Wow, what a difference from the wintry weather we were having at the beginning of the week to what seems to be the height of summer today! This recipe is much more suited to the beginning of the week than now, it had to be said, but this is what I have for you, and as this month’s entry to the No Waste Food Challenge at Turquoise Lemons.
Her challenge for May is bread, which is brilliant, as most people end up with the odd stale crust or half a loaf here and there. I look forward to seeing what everyone else comes up with. I certainly got quite excited by this, as the possibilities are endless.
I thought I would get the opportunity to make a treacle tart with breadcrumbs, but have not really had the urge for heavy puddings.
This week I have eaten Caesar-style salad with crunchy bread croutons, which I made the quick way, by frying them off in a little oil and butter (for the flavour, you understand) but this is not the easy method, as you need to watch them like a hawk, because they will catch easily.
A little later in the year, when one can rely on really ripe tomatoes, I would have entered Panzella, which is one of my favourite lazy leftover suppers. Similarly, I make a number of cold soups that use bread to thicken them. Probably my favourite of these would be Ajo Blanco – made with almonds, bread and grapes. It sounds wrong, but it is actually really very good indeed.
I have also made bread as a way to use up some bits and bobs – such as a loaf stuffed with a pepper glut I found myself with, as well as various bits and pieces on focaccia.
Despite my comment when Kate first issued the bread challenge, I found myself with two things: some stew, and most of a dog-eared baguette left over from a picnic. It was cold, and so I decided to play around with dumplings
Us Brits are more familiar with the stodgy, suet variety. I have never really liked these dumplings, to be honest. Especially if you don’t flavour them with herbs, but even if you do I find them unappealing.
Many European cultures make the suety-bullet kind of dumplings, but they also make a lot of dumplings with bread. You can find varieties from Germany, and across most of Eastern Europe and the Balkans.
If you do a quick search on google, all of the recipes there recommend that you boil these little blighters in salted water. I did this for the stew, and they were everything I used to hate about dumplings; stodgy, claggy, bland, boring. I almost relegated this to the “experiment too far” category, never to be blogged about.
However, I had made quite a few of them, and you know I never throw anything away, especially if it is edible. I knew that I would be meeting them again at some point later on.
Last weekend, was huge. As well as the Rollende Keukens, we also went to Logical Progression – an old school all nighter, which was brilliant. It also meant that I knew I would need easy, but filling food for the following Monday. I thought ahead, and made our favourite fall back soup – Smoky Root Vegetable Soup. It was a good idea, come Monday, with all the socialising, and some serious gardening achieved over the weekend, I was too tired to cook.
Those remaining dumplings were beckoning from the fridge. I knew I had to use them, and so I decided that they would have to go in the soup. Normally, it is thick enough without the addition of bread, but I wasn’t going to waste them, so I thinned the soup with some stock I had in the fridge, which I had defrosted earlier in the week, but only used a little of. I guess I added about 300 ml in the end.
I decided to experiment, and fried half the dumplings in a little oil with a knob of butter (I needed these to taste of something). The other half I cooked through in the soup.
What a revelation both of these methods were! They were both lighter, and tastier. I guess that the addition of stock as a cooking liquor is a really important one. So for dumplings, like the weather, a day (or two) really can make all the difference.
Recipe: Herby Bread Dumplings
250 ml milk
250 g stale bread (you can leave the crusts on)
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
4-5 sprigs thyme, leaves only
2 long stalks of fresh rosemary, leaves only
Bunch of flat leaved parsley
You can adjust the herbs to go with the dish you are going to have them with, these happened to go with my stew. The garlic is also optional, if it won’t go with your stew/broth then leave it out.
A small onion, chopped
A little oil for frying
Heat the milk up with the bay leaf until it reaches boiling point. Meanwhile, tear the bread into chunks. When bubbles start to appear at the sides of the milk pan, take it off the heat, and remove the bay leaf. Pour over the bread, and mix it up a bit. Leave aside for half an hour to soak up the milk.
Finely chop all of the herbs, including the parsley stalks, which you need for the flavour they will lend.
Sweat the onion in a little oil, and take it to the point where it is just beginning to colour. Please don’t allow it to go anything darker than a light golden colour, or it will lend an overpowering bitter taste to your final dish.
Add the herbs and the garlic, but remove from the heat. You want to add the onion mixture when it is cool, or you will scramble the egg later.
Add the onion and herbs to the bread, and mix really well. The bread is quite dense at this point, and you want to make sure that you get an even distribution of the herbs.
If the bread mixture is cool to the touch, add the egg, and mix it in well. If your dumpling mixture seems really wet, roll a very small piece into a ball and put in some water. If it breaks up, add some more breadcrumbs.
Roll all of the mixture into balls, and refrigerate for about half an hour.
Cook these in a flavourful stock, or add to a stew – although you will need to make the stew more watery than you would be used to, so that the dumplings can absorb the extra and the flavour. Either way, they need about 20 minutes, and will all be floating when they are done.
Or you can boil them in salted water for 20 minutes, then drain them. Dry them well, and fry them in a little oil and butter before adding them to your dish.
Much better than just plain boiled.