I don’t need calendar to tell me autumn’s arrived. As soon as I start craving sauerkraut and beef broth I know that time of year is here again. Talk of archetypes, these two are certainly typical autumn and winter foods in our household. So, I listened to that inner voice when shopping yesterday at farmers’ market and we stopped at the butcher’s for a nice cut of beef. Sauerkraut on hold for now.
Beef broth to me is a go-to heart and soul warmer. Not to mention its beneficial effects on the body too. One can never have too much beef broth. It was a Saturday or Sunday (or both) lunch staple when I was growing up and of course my mom makes the best one. Whenever I was away from home as child or teenager my mom would make beef broth to welcome me back home. Now I’d like my son to think I make the best one. And so for generations …
It certainly is a kind of dish that has just as many recipes as there are cooks but basic guidelines couldn’t be simpler: a piece of beef, some root vegetables, an onion, parsley, salt and pepper. For me there’s no beef broth without lovage too. I also add tomato and my onion needs to be charred black on the cut side. Plus, I won’t even consider cooking beef broth if there’s no kohlrabi.
Beef broth is actually a no brainer: take the meat, the trimmed vegetables and herbs, salt and peppercorns, put them all in a pot of cold water, bring to a boil and let it simmer slowly for at least 2 hours.
There are some things to consider though: the broth will benefit from added bone material but not too much. If pieces of tail are available at the butcher’s do consider adding one or two pieces to the pot. (Roughly I’d say a kilo of meat with bones would implement 2,5 to 3 litres of water.)
As for the root vegetables, I usually cut up three, four carrots, a kohlrabi (yellow or green variety), a celeriac or only a piece of it if it’s a large one, and a parsley root. Be aware that adding too many carrots will make a sweeter broth. If you don’t mind that add as many as you please. They add a welcome splash of colour to the whole pot.
Then in go the green parts: a few stalks of parsley (say 10) and a few of lovage. As I said, there’s no beef broth for me unless lovage is at hand. But use it wisely or it will dominate. I have lovage planted in a pot on my balcony now so it’s always there. I cut it regularly and freeze it in a bag, leaves and stalks – it freezes really well.
I pop in a tomato (or two smaller ones), peppercorns and salt. While I’m prepping all this I let the halved onion char on the stovetop until blackened (on a piece of aluminium foil to prevent staining and cleaning.) then I pop that in the pot too. Normally, I would use a shallot but always charred as it gives a special something of a taste to the broth.
I bring the covered pot to a boil and let it simmer tenderly for at least two hours. Then, I pour myself a glass of wine and write a post about it. Seriously, then I pour myself a glass of something and go about some other business.
When it’s done, the content of the pot is ladled through a sieve placed over another pot. I always add all the root vegetables (carrots, kohlrabi and celeriac) to my strained beef broth. (Carrots are my favourite.)
To serve, apart for chopped fresh parsley or chives, as you please, you will also need something to make your soup more substantial (although you can by all means have it lean) like dumplings or pasta. I prefer good semi-wide egg-based or regular pasta that I buy from a farmer lady at the local market. But what I remember best from my childhood are griessnockerl (semolina dumplings) that my mom has always made as a filler for this type of soup. It used to be my task to prepare the batter under my mom’s severe supervision: mixing semolina, butter and eggs. After a really long time I had a go at them again this past weekend.
As for the boiled beef, it always makes a main course at our household. It goes really well with mashed potatoes (another favourite and staple), a heap of horseradish and a big bowl of crisp lettuce. But, one can have the meat served cold too as essigfleisch (salad of sliced beef and onion rings) with mandatory pumpkinseed oil. The clear broth will keep in the fridge, covered, for two days.
I found this great site while looking for the semolina dumpling recipe to post here: http://www.lilvienna.com/semolina-dumpling-soup-griessnockerlsuppe/ I have never used anything other than semolina, butter and egg for the batter myself but maybe one day I should try adding nutmeg. Seems like a nice touch.
While I was looking for essigfleisch photo to add up here, I found out that essigfleisch is actually a Jewish dish. What do you know. I seem to have believed it’s a dish of peasants’ from the Pannonia plain. https://www.kochbar.de/rezept/502511/Essigfleisch-mit-Zwiebel-und-steirischem-Kernoel.html