Wednesday, January 11, 2023

The best "use-stuff-up" recipe ever: Knödel (dumplings) in veggie-cream-stew!!

This is my favorite recipe, mostly just because it's delicious -- but it's also great for fighting food waste!

This recipe is especially for using up bread that has gone stale, and it's also a delicious way to use fresh vegetables, herbs, and mushrooms that maybe you don't have a specific use for.

I will start by writing out the complete recipe, then follow with tips, explanations, and variations.

Knödel (dumplings) in veggie-cream-stew

Ingredients for the Knödel:

  • 250 g. stale bread
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped
  • some chopped fresh herbs (e.g. parsley, rosemary)
  • oil for cooking
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 dl. milk or beer
  • 80-160 g. lardons (Speckwürfeli) (optional)

Ingredients for the veggie-cream stew:

  • 1 onion (or bunch of green onions), chopped
  • 1 small hot chili pepper, chopped very small (optional)
  • 500 g. chopped vegetables and mushrooms
  • some chopped fresh herbs (e.g. thyme, wild garlic)
  • oil for cooking
  • 1 dl. broth
  • 200 g. crème fraîche

In a large pot, cook the onion, garlic, lardons, & herbs in a bit of cooking oil until the onion bits are translucent. Set this aside to cool a bit while you slice the stale bread very thin and put the slices in a large mixing bowl. Mix together the eggs, milk or beer, and nutmeg, then pour this mixture over the bread. Then add the earlier cooked ingredients (including the oil).

Knead the mixture thoroughly with your hands until there are no dry bread chunks left, and then form the mixture into 6-8 balls.

In the same pot as before, cook the second set of ingredients as follows:

Add some more cooking oil and cook the onion, hot pepper, and herbs until the onion bits are translucent. Then add the vegetables, mushrooms, and broth, starting with whichever vegetables need to be cooked the longest. Bring it to a boil, then add the crème fraîche and bring it to a boil again, then reduce the heat to a simmer.

Place the dumplings on top of the vegetable stew and cover the pot. Simmer covered for 20 minutes.

Serve and enjoy!

This recipe is a combination of two different recipes I found in some local cookbooks -- with my own modifications based on the experience of making it all the time. The recipes are "Semmelknödel auf Rahm-Kürbis", p.25 of Martina Kittler's "Kürbis: Das Best vom Herbst" (GU Küchenratgeber, 2013), and "Brot-Knödel auf Rahm-Gemüse", p. 68 of "Resten Los Geniessen" (Betty Bossi, 2018).

I love making this recipe because I love to mix-and-match flavors! And I love to try out different seasonal vegetables! You can use essentially any vegetable that you might normally use in a soup or stir-fry.

Naturally you can use "Kürbis" (pumpkin/squash), broccoli, spinach, zucchini (though that one gets a little mushy), bok choi, green beans, snap peas, etc., etc. In this instance I used carrots, brussel sprouts, and kale.

You can even use protein chunks such as meat or tempeh in place of part of the vegetables.

Ideally, you can make this recipe with just ingredients that you already have in your kitchen -- so it's cozy comfort food for a lazy day when you weren't planning to go out. And since you can substitute your own favorite ingredients at every step, your version will taste better to you than mine would!

Unless you specifically dislike mushrooms, I would recommend not skipping the mushrooms as part of your 500 grams of vegetables and mushrooms. They really affect the flavor.

This time there were some fresh local mushrooms in the shop, so I bought them specifically for this recipe.

However, even when I use fresh mushrooms (and especially when I don't have any on hand), I generally add some dried mushrooms as well. They impact the flavor even more than the fresh ones do, so it's a good idea to keep some dried mushrooms in your cupboard for such occasions.

If you're using dried mushrooms, start by re-hydrating them since it takes about 20 minutes. They'll be ready by the time you need them.

In this picture you can also see the fresh herbs I picked from my balcony garden (thyme, rosemary, and sage). This January heat wave we're having is kinda scary, but I guess I have fresh herbs year-round, so yay...?

You can use your own favorite herbs from your own garden -- or maybe you or someone else in your household bought some fresh herbs for a recipe and didn't use them up -- feel free to try them out in this!

If you don't have any fresh herbs, naturally you can use dried herbs instead.

I normally divide the herbs so that I'm using some for the knödel and then different ones for the stew so that the components will have different flavors.

When sautéing the onions for the dumplings, I generally use the same pan I'm planning to cook the whole lot in later. Naturally you can use a different pan if you like, but then you have to wash two pans.

I had thought that pine nuts might make a good vegetarian alternative to using lardons in the dumplings, but they didn't really work because the flavor was too subtle.

So in this picture I'm using vegan faux-lardons from Outlawz Food. These worked really well and were quite delicious, so I'm definitely using them again.

For the bread, one recipe recommends Ciabatta (which works well), and the other lists various breads. I usually use butterzopf (which is like brioche) because my kids like it for sandwiches, and (if not eaten) it gets hard/stale by the next day.

More or less any bread will work as long as it's at least a bit stale/hard so that the liquid of the recipe can penetrate it. Both recipes say to use bread from the previous day, but I've found that bread that's up to 4 days old works just fine. Just keep in mind that the harder it is, the smaller the pieces you need to cut it into (and obviously don't use bread that's moldy, etc.).

For the liquid, both recipes say to use milk (one says milk or water), but I like to use beer instead.

This is because one time I started making this recipe and realized that we didn't have any milk (since we don't use milk that often), so I had to find a substitute. I'd heard that beer can sometimes be used as a substitute for milk in recipes (and we definitely have that), so I decided to try it out -- and it works great!

An extra advantage of using beer is that it's not sold in 1 dl portions (that's just a 10th of a liter), so you can open a bottle, set aside 1 dl of beer, and drink the rest while making this recipe!

Naturally the eggs can also be replaced with vegan egg-substitutes.

Forming the dumplings is quite simple. Just squeeze everything together with your hands until everything is mixed and there are no lumps of dry bread. Then form the balls with your hands.

I usually make six of them to make it easy to divide this into three portions, but you can also make eight for four portions.

Then set this aside and start on the vegetables.

I usually add a hot pepper here because I like the flavor combination of spicy and creamy. Neither recipe includes this (not even as a suggestion), so feel free to leave it out if you don't like spicy food.

In this case, I had preserved some hot chilis from my balcony garden in olive oil, so I used some of that for both the chili and part of the cooking oil.

(You can see my little jar of hot chilis on the right-had side of the picture of bowls of ingredients above.)

The biggest difference between my recipe and the ones in the books is the amount of broth. One calls for adding 1 dl of broth, and the other none at all. So why do I recommend half a liter of broth?

Since a bouillon cube makes half a liter of broth, I initially used to make the 5 dl and then only use 1 dl. But I found that -- depending on the vegetables you're using -- it's easier to cook them down without burning them (and simmer 20 minutes!) if you use more liquid. And since I already had more broth right there, I started using more and more of it until I ended up using all of it every time.

As you might guess, this changes the character of the recipe entirely. Both of the initial recipes are for dumplings that can be served on a plate with a vegetable cream sauce over them. My version is more of a soup or stew (hence the title) that's served in a bowl.

If you'd prefer a creamy sauce rather than a creamy stew, you can easily achieve this by using 1 dl of broth rather than 5. But, personally, I love soups and stews! So that's how I make this recipe.

If you make it as a stew, the cream actually becomes optional. If you prefer a transparent brothy soup rather than a creamy soup, you can leave out the cream entirely.

If you don't have any crème fraîche, you can substitute heavy cream. I've done this, and it works fine.

If you'd like to substitute lower-fat dairy products (like yoghurt or sour cream), the one thing to be aware of is that they can curdle when cooking them. So if you're using a substitute here, just be sure to pick something that is made to be cooked.

Then -- after a quick 20-minute simmer in their own soup or sauce -- you have delicious knödels! Made with your own favorite ingredients!


No comments: