...or it will be, if the Technical Department has his way. The appearance on the menu the other day of Porcini dumplings prompted a dewy-eyed meander through memories of 'dumplings of yester-year', and a general wondering aloud where they've disappeared to, and why. The answer to the latter, I suspect, is that they fell foul of the nouvelle cuisine brigade in the eighties, and nobody ever got round to resuscitating them afterwards. Until now.
In fact, there's a lot to be said for them, as part of a 'hearty fare' regime. The dumpling is much more versatile than say potato - and there are many different versions, both savoury and sweet. They take no time to make...and to start the ball rolling, here are two versions: one plain, and one which includes vegetables.
I. The Plain English Suet dumpling
Ingredients: 100g self raising flour (or 100g plain flour and 1 teaspoon baking powder); 50g Suet; Green Herbs of your choice (optional); Salt & Pepper; cold water to mix. Stock or water, to cook.
1. Blend the dry ingredients and herbs. Heat your cooking liquid (stock or water) to a gentle simmer.
2. When you are ready to cook the dumplings, add cold water to the mixture, stirring gently with a fork to make a very soft dough. Use a spoon dipped in cold water to scoop out a dumpling and drop it in the simmering stock.
3. Cook for up to 20 minutes, depending on size. Roll the dumplings over in the stock once or twice so they cook evenly. Serve immediately. The raising agent starts working the second you add water, so don't add the water until you are ready to cook the dumplings. You can add any chopped herbs you like.
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++II. Spinach 'Canderli' from Alto Adige
Ingredients: 60g Onion, finely chopped; 1 garlic clove; 2 tbl butter; 100g Spinach - in Italy you can buy this or other greens already cooked; 2 eggs; 50ml milk; 30g cheese - cut in tiny dice - (any firm, but not hard, cheese will do: Emmental, Piave, Gruyere, Cheddar...) 1 tbl Flour; 150g stale bread, cut in tiny dice; grated nutmeg; Salt and pepper; grated parmesan and Butter heated until slightly brown (beurre noisette), to serve.
1. Fry the onion and garlic gently in butter until soft. Let cool and then use a fork to mix gently with all the other ingredients. For the lightest canderli, you need a light touch. Mix the ingredients lightly and form the balls with the very minimum of pressure. If the mixture is crumbly, add a little more milk. Let the dough sit for 15 minutes, covered.
2. Form into small balls and poach in water or stock for upto 20 mins depending on their size.
3. Serve with grated parmesan and drizzled with hot noisette butter.
Last night, we welcomed in the New Year with White Truffle Risotto (yes - it IS that time of year again; although the euro exchange rate gave pause for thought before investing in even the most diminutive truffle I could find in Vettovaglie), followed by Guinea Fowl stuffed with Ricotta and Chicken Livers, with Garlic and Potato cakes, and then fresh Apricots in a caramelised Pistachio Cream. The rain beating gently down outside put paid to the al fresco festivities that the Commune had had in mind - although there were still enough pyrotechnic explosions to cause the junior four-footed to think armageddon was upon us (while the senior four-footed, who is pretty deaf these days, merely dozed through it all).
Tartlettes of Mushroom and Chicken Livers, in Marsala Cream (I have pastry and Livers that need to be used up)
Osso Bucco, with Sage and Orange Sauce.
Coconut Rice Pudding.