Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Romertopf Cooking is Fun with French Onion Soup, Brussels Sprouts and Lancashire Hot Pot

Vintage Cookbook: Romertopf Cooking is Fun, Wendy Philipson
Publication Details: Various editions, 1960's-1970's

Any follower of this blog knows that I am a big fan of clay baking as a cooking method. I have written posts on the basics of clay baking (please do read if you are a clay baking beginner as it includes some essential tips on cleaning and rules like NEVER placing a clay baker in a preheated oven) as well as on how to cook a deliciously moist whole chicken in one (in terms of moistness, clay baking a chicken is hard to beat).

Clay baking also has the virtue that it is relatively easy, even for total cooking novices, and produces great flavours out of "inferior" cuts of meat.

One of the best clay baker cookbooks, and the one that really got me rolling on clay baking, is the handy, pocket book sized "Romertopf Cooking is Fun" published in the 60's and 70's. Romertopf is the German brand name for a type of clay baker, that are still made, and that are among the best and easiest to buy new (although I have bought all my clay bakers used and, therefore, "pre-seasoned").

With over 350 recipes, from soups, to meats, to game to vegetarian, this largely un-illustrated book is a fantastic resource. I have made countless of its recipes and some are family favourites.

While usually we share two recipes, today we will share three from this classic volume, as always exactly as originally presented). They are all excellent, and the French Onion Soup is a standout.

French Onion Soup

1 lb. onions
2 tbs. butter
2 pints stock
4 slices white bread
2 cups grated cheese
pinch sugar
pinch curry powder

Chop the onions finely and fry until golden brown. Pour the stock into the soaked Romertopf and add the onions. Sprinkle with curry powder and sugar. Cover and cook in a hot oven (400F - Gas mark 6) for at least 1 1/4 hours. Then remove the lid carefully, place the bread in the soup and sprinkle with the grated cheese. Put back into the oven without the lid and cook for a few more minutes, until golden brown on top.
The bread will be delightfully crisp on top if toasted before being put into the soup.[Editor's Note: DO pre-toast the bread!]
As an alternative seasoning add a few drops of vinegar and a crushed clove of garlic. [Editor's note: DO THIS!]
And one especially fine alternative: use 1 1/2 pints stock and 1/2 pint white wine [Editor's note: Again DO THIS!]

Brussels Sprouts

1 lb. sprouts
2 small onions
3/4 cup stock
1 tbs. butter
grated nutmeg
2 tomatoes
2 tbs. sour cream
1 tbs. flour
salt and pepper

Put the cleaned sprouts, the skinned and quartered tomatoes and the sliced onions into the soaked Romertopf. Grate on lots of nutmeg. pour on the stock and add the butter in small pieces. Cook in a hot oven (400F - Gas mark 6) for 1/2 hour. Stir the flour into the cream and blend into the liquid in the pot.

Lancashire Hot Pot

For six good helpings

2 lb. lamb
1 1/2 lb. potatoes
1 cup stock
2 onions
1 tbs. butter
salt and pepper

Dice the meat, wash and slice the vegetables. Arrange the meat. Place in the soaked Romertopf in layers, first potatoes, then meat and onions, sprinkling each with a little salt and pepper. Finish with potatoes. Pour on the stock. Cover and cook in a hot oven (400F - Gas mark 6) for 2 1/2 hours. Remove the lid during the final ten minutes to allow to brown on top.

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