irish cheese-making was just another myth.

By referring to the old methods, using the same raw materials, farmers returned to cheese-making in the 1900s and within two generations Irish cheeses were back on the shelves. Bord Bia, in their promotions for farmhouse cheese-making, noted the fact. “The cheese-makers developed their craft, and enthusiastic friends, enlightened local chefs and shopkeepers put in orders for cheeses and the amateurs slowly evolved into professionals. Experience and knowledge passed to other interested farms and slowly a new food culture began to emerge.”

In Ireland, say Bord Bia (the governmental food department), our farmhouse cheeses are unique to each producer, expressing terroir in the true sense of the word. “This has the advantage of allowing for innovation and creativity, while still respecting the values of traditional cheese-making. Our European neighbours find it hard to believe that each cheese is only produced on one farm and is the result of the passion and dedication of one family.”

“The personality of the cheese-maker is often reflected in aspects of their cheese; from the wild and unpredictable to the precise and consistent. The large range of Irish farmhouse cheeses now available is exceptional considering the youth of the industry and the small size of our island.”

Elizabeth Bradley has just collected 500 litres of raw cow’s milk from a dairy farmer in Bagnelstown. She will pay the fixed market rate of 39 cents a litre. “Most dairy farmers will not sell their milk to small cheese-makers, because they are afraid of any consequences,” she says, driving back to her small farm with the milk in tow. She pumps the milk into her 500 litre vat, adds the starter culture and gradually brings the milk up to 32ºC. Several hours later the curds of cheese rest in containers under a press.

Over in Shillelagh Tom Burgess explains why the grass is the hero of his Irish cheddar. “It is made from grass-fed milk, other cheddars are not made from grass milk. So my cheddar is a yellow colour. English cheddars are white. It is still-growing grass, living, a natural environment.”

His 150 cows graze 200 acres. They calve in February and March, and milk through the summer when the grass is growing. Milking is stopped in November and December. For that reason he realised he needed a product with a long shelf life and decided on cheddar.

“There was already a demand for cheddar, and I felt the customer would move onto a stronger cheddar and pay more for a better sample. It melts well, cooks well, people know cheddar. It fitted my production profile, which was seasonal production.”

“It is a mature cheddar so I make the whole year’s production and then I store it. We make about 200-250 kilos a day over 80 days, that’s 16 tonnes. And we are still increasing. We are selling it but we would like to put it in the supermarkets where it will sell in volume.”

He employs two people to make the cheese. “I am able to pay them, instead of working on my own, the milk lorry arriving in the middle of the night, and still make a sustainable living out of my cattle.”

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The Moo Man film makers Andy Heathcote and Heike Bachelier might come to Ireland to feature the work of raw milk cheese-makers. After the success of their film about Sussex dairy farmer Steve Hook and his small organic raw milk business, it is no surprise to hear that the next stage of the process – cheese-making – is on their agenda.

Heathcote was drawn to the story of Errington Cheese who were forced to close their business after the authorities in Scotland implicated them in an outbreak of ecoli and has decided that the wider issue of bacteria in raw milk cheese should be investigated. His initial investigations tell him that there are numerous agendas, and for those reasons there are genuine fears for raw milk cheese-makers like Bradley and Burgess.

Rules that do not apply to raw milk cheese makers in France, Italy or Switzerland, where raw milk cheeses are celebrated as part of a regional food culture that attracts tourists and customers, are being applied to Irish and Scottish cheese-makers.

Dubliner Ben Sherwood has just finished his thesis on the future of raw milk cheese in Ireland. He is optimistic about Irish cheese but not sure about the future. “We could end up losing all our raw milk cheese-makers unless we do something,” he says. “There do not seem to be many new cheese-makers. Between 1995 and 2015 we lost about two-thirds of our raw milk cheeses.”

Elizabeth Bradley has another theory. “Part of it is the fact that there are very few people depending solely on raw milk cheeses for a livelihood so are therefore not going to take the risk.”

Ben Sherwood wonders whether the Food Safety Authority of Ireland are taking a lead from the Food and Drug Administration in the USA, where soft raw milk cheeses are not allowed. “You cannot sell or import two-month old raw milk cheese.”

This policy is part of the precautionary principle and the FSAI believe they serve the public by being cautious. Earlier this year supermarkets removed a pasteurised cow’s milk brie from their shelves. “As a precautionary measure, SuperValu is recalling batches of Wicklow Blue, due to the possible presence of Listeria monocytogenes,” the FSAI stated in a public announcement.

In 2005 University College Cork food sciences professor Alan Kelly surveyed food scientists on the public understanding of food risk issues and messages, and found that these experts had “little confidence” in the public’s understanding of food risk issues. “The public under-assesses the risk associated with some microbiological hazards and over-assesses the risk associated with other hazards such as genetically modified organisms and bovine spongiform encephalopathy.” They also said that the “media tend to communicate information that is misleading”.

Another reason for FSAI’s concern.

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During his student years Ben Sherwood worked part-time in a shop with a specialist cheese counter. It gave him a window into the world of cheese consumers. “Only a small minority who come into the shop come up to the cheese counter,” he says. “People who know their cheeses know what they want, they have their favourites, the ones they are familiar with. Then there are people who haven’t a clue, but want to learn. Those are the best moments, that small interaction and the change in peoples outlook that one piece of cheese can make. They are the key to improving our culture.”

At the street markets across the country it is the same. Some people buy the cheeses they know, while other people want to know more about cheese. If the seller is also the cheese-maker they are in luck. “I think people do care,” says Elizabeth Bradley, “but are bombarded with information, have very busy lives, huge demands from the complex system around them.”

There is, according to Ben, a blissful ignorance about cheese. Despite attempts by the state, through Bord Bia, and others, like Sheridans cheesemongers, to promote Irish cheese, the medium does not convey the message.

Something is wrong.

Who is killing the cheese-makers? We all are, if you believe those who care about cheese, raw milk cheese in particular. From those in authority who display a “terrible arrogance” to those in the artisanal food sector who appear to be ruled by “arrogance and fear” to the consumer who has a “blissful ignorance” and sees food as an entertainment rather than a culture, to a media that has no excellence in food writing.

Who would be a cheese-maker? No one anymore, it would seem!

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… continued in part two.

La Poêlée Montagnarde FRANCE the mountain fry

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This is French Reblochon

Bacon, cheese, potatoes and wine are an Alpine mystery. They have been since potatoes were introduced into the region, probably eight generations ago, and transformed the preparation of cheese in cooking. Simply, cheese and potatoes along with bacon and butter and cream are made for each other. Add a little wine and you have an aromatic dish that is heavenly comfort food.

1 kg potatoes, peeled, diced
375 g Abondance, cut into strips
250 g smoked bacon, diced
250 ml white wine
125 g onion, chopped
30 ml sunflower oil
5 g black pepper

Sauté onions in oil, add the potatoes, fry for a few minutes, then add bacon. Brown everything for 15 minutes. Pour in the wine and add the cheese. Season and leave to cook over a medium heat for a further ten minutes, until the potatoes are soft on the inside and crispy on the outside.

Featured Recipe = Birnenweggen (pear wedges)

Continuing our quest for alpine recipes we are on the bus down the Kandertal and up the Engstligental to Adelboden, in the mountains above Frutigen.

We have been assured that we will return with the secrets of birnenbrot (birnbrot), birnenweggen and nusstorte. But it isn’t to be. None of the bakeries want to share their secret’ recipes. All we have managed to do is confirm which nuts go where.

Birnenbrot and birnenweggen are interchangeable throughout the Swiss Alps, from Bern to Graubünden. One is made with bread (yeast) dough, the other with pastry (oil) dough, puff (butter) pastry being preferred by many bakeries because of its lightness. one is thick with filling, like a boat, the other thin, like a wedge.

In Adelboden the birnenbrot has hazelnuts and pears, the birnenweggen pears and walnuts.

Never mind the nusstorte. We’ll come back to that!

Traditionally birnenweggen is an elaborate affair. Dried as well as fresh pears, raisins and sultanas, and candied peel are used in the preparation, the dried fruit soaked in brandy or juice, the fresh fruit cooked until soft.

Our recipe is based on the versions from the early part of the 20th century, when figs and plums or prunes were an essential ingredient in the filling and the spices included cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg.

This is adapted from the book, The Great European Food Adventure.

Birnenweggen
pear wedges

Birnenweggen-lowres

Dough

250 g / 8⅓ oz white wheat baking flour
150 ml / 5 fl oz water
125 g / 4⅙ oz butter, softened
125 g / 4⅙ oz lard, softened
8 g / 2 tsp salt
Filling

300 g / 10 oz soft pears, cored, chopped
200 g / 6⅔ oz hard pears, cored, cubed
150 g / 5 oz sweet apples, peeled, cored, cubed
150 g / 5 oz dried pears, chopped
100 ml / 3⅓ fl oz kirschwasser / fruit brandy
100 ml / 3⅓ fl oz lemon juice / apple juice
100 ml / 3⅓ fl oz mineral water
100 g / 3⅓ oz walnuts, crushed small
50 g / 1⅔ oz almonds / hazelnuts, ground
50 g / 1⅔ oz dried figs, chopped
50 g / 1⅔ oz raisins / sultanas
45 g / 1.5 oz brown sugar
25 g / 1 oz candied peel
5 g / 1 tsp cinnamon
3 g / large pinc cloves
Nutmeg, very large pinch

Finish

60 g / 2 oz egg yolks, beaten

Soak dried pears, figs, peel and raisins or sultanas in kirschwasser, and choice of juice overnight or at least 12 hours. Boil hard and soft pears, and sweet apples in mineral water. Add sugar when all the liquid has evaporated, cook for a further 10 minutes, leave to cool. Add almonds and walnuts to the apple-pear mixture, then fold in the soaked fruit mixture and spices.

Combine flour, salt and water into a loose dough, leave for 30 minutes, then roll out into a 25 cm square. Incorporate lard into the butter, place in the centre of the dough. Bring the edges of the dough together over the butter-lard, refrigerate for 10 minutes.

Flour the work surface, roll dough into a large rectangle, roughly 60 cm by 20 cm. Fold into three, turn and roll out again into large rectangle. Fold into three, refrigerate for 15 minutes. Repeat this turn-roll-fold- refrigerate procedure four or five times until the dough is smooth and no longer sticky.

Refrigerate until needed.

Divide the dough, roll into into 40 cm x 20 cm rectangles no more than 5 mm thick. Place filling toward the edge of the long side, fold over and seal, using milk to moisten the edges.

Preheat oven to 200ºC.

Pierce surface with a fork, smear with egg yolk. Bake at 180ºC for  60 minutes. Leave to cool. Cut into 4 cm squares, wrap in cling-film.

Adelboden
Frutigen

Featured Recipe = Flûtes au Fromage (cheese sticks)

Barbara Demont

Barbara Demont makes her flûtes with flour, butter, milk, cheese, baker’s yeast, malt, salt and sugar at her bakery on the Rue de Gland in Vullierens between Morges and Lausanne by the shore of Lake Geneva.

The dairy products, flour and salt are local to the Vaud canton, the sugar and yeast are Swiss. This makes these little treats a very special indigenous product and we recommend them highly if you are ever in the Lausanne region.

In the meantime here is a recipe for you to make your own. If you cannot get a hard Swiss cheese, especially Sbrinz, use a suitable hard cheese, semi-soft cheese does not make good flûtes.

For the history of flûtes and the tradition of breadstick making in the modern regions of the old Savoy kingdom, see our book, The Great European Food Adventure.

250 g strong white flour
150 g butter, softened
100 g Gruyère cheese / Sbrinz cheese, grated
60 ml milk, warmed
15 g sugar
15 g yeast
5 g malt / pomegranate molasses
5 g green / white pepper, pinch
Salt, pinch

Dissolve yeast in the milk and sugar, leave for 15 minutes. Work the molasses into the flour, add the salt and pepper, followed by the cheese, butter and yeast mixture. Knead the dough for five minutes, leave to rise for 50 minutes. On a floured table roll the dough out into a sheet about 5 mm thick. Preheat the oven to 200°C. Cut into 10 cm long strips, twist each strip a few times, place on a buttered baking tray, leave for 30 minutes. Place in the oven and bake for 10 minutes.

Featured Recipe = Pains de Seigle-Roggenbrot (rye bread of Switzerland)

The three wise men holding their forefingers to their lips know a secret about cheese

They are not the only ones in the mountains and valleys with secrets. The recipe for roggenbrot is also closely guarded. The woman in Brig Tourism said, ‘Why don’t you ask a bakery for their recipe?’

‘I have,’ I said.

‘Yes,’ she agreed. ‘My own recipe is a secret.’

So what did she do? She sent us up to Eggerberg. ‘Any baker in particular?’ I said.

‘It is a small place, you will find it.’

Eggerberg is a small place. It sits 1000 metres above the valley floor, and we didn’t find the fabled bakery.

So now we are taking the slow stopping train from the plaza in front of Brig main station. This is the hourly train to Fiesch, the seventh stop along the line that carries the Glazier Express into the east of Switzerland.

We have been told, reliably this time, that there is a bakery on Hejistrasse, the road that parallels the river at the western side of the town.

Imwinkelried bakery (and cafe) is one of 60 establishments in the Valais / Wallis canton that makes the traditional rye bread of the region, (pains de seigle in French, roggenbrot in German).

And we are excited. Rye bread, once a stable of the canton’s traditional food, is back in the ascendancy. Imwinkelried bake it plain, and with hazelnuts and with the fruit of the canton.

They also make the local pastries made with carnival dough, known as chräpfli.

If you decide to visit this wonderful bakery to sample their traditional breads and pastries, walk back along the platform in the direction the train has come from. In front of you, past a house, a narrow path winds down onto Hejistrasse. The bakery is immediately across the road, the cafe above.

Imwinkelried Bakery

RyeBread&DriedMeat-Valais-Wallis.lowres
Swiss rye bread with air-dried meat




Roggenbrot / Pains de Seigle
rye bread

The recommended sourdough or poolish for roggenbrot is made with one part rye flour to two parts water and fresh yeast between 1% and 1.5% of the amount of water. Some bakers use 10%. And some bakers add 10% poolish from an existing sourdough. Whatever the choice the new poolish is left to ferment for at least 12 hours at room temperature and 10 hours in the refrigerator.

1.35 kg / 2 lb 13 oz rye flour
1 litre / 4 cups + 1⅓ fl oz water
100 g / 3⅓ oz rye sourdough
50 g / 1⅔ oz yeast
35 g / 1 oz rock salt

Dissolve yeast in 100 ml / 3⅓ fl oz water, add to the rye flour with remaining water, salt and sourdough. Mix for five minutes, knead for ten minutes. Desired dough temperature, 23ºC-25ºC. Leave to ferment for an hour. Preheat oven to 230ºC.

Divide into four 600 g / 1 lb 8⅓ oz pieces and shape into rounds. Place on greaseproof paper on a baking tray, flatten each one slightly, dust with rye flour and leave to rise for 30 minutes.

The surface of the dough should be cracked slightly. Spray oven with water. Bake for an hour, until the surface is cracked and crispy.

This is the Imwinkelried bakery version.

Brötchen (Small Breads) – Swiss [Recipes]

Apfelmost-Brotchen-Cut-Out.lowres

Apfelmost-Brötchen
bread rolls made with apple juice

500 g strong white wheat flour 
225 ml apple juice, natural cloudy 
70 ml full cream / sour cream 
30 g apple purée 
30 g sugar 
20 g yeast 
5 g salt 
Butter, for greasing

Grease a large rectangular baking tray with butter. Combine flour and salt in a large bowl in a warm area. Dissolve yeast in apple juice, add the cream and sugar. Add yeast mixture to the flour and salt, knead into a smooth dough. Leave to rise for 50 minutes, degas. Rise again for an hour, degas. Divide dough into 85 g pieces, shape into rolls, place on buttered tray, leave to rise again, for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 200ºC. Bake for 25 minutes.




Aprikosen-Brötli
milk spelt bread rolls with apricots

Apricots are synonomous with the Swiss valleys, so it is no surprise that they make their way into milk bread rolls. These apricot bread rolls are also made with a combination of semi-white flour and cornmeal. This version celebrates the Swiss love affair with spelt.

350 g spelt flour 
250 ml whole milk, warmed 
150 g strong white wheat flour 
100 g dried apricots, soaked in 150 ml mineral water for 
two hours, chopped small, re-soaked, liquid retained 
60 g butter 
50 ml apricot water 
30 g sugar 
25 g yeast 
5 g salt 
Whole wheat flour for dusting

Dissolve yeast in milk and sugar. Combine flours, add salt, work in the butter. Add yeast mixture and apricot water, knead into a smooth dough. Leave to rise for 50 minutes, degas. Add apricots, knead. Rise again for an hour, degas. Divide dough into equal pieces, around 85 g each, shape into rolls, place on a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper, leave to rise again, for 45 minutes. After 30 minutes dust the tops of the rolls, and make three cuts across each roll. Preheat oven to 200ºC. Bake for 25 minutes.




Burli
wheat bread rolls

A popular bread in eastern Switzerland, Bürli is eaten with St Gallen bratwürst. Generally made with prepared flour, bürlimehl (wheat flour, wheat gluten, barley malt flour and acerola powder). Artisanal hand-made handbürli are preferred to maschinenbürli, the mass produced version, but they are difficult to make.

Pre-ferment 

150 ml water 
75 g strong white flour / white wheat flour t550 
75 g spelt white flour 
2 g yeast

Stir flours into water and yeast in a large bowl. Rest overnight at room temperature.

Final Dough 

300 g pre-ferment 
100 g white wheat flour t550 
100 ml water 
50 g rye flour 
50 g wholewheat flour t1050 
20 g yeast 
10 g salt 
5 g barley malt flour

Work flours, malt, water, salt and yeast into pre-ferment to make a soft elastic dough, rest for three hours. Preheat oven to highest setting. Cut dough into 85 g pieces. Place on floured baking trays. Leave to rest for 15 minutes. Place a tray of water in the bottom of the oven. Reduce heat to 230°C, bake for 20 minutes, opening oven to allow residual vapour to escape, then bake for a further ten minutes. This will produce dark crusts on the bürli. For lighter crusts reduce starting heat to 210°C and take out after 20 minutes.




Gewürzzopf Brötchen
spiced braid bread rolls

500 g Zopf flour (or 200 g strong white wheat flour, 200 g white spelt flour, 100 g t550 white wheat flour, large pinch of barley malt flour) 
225 ml milk, lukewarm 
75 g yogurt 
60 g butter, softened 
20 g yeast 
15 g brown sugar 
7 g salt 
1 tsp cinnamon, ground 
½ tsp cardamon, ground 
½ tsp cloves, ground 
½ tsp nutmeg, ground 
½ tsp turmeric
Glaze 
1 egg yolk 
15 ml milk

Dissolve yeast in the milk and sugar. Mix the flours, salt and spices. Pour yeast mixture into the flour, add butter, knead into a rough dough. Gradually add the yoghurt, about 10 g at a time, working it into the dough to make it smooth. Leave to rise for an hour, degas, rise for a second hour, degas again. Divide dough into two pieces, roll out into 80 cm sticks. Braid. Cut into 85 g pieces, place on a greased baking tray, leave to rise for 30 minutes. Coat each piece with the egg-milk mixture. Preheat oven to 200ºC. Bake for 15 minutes.




Hölzlibrötli
spiralled milk bread rolls 

300 g white spelt flour 
250 ml milk, lukewarm 
100 g strong white wheat flour 
100 g whole spelt flour 
60 g butter, softened 
20 g yeast 
5 g salt 
1 long sprig marjoram, leaves removed, chopped small 
5 sage leaves, chopped small

Dissolve yeast in the milk. Mix flours, herbs and salt. Pour yeast mixture into the flour, add butter, knead into a smooth dough. Leave to rise for an hour, degas, rise for a second hour, degas again. Divide dough into 85 g pieces, roll into 35 cm sticks, twist into spirals, flatten, place on a greased baking tray, leave to rise for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 230°C. Bake for 10 minutes.




Kartoffel-Baumnuss-Brötchen
potato and walnut bread rolls

300 g semi-white wheat flour 
300 ml milk, warmed 
250 g potates, boiled, peeled, mashed 
200 g strong white flour 
200 g walnuts, chopped 
20 g yeast 
10 g vanilla sugar 
1 tsp barley malt flour 
1 tsp salt

Dissolve yeast and sugar in the milk. Combine flours, add yeast mixture and knead into a smooth dough. Leave to rise for an hour, degas and rise for a second hour. Knead the potato and walnuts into the dough, leave to rise for 45 minutes. Shape into 80 g rolls, and leave to rise until double in size. Preheat oven to 220ºC. Bake for 20 minutes.




Käse-Brötchen
cheese bread rolls

These bread rolls can also be made like scones, with baking powder and butter. This is the yeast version.

500 g strong white flour 
300 ml milk, warmed 
100 g Gruyère cheese, grated 
2 egg yolks, beaten 
20 g yeast 
Salt, large pinch

Dissolve yeast in the milk. Add yeast mixture to the flour and knead into a smooth dough. Leave to rise for an hour, degas and rise for a second hour. Shape into 80 g rolls, and leave to rise until double in size. Coat buns with egg yolk, sprinkle with cheese. Preheat oven to 175°C. Bake for 30 minutes.




Maisbrötchen
cornmeal and spelt bread rolls

Dairy Version 

350 g white spelt flour 
200 g curd cheese 
200 ml milk, warmed 
150 g cornmeal, ground fine 
20 g yeast 
10 g salt

Combine spelt flour, cornmeal and salt. Dissolve yeast dissolve in warmed milk. Work the cheese into the mixture. Add yeast milk. Knead to a smooth dough. Leave to rise for an hour, degas. Leave for a second hour. Dough temperature should be 26ºC. Shape into 90 g balls, place on baking trays covered with greaseproof paper. Leave to rise for an hour. Preheat oven to 220ºC. Bake for 25 minutes at 200ºC.

Vegan Version 

350 g white spelt flour 
200 g quark 
200 ml soya milk 
150 g cornmeal, ground fine 
10 g baking soda 
10 g salt

Combine spelt flour, cornmeal, salt, and baking powder. Work the quark into the mixture. Add soya milk. Knead to a smooth dough, leave to rest for 30 minutes. Cut dough in half, shape into long rolls. Place on baking trays covered with greaseproof paper. Preheat oven to 220ºC. Bake for 25 minutes at 200ºC.




Milchbrötchen / Mutschli
crispy milk bread rolls

Spelt Version 

500 g white spelt flour 
240 ml milk 
50 ml milk, lukewarm 
20 g yeast 
Salt, large pinch 
Flour, for dusting

Dissolve yeast in three tablespoons of milk, add 2 tablespoons of flour, stir and leave to foam, about an hour. Sieve flour into a bowl, add salt, yeast mixture and milk. Knead into a smooth dough. Leave to rise for an hour, degas, leave for a further hour. Shape into 50 g balls, place on buttered tray. Leave to rise, 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 200ºC. Brush rolls with water, and a dusting of flour. Bake for 30 minutes.

Wheat Version 

600 g white wheat t550 flour 
280 ml milk, lukewarm 
1 egg separated 
50 g butter, softened 
30 g honey 
35 g leaven 
20 g yeast 
1 tbsp barley malt 
Salt, large pinch

Sieve flour into a large bowl, add salt. Work butter into flour. Dissolve yeast in milk with honey. Pour into flour, add egg white, knead into a soft dough. Leave to rise for an hour, degas, leave for a further hour. Divide dough into 60 g balls, knead, place on buttered baking tray, leave for an hour. Preheat oven to 200ºC. Brush rolls with beaten egg yolk loosened with a little milk. After 20 minutes, when the buns are turning brown, spray cold water into the top of the oven. Repeat again within two minutes. Remove rolls from oven eight minutes later.




Rosinenbrötchen
raisin bread rolls

400 g white wheat flour t550 
225 ml whole milk, warmed 
100 g raisins soaked in 200 ml rum overnight, drained 
100 g strong white flour 
75 g vanilla sugar 
1 egg 
45 g butter, soft 
20 g yeast 
5 g barley malt 
5 g salt 
½ tsp cardamon, ground 
½ tsp cinnamon, ground
Glaze 

1 egg yolk 
15 ml milk

Sieve flours into a large bowl, add the barley malt, salt and spices, stir and leave. Dissolve yeast in the milk and sugar. Work the butter into the flour, add the yeast mixture and egg. Knead for ten minutes into a smooth soft dough. Leave to rise for an hour, degas. Knead the raisins into the dough. Leave to rise for an hour, degas. Divide dough into 85 g pieces, shape into balls and place on a baking tray covered with greaseproof paper. Preheat oven to 200°C. Leave balls to rise for 50 minutes. Glaze and bake for 25 minutes.




Weggli
soft
bread rolls

Traditionally made with white flour, yeast, milk, butter, malt, sugar and salt, these round, split breakfast buns are found in small bakeries and cafes. The artisan versions are superior to the mass produced varieties that use improvers and milk powder to prolong the shelf life. Spelt gives them a nutritious kick. Made with kefir instead of milk, they are mouthwatering.

350 g strong white flour 
200 g kefir, brought up to room temperature 
150 g white spelt flour 
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.




Zöpfliknoten
honey-saffron semi-spelt milk bread rolls

Dough 

500 g zopf flour (or 200 g strong white flour, 200 g white spelt flour, 100 g t550 white wheat flour, large pinch of barley malt flour) 
200 ml milk, warmed 
80 g forest honey 
60 g butter, softened 
20 g yeast 
15 ml kirschwasser 
8 g salt 
5 g vanilla sugar 

Glaze 

1 egg, beaten 
15 ml milk, warmed

Saffron, large pinch Sieve flours into a large bowl, add salt and mix thoroughly. Combine yeast with the honey, sugar and 150 ml of the warmed milk. Add butter, kirsch, yeast mixture and remaining milk to the flour. Knead into a smooth dough. Cover and leave to rise for an hour. Warm the small amount of milk, infuse with saffron, leave to cool. Degas, leave for a second hour. Degas, divide into equal pieces, around 80 g each. Place on baking trays covered with greaseproof paper, leave to rise for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 220ºC. Add the beaten egg to the saffron milk, coat the buns in this mixture. Bake in the lower part of the oven for 10 minutes. Reduce temperature to 200°C. Bake for 15 minutes.




Zuckerbrötchen
sugar bread rolls

Sugar buns? An indelicate description for these delightful breads.

500 g zopf flour (or 300 g strong white flour, 195 g white spelt flour, 5 g barley malt flour) 
165 ml whole milk, lukewarm 
1 egg, beaten 
50 g butter, softened 
45 g vanilla sugar 
1 orange, zest 
1 lemon, zest 
45 g pistachios, chopped 
45 g currants 
20 g yeast 
Saffron powder, pinch 
Salt, large pinch 

Glaze 

1 egg, beaten 
45 g pearl sugar

Dissolve yeast and saffron in half the milk. Leave to froth. Sieve flours into a large bowl with salt and sugar. Work in the butter, add remaining milk, yeast mixture and egg. Fold in the zest. Knead into a smooth dough, cover and leave to rise for an hour. Add pistachios and sultanas, knead, leave for a second hour. Degas, divide into equal pieces, around 80 g each. Place on baking trays covered with greaseproof paper, leave to rise for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 180°C. Brush buns with egg wash, sprinkle with pearl sugar. Bake for 25 minutes.

Featured Recipe = Butterzöpfe SWITZERLAND braided butter bread

Andrea&Markus-lowresHigh above the Simmen valley in the Berner oberland, Andrea Sprenger-von Siebenthal and Markus Sprenger run a big family hotel in the village of Sannenmöser. Long known as Les Hauts de Gstaad and Spa, it also goes by the name Golfhotel and is gradually building a solid reputation for excellent food using fresh local produce.

The quality is unsurpassed, largely due to the efforts of head chef Joachim van vlasselaer and pastry chef Fabien Larcopage. Beef, lamb, veal and wild boar comes from regional suppliers, fruit and vegetable is seasonal, fish is from mountain lakes and their alpine cheese comes from two small farmers further along the valley.

Simmentaler cows, who graze alpine flora, produce cheese and milk with a depth of flavour that is distinctly alpine. Markus calls it a ‘feeling,’ and you can taste that feeling when you eat their alpkäse and sample the cultured butter Joachim makes fresh in his kitchen.

CattleMovesSaanenmoser.lowres
Simmentaler cows on tour in the village

His ‘plain’ butter is a melt-in-the-mouth experience that lingers and remains unforgettable. He also makes a beetroot butter and a herb butter. We haven’t mentioned the boletus mushrooms they served as a mousse and as a soup. The flavour is so strong you can still taste the forest.

Then there is Andrea’s Sunday bread, known famously in Switzerland as zöpf or butterzöpfe.




One of Switzerland’s oldest traditional foods, this bread has been a feature of weekend life since the 15th century. The dough was made Saturday, baked Sunday. The Swiss use zopfmehl, a combination of wheat, spelt and barley flours.

Some people think it owes its origins to a custom whereby widows cut off a braid of their hair and buried it with their husbands. As time went on, they buried a loaf in the same shape instead of their hair.

870 g strong white wheat flour
600 ml / 20 fl oz whole milk, warmed
120 g / 4 oz butter, softened
115 g white spelt flour
15 g barley malt flour
30 g / 1 oz yeast
25 g / 5 tsp salt

Dissolve yeast in the milk. Sieve flour into a large baking bowl, add salt and work in the butter. Add yeasty milk, work into a dough. Fold out onto a clean work surface, knead for 15 minutes into a smooth dough. Leave to rise for an hour, de-gas and leave for a further hour. Place dough in refrigerator overnight. Divide dough into four equal pieces, and form each into a long sausage, tapered at each end. Braid two of the dough sausages, repeat, place both loaves on a large greased baking tray. Leave to rise, about an hour. Preheat over to 180ºC. Bake for 50 minutes, until the surface of each loaf has browned.

The Fish Sandwich Culture

Sol over Gudhjem DENMARK smoked herring open sandwich

One of the most majestic members of the Smørrebrød family is Sun Over Gudhjem, after the Bornholm island town where the silvery-white herrings of the Baltic sea are transformed into golden fish by the smoking process, ‘the gold from the sea’.  

Sun Over Gudhjem is made with a slice of rye bread, two smoked herrings, chives, radish and a fresh raw egg yolk on top, the aforementioned sun.

But there is only one place to taste this delicious treat and that is on Bornholm. Despite its location midway between Poland and Sweden in the Baltic sea it is relatively easy to get there, two and a half hours by bus from Copenhagen.

Fischbrötchen GERMANY fish sandwich

According to those who know, the best fish sandwiches in Hamburg can be found at Brücke 10 on the pier. And one who knows better than most is Hamburg photographer and publisher Tilman Schuppius.

In 2011 he published the Fischbrötchen Report and it became so popular that he followed it with a second edition in 2015. Everything you want to know and see about the fish sandwich tradition of the German Baltic coast is here. His photography is stunning. Of more importance is his knowledge about the best places to visit to taste a particular fish sandwich.

The latest volume features 41 fish sandwich ‘snacks’ plus descriptions of fish sandwich stalls and ‘insider tips for travelers, weekenders and day-trippers’. ‘The culture of the fish sandwich plays an important role in the lives of the people of northern Germany,’ says Schuppius.

The Bismark pickled herring has pride of place in this fish sandwich culture. Crab has its own particular niche. Prawns are favoured by those who want something different to the fillet. Saithe (also known as coley and pollack) is very popular. Salmon remains a favourite. Smoked mackerel will always be special. Matjes, the young herrings caught between the first of May and the last day of August, is a rival to the other fillets because of their unique flavour.

And don’t forget the bread bun! Some prefer the soft bun, others the hard bun with a crunch.

The fish sandwich is never complete without onions, and these too must be special or the connoisseur will know the difference.

There are those who insist that a fish sandwich should contain nothing more than fish and onions. Yet again another debate. Where are the cucumbers, lettuce and tomatoes?

It seems however that style is not the barometer, it is the substance, and that means that the fish sandwich may contain any kind of fish prepared in any number of methods and with whatever you want to put with it.

Balik Ekmek TURKEY fish sandwich

Istanbul is full of aromas that tease and tempt but none capture the tastes of this ancient city like the smell of grilled mackerel. Still known as a street food because of ancient associations with the fishers of the Bosphorus, balık ekmek is now synonymous with the tourist centres of Eminönü and the galata Bridge. Crunchy loaves and oily fishes are a throwback, one of the oldest traditional foods in the world. Here in Turkey they part of the fabric of life. The cooking time depend on the size of your mackerel.

4 mackerel, filleted
1 baquette, cut into four, halved
Lettuce, shredded
Onion, sliced into rings
Paprika flakes
Tomato, quartered
1 lemon, juiced
Oil, for frying

Heat a frying pan, add a thin drizzle of oil, place fillets flesh side down, cook for two minutes. gently flip over, cook for three or four minutes on the skin side. Place fillets inside the cut breads, dress with a choice of lettuce, onion and tomato, season with paprika flakes and finish with a splash of lemon juice.

Featured Restaurant = Bottega del Vino, Verona

This ostentatious osteria has an equally glamorous history. once one of many that characterised Verona’s place in the renaissance period of the Venetian Republic, it was known as Osteria Scudo di Francia, after the French Consulate, housed upstairs.

It got its present name in the 1890s when the Sterzi brothers bought it from a winery in Soave. In 1957 the Rizzo-Grigolo family enriched the cellar and offered restaurant style meals, a tradition that has been maintained since the ‘Amarone Families’ acquired it in 2011.

The significance of risotto all’amarone as one of their signature dishes is not lost on those who know the story. Rice and wine define the veneto region, the area around Verona in particular. More so because Amarone is one of the great stories of the modern era.

Here in the bottega, wine is slightly more important than rice. They have 18,000 bottles of almost 5,000 labels, and all of them are excellent.

Why?

Wine is their stock and trade. It is wine that makes them what they are and they know what they are doing, so when you visit, as you must, expect only the best. Sabina Zantedeschi, their young sommelier, will guide you through the tastes of verona’s best wines.

We sampled a ‘2013 valpolicella Classico’ from the Begali Lorenzo winery, a ‘2013 Valpolicella Ripasso’ from Venturni and a ‘2010 Capitel Monte olmi’ from Tedeschi.

The food was exquisite. Luca, the manager, tried to explain that the first dish was an excellent marriage between the sea of Venice and the land of verona. This was scallops with pearà sauce. He was right.

The high standard was maintained with the horse meat stew and potato dumplings. Their hand-made pasta dishes were superb!

Then came the Amarone risotto. Sabina tried to convince us that the tradition of cooking rice with wine started in the Bottega. ‘Journalists came to drink the wine, and the wine that was left over was used to cook the rice that made the risotto, a tradition that began here over 100 years ago.’

It is a great story but it is not the reason why you should book a table here. When you eat and drink at the Bottega del Vino you eat and drink the local produce, because everything that goes into their kitchen is indigenous and everything that comes out is exquisite.


The Bottega del Vino is featured in more detail in our food-travel narrative, The Great European Food Adventure. 

Bottega del Vino

Begali

Tedeschi

Viniventurini


Risotto-All'Amarone-lowres

RISOTTO ALL’AMARONE

rice in red wine

Amarone della Valpolicella is a dry sweet red wine produced in the province of Verona. Using grapes that are dried for four months, the wine is aged in barrels for a minimum of two years. The marriage of this fragrant and fruity wine with the Vialone Nano rice of the region to produce a risotto is heavenly. This version is from Antica Bottega del Vino on Via Scudo di Francia in Verona.

650 ml / 21⅔ fl oz vegetable stock
500 ml / 2 cups + ⅔ fl oz / approx. 1 pint Amarone wine
320 g Carnaroli rice / Vialone Nano rice
80 g / 2⅔ oz butter
50 g / 1⅔ oz Parmigiano cheese
Salt, large pinch

Heat wine. Sauté rice in 20 g / ⅔ oz of butter in a large frying pan. Add wine gradually, stiring constantly. Heat vegetable stock. When the rice has absorbed the wine, gradually add the vegetable stock. Cook until rice is al dente, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat, stir in remaining butter and cheese. Rest. Serve hot.