One of my most cherished cookbooks is a small beige hardback called German Cooking. I love its browned pages with marks and fingerprints, the lack of photos, and the not very inventive recipe titles that hail from an era of plain speaking. I even love the not very helpful index, which means that to find anything you have to go through recipe by recipe, scanning the ingredients like hunting for treasure.
This book is a family heirloom as it was my great aunty Joan’s. Joan lived in the Dandenong mountain range east of Melbourne, on a steep hill planted with persimmon trees and one incredible red waratah. She was one of my grandad’s two sisters – a kind and caring lady with a sparkle in her eye, who was always dressed in a beautiful frock. She married a German man who I never met, and sadly for Joan they never had any children. My mother, who was her niece, looked after her as she got older, and that’s how I’ve ended up with her book. When I open it I imagine a newlywed Joan in a floral dress ballooning out from her waist, blonde hair pinned in a bun, wanting to cook something nice for her husband.
I got the book out the other day to look for horseradish recipes, and found four really interesting dishes. And while hunting I became intrigued with the section on ‘klösse’ – sweet or savoury dumplings that I had never heard of, but which obviously play a big part in German cooking, served alongside soups or stews or roasts, or with fruit compotes.
By the end of the week my family was on a German bender, self-imposed! I had fun at the weekend making a German dinner from start to finish. There was roast pork knuckle or hock (succulent meat; great crackling ratio!), potato and chive dumplings (a form of klösse that were like large and tasty gnocchi), a delicious horseradish and apple salad, and this little gem – parsnip pudding from Joan’s book. Yum! It’s the perfect family dessert as it’s easy, not terribly unhealthy, and delicious. You could double the recipe if you were serving a larger crowd. I’ve added orange to the recipe and taken a few other small liberties.
Parsnip and orange pudding
3 medium parsnips
20 g butter
50 g white sugar
grated zest of 1 orange
1 tablespoon Cointreau
50 g almond meal or fresh breadcrumbs
Peel the parsnips and cut into chunks. Boil until soft.
Preheat the oven to 180°C. Drain the parsnips and mash them. Stir in the butter while the mash is still hot, followed by the sugar and eggs. Stir in the zest, Cointreau and almond meal or breadcrumbs. Scrape into a small baking dish and smooth the top. Scatter with flaked almonds and bake for around 30 minutes.
Serve with cream.