Just like salt and pepper, stock made from meats or vegetables is a standard ingredient in many, many recipes we cook. Back in the days when I was a student (wow somehow that sounds really weird, will I get punished with gray hair by just having said this?), I was quite indifferent – really, I couldn’t care less about what exactly I used in my recipes, broth powder, stock cubes from the supermarket? No problem, they did the job! Glutamate, flavor enhancers? What was that again?
With my taste buds becoming more and more picky and my increasing knowledge and interest about everything edible, my shopping habits changed naturally over time: besides many other things, ordinary salt was substituted by sea salt – crumbling the large crystals of fleur de sel with my fingers over a freshly cooked dish has become an indispensable ritual – and of course yucky broth powder quickly lost its place on my spice board.
Today, whenever possible, we try to avoid artificial flavor enhancers like MSG (monosodium glutamate, E 621). Glutamate being responsible for the umami taste (savory to meaty) and while occurring naturally in many vegetables like tomatoes and cheese, is accused of negative health effects like the “Chinese restaurant syndrome“, a definite scientific evidence is missing though. Besides its appetizing effect, one’s taste buds get accustomed to it and ask for more, in contrast, the natural taste of ingredients might be perceived as boring and dull. All valid reasons for avoiding artificially added MSG when possible, don’t you think?
“Some would say that the public’s widespread distrust of MSG has deeply moved food makers—not to take glutamate out of their food, but to find ways of delivering it under unassuming pseudonyms.”
Slate, May 2006
The simplest, not necessarily the quickest solution is to only use homemade stock. Chances are it’ll taste a heck of a lot better, too. Sadly our freezer has the size of a bigger shoe box, hence I cannot prepare tons of stock in advance, but there is hardly a stock making experience without leaving some leftovers that I usually freeze in an ice cube tray. Popping some of them in any pasta sauce makes it go from palatable to MORISH.
Since I’m always in for a secret weapon, I was dying to try Alexander Herrmann’s homemade stock powder (recipe in German, illustrated with pictures), but am not yet satisfied with the results – the tiny amount of stock powder I yielded did not quite justify the masses of veggies and effort I put in. (Different vegetables get chopped in the food processor together with sea salt, then spread on a baking tray and dried at low temperature over night, finally powdered using a food processor again.)
Besides the omnipotent chicken noodle soup, a traditional pancake soup (“Flädlesuppe” in German) is probably my second favorite way to eat home cooked broth. To add some eye candy and as a subtle spring flavor, chopped chives zap up the thin pancakes.
The vegetable stock:
Heat up a large pot and add a little olive oil or butter, together with the quartered onions and roast them while stirring. If they gain a little more color than necessary no worries (in fact it’ll add a nice taste), just be careful to not completely turn them into charcoal. Add the chopped vegetables, the cold water as well as the spices & herbs. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium/low and let simmer without the lid for up to an hour.
Pour through a fine mesh sieve or cloth (I prefer a clear stock) into a large bowl, pressing down well on the vegetables with a ladle, then discard them. Pour the soup back into the pot, reheat and season to taste. For the last five minutes add the sliced carrots, which will remain in the soup.
In a large bowl add the flour, the salt and the eggs, beat until combined (don’t overdo it), then add the milk and blend well. Sticking to these steps in the described order will help to avoid annoying lumps. Let rest for 15 minutes, then add the chopped chives.
Heat a preferably non-stick pan over medium to high heat and add a teaspoon of clarified butter. If a drop of water thrown into the pan starts to sizzle, you can continue with your first pancake.
Pour a ladle of batter in the middle of the pan and move it swiftly until the batter coveres the complete pan bottom and forms a nice round shape. Flip as soon as the bottom side shows signs of golden brown spots, then bake on the other side and remove from the pan. Add some more clarified butter to the pan and start over again until all of the batter is used up.
After the pancakes have cooled down a bit, roll each pancake tightly and cut into thin rolls.
Place a hand full of the sliced pancakes in a bowl and pour the hot soup over them. Decorate with chopped chives and serve hot.
Recipe source: own creation
Prep time: ~1 hours
Ingredients (serves 4):
(all vegetable amounts can be adapted to your taste and pantry, you can also use tomatoes, celery stalks, turnips, zucchini, cabbage, mushrooms, etc.)
1 tbsp olive oil or butter
2 onion, quartered (with skin, washed)
2 cloves garlic, unpeeled
2 potatoes, quartered (with skin, washed)
2 carrots, coarsely chopped
1/2 celery tuber, coarsely chopped
2 leek, coarsely chopped (only the white/light green parts)
2 bay leaves
sea salt, coarsely ground black pepper and nutmeg
fresh thyme and parsley (amounts to taste)
sliced carrots (remain in soup)
for decoration: chopped chives
pancakes with chives (yields 5 pancakes)
125g all-purpose flour
two large eggs
5 tbsp of chopped chives (or more)
clarified butter for the pan