My other main memory is the kindness of the family that I stayed with, who opened their small apartment to me as if I was their own. I came home with a huge supply of lipsticks, lip glosses and various other treats that the father of the family brought home for me from the family. Although we could not really speak each other’s languages, I remember sincerely bonding with the entire family during my stay. I would love to go back and augment those memories.
The only thing I can remember about the food there (apart from trying deep fried cheese for the first time in the Czech Republic and then obsessively ordering it at every subsequent opportunity) was a meal I was served which seemed to mainly consist of small, slightly grey worm-like entities. I had no idea what it was and it was with some trepidation that I tasted it, being a rather fussy eater at the time. It wasn’t for at least another decade of that one single food memory staying with me that I learned that this surely must have been my first experience of spaetzle.
Spaetzle are a sort of cross between a pasta, noodle and dumpling and are found across the eastern side of Europe, as far east as Germany as far as I’m aware. I remember vividly the eureka moment about 3 or 4 years ago when I saw a TV cooking show featuring spaetzle and it came to me that was what I had eaten all those years earlier. I swore then that I would give it a go, but for some reason I just. haven’t. Why do we put these fun things off?
Anyway, the #MailleFlavours competition seemed like an excellent time to resolve this. What better way to try a wonderful ingredient like the Maille Hazelnut oil than with a simple, homely classic like spaetle? Anyway, I’ve waffled on for far too long. On to the recipe. It was truly an experiemental experience!
Hazelnut Scented Spaetzle
Ingredients (serves 4, or more as a side)
250g plain flour
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
Pinch of salt
2 tbsp Maille Hazelnut Oil
Teaspoon of chopped fresh thyme
Teaspoon of chopped fresh oregano
Flavourless oil and butter mix for frying (or leftover fry up fat, as we used!)
- Weigh out your flour
- Add your salt and nutmeg
- Throw in the eggs
- Add your water and mix it all together. I was cautious at first and had planned for 150ml water, but then I added quite a lot more in order to make it to a dropping batter consistency. It may well have actually have been nearer 200ml that I used in the end. This stuff should be dropping in little worms into your pan, so it need to be a medium to thick batter.
|Turned out this was still a bit thick|
- Choose your weapons. You can buy metal spaetzle makers, which are a bit like a thick potato ricer. People report equally decent results with a metal colander with large holes. I do not have either of these things, so I was looking at trying the slotted spoon first, then the sandwich-bag-with-the-corner-cut-off-it’s-a-piping-bag-honest method of attack.
- Have a big pan of salted water on the boil in which to cook the spaetzle. My batter was too thick. It just oozed through the spoon. I put the spoon down and used the sandwich bag with the corner cut off as an impromptu piping bag. I also covered my hands in batter and made The Boy take photos of me in action.
- I know we’re mid-recipe, but this has all gone a bit narrative anyway hasn’t it? Would you like a proper action shot? Oh, you know you do.
|Here I am!|
- Shortly after this was taken, the bag burst and I made big accidential humongous spaetzle. Do try and avoid that. Anyway, back to the cooking.
- They only need a couple of minutes boiling and they’ll float to the top and be all delicious and cooked. As I had so many massive bruisers in there I gave them a minute or two extra, just to be sure. Then drain them off well. You can eat them at this point if you like – you can just add a bit of seasoning, your Maille Hazelnut oil and herbs and off you go. But we had a pan of left over delicious fat from this mornings fry up, so I had to take it to the next level…
- While draining, heat up a frying pan with some flavourless oil and butter (or in our case, left over bacon and sausage fat – mmmm, heartattackalicious). Once the pan is hot, add the spaetzle. Don’t worry, they will stick a bit at first while they seal up.
- Once you’ve started to get a nice bit of crisp and colour, they’re done. Add a couple of tablespoons of Maille Hazelnut oil and your chopped herbs. I also added another pinch of salt to taste.
- Serve it up, add a twist of fresh black pepper and ta daaaa! You are done! I thought for a first effort my spaetzle didn’t look too bad and most importantly they were absolutely delicious!
The spaetzel are soft, yet chewy – sort of like a thinner and more textured gnocchi. The crispy bits are heavenly. The hazelnut oil added an incredible depth of flavour which was really complemented by the fresh herbs. The hazelnut oil lends such a delicate note, I was glad I had kept it really simple. I wouldn’t cook it for too long either, although I have read that it can take a high heat.
You could certainly have this as a side dish, but it is fabulous on its own. I believe some nations add bacon during the frying process, this would be awesome. I meant to add spring onions, but in my excitment, I forgot. It’s flexible basically. Think of it as your very own exciting new not-pasta.
So thank you to Maille for sending me their wonderful, fragrant Hazelnut Oil. Without it, I may well have never got around to trying to make my own spaetzle recipe. And I would truly have been missing out.