January 21, 2017

Matar Paneer

This is my version of the famous northern Indian vegetarian curry featuring peas (matar or mutter, amongst other spellings) and fresh cheese (paneer). It is a little less rich, and a little less complex than a lot of the versions out there, but that just makes it easier to put on the dinner table on a weeknight.

Obviously it is much more time consuming if you make the paneer yourself, but since I was able to find some in a shop here (hurrah!) I've gone the easy route. You can make the paneer cubes any size you want, although if they're much smaller than sugar-cube, it will be more troublesome to fry them. The cubes shown here are actually a bit on the large side, and probably could have been halved. The recipe works either way. You can also skip the frying stage, but it does lose some of the flavour and texture that make the dish special.

I think it's one of the better things you can do with frozen green peas.

Matar Paneer

Serves 4

350 grams paneer, diced
3 tablespoons peanut oil, divided
1 large onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped or pressed
1 inch fresh ginger root, finely chopped
3 tomatoes, deseeded and diced
1 teaspoon cumin seed
1 teaspoon coriander seed
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
2 teaspoons garam masala, divided
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1-2 hot green chiles, minced
250 - 325 mL water
200 grams green peas, rinsed under warm water if frozen
3 tablespoons heavy cream

As usual with Indian cuisine, I find it essential to complete all of the prep before starting cooking. Mise en place is peace of mind.

In a large, non-stick skillet over medium heat, heat 2 tablespoons of the peanut oil until shimmering. Add the cubes of paneer, quickly placing them one at a time rather than dumping them all in at once, and sear until slightly browned. Use tongs or a fork to turn the cubes over to brown the other sides. I confess to being lazy, and that I only browned three or four sides for each piece, so that works, too. Remove the finished cubes to a holding plate.

In the emptied skillet, still over medium heat, add the remaining tablespoon of oil, and also add the whole cumin and coriander seeds. Stir them around a bit, and let them toast in the hot oil for a minute or so before adding the onion, ginger, garlic, and salt. Stir and fry until the onion bits are well browned, and then add the turmeric, ground cumin, ground coriander seed, and half of the garam masala. Stir the spices through, and then add the tomato paste, and stir that through, also. You can add a tablespoon or so of water if it's really getting difficult to stir. Add the diced tomatoes, and stir and cook for about ten minutes or so, or until the oil starts to separate out from the mass of vegetables. Slowly stir in 250 mL water, and stir and cook until it is a grainy gravy.

If your pan is deep enough, you can use an immersion blender right in the skillet, but if not, remove the coarse sauce to a blender-cup or food processor and process until it becomes a smooth gravy. Return to the skillet (I don't bother to wipe the skillet out in between), and let it return to a gentle bubble. If the mixture is too thick, you can add the extra water but go slow, just adding a bit at a time until you get a gravy consistency you're happy with.

Add the peas to the skillet and stir through. Add the fried paneer cubes, and gently stir through. Cover the pan and turn the heat to low, and let simmer for about ten minutes, or until the peas are cooked and the paneer cubes are heated through. Remove from the heat and stir through the heavy cream. Garnish with cilantro if you wish. Serve with or over basmati rice.

A note on recipes calling for only a tablespoon or two of tomato paste: if you normally buy tomato paste in cans, you might want to consider picking up a tube of tomato paste instead - unlike the cans, they can be stored in the fridge once opened and are perfect for dispensing only a small amount of tomato paste at a time. You can usually find tomato paste in large tubes in Italian delis or specialty shops, if they're not on your usual supermarket shelves.

January 14, 2017

Japanese Ginger Salad Dressing

Ginger salad dressing is so fresh and delicious tasting that it can make even the saddest pile of limp iceberg lettuce palatable. It turns out that it's even better when homemade and you can control the sweetness, so you may need to forcibly restrain yourself from just drinking it down like a smoothie.

I find a lot of the ginger salad dressings I've a had in restaurants to be a bit too sweet for my taste, so I've put very little sugar in this one. If you like your dressings sweet, you might want to taste it after it's made up and then add a bit more sugar and give it a final blitz. This recipe was synthesized from myriad online sources, but none in particular. There are some surprising ingredients, but go with it.

Japanese Ginger Salad Dressing

Makes 2/3 cup

1/4 cup peanut oil*
3 tablespoons unseasoned rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon water
1 - 2 tablespoons finely grated fresh ginger root (or finely minced)
1/4 cup sliced green onion - white parts only (about 3-4)
2 tablespoons finely grated carrot
2 tablespoons minced celery
1 tablespoon tomato ketchup
1 teaspoon less-sodium soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 small clove of garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
Pinch of ground white pepper

*If you don't use peanut oil, for whatever reason, be sure to use a neutrally flavoured vegetable oil. Strong-tasting oils like olive or walnut are out of place here.

I used a microplane-type grater for the carrot and the ginger, and everything else was just finely chopped by hand. I like a strong ginger flavour, so I used the full 2 tablespoons, but you can scale it back to one if you're feeling mild.

Place everything in the order given in a cup suitable for an immersion-blender (or the cup of your blender or food processor), and blend on high until mostly smooth. This dressing has a lot of body for a vinaigrette, so it will still have a little bit of texture, but that's fine - it's how the dressing is usually served in restaurants, too.

Cover well and refrigerate for a couple of hours before use if possible - but use it up within three days.

To use, simply give it a stir (or a shake, if it's in a jar) and spoon over your composed salad. It can also be used to dress thinly sliced cucumber on its own, or plain, finely shredded cabbage to make a sort of gingery coleslaw.

January 07, 2017

Turkey Congee

Congee (also called jook in Cantonese, amongst many other names worldwide) is a rice porridge popular throughout Asia, and there are many different ways to have it. At its most basic, it is a blank canvas for your favourite flavours, whether you need it to be soothing and restorative, or something a little more lively. It is almost infinitely customizable to what you already might have available in your kitchen. It can be meat-based, or vegetarian, or vegan. Congee isn't always made from rice (millet, mung beans, barley, and sorghum are some of the other variations), but rice is by far and away the most common version. It is a popular any time of day - from breakfast to late night, post-pub snack. Every time I make congee, I remember how much I love it, and vow on the spot to make it more often.

This version came from my desire to make something with the strong turkey stock that I made from the bones of our Christmas turkey. Since I'm generally pretty well stocked for Asian condiments and garnish-ingredients, I was able to make this with what was on hand.

It does take a while to cook, but it's fairly low effort, even so: stir it every so often, and it takes care of itself.

Turkey Congee

Serves 2

100 grams (about 1/2 cup) long or short grain rice
1 litre (4 cups) water
250 mL (1 cup) strong turkey stock
1/2 - 3/4 teaspoon coarse salt
1 cup diced or shredded cooked turkey meat


1 clove of fresh garlic, finely slivered
1 inch fresh ginger, finely slivered
1/4 cup thinly sliced green onion
cilantro leaves
slices of red chile pepper
a few drops of sesame oil

You can garnish lightly or heavily, depending on what you have on hand:

Other typical congee garnishes might include:

Youtiao (Chinese doughnut/cruller)
hot chile oil
soy sauce (not too much, or it will overwhelm)
pork floss
fried shallots/shallot oil
preserved duck egg
lettuce (stirred in at the end)
sliced mushrooms
preserved greens
...and many more (and that's not even counting featured ingredients, such as the turkey in this version.

Wash your rice well in cool water. Meanwhile, bring the litre of water listed in the recipe to a boil in a medium-large soup pot, and once it is boiling, add the stock and the rice. Reduce the heat to medium-low until the mixture is bubbling enthusiastically, but not at a rolling boil, cock a lid half-on the pot (to let steam escape, and set the timer for 20 minutes. Feel free to stir occasionally.

When the timer goes, give everything a good stir, making sure there's nothing stuck to the bottom of the pan. I like a wooden spoon for this. Taste the broth, and add the salt. Start with 1/2 teaspoon (especially if you are using a salty, commercial turkey stock, or will be adding soy sauce later), and add more later if needed. Stir well and leave it to cook, uncovered, this time, stirring occasionally, for another 20 minutes on the timer.

When the second timer goes, check on it again. It should be much thicker (and more likely to start sticking to the bottom of the pot), but still not completely at congee-texture. These things take time. Stir it really well, and put the timer on for another 20 minutes, uncovered. At this time, you can chop or shred the turkey meat and have it standing by, and you can start to prepare the other garnishes.

When the timer goes for the third time, add the turkey meat to the congee, and marvel at how much thicker it has gotten. If it is too thick, feel free to add a half-cup of water (or more, but add only a little at a time) until it reach the consistency you like. Let the mixture cook, stirring frequently for 15 - 20 minutes, and then ladle into bowls. Top with the garnishes of your choice, and devour.

The below picture shows the finished congee, just before the garnishes are added. You can see a little of the turkey peeking through, but you can also see how thick the porridge itself is.

December 31, 2016

Holiday Yams (Sweet Potatoes)

For some reason, in Canada (and in parts of the USA) we called orange-fleshed sweet potatoes (Convolvulaceae) "yams" even though they have no relationship to the true yam (Dioscoreaceae). Technically, this dish should be Holiday Sweet Potatoes, but so far the change hasn't really stuck. I am apparently a prisoner of my childhood lexicon.

I dreamed this recipe up years ago, and we've had it for Christmas dinner every single year since, whether we're having turkey, ham, duck, goose, or anything else. You can cook them in the oven with the other dishes, if you have room, but you could also cook them on the stove-top if that works better for you.

Holiday Yams

Serves 4

2 medium orange-fleshed sweet potatoes
1 cup orange juice (or a mixtured of citrus juices)
4 slices fresh ginger root, peeled
1-2 star anise stars
1 cinnamon stick
4 whole cloves
4 green cardamon pods
small pinch of salt (optional)

Peel and dice the sweet potatoes. You can cut them into larger, stew-sized chunks, or smaller dice, however you prefer. You should have about 4 cups' worth of cubes.

Pour the orange juice over the cubes, and tuck the spices around them, being sure to submerge the spices into the juice, so that the flavour is carried throughout.

Cover the pan and bake until tender - the timing will depend on the oven temperature, so if you've got other items in the oven that require a specific temp, you'll need to work around that. For small dice, such as the one you see here, 40-45 minutes at 325°F/170°C should suffice, but if your oven is hotter, it could take as little as 30 minutes (you'll need to check).

Drain the orange juice or use a slotted spoon to remove the cubes of sweet potato from the juice and remove the spices (I leave the ginger in) to serve. If you have leftovers, they can be stored as-is in a refrigerator container, and gently reheated on the stovetop either in fresh orange juice, a little water (steaming), or fried in a little oil or butter.

December 27, 2016

Breakfast: Eggs baked in Bell Peppers

This was taken pretty much directly from a Buzzfeed Tasty video. I've adjusted things to our tastes and the current state of the pantry, but the method is solid.

Essentially, this is what you do:

Halve the bell peppers lengthwise, and remove the stem, veins, and seeds. Transfer pepper cups (cut side up) to a baking tray lined with aluminum foil. Season each pepper with salt and pepper, and bake for 15 minutes at 375°F/190°C, until peppers are softened.

Stabilize any peppers that look extra floppy (see below).

Sprinkle some grated cheese and chopped green onion or chives evenly among the four pepper halves. Crack an egg into the centre of each pepper. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, bacon (if you're using it), and more cheese on top of the eggs. Back into the oven it goes; bake for 15-20 minutes, until egg whites are set.

I note that next time I will create rings of aluminum foil to stabilize the peppers and ensure that they don't tip over as the eggs are added. This happened with one of my peppers, but it wasn't the end of the world. After baking just long enough to set the bit of white that lay on the pan, I was able to scoop the egg up and pile it back into the pepper shell with minimal hassle and no real deleterious effect (other than cosmetic, and a bit more grated cheese fixed that right up).

Definitely something I will make again.

December 17, 2016

Khoresht Loobia Sabz: Persian Green Bean and Lamb Stew

Persian cuisine is full of delicious, slow-simmered dishes that are very satisfying on cold winter nights - even more so if you've had the foresight to put a stash in the freezer. This tomato and green bean stew can be made with lamb, beef, chicken, or meatless, and is generally served with rice.

I made this recipe first due to a sudden abundance of fresh green beans that needed using. Normally, I prefer very fine green beans, which are sometimes also called French or filet beans (Prinzessbohnen, or Nadelbohnen in German), which are stringless and supremely tender, but on this occasion I found myself with a rather large bag of somewhat larger diameter green beans, and wanted to find a recipe that would do them justice. Although these beans are stringless they are also quite firm, but this dish simmers until the beans are truly tender, absorbing the flavours around them as they soften. The resulting texture is luscious rather than overcooked, and helps the dish stand up to freezing very well.

I scoured my resources for recipes to get a sense of the variations of this dish (also spelled Khoresht Lubia Sabz), and eventually made a version very closely modelled on Khoresht Lubia Sabz by My Persian Kitchen, although I note that I used much less water than the original recipe.

Khoresht Loobia Sabz: Persian Green Bean and Lamb Stew

Serves 4

500 grams lamb stew meat, diced medium-small
1.5 tablespoon canola oil (divided)
1 large yellow onion, finely diced
5 garlic cloves, minced or crushed
1/2 teaspoon kosher or coarse sea salt (or to taste)
1 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
pinch of ground cinnamon (optional)
400 mL diced tomatoes (canned is fine)
3 tablespoons tomato paste
2 cups water
400 grams green beans
3 tablespoons lemon juice

In a medium-large soup pot over medium heat, heat one tablespoon of the canola oil and add the onion and garlic. Stir and sauté until the onion is translucent and just starts to stick to the bottom of the pan, and then add the lamb. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, turmeric, cumin, paprika, and cinnamon (if using), and continue to sauté until the lamb colours slightly. Add the water, and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat and cover, and then simmer for an hour and a half, until the lamb is tender.

Add the diced tomatoes and tomato paste, and stir thoroughly through. Let the stew continue to simmer while you prepare the beans.

Wash and dry the beans, and trim the ends. Cut the beans into short lengths (each bean cut either into halves or thirds, depending on length). In a separate skillet, heat the remaining half tablespoon of oil until it shimmers, and then add the cut green beans into the hot skillet. Stir fry the beans until they are bright green (add an extra pinch of salt as you fry them), about 3 minutes. Pour the beans into the stew, and add the lemon juice. Stir through, cover the pot, and reduce the heat to low. Simmer for about an hour, until all of the flavours permeate the beans.

Serve over plain rice, such as chelow or kateh, or even a polow if the mood takes you.

December 03, 2016

Chocolate Cherry Bombs: No-Bake Chocolate Drop Cookies

My mother called these "Summer Cookies" because you could make a batch on the hottest day of the year without turning the oven on, but they are equally delicious in colder months (and set up faster, too). These are dense, chewy, sweet little bombs. You can of course vary the fruits as you like. We made these with just raisins when I was a kid, but I really like dried cherries (sweet or sour cherries) either instead or in addition. Dried cranberries would also be delicious.

This would be an excellent recipe to make for a cookie exchange, because it makes a large batch that takes very little time. Oh, and everyone seems to love them, even if they are skeptical at first glance.

This batch is vegan, as I made it for a dietarily-mixed workplace function, but you could replace the coconut oil with butter, and the oatmeal cream for milk to get my mother's original version. The recipe can be halved or doubled to meet your needs.

Note: Because the salt grains are large and added with the dry ingredients, they don't dissolve quite as much as they might otherwise. This means that you'll get an occasional extra little crystalline crunch as you bite into the the cookie, with a burst of extra flavour. I think it's a lovely feature, but if you prefer to have that salty bite less prominent, simply use half the amount of fine grain salt, or add it to the chocolate mixture while it is on the stove so it has the chance to dissolve.

Chocolate Cherry Bombs

Makes about 6 dozen small ones

1 litre (4 cups) raw (or brown) sugar
250 mL (1 cup) cocoa powder
125 grams coconut oil (or butter)
225 mL oat milk (or dairy milk)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1.5 litres (6 cups) rolled oats (thick cut, not instant)
125 mL (1/2 cup) dried shredded coconut (unsweetened)
125 mL (1/2 cup) raisins
250 mL (1 cup) dried sweet or sour cherries
1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt or Kosher salt

In a large saucepan or dutch oven over medium heat, heat the sugar, cocoa powder, coconut oil (or butter), and milk. Let the mixture cook and bubble for about 3 minutes, stirring well.

In a second bowl, combine the dry items: oats, coconut, raisins, cherries, and salt.

Remove the chocolate mixture from the heat, and stir in the vanilla extract. Then add all of the dry mixture, and stir vigorously with a sturdy wooden spoon until there are no more dry patches and everything is thoroughly integrated.

Use a small disher or a tablespoon to drop cookies onto parchment, waxed paper, or foil lined trays (ideally, something that fits in your fridge or freezer if it's hot out). They don't expand, so you can pack them quite closely. You can make them any size you like, but because they're so sweet and intense, I make them quite small. You can always have more than one.

Let the cookies harden for an hour or so before serving (it might take longer in warm weather, unless you refrigerate them). You can store them in a waxed-paper lined tin in the cupboard or fridge.

November 23, 2016

Moroccan Eggplant Salad/Dip: Zaalouk

One of my favourite dishes from Marrakech was an eggplant salad called Zaalouk (also spelled Zalook, amongst other variations). Moroccan cuisine is very big on salads, both raw and cooked, and this is a particularly popular one. Although you can find zaalouks made from other vegetables than eggplant, it does seem to be the one most commonly seen in the wild. Sometimes it simply showed up unannounced alongside whatever tagine I had ordered, and sometimes I selected it (along with one or two other options), from a menu. Every time it was a little bit different, and every time it was delicious.

It's pretty easy to make although it does take a bit of time, but since it is usually served either cold or at room temperature, you can make it in advance. The preparatory stages up to frying the eggplant are pretty much the same as the Turkish Eggplant Casserole that I was raving about last summer (and still make often), and it's not impossible that both dishes are related to the Afghani dish Burani Bonjon. It's flavour profile is quite different from Baba Ghanoush, the eggplant dip/spread that North Americans seem most familiar with these days, but it can fulfill a similar role.

This recipe was adapted from Fleur d'Oranger, Masala & Co's traditional recipe. I made mine a bit coarser, because that was the way I usually received it in Marrakech, but really you can make it as coarse or as smooth as you like. This makes a small batch, but can be easily doubled.

Eggplant (Aubergine) Zaalouk

Serves 2 - 4

1 medium, firm eggplant
Kosher or coarse sea salt
Olive oil (about a quarter of a cup, total)
1 small yellow onion, finely diced
1 cup canned diced tomatoes with juices
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/2 tablespoon (sweet) paprika
1/2 teaspoon pimentón de la vera (or other smoked paprika)
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
small handful cilantro leaves (optional)

Prepare the eggplant by removing the cap and slicing lengthwise into 1/2 centimetre thick slabs. Dissolve a generous tablespoon of salt in hot water, and then add cold water until you have about six cups in a large bowl. Add the eggplant slices and allow them to brine for 10 minutes, or up to 8 hours (cover them with a plate or otherwise keep them submerged in the brine as much as possible). Drain, rinse, and press the slices firmly with paper towels or fresh linen towels to dry them out.

In a large skillet, heat a tablespoon of olive oil over medium-high heat until it just shimmers. Tilt the pan to ensure the bottom of the pan is well coated. Have a receiving plate standing by. Brush the first few (dried, pressed) slices of eggplant with olive oil, and fry them in batches, repeating with a little extra olive oil added between each batch, until golden on each side and very soft - about three minutes per side, depending on your heat level. Remove them to the nearby plate as they finish to make room for the next pieces.

Into the empty skillet, heat a bit more olive oil, and add the diced onion and sauté until soft and translucent. Add a good pinch of salt, and stir through. Add the tomato paste and stir through. Add the spices and the tomatoes with their juices, and stir through, lowering the heat to medium-low, and continuing to stir, scraping the bottom of the pan clear as you go. Cook and stir for about another five minutes. If you want to add a hot chile pepper or even just a pinch of pepper flakes, now is the time to do that.

Place the fried eggplant on a clean cutting board, and chop roughly. Add the eggplant back into the skillet, along with any accumulated juices/olive oil that might cling to the cutting board or plate. Add the cilantro, if using. Stir everything together and continue to cook, breaking up pieces and mashing lightly with your spoon or spatula. If it looks too dry, add a bit more olive oil.

When everything is nice and tender and any excess water has evaporated, about 10 minutes if you fried your eggplants thoroughly, remove from the heat and scrape into a serving bowl (taste-test a piece of eggplant to make sure it's cooked through with no hint of raw flavour). If you prefer a smoother dip, you can blitz it quickly in a mini-prep or with a stick blender or even vigorous use of a potato masher. Add a tiny drizzle of olive oil to the top, and set aside to cool. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate if not using within an hour or so.

Excellent on flatbreads or crackers, or on any plate-side. I tend to use it almost like a chutney, dolloping it onto my plate alongside other dishes.

November 13, 2016

Salisbury Steak: Hamburger patties in gravy

This was a fairly common meal for us, when I was a child. Easily made, relatively quick to prepare, and tasty. My mother would have had at least one more hot vegetable on each plate (or a salad), as well as a dish of pickles or radishes on the table. She was ahead of her time in making sure we got our vegetables in. Sometimes we'd have mashed potatoes, sometimes merely boiled and left whole (or chopped), sometimes baked.

While there are some ingredient differences between Salisbury steak per se and a simple hamburger patty in gravy (the Salisbury steak is named after Dr JH Salisbury, a proponent of low-carb diets), the method is essentially the same: create a meat patty and fry it up in a skillet, in which a gravy is then built after the patties have browned. There are of course similar dishes all over the world - everything from Japanese hambagu to Russian Koteleta to German Hacksteak, and doubtless many more. Salisbury Steak also holds the perhaps dubious honour of being one of the iconic meals available as a Swanson brand TV Dinner (although it was not the very first offering thereof).

At home in Canada I generally used all beef (or occasionally bison) for the patties, but here in Germany I use either beef or a combination of beef and pork (which is the standard most economical offering of the region). While a certain amount of filler material is apparently acceptable, mine are always just meat and seasoning spices. I make the gravy with either just onions or onions and mushrooms, depending on what I have in the house. The gravy is a bit variable in terms of thickness, because I don't tend to measure the amount of flour that I use. This one is a bit thinner than it often is, but it was equally delicious on the patties and on the mashed potatoes. I use lean meat for these - extra lean makes for a bit of a drier patty.

Salisbury Steaks

Serves 4

500 grams lean ground beef (or beef and pork)
1/4 teaspoon kosher or coarse sea salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
Pinch of ground cumin
Pinch of ground cayenne
1 shake of Tabasco pepper sauce
a bit of all-purpose flour to dust the patties
1 teaspoon butter or oil for frying

For the gravy:
1 medium onion, either sliced pole-to pole or diced
6 button mushrooms, cleaned and sliced (or chopped) - optional
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
2 shakes Worcestershire sauce
pinch of whole mustard seed (optional)
1.5 cups beef broth (or stock from a prepared base, such as Better than Bouillon)
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour (shaken together with 60 mL water to make a slurry)

If you're making the family style of dinner above, put the potatoes on to boil first. Once they are going, mix together the meat and seasonings with your impeccably clean hands, and shape into four flat patties. Sprinkle the patties with flour on each side, and shake of any excess. Fry them in a large, hot skillet (in which you have melted the butter or heated the oil) over medium heat until well-browned on each side. Don't worry about cooking them through, they will finish cooking in the gravy.

Once the patties have been browned, stack half of them into twos and push them to the side. Add the onions and garlic, and stir through the fond. Add the mushrooms, Worcestershire sauce, and mustard seeds (if using), and stir and cook until the onions turn translucent and the mushrooms give up some of their liquid. If the pan is too dry, add a tablespoon of water or so at a time until there's no danger of scorching.

Add the beef broth and stir through. Make a slurry of the flour with just enough cold water to make a smooth, thick liquid, and add it to the skillet. Stir it through carefully until it is thoroughly combined with the onions, mushrooms, and stock. It will start to thicken the gravy immediately, but it will take about 20 minutes for the flour to cook through and lose its raw taste, so don't be impatient if it doesn't taste great right away. Spread the patties out in the sauce, lower the heat, and continue to stir periodically, until the gravy has a delicious meaty flavour. You can cover the pan if you like, but I don't usually find it necessary.

If your patties didn't brown very much, your gravy will be pale in colour. It should still taste good, though, but you can get a nicer colour by adding a few drops of dark soy sauce (not regular). This will make it a touch more salty, though, so be aware of that, especially if you're using a salty meat broth or stock.

At this point, the patties can be held for a while if necessary to let the potatoes finish cooking, or to wrangle any other vegetables that you want to include in your meal. Put the lid on if you like to keep to much liquid from evaporating.

Serve up the patties with a spoonful of the gravy over them. These reheat very nicely for lunches the next day, and also make very good sandwiches (I usually slice them horizontally for sandwiches, and add a slice of cheese).

November 01, 2016

German Cream of Chanterelle Soup: Pfifferlingrahmsuppe

Fall is Pfifferling (chanterelle) season. They're all over the farmer's markets in glorious colour and ridiculously low prices. They're also all over the menus about town -- amongst them, pasta with chanterelles, spätzle with chanterelles, salads with warm chanterelle dressing, chanterelle toasts, schnitzel with chanterelles (a slightly fancier version of the old standby Jägerschnitzel) and of course, chanterelle soup.

I was inspired to make this one after having a really excellent version at Zum Goldstein, here in Mainz. I fully expect to eat a lot more chanterelles before the season winds down.

I've now made two versions of this soup - the first one partially thickened with potato, which is a common recipe in these parts, and the second thickened with a bit of flour and use of a stick-blender. The first one was too potato-forward for my taste - it obscured the delicate mushroom fragrance and flavour. The second one was beautiful. Nothing but rich, creamy mushroom goodness.

German Cream of Chanterelle Soup: Pfifferlingrahmsuppe

Serves 3 - 4

300 grams fresh chanterelles, cleaned and chopped
1/2 small yellow onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 sprigs fresh thyme
1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
1/8 teaspoon celery salt
2 tablespoons brandy
2 tablespoons unbleached flour
300 - 400 mL vegetable broth, at room temperature
300 mL whole milk
100 mL whipping cream

Clean the mushrooms really thoroughly, and slice a few for garnish, chopping the rest roughly.

Melt half the butter in a medium-large soup pot and fry up a few of the nicest looking slices of mushroom until dark golden. Put aside to use as garnish. Add the rest of the butter, melt it, then add the onion and garlic. Cook and stir until translucent, then add the chopped mushrooms, fresh thyme sprigs, celery salt, and white pepper. Cook and stir until the liquid boils off and the mushrooms are tender but starting to catch on the bottom of the pot. Deglaze with the brandy, and scrape the bottom if necessary. Add the milk and stir, and bring the temperature up to a bare simmer.

Shake together the water (cold, or at room temperature) with the flour until it makes a smooth slurry. Add the slurry to the soup, stirring it through and continuing to stir as it heats and thickens. Continue to cook the soup on the lowest setting, with the soup bubbling a tiny bit, stirring frequently for about 20 minutes or until the taste of raw flour is gone, and the soup is thick. Add the cream, and stir through again.

Remove from the heat, remove the now-naked thyme stems, and puree the soup with a stick blender until smooth and golden. Taste and adjust for salt if necessary. If the soup is too thick, thin it with a little extra water or vegetable broth. Ladle the soup into bowls and top with the reserved fried mushrooms and an extra bit of fresh thyme, if you have it. I placed a tiny raft of toast under the fried mushrooms to keep from them sinking into the soup, but it's of course not entirely necessary.

For those who aren't vegetarians, I can also recommend the local way of serving this - instead of fried mushrooms, sear small cubes of blood sausage and use that as a garnish. The salty, meaty, soft texture of the sausage goes perfectly with the soup.

Looking for more chanterelle recipes? Check out my post from last year for Chanterelle Risotto.