Check it out peoples! Flaky flaky flaky puff pastry, woo-hoo!
A short time ago my Dad surprised me with a copy of Snowflakes and Schnapps, an absolutely gorgeous new cookbook from Jane Lawson. Thank-you to Dad! The book is Winter-themed, and features recipes from the cold-climate countries of Europe - Germany, Austria, Russia, Scandinavia and so on. Right up my alley!
Snowflakes and Schnapps is stunningly presented, from the white patterned cover, to the cute embossed snowflakes dotted throughout the pages, to the gorgeous photographs. They are heavily styled - linens, candles, coloured glasses and fake snow abound - but this is pleasing, rather than pretentious. My style hero Colin Cowie would no doubt approve. Cookware addicts such as myself will enjoy spotting the different products - the Chilewich placemat, the Bodum double-wall thermo glasses, the Essential Ingredient teardrop bowls, to name a few. But most importantly, the food looks seriously delicious and inviting. On my first flick through, I bookmarked at least 15 recipes as "must try soon".
A couple of shots from inside the book - gorgeous! Coffee and Walnut Potika with Coffee Glaze, and Bacon Rösti with Poached Eggs and Thyme Hollandaise
The chapters are arranged, surprisingly, not by region or type of food, but by the vibe. We have Baby It's Cold Outside (small bites, soups, hot drinks); Warmed to the Core (breakfasts, slow-cooked recipes); Diamonds and Fur (luxurious and glamorous dishes - think blini and caviar); and Dreaming of a White Christmas (explanation not necessary). I love the commitment to the concept.
My only criticism of the book is that apart from a brief introduction to each of the chapters, Snowflakes offers very little in the way of explanation or text. This can make the book feel, for want of a better word, cold. Whilst many recipes are easily recognisable, like cherry strudel and beer-cooked bratwurst, some recipes seem to be Lawson's modern interpretation of cold-climate deliciousness - for instance the pannettone, chocolate and marshmallow melts. I would have loved to read what her inspiration for this recipe was, as well as explanations of the many unfamiliar recipes, like the Karelian open pies (rye pastry filled with a risotto-type mixture), the garlicky pelmeni dumplings or the poppy seed and walnut potica with coffee glaze. Imagine, at a dinner party, being asked, "Ooh, where are these pelmeni from?" And answering, "I dunno, Europe somewhere?" Hehe. Well, I've got Google.
Now, the first recipe I tried was veal cutlets with wheat beer sauce and winter vegetable strudel. Ya-huh, how good does that sound?? It was a special dinner for the whole family, where we all - OMG - actually had an evening to sit down and eat together. Yay!
Puff pastry, covered in goat's cheese, some finely sliced winter veggies and herbs...
...rolled up like a strudel and brushed with butter. It was a bit too big for my tray, but never mind.
While it's baking, you fry the chops and make the sauce - simmering wheat beer (I used Redback - yum!) with honey, stock, sage and raisins. It becomes a kinda sweet-and-sour caramelised syrup.
I was nervous that the pastry would collapse, or that the strudel wouldn't cook through, but luckily there were no crises, and it came out flaky and golden. Use a sharp serrated knife to slice it though, or you'll just mush it up.
And - here we go... dinner!
I actually used pork chops instead of veal chops, because the pork chops at the market (free range Otway, thank-you-very-much) just looked beautiful. And they were only $2 a kilo more than the conventional pork chops. Win win! You'll see that the fat on the side of the chop kinda crisped up a little in the pan, but I didn't get attractive crackling on the side. Maybe a blast under the grill would help?
This was an absolutely wonderful meal, well balanced in flavours and textures. It was quite a bit of work, especially for a Wednesday evening, but y'all know you don't have to make your own puff pastry. I just happened to have it on hand. And I felt more than a little beam of pride as we placed it all on the kitchen table. I can't wait to try more recipes from Snowflakes and Schnapps.