Monday, 23 July 2012

PRAGUE - Bread dumplings

Prague Panorama
Photo by DAVID ILIFF. License: CC-BY-SA 3.0


Travelling and sight-seeing requires energy, particularly if you are cramming in as many cities as my friend and I did in 15 days as we sped across parts of Europe by train. Our last stop was Prague in the Czech Republic and having walked up the hills, around the very interesting and intriguing Palace complex and with a hangover barely a memory, energy was low.

Astronomical Clock, Prague
Author:  Krzysztof Szymański.
Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Generic License
As a fan of dumplings I did not need a second invitation to indulge in a good serving of them with my lunch. The theory was that I would be full of boundless energy for the rest of the afternoon. I over ate and had to spend quite a while digesting some very yummy Czech bread dumplings.  Luckily we were in the centre of the city and could while the time away people watching before setting off for Wenceslas Square followed by the astronomical clock. I am fascinated by the clock, and I am not alone. Every hour crowds of people gather to watch the display of dancing skeleton, Turk and another animated decorations.

Traditional Czech bread dumplings - houskový knedlíky - are made with flour, milk, eggs and stale bread cubes. The alternative is a potato dumpling, but always one for ease the recipe below is for the easier bread variety. Formed into a loaf, boiled and sliced they soak up the gravy or stew that they accompany.  Unlike the English suet dumplings, these are suitable for vegetarians and an excellent way of using up stale bread. Traditionally the bread dumplings are served with roast pork and sauerkraut. A good Czech beer (and I haven’t had a bad one) is my suggested drink to go with them.


Recipe

Serves: 8
Ingredients
4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 large egg yolks
1 1/2 cups milk
10 slices of good-quality white bread, crusts removed, and cubed into 1/2-inch pieces

Whisk together flour, baking powder and salt, and set aside. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and milk. Pour the egg and milk combination into the flour.

Work the dough until it no longer sticks to the bowl. I use my hands but if you prefer not to get your hands sticky, the dough hook on your processor will be fine.

Cover and let stand 1 hour.
Slices of Dumpling
Author: Pastorius
 Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License

Boil a pan of salted water.

Work the bread cubes into the batter until well incorporated. Using floured hands, shape the dough into three or four rolls that are about 8 inches long and 2 1/2 inches wide.

When the water is boiling, place the rolls into the water.  Give them a stir so they don't stick to each other.

Reduce heat, cover and cook for 10 minutes.

Slice the dumplings into pieces about ¾ inch thick.

Serve warm with gravy, stew or roast pork and sauerkraut.




Hints and Tips

If you want to reheat any leftover dumplings they can be steamed – either in a steamer or in a colander over a saucepan - or browned in a saucepan in butter and sprinkled with sugar.

©Janine Rosenmöller



My trip around central and eastern Europe is told in City Chronicles: A Tale of Nine Cities. It is available as an e-book or paperback from Amazon or Lulu.com.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Milan and Vienna - Scaloppine Milanese

Milan
MILAN DUOMO
Author: Jiuguang Wang,
from Wikipedia.com under  GNU Free Documentation License


Milan, home to La Scala opera house, an ornate gothic cathedral and the Castello Sforzesco. Well-known for being at the heart of the Italian fashion industry, it has also been at the heart of a number of empires across the centuries. The Castello Sforzesco had been the ducal residence during the Visconti period, was demolished during the short-lived Ambrosia Republic and was rebuilt by the dynastic rulers of Milan, the Sforza family. It was later used as a barracks through the successive rules of the Spanish, Austrian and French empires. Milan adapted for its conquerors.


It was the cathedral, with its elaborate exterior decoration that captured me, even allowing for the  scaffolding and netting that was draped over it.  When Oscar Wilde had clapped eyes on it in 1875 he described it as ‘monstrous and inartistic.’ Mark Twain, on the other hand, was more effusive:
‘What a wonder it is! So grand, so solemn, so vast! And yet so delicate, so airy, so graceful! […] They say that the Cathedral of Milan is second only to St. Peter’s at Rome. I cannot understand how it can be second to anything made by human hands…’ 
Admiring the duomo’s exterior, even with a scaffold encumbered view, I could only agree with Twain. The inside of the cathedral was disappointing compared to the outside, but a climb onto the roof was worth it. The views across Milan to the mountains, on a clear summer's day, is worth the trembling limbs brought about by a mild case of vertigo.

Vienna


Vienna has been described as the 'gateway to Eastern Europe' and with good reason. It is less than hour by train from Bratislava and the cities of Prague and Budapest are not much further. In typically contrary fashion I entered Vienna from the east. Vienna, before visiting, was known to me as the city of Mozart, cakes and pastries, waltzes and dancing horses; and they are all there. But that is not all, there is architecture, the history of a city that has been at the centre of European politics and intrigue over the centuries, and of course the churches and cathedrals. I am a bit of a church fiend, not due to any particularly religious yearning but I find their architecture fascinating and usually a cool sanctuary to gather my thoughts. 

St. Stephen’s Cathedral was not to be ignored. The heart of Vienna, the Cathedral has been
ST. STEPHEN'S CATHEDRAL, VIENNA
Authr: David Monniaux, through Wikipedia
under GNU Free Documentation License

 one of the city’s defining buildings since its inception in 1147AD. It dominates the square in which it sits, a medieval and Renaissance architectural marvel. The proximity of the buildings around the square contribute to the impression of the church’s immense size. The south tower, steffl, does not need the presence of smaller buildings to emphasize its size – standing at over 400 feet high its spire extends heavenwards. The same cannot be said of the north tower. Work in the Gothic style stopped in 1511 with the north tower unfinished. A Renaissance spire seemed to have been hastily shoved on top to complete it towards the end of the 1500s giving the tower a stunted appearance. It is as if a grand wedding cake with three magnificent tiers of icing and decoration had been finished off with the addition of an iced bun without even a glace cherry on top. Somewhat incongruous. This was a cathedral of disproportionate parts to my untrained but discerning eye; an enormous south tower, a stunted north tower and a roof which appeared to be as high again as the walls of the main building. The intricate tiling of shades of blue and green and black zig-zags with a band of geometric patterns highlighted with yellow may have contributed to the illusion of the height of the roof. 

Milan and Vienna have a shared history and some common dishes, the most recognisable of which is the Scaloppine Milanese or Wienerschnitzel. Made with either chicken or veal, the cooking method is the same. The Viennese and the Milanesi have an ongoing debate as to who influenced who in the creation of the dish. I prefer the veal version and so for this reason alone, I award Milan with the honour of ‘owning’ the dish.  

Recipe
Scaloppine Milanese/Wienerschnitzel
Serves 4-6 depending on cutlet size


Ingredients
1 ½ lb veal cutlets
6 tbsp clarified (melted) butter
2 lemons
1 beaten egg
125g fine white breadcrumbs


Method
If the cutlets have not been prepared for you by the butcher for this recipe you will need to tenderise the veal cutlets and flatten into a thin escalope.


Dip each of the cutlets completely into the egg then press both sides of the cutlets into the breadcrumbs ensuring that they are totally covered.
Place the cutlets into the hot melted butter and fry until tender and golden brown on both sides.
Serve with salad or sautéed potatoes and a wedge of lemon.


Hints & Tips
To give a crisp, even coating do not move or turn the cutlets for the first 2-3 minues to allow the ccoating to stick to the cutlet, and not the pan.




Wednesday, 4 July 2012

VENICE - Peas and Rice

The Grand Canal, Venice, Italy.



It was raining when I first visited Venice but that was not going to stop me enjoying the city. The origins of Venice are as shrouded as the island had become as the clouds sank lower and emptied their contents in a fine mist. The stroke of noon March 25th 421AD is the traditional date of the city’s founding. In the years between its founding and the election of its first Doge around 726AD ports were built and settlements were expanded. Venice’s position at the head of the Adriatic made its military and merchant naval position almost invincible. Venice between the ninth and twelfth centuries flourished - a trade centre between the Western and Eastern empires. The city gained many towns and cities along the Adriatic in order to prevent piratical activity. Venice had its weaknesses; a lack of farming land meant that wheat was its major import. Its primary export was salt, but rice was grown on the plains of the river Po and became a staple of the Venetian diet.

The Bridge of Sighs
The Doge was the ruler of Venice. The Doge’s Palace stands at the corner of St. Mark’s Piazza on the Grand Canal. Possibly its most famous aspect is the Bridge of Sighs, across which prisoners walked from the court in the palace to the prisons on the other side of a narrow inlet. On feast days the Doge would decree that the dish, Risi e Bisi, or pea risotto, could be made and eaten by the Venetians. Luckily no such decrees are required now, Pea Risotto can be made and enjoyed any day of the year.



Venice has a labyrinthine charm. Its churches, small bridges spanning slim inlets, and narrow, winding lanes that suddenly open up into expansive squares, make it an interesting and intriguing city. Each time I visit I am charmed again (and have been luckier with the weather!)

RECIPE

Pea Risotto (Risotto Piselli)
Serves 4-6
This is a dish not to rush. It is not complicated but it needs your attention; when stirring you can float away on a gondola of dreams.

Ingredients
1 medium onion, finely sliced
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
400g good risotto rice such as arborio, carnaroli or vialone
Olive oil – a generous glug (approx. 4-5 tbsp)
100g unsalted butter
3 ½ lbs of unshelled peas
Bunch of parsley – very finely chopped
100g grated Parmagiano cheese –and more to serve
250ml of dry white wine
2 litres of water

Method

Shell the peas and make a pea broth from the discarded pods, a pinch of salt and pepper and about two litres of water.

Gently sauté the onion and garlic in the oil and 1/3 of the butter until the onion starts to colour slightly.
Add the rice to the pan and stir over a gentle heat for 3-5 minutes ensuring that all the rice is coated.
Add the pea broth, a ladle or two at a time, stirring constantly. When the broth is almost completely absorbed add the next ladle or two. Intersperse the wine with the broth.
Keep cooking this way for about 20 minutes over a low heat.
Add the peas and cook for a further 2-3 minutes. The rice will be creamy but retain a slight bite, ‘al dente’, and the peas will have started to soften.
At the last moment add the cheese and parsley; give a quick stir to mix them in.
Serve.

HINTS AND TIPS


It is important that the correct type of rice is used for making risotto. Risotto rice needs to be short and plump. The best risotto rices are Carnaroli and Arborio. These rice grains release starch and absorb liquids making them ideal for the sticky risotto dish.
©Janine Rosenmöller

If you like food and you like travel...

then this is the blog for you.

As a travel writer and blogger I am making my way across the continents (predominantly Europe to date) experiencing the diverse and interesting cultures in each place I visit. 

I believe that to taste a culture is to go someway to understanding it. The food and drink of each city, village or remote outpost encapsulates the history, beliefs and economy of that place, as well as generally tasting good (though you do get those, 'oh my word, what have I just eaten?' moments!)

I want to share the food of the places I have visited. I am not a chef, but I can put together a decent spread, and I will provide recipes, helpful hints and tips, as well as a little of the background to the dishes I have tasted.


Join me on my culinary tour of the world.

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