Late-Winter Comfort Food

After two weeks of glorious spring weather, the much needed rain came. With the rain, it turned cold and now snow is falling. It is still March after all and it’s not unusual that is snows again. Since we didn’t have much snow this winter anyways, I’m actually happy to look out the window at the beautiful white snowflakes. I can only hope the blossoms on our fruit trees aren’t harmed.

We had invited guests over for dinner and I felt like serving something cozy. The first thing that jumped to my mind was dumplings, the second was apples. In celebration of spring, I went with spinach dumplings and because I know how much my husband likes strudel, I decided on apple strudel. The recipe for the dumplings (or Knödel as they are called in German) can be found in my first cookbook. I could eat my weight in dumplings. Whenever possible, I order them when we are at a restaurant in Germany, Austria or Italy (South Tyrol). If you come across fresh nettles, use them instead or with a mixture of spinach or other spring greens.

Apple strudel on a menu does the same for my husband as dumplings do for me. He orders it. Usually, I make it the classic way by spreading the apple mixture on the strudel dough and then rolling it all up to a long log. But this time I though it would be fun to try something new and make individual tarts. Half of the filling went into little tart forms, and the other half I used to fill the strudel dough which had been gently pressed into a muffin tin to give it a higher appearance.

What is your late-winter comfort food?

Spinach dumplings (serves 4)

  • 750 g fresh spinach
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 30 g butter
  • 100 g ricotta
  • 50 g grated Parmesan
  • 1 egg
  • 250 g flour
  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 200 ml white wine
  • 200 ml whipping cream
  • 300 g feta, crumbled
  • Olive oil

Wash the spinach and let the water drain off. Place the wet spinach in a large pot and steam until wilted. Remove from the pot and place in a colander. Using the back of a wooden spoon, press the excess water out of the spinach. Then finely chop. In the same pot heat the butter and add the onion. Sauté until translucent and then add the spinach. Sauté until the spinach has lost off the moisture. Place in the large bowl and let cool. Add the ricotta, Parmesan and egg and stir with a spoon until well mixed. Slowly add the flour and keep stirring until the dough is smooth. If the dough still feels wet, add some more flour. I like to mix the dough with my hands so I can feel the consistency. If you add too much flour, the dough will become to compact and the dumpling will be tough and not light and fluffy.

Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil. Wet your hand and form dumpling to the size you prefer. I like to make smallish ones, but you can also make them larger (7-8 cm). Wet you hands after making 2-3 dumplings. This is to prevent the dough from sticking all over your hands and it makes the surface more uniform. Place the dumplings in the boiling water and reduce the heat. The water should simmer, but not boil. When the dumplings rise to the top, they are finished. You may want to poke them with a spoon after a few minutes just to make sure they aren’t sticking to the bottom of the pot.

While the dumplings are cooking, prepare the sauce. Lightly sauté the onion with some olive oil in a pan. Add the garlic and deglaze with the white wine. Add the cream and the feta, stirring until smooth.

Serve the dumplings with the sauce.

Any leftover sauce is delicious over a bowl of pasta!

Apple Strudel (serves 4)

  • 200 g strudel dough (alternatively Filo or puff pastry), 4 sheets
  • 6 small apples (or about 3 large)
  • 100 g walnuts
  • 100 g raisins
  • 1 Tbs sugar (if the apples are tart)
  • 1 Tbs cinnamon
  • 60 g butter, melted

Peel and core the apples and cut into small pieces. In a bowl, mix the apples with the sugar and cinnamon.

Place 1 sheet of the strudel dough on a baking sheet and brush with butter. Place the second piece of dough on top and repeat for the remaining sheets. Spread the apple filling on the dough and roll up. Brush with the remaining butter and bake at 180°C for about 20 min or until golden.

Serve warm as is, with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

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