Experiment: Peasant Dumplings

The fourth post in our peasant food experiment, and the one that got away, as it were: Peasant Dumplings from the Kuenstlichs und Fuertrefflichs Kochbuch of 1559.

“Peasant Dumpling”

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.

Onions almost ready

This recipe is just a bit enigmatic: Does the word brenne imply a roux thickening of some kind, as it often does? Is the egg supposed to be added to the hot fat or after the mixture has cooled? Either would make a great difference to the outcome. My first attempt is a fairly basic Grießknödel held together with raw egg. I fried the onions with a generous dusting of pepper and a good amount of lard until they were soft and began to caramelise, then let them cool. Once it was safe to do so, I added the eggs, chopped parsley, and a mix of flour, semolina, and grated bread, with the greatest quantity made up of flour.


One the mix was as thick as meat dumplings (which is not really a safe guide given how much meat dumplings can differ), I shaped it into dumplings and dropped then gently in simmering water. They cooked nicely and came out in one piece, even keeping their shape better than I expected. They didn’t even taste bad as such, they just fell so far short of their potential. The consistency was stodgy, heavy and hard, and compared to the other dumplings we made these felt too dense and not rich enough. The flavour combination was definitely appealing, but the balance was off. I want to repeat the experiment, but I think they would gain greatly from using less flour and more grated bread, chopping the onions more finely, and adding butter or melted lard at a later stage in the proceedings.

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