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Sage Butter Spaetzle, Burnt Tomato Bake and Fennel Salad

A type of German egg noodle, literally translated to ‘little sparrow’ as the odd shapes were thought to resemble these little birds. I like this interpretation, imaginative – more alluring than ‘little sperm’ which I have also heard along the way.

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First time I tried this was in a little wooden restaurant in Dorset with my mum. We had moved to a new town together and it was so fresh and exciting exploring the local area, as soon as we saw this little place we knew we had to go inside. A warm orange glow resonated from the wooden panels onto the dark grey street, calling us inside.

I ordered spaetzle, which came mixed with melted cheese and caramelized onion. It was very heavy but perfect for the weather and the ambiance – I was immediately hooked. It was the ideal initiation dinner to our new surroundings.

I found this particular recipe on ‘101 Cookbooks’ blog, which was taken from ‘Balthazar Cookbook’. I liked the fact I was reading from a secondary source, meaning extra explanation was offered through trial and error. I have also added my advice on top of this, which I hope helps even more so. I was happy with the result, although next time I will ask for an extra pair of hands to pour in the batter to the holey device (mine being a cheese grater) so I don’t get the tiny stringy pieces that linger between pours. I will also use larger holes, maybe 1cm in diameter to get bigger pieces. I hope you enjoy, it’s a very simple recipe definitely worth giving a go.

If you want to prepare the  burnt tomatoes and salad as I did, the recipes are below with instruction on timings.

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Ingredients for Spaetzle – Serves 2 as mains or 4 as sides

  • 250g plain flour
  • 7 large eggs
  • 60ml milk

Ingredients for Sage Butter – for same quantity of spaetzle

  • 6 tbsp butter
  • 15-20 sage leaves, roughly chopped
  • ½ lemon, juiced
  • ½ a grated nutmeg
  • 2 handfuls of grated parmesan to scatter on top (if you fancy)

Method

Combine flour, eggs and milk in a large bowl using electric beaters until smooth. Cover with cling film and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, or overnight.

Prepare a large bowl of icy water and a large pan of well salted boiling water.

Find a colander/cheese grater/holey device with holes from 0.6cm upwards to 1.5cm and oven gloves (as very steamy) to pour 1/3 of batter over the holey device at a time and a spatula to quickly push the batter though (so you don’t get too many of the smaller, stringy bits). I found a ladle helpful for scooping up the batter, but even better to get someone to do this bit for you whilst you concentrate on the spatula/batter pushing!

Let the spaetzle cook in the boiling water for about 2 minutes and use a slotted spoon to remove them from the water and drop into the ice bath. They rise to the top when cooked.

Keep using this method until you have cooked all the batter then drain your spaetzle and add 1 tbsp of oil so they don’t stick together.

Sage Butter

Heat butter over a medium heat until just starting to turn a golden brown (noisette) but careful not to burn. Grate in the nutmeg and add the chopped sage leaves, cook for 1 minute.

Add the lemon juice and spaetzle and fry for a few minutes until the spaetzle is hot and coated in the sauce – serve immediately!

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Burnt Tomato Bake

I found this recipe in ‘The Kinfolk Table – Recipes for Small Gatherings’ cookbook. I was so happy to discover this book as I had been following Kinfolk on Pinterest but had no idea this even existed!

‘Nathan Williams has travelled the world, collecting recipes from a  wide-ranging circle of home cooks who are both reinventing and rediscovering the joy of casual entertaining.’

 I like the fact you are given a peek into the homes of all these creative people from all different professions and each recipe has a story behind it, like a book of hidden treasures. The photography is (I can’t think of the right word) but seriously beautiful.

The burnt tomatoes are on page 20 and by William Hereford and Alyssa Pagano (photographer and stylist). I have adapted the recipe slightly by adding breadcrumbs and parmesan and adjusting the quantity to feed 4 as a side dish. It would also be a perfect addition to any breakfast or even the base for a baked egg breakfast dish – something I will try soon.

book Kinfolk

Ingredients – 2 people main course, or 4 as sides

  • Enough butter to grease a baking dish  baking about 8 inches in diameter, or there about
  • 1.5kg/1500g of large vine ripened tomatoes cut into 1.5cm thick slices
  • A large plate or baking dish filled with enough plain flour to coat tomato slices (about 250g give or take)
  • 3 tsp sugar (brown or white) – 1 tsp per layer of tomatoes
  • 3 tbsp vegetable oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • Large handful of herby breadcrumbs to scatter on top
  • Handful of parmesan to scatter on top

Method – Burnt Tomatoes

Heat oven to 160°C. Chop tomatoes into thick slices, season with salt and pepper. Prepare flour on large plate and add the slices to coat in the flour.

Once all your slices are coated and your hands washed – heat 1 tbsp oil in a large frying pan over med-high heat.

Shake off any excess flour and fry the tomatoes for about 4 minutes on each side until golden brown – dark brown and crispy around edges. This will need to be done in batches, depending on your pan size as you can only cook 1 layer at a time.

Layer your tomato slices in your buttered baking dish and scatter 1 tsp of sugar and seasoning over each layer. Repeat frying and layering process until you have used all tomatoes.

Scatter breadcrumbs and parmesan on top (if you are using) and bake for 1 hour until top is golden brown and bubbling. Cool for 10 minutes before eating.

Fennel, Red Onion and Cucumber Salad

Ingredients – Serves 2-4

  • ½ fennel bulb, trimmed and sliced in thin layers. Reserve the fronds, if attached.
  • ½ a red onion, sliced in thin half rings
  • ½ a large cucumber or 2 Lebanese cucumbers, peeled, seeds scooped out, halved through middles and chopped into semi-circles
  • 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 2 tsp sherry vinegar
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh chives
  • Salt and pepper

Slice your fennel, onion and cucumber and add to a salad bowl.

Combine the vinegar, mustard and oil in a small bowl and whisk together.

Pour over salad, scatter with chives and fronds and toss to coat. Season accordingly.

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