“Peasant Dumplings”

Another recipe from the Kuenstlichs und Fuertrefflichs Kochbuch:

Die Knödelesserin, image courtesy of wikimedia commons

72 Peasant Dumplings (Bauren knödlein)

Take pepper, and a good part of onions with it, but not too much. Chop it well together, but not too small. Melt (brenne) a good piece of fat in this and then break two or three eggs into it and parsley. Do not make it too thin with the eggs and fat, and also take wheat flour and groats (grieß), one spoonful, but not as much as the wheat flour, or also add (grated) white Semel bread to it if you can have it. Thus they become thick. Make the mass quite thick, as for meatballs (flaysch knoedlein). When the meat broth is boiling, lay them in and let them cook quite gently. They must not cook long. And put in fat and eggs beforehand, otherwise it does no good.

This recipe makes an interesting addition to previous ones for meat and bread dumplings. It is not entirely clear, but it seems that finely chopped onions are seasoned with pepper and fried in oil (brennen always refers to a high heat and is used in roux recipes and for drizzling hot fat over foods to give them a crust). They are then mixed with eggs and the result worked into a dough with flour, semolina (grieß refers to coarsely ground grain suitable for porridge), and grated bread. The mass is worked into dumplings and cooked in hot water, probably simmered at a low heat.

The final sentence is a little cryptic. I guess it means that you must properly first fry the onions and then work the dough, not add the onions to the dough as one might. The recipe allows for the interpretation of cooking the eggs with the onions, but I am not sure how well scrambled egg dumplings would hold together. The flavour profile could well be interesting though.

As to the attribution of the dish, it is possible that this kind of dumpling was eaten in peasant households. Eggs, onions, fat, flour and even grated bread would be available in a rural kitchen. Like many dishes called ‘peasant’ in surviving recipes, they are not poverty food by any description, though.

The short Kuenstlichs und Fuertrefflichs Kochbuch was first printed in Augsburg in 1559 and reprinted in Nuremberg in 1560 and subsequently. Despite its brevity, it is interesting especially as it contains many recipes for küchlein, baked or deep-fried confections, that apparently played a significant role in displaying status. We do not know who the famous cook referenced in the title may have been or if he ever existed.

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