Maultaschen (singular = maultasche) are a German type of ravioli known particularly in the Swabian region of southern Germany. They are large pasta parcels and traditionally have a meat filling. It’s now possible to buy them with a variety of fillings, including fish, mushroom and vegetable (gemuse). Each maultasche is quite large being at least 8cm long.
My favourite maultaschen are those made by ‘Burger’. This is one of the cheaper brands and can be found in most supermarkets. However, it is also one of the tastiest brands.
The easiest way to prepare them is to boil them in vegetable stock and eat them with the resulting soup. They can also be fried. A popular way to serve them is to boil them first, and then slice them and fry them up with eggs. Keep stirring so the eggs scramble. Another way is to boil them and then place them in a lasagne dish. Cover them with a sauce made from single cream and tomato soup powder. Slice mozzarella over the top and bake them till the mozzarella has melted and the sauce is bubbling.
A popular story about the origin of maultaschen is that they were invented by monks from Maulbronn Monastery to hide the fact that they were eating meat during lent. This dish has the nickname of Herrgottsbscheißerle which roughly translates to “little ones who cheat the Lord”. Although maultaschen are readily available and enjoyed throughout the year, they are particularly seen as a traditional food during Easter week.
“Schwäbische Maultaschen” has been recognized as a regional specialty by the Gazette of the European Communities. This means that genuine Maultaschen have to be produced in Swabia, Baden-Württemberg, or the Swabian speaking areas of Bavaria.
Spaetzle are a type of noodle commonly found in southern Germany. They can easily be bought ready made in supermarkets, in the same way we can buy ready made fresh pasta in the UK. I like them fried up with finely chopped onions and then lots of gruyere stirred into them. They’re great with some added chilli sauce.
I found the recipe below on Jamie Oliver’s website.
500g white wheat flour
5 large eggs
1-2 tsp salt
1/4 l cold water
Spaetzle are a famous Swabian / South German (side) dish, served with all kinds of roasts and much gravy. Gratinated with cheese and served as a main dish with fried onions, they are called ‘Kässpätzle’ .
Make the spaetzle dough by mixing all ingredients (flour, eggs, salt, and water) with a wooden spoon. Beat the dough until it shows blisters. Let it rest for 10 min.
Bring a big pot with water to boil and then add salt.
It’s very traditional to hand-scrape the spaetzle into the boiling water by using a cutting board and a knife or palette. But I use my Spätzlehobel, you could use a colander with rather big holes instead. Just let some tbsps of the dough drop into the boiling water.
The spaetzle are done, as soon as they begin to swim on the surface. Remove them from the boiling water and start again until all dough is used up. If you serve it as a plain side dish, you may want to fry the spaetzle gently in a bit of butter.
Leading horses had me a little worried.
My youngest niece was six on Monday and as a birthday treat she’d asked to go horse riding. As neither she nor her sister has learnt to ride this meant they each sat on the back of a horse and were led around the area. Two children, two horses meant two adult leaders. Two adult leaders meant both my brother and myself were called into service.
I was a little dubious about this as my track record with horses is not good. The only time I’ve ridden was once in Iceland a couple of summers ago. I rented a horse for an hour and went out with a guide. As it was my first time I had a docile horse and we went very slowly. What could go wrong? Well, first my horse got a bit spooked by a car on the road, reared up and threw me off into the path of said car. The driver, who luckily was going very slowly, seemed a bit bemused to have a person suddenly land in front of him. But it wasn’t a problem. I’d felt like I’d fallen in slow motion and so wasn’t hurt at all. The horse was fine and I got back on. It was probably only my inexperience that caused this anyway as I’m sure anyone with even the remotest idea of equine behaviour would have been fine and controlled the situation without a problem.
The remainder of the ride back to the stable was uneventful and I quite enjoyed my brief experience. Of course, once back at the stable, I had to dismount. As I slid inelegantly from the saddle my finger caught in the mane and twisted. An hour or two later it was swelling badly and I was in a lot of pain with it. I had to pack up my tent, catch the bus to the next place and re-pitch my tent. All of this I did very slowly. The next day it was even worse. I went to the pharmacist who sent me to the doctor who sent me to the hospital. It turned out I’d broken my finger. But it was no ordinary break – why do something the normal way when you can make it more complicated? My x-rays had to be sent to Reykjavik for a specialist to look at and advise.
So as can be seen, my experiences with horses has not been very positive so far. The irony of how I can fall off and be fine, but then break my finger when getting off correctly was not lost on me. Luckily I’m fairly resiliant and the whole experience hasn’t put me off wanting to learn to ride. If anything I want to do this even more now as I don’t like feeling beaten by something.
However, I might be happy to get on a horse again myself, but it’s a whole different story being in charge of horse with my young niece sat on its back. And to make me even more nervous, no riding hats were provided. We walked along the road and down a few lanes round the fields in a big circle. The horses stopped a few times to let us know that they were really in charge – they’d refuse to move for a few minutes – but overall it was absolutely fine. I was really relieved when we got back safe and sound though!
Delicious German food with not a sausage in sight.
Germany has some great food. Ok, so a lot of it is meat and of no interest to me, but the meat-free food can be delicious. Take bretzels for example. Big bread pretzels. Bought at the right bakers they are mouth-wateringly divine. The bread is so light and soft on the inside, yet the outside is really crisp and crunchy. They have a sprinkling of large salt crystals scattered across them. They usually cost about 50 cents, though I did find them in Lidl for 29 cents – the bakery ones are better though.
Bretzels get their brown colour from lye. This used to be used as a cleaning agent and disinfectant. Some time in the 18th century a baker accidently dropped a batch of bretzel dough into his bucket of lye. He decided to bake them anyway and the modern lye bretzel was born. Lye bretzels are particulaly popular in Southern Germany and the name ‘bretzel’ is just a variation of the more common ‘pretzel’.
They are bought everywhere here as a quick snack and the children love them. When I do see them in the UK they’re more of an expensive treat and not nearly as nice.
I’ve heard about an Australian guy who’d liked them so much he started importing the dough to Australia and baking them there. He’s now a millionaire. Now there’s a business idea I could follow up on …