Sometimes I have more than one recipe that I want to cook at one time. This usually coincides with various ingredients going bad in the fridge that I need to use up in a hurry. Last night was such a night. I had a large bag of spinach and some cooked beetroot that were looking sadder by the minute, so, I had originally planned on making a curry of some sort, also using up a floppy aubergine (but that will have to wait now until Thursday). I spent the morning scanning all my cookbooks but couldn’t find a curry that seemed quite right, either it didn’t use the aubergine or it didn’t use spinach, and besides I didn’t really fancy curry for dinner anyway.
So, armed with my Roast Figs, Sugar Snow book by Diana Henry (one of the most beautiful and usable cookbooks I have ever encountered), I spent my lunch-hour chowing down on Southern Fried Chicken flavoured Super Noodles and looking for something completely different to cook. That recipe soon came to me in a bolt of lightening: Beetroot Knodel. Knodel are Tyrolean dumplings, lightly poached in water until they bob to the surface, puffy and light.
However, Knodel don’t constitute a whole meal, so to use up the Spinach I made gratin and to use up some rubbery potatoes that were starting to resemble as science fiction monster I made Tartiflette, also from Roast Figs, Sugar Snow. Tartiflette is a French dish that should use Reblochon cheese (a soft rind cheese), potatoes sliced up, fried in some butter and baked in the oven with lardons, onion, garlic, and creme fraiche. I only had Taleggio but the success of the dish relies, apparently, on the use of Reblochon. Unfortunately cooking sometimes relies on what you have in the fridge and providing the end product is good and there is nothing left on the plate, it has been a success, albeit an unorthodox one.
My husband loved this dish because it reminded of similar dish he ate as a child in Door County.
I wouldn’t necessarily recommend cooking all these dishes together under normal circumstances as they all cook at the same time and the Tartiflette and Gratin require different cooking temperatures but both need to be served piping hot. I was merely experimenting on your behalf.
Now I just to find a use for an Aubergine...
BEETROOT KNODEL (serves 6, I roughly halved this to serve the two of us)
Ingredients:½ tbsp Olive Oil
½ Small Onion, finely chopped
1 Clove Garlic, finely minced
300g cooked, peeled and finely diced Beetroot (you can use ready cooked in the vacuum packs)
200g White Breadcrumbs
1 Beaten Egg
2 Tbsp Flour
Heat the oil in a frying pan and very gently sweat off the onion and garlic until translucent and fragrant. Add to a mixing bowl, along with all the other ingredients. Stir thoroughly and season well. This mixture will stand for a while before it needs preparing if you have other things to prep in advance.
Bring a pan of salted water to the boil then turn down to a simmer.
Lightly flour a baking sheet.
Wetting your hands, break of bits of the dumpling batter, which will be very sticky, and form them into rough ball shapes, around the size of walnuts. Place them on the floured baking sheet.
Drop them carefully into the simmering water and poach for about five minutes or until they bob to the surface, like tiny, pale purple meteors.
Serve drizzled with melted butter and grated Parmesan.
Note: These are not ‘pretty’ or look like the dumplings our mums serve us in beef stew. They are nubbly and blotchy in colour, more like varicose veins I suppose. However, their taste far exceeds the look of them. They are delicious. I think that they would make a perfect starter because the batter is so easy to prepare and put to one side until you’re ready to cook them. They must be served piping hot though.
TARTIFLETTE (serves 2)
1.5lbs Potatoes (preferably waxy, I used large white baking ones that are a bit too floury, if this is all you have, just take care not to over boil them)
100g Bacon Lardons
1 Small Onion, chopped
1 Clove Garlic, crushed
1 Reblochon (or some other soft melting cheese like Taleggio, not Mozzarella as it doesn’t have a strong enough flavour), sliced
50g Creme Fraiche
Preheat the oven to 190c.
Peel and boil the potatoes in salted water until just tender. Drain and when cool enough to handle, cut into slices.
Heat the oil and half the butter in a large frying pan and add the potatoes. Cook until golden. Put in a shallow ovenproof dish.
Melt the rest of the butter in the same frying pan and add the bacon, cooking on a high heat until they are crispy and starting to brown. Turn down the heat and add the onions and garlic. Cook for another couple of minutes until the onion and garlic are softened and golden.
Add the lardons, onion and garlic to the sliced potatoes and combine gently. Dollop over the creme fraiche and blanket with slices of the cheese.
Cook in the oven for 15 minutes, until golden brown and bubbling.
SPINACH GRATIN (serves 2)
300g Spinach Leaves
100ml Double Cream
1 Egg, beaten
50g Parmesan, freshly grated
A little Butter
Preheat the oven to 220c.
Rinse the spinach in a colander and add to a large pan, with no water, and cook briskly over medium high heat, stirring all the time, until wilted. About 3 or 4 minutes.
Drain and using the back of a spoon, squeeze out the excess liquid.
Spread out in a buttered gratin dish.
Whisk together the cream, egg, salt, pepper and grating of fresh nutmeg. Pour over the spinach.
Sprinkle over the grated Parmesan and dot with butter (this helps it brown deliciously).
Put in the hot oven for about 20-25 minutes or until golden brown and bubbling.