Monday, 11 April 2011

K is for... Krumpli nudli

Whilst flicking through Elisabeth Luard's European Peasant Cookery I came across a little entry about krumpli nudli. I was instantly excited, if only for their name, but, reading on, Luard offers this fun little nugget of history:

"Undergraduate Miss Ellen Browning, niece of the Poet Robert, travelled through Hungary in 1895. She greatly approved the supper she was offered in a peasant farmhouse:

Presently the good woman began to set about her preparations for supper. We were to have 'krumpli nudli'. I begged permission to assist preparing them, which was readily granted, A large pot of potatoes had been boiling in their jackets. These were now strained off, skinned, mashed with salt and flour into a paste and rolled into 'worms', then dropped into a pan of boiling lard and thrown into a hot colander to drain as soon as they were cooked, then turned into a big dish, sprinkled with breadcrumbs and popped into a hot oven for ten minutes. These are excellent, I can assure you, and Madame Irma made them to perfection. She seemed to be a very capable plain cook. For my dinner she had given me roast chicken with pickled-plum compote, followed by 'jam-bags' [dumplings stuffed with jam]. "

"Potato worms" you say, Miss Ellen Browning, niece of the poet Robert? I'm sold. Krumpli nudli it is. Reading through the account of how to make them (that's all there is, no recipe), I decided that the krumpli nudli dough sounded quite similar to gnocchi. I tried to follow Browning's recipe as closely as I could - I was after some authenticity - but, I decided that deep frying the spuds in lard might not go down kindly with our veggie guest, so I swapped the lard for sunflower oil.

The guests really went for the krumpli nudli. It was described as "proper comfort food" and "a taste of childhood". Strange that it tasted so familiar, despite the fact that no one at the table had ever eaten or even heard of krumpli nudli before. I put it down to the power of the potato. Although, I must admit, I didn't get as excited about this dish as most of my guests. It didn't conjure any nostalgic revelries for me. Maybe I was too fixated on what a fiddly and time-consuming dish it had turned out to be and so I was feeling a bit cross with the krumpli nudli for not giving my taste buds an experience to match  the effort I'd taken in making them. And, in truth, I couldn't get past my feeling that the krumpli nudli didn't really go with the rest of the dish. I think they probably worked better with the vegetarian option - a kidney bean burger (made from the same mixture as the kidney bean patties topped with kimchi that I served with the cocktail, but which luckily Jo missed, so she didn't suffer any menu repetition). A bit like posh veggie burger and chips. Still, I'm glad I tried these Hungarian potato worms, if only for their name.

Krumpli nudli

2lbs/ 1 kilo of potatoes (I used Maris Pipers)
3 - 4 tbsp of plain flour
2 tsp salt
1 egg, beaten (this isn't in Ellen Browning's account, but I wanted the breadcrumbs to stick)
Half a small stale white loaf, crusts off and made into breadcrumbs.
A wide saucepan filled halfway up with sunflower oil (or lard, if you'd rather)

Boil the potatoes in their skins until soft. Drain and leave to cool slightly before peeling and mashing with the salt and flour. You should end up with a malleable dough that you can then roll into worms. Drop the worms, a few at a time, into the boiling oil and leave for about ten seconds before removing from the oil with a metal slotted spoon. Drain the cooked "worms" on kitchen towel. Don't be tempted to bung the whole lot in the oil at once, the temperature of the oil will drop and they'll become a big, greasy homogenised mess.

Preheat the oven to 180°C (160°C Fan)

Once all the "worms" have been deep fried, dunk them in the beaten egg and then into the breadcrumbs and pop them in a shallow oven proof dish. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until golden brown.

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