Sunday, February 16, 2014

Prairie Kitchens - Spinach Maultaschen

Perogies. Ravioli. Maultaschen. Wonton. It seems every culture that settled Saskatchewan brought a version of dough stuffed with savoury fillings, making a little bit of meat go a long way by mixing it with bread crumbs, cooked vegetables, cheese (from a time when people had cows and made their own cheese) and fresh greens. And when there was no meat, they were still delicious and filling.

Last week, I attended the Saskatchewan German Council's "Kochlöffel & Nudelholz" cooking club (the name means wooden spoon and rolling pin) to learn the method of making the southwest German version called maultaschen. Its origin is lost in time, but I like this story: a group of monks preferred to to eat meat on holy days (when they were not supposed to eat meat) so they stuffed it in a pocket to hide their transgression from the watchful eyes of God.

The coordinator of the class, Andrea MacLeod, came to Saskatoon from Leipzig, Germany, in 2010 to marry a local fellow. She brought her favourite recipes with her such as lentil soups, German pancakes, fruit torte, kuchen (cakes) and holiday cookies such as pfeffernusse.

According to the 2011 census, more people in Saskatchewan claimed German heritage than any other (second was English) so no doubt these recipes have a long and cherished place in our kitchens.

Spinach Maultaschen
(You'll find a meat filling here.)
5 eggs
2 3/4 cups flour
1 pinch salt
Water as needed

Spinach and Ricotta Filling:
1 tbsp olive oil
350 g package fresh spinach
1/2 onion, diced
Salt and pepper
1 cup ricotta cheese

1/4 pine nuts
Chilli flakes to taste
1/2 cup butter
1 tsp fresh sage or parsley

Dough: Beat eggs with a fork. Combine flour, salt and eggs to make a soft dough. If needed, add a bit of water, one teaspoon at a time, to incorporate the flour. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and let it rest for 45–60 min.

Filling: Heat olive oil in a frying pan. Sweat the onion. Chop spinach, add to onion and cook until wilted. Season with salt and pepper. Cool. Mix with ricotta cheese.

Sauce: Toast pine nuts in a dry frying pan. Add chili flakes and butter. When the butter melts, add the sage or parsley.

Roll the dough on a floured surface to the thickness of a knife blade. Cut in 4 x 4 inch squares or circles (using a glass or a cookie cutter). Place filling in the center and fold into triangles or crescents. Brush the edges with water and pinch together well. Cook 5-8 minutes in a pot of salted water. Serve with sauce.

(This article first appeared in the Saskatoon Star Phoenix.)

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