Sunday, May 07, 2006


Madeleine # 2: Herb Water

When my mum first discovered The Madeleines Project, she mused that the next Madeleine would be exactly what I had in mind: Herb Water. It sounds medicinal, and if you asked my grand-father, he thought it tasted like that as well, hence the nickname he awarded it. For some people, chicken soup is something to be ingested when sick; for my cousins and I, it meant HOLIDAYS!

Our grand-mother's ready-made chicken broth with meatballs and dumplings was proof that the holidays had started. And yes, you read correctly, it was ready-made (but not Campbell's, despite the photo), bought frozen and reheated. My paternal grand-mother cooked alot of things really well and especially enjoyed everything sweet, but somehow the biggest treat for her 3 grand-children was something she didn't make herself. Unfortunately, she is not around anymore, so I can ask her how it all started and why she didn't make it herself. All her 3 grand-children lived abroad: 1 in Africa and 2 in Austria. We would spend 1-2 weeks with our grand-parents during the summer, often without our parents. What a treat for all of us (and maybe for our parents as well?)

Whether summer or winter, arriving at the farm involved some cast-in-stone rituals: the Danish flag would be waving (as opposed to the everyday pennant), celebrating that one or all of the grand-children was arriving; the fridge and freezer would be full of chicken soup, meatballs, dumplings, frozen red hot-dog sausages and hot-dog bread, as well as lots of cheese (courtesy of my grand-father working in the dairy industry), the pantry would be stocked with colourful sodas. In summer, in the little vegetable garden the rhubarb and strawberries were ready to be picked by greedy little fingers.

As I am writing this, 2 chicken carcasses are boiling away in a pot with some carrots, an onion with 4 cloves in it, a leek, some parsley and 2 celery sticks. Recreating industrial food is a tall order, and I don't think I'll come close to the REAL McCOY this time, but a project is a project is a project. I don't live in Denmark anymore, otherwise I would gladly have cheated and popped down to the supermarket to buy the whole thing. But then I would have had nothing to write about. And seeing the recipe for the dumplings in the quintessential Danish recipe book (thank you, Anja, for thinking that no married household should be without Froeken Jensens Kogebog), I feel quite sure that I'll have more than enough material for this posting. In theory, it goes like this:

75g butter

2 dl water

100 g flour

2 eggs

1 tsp salt

Bring the water to the boil with the butter, then add all the flour in at once. Whisk until it doesn't stick to the spoon or the pan anymore. If the batter is not smooth at this point, return on the heat for a moment. Then let it cool a little (can they make up their mind?) and add one whisked egg at a time, without letting the batter become too liquid (easy peasy...)

Season the batter with salt, form little tiny dumplings and cook them in boiling water. It's easiest to shape them with a pastry bag (please remember that I don't like anything sweet, and therefore have never used a pastry-anything. Ever. And don't own one), but a tea spoon will also do (pfew! I have one of those. Somewhere...). The water must not boil, and the dumplings
must be in a single layer. Then give them 3 quick 'up-boils' (VERY lose translation from Danish), while being held under water with a slotted spoon, and cold water is added between each up-boil. If the dumplings boil, they will become crumbly.

At this point, it is only fair to let you in on a secret: I have always hated the dumplings... The meat balls, yes, the dumplings, even non-crumbly and nearly-boiled 16 zillion times: NO! I don't even like them now, neither does my husband. So here is my dilemma: to dumpling or not to dumpling. I'm really struggling: in the name of authenticity, I feel that I should try 'dumpling' (being a well-mannered little girl, I ate them, but I never grew to like them) at least once in my lifetime. On the other hand, these are my memories, and am I really twisted enough to recreate even the bits that I never liked? Besides, I have just tasted my chicken broth and although it tastes lovely, it doesn't have any Madeleine-effect. So, I think I must admit defeat on this 2nd Madeleine.

Yes, maybe I am just a little bit lazy today, so in order for you to forgive me, I'll tell you what to do with the left-over Kim Chee UN Style, in case your taste buds are feeling a bit tender by now. And your social life is in tatters. Last night I tried adding some KCUNS to mashed sweet potatoes which I served with pork chops. Big success! I confess, I had KCUNS left-overs too. So now I know that it keeps at least 7 days in an air-tight container, even though we've had some every night for aperitif this week...

Sometimes nostalgia is maybe best left alone. Or maybe emulating grand-mothers is one thing, but emulating the food industry quite another. I won't attempt to make my own 'Chemical-Ali' red hot-dog sausages either, although there are PLENTY of good memories attached to them!

What I also remember now is why I came home from each and every holiday in Denmark with considerably more luggage, than what was in my suitcase... I sometimes think my parents could have saved the flight tickets and I could just have rolled all the way from Northern Denmark to somewhere around the Equator.

Rhôô lala dur dur de se remettre à l'anglais !

Moi aussi j'ai des souvenirs de vacances chez mes grands-parents encrés dans ma tête.
Je trouve ça génial la relation grands-parents/petits-enfants, et je souhaite que mes enfants fassent des tas de choses avec leurs grands-parents, c'est tellement enrichissant.
I just checked with my mum, and it turns out that my grand-mother did have a special trick: she used to buy the soup ready-made, but then boil a whole chicken in the stock to add the final touch. In any case, I didn't stand a chance!
10 fois que je viens lire ce post, et que je n'arrive pas au bout, sans cesse derangée dans ma concentration intense.
Résultat : i'll be back, comme dirait Scharzy !
Ouf, ayé !!!
Et là, je dois te le dire... JE NE SUIS PAS D'ACCORD !!!
Avec "dumpligs", of course. Pfff, tu ne sais pas ce qui est bon toi...
A moi aussi ça me rappelle des choses delicieuses que je ne mangeais QUE chez mes grands parents... Donc, j'ai aussi mes madeleines alors ?!
J'adore cette façon que tu as de raconter, très imagée et humoristique malgré un fond solennel et nostalgique. Je les vois d'ici, les petits doigts gourmands dans les fraisiers...
Mais bien sur que tout le monde a des madeleines! Encore heureux!

Baronne et Loreal: je suis impressionnee par votre tenacite a lire mes blogs, malgre l'effort linguistique! Merci :-)Et ca vous fait de l'entrainement avant votre visite a Londres...
Loreal et Baronne, I too am impressed by your efforts. Friends out of the eye but not of the heart! Bravo et merci internet! Of course I am especially impressed by my daughter's Madeleines(Asmo :eats shoots and leaves!!) that she has cooked so deliciously.I have allready had two Madeleine-experiences of my own(shared with Dada)since following her down memory lane.
Knus din Maman
Chouette, un petit coucou de maman ASMO !!!!
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