A must in Austria, Germany and Eastern Europe: Knödels enchant sauce dishes!
What are those big white balls that accompany dishes with sauce? Knödels!
Not very well known in France, Knödels come from Germany, Austria or the Balkans. Borders have changed a lot over the centuries, so there is no dispute about the authorship of this culinary speciality. Knödels can be found on the menus of many countries under different names and with different but close recipes. Whether as a main course or dessert, with bread, potatoes or dough, there is something for everyone. For practical reasons, I only use one name here: knödels.
Knödels, Klösse, Knedliky, they have many names!
Knödels is on the menu under other names: knedlíky among the Czechs, Klösse in the Thüringen region of Germany, kniddelen in Luxembourg, galuchte in Romania… and quenelle in France.
It takes different shapes but the base is similar: as long as half a baguette that is cut into slices, as cylindrical as a cannelloni, a petanque ball or a ping-pong ball, it is more or less the same thing: a solid and nourishing accompaniment that is very cheap.
Klösse or Knödel are usually made from potatoes. There are two ways of preparing them. The potatoes are cooked and then mashed to a dry mash to which starch, flour and egg yolk are added. Or by mixing the mashed potatoes half and half with grated raw potatoes. For beginners, there are ready-made preparations in which you only need to add water… The knödels are then formed and boiled. They are cooked when they rise to the surface. Depending on the region, a fried crouton is added to the centre of the ball before cooking.
A great recipe to avoid waste, brezen-knödels or semmel-knödels are made from stale bread. Simply cut the bread into large cubes, quickly soak it in milk, add eggs, possibly chopped onions and some herbs, e.g. parsley. Add a pinch of nutmeg, salt, pepper and all that’s left to boil.
This way of making knödel says a lot about the story. When resources were scarce in hard times, the cooks found an economical way to feed their families.
They are most often called Hefe-knödels or Hefekloss, which literally means yeast knödels. This is a real dough made of flour, egg, milk and yeast. This speciality is available in sweet or savoury versions. They are the perfect accompaniment to a meat goulash, soup or stew.
Hefe-knödel can be found in the dessert section. The Austrian Marillen-knödel is the tastiest variation: at the heart of the knödel is neither a crouton nor meat, but an apricot in which a sugar cube has been carefully placed. It is eaten with compote or custard, covered with melted butter, icing sugar or poppy seeds… It also works wonderfully with plums.
Knödels are a simple and rustic speciality that deserves to be revisited
The variations are unlimited. Bread Knödels can be pan-fried, toasted, filled with all the fillings you want and sometimes even roughly cut into pieces to make a gratin drizzled with a lot of sauce.
As a savoury side dish, this is a nice alternative to the usual steamed or fried potatoes and a much more original variation than pasta, rice, mashed potatoes, etc. As a dessert, knödels or Knoedel are easy to make and are equally at home in a fine dinner or as a simple lunch.
Small tips for a successful Knödels
- Mash the potatoes while they are hot, it’s easier
- If you choose the half-and-half method, recover the starch from the raw grated potatoes to add them to the mass and, above all, wring them out thoroughly
- Wet your hands well to form the knödels so that the dough does not stick to your fingers
- Use specific potatoes for mash
- Knodels are perfect with a spicy dish and lots of sauce. Otherwise they are rather bland and dry