Cooking with the power of nature - Christine Saahs - ebook

Cooking with the power of nature ebook

Christine Saahs

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Recipes with local herbs & flowers Treat and take care of yourself – this is the motto of Christine Saahs, doyenne at the Nikolaihof in Wachau (Lower Austria), Austria's oldest vineyard with a long history reaching back almost 2000 years. Saahs puts a lot of love and knowledge into bringing together recipes that refresh and quicken both body and mind: Medical plants growing in the forest, in the grass or even on our windowsill, find their way into the cooking pot just as fresh, local fruit and vegetables, and sometimes – in moderation – a piece of meat. Beauty doesn't fall short either: Easy-to-make creams and oils, crafted by means of well-tried Demeter guidelines, help enhance our skin and hair. In this pleasurable day-to-day cookbook for body, mind and soul, Christine Saahs unites practical tips and tricks on how to keep or regain our health, use our food efficiently and protect our soil for a healthy future worth living!

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Contents

Feeling nature

Adding love to the cooking pot

Small & perfectly formed.Naturally appetising

Green smoothies. Spoonfuls of pleasure

The power of grapes

Demeter. For the benefit of our Earth

Colourful plates.Salads & starters

Asparagus. Fresh and from a jar

Frozen lemon. A condiment with a great deal of potential

Blossoms as food

Hot & cold.Soups for summer and winter days

Alkaline dishes are good for our sense of well being

From the store cupboard to the table

Salt does not equal salt

How food can become a remedy

Tasty and healthy.Main courses with and without meat

Don’t throw anything away!

Fine accessories.Side dishes which can also take centre stage

Interval fasting

Sweet treats with fruits.Cold desserts and desserts from the oven

Fruit. Plant power in its sweetest form

A pause for thought

Good for both body and soul.Water and wine

Turning your kitchen into a home apothecary

Water is life

Wine is pleasure

Skin & hair.Cosmetics from the kitchen and the vineyard

Internal and external beauty

The Nikolaihof Estate and its produce.The ad vineas Guest House

Index of recipes

“Everything regarded with love is beautiful.”

CHRISTIAN MORGENSTERN

Feeling nature

I live with my wonderful family at a place which is steeped in history. The full force of nature is contained within the plants and fruits bestowed upon us by the surrounding soil. We work together with our staff to help the earth develop its strength. Watchfulness and love are required in order to achieve this. We also need to act in a way that is in tune with the seasons.

When I stand in my kitchen and work with all this fantastic produce, it reflects everything that has been going on in the soil during the growth phase. A carrot, a potato, a rose petal or one of our grapes will never taste precisely the same as the year before. Each plant gives of its best regardless of the prevailing weather conditions. Rain may have been plentiful or scarce. Late frosts may have occurred or not. Year after year. My job as a cook is to select the available flavours and combine them to create a healthy and delicious whole. I take a conscious approach to this work and am full of good sentiments. Each stage of producing a dish is a type of meditation which stirs my spirit and allows me to feel a link with nature.

I would like to encourage you to browse through this book, to experiment whilst you are cooking and to seek inspiration. Perhaps some of the thoughts expressed will strike a note with you. Above all, I wish you joy as you go about your task. Enjoying what we do keeps us healthy and ensures that even the simplest of recipes will become an exquisite accomplishment.

Christine Saahs

Adding love to the cooking pot

Cooking pots have been a part of people’s lives ever since it was discovered that fire can be used to produce food. Pots may differ in terms of shape and material, but their purpose is always the same – to prepare contents in such a way so as to satisfy human nutritional needs. At least this was the case before industrially manufactured foodstuffs conquered the market and ready meals rendered the cooking process virtually superfluous. But does pre-prepared food really offer us the right kind of sustenance? Or does it just fill us up? What are we missing out on when we cook using genetically modified grains and fruit and vegetables which have been treated with pesticides and are grown on soils which can only be nurtured by strong chemical fertilisation? Does it do us any good to eat meat from animals which live (and die) under terrible conditions, are kept “healthy” with antibiotics and are fed with hormones?

And can any of these products really be designated as “food”?

I have been interested in Demeter cultivation for over 45 years. All wines produced at the Nikolai Estate and (nearly) all the ingredients used in the dishes served at our wine tavern comply with the strict guidelines of biodynamic agriculture. I do not intend to go into the precise details of these principles here (indeed the relevant information can be found on the Internet at any time). My aim is to tell you about the innate vitality that is contained within every plant and every living being, including ourselves.

Plant power for humans

If a plant is growing in healthy soil and is exposed to water and sunlight, it will receive everything it needs in order to become strong, blossom and give forth fruits or seeds. Such a plant can access the very best support at every stage of growth. A healthy plant can automatically ward off natural pests and many diseases. It does not need any additional aids. An inherent strength is passed on to any living being which consumes it. We are also provided with an optimum source of sustenance that allows us to evolve our own vitality and remain healthy. In my view, this cycle of nature reflects creation.

If a plant’s growth has been chemically influenced or if its seed-producing capacity has been altered (perhaps to zero), then an essential part of the circle of life has been removed. A vital element of our own nourishment will also be absent if we use such produce in our food. Deficiencies of this kind may also lead to physical ailments such as stomach upsets, intestinal disorders and a weakened immune system. They may also result in psychological impairments. We are then forced to combat these problems in the same way as a plant that has been chemically treated by taking additional substances into our bodies in the form of medications. This is a futile loop and is also something that is exploited by major food production companies and the pharmaceutical industry.

Cooking with love

This book does not seek to act as a wagging finger, telling you what you should and should not eat. My aim is to give you an understanding of what does me good and to present you with some of the ideas which motivate me. I have collected recipes which I enjoy making and have added a few comments and tips relating to health, physical well being and achieving a mental balance. My daughter Dr. Christine Saahs has helped me along the way. Of course, all the dishes included are prepared using organic produce or ingredients that comply with Demeter guidelines. Love is also involved. A love of nature, of nature’s produce, of the activity of cooking and of the people around me is the main driving force which has led me to embrace biodynamic Demeter agriculture. This is an approach which maintains the flow of life.

What I am seeking to convey with my recipes

My recipes are based on fruit and vegetables that have been grown in accordance with Demeter principles. Produce is washed but left unpeeled wherever possible (except for persons with a particularly sensitive stomach). Herbs, leafy vegetables and salads are washed and then shaken or spun dry.

Whenever the season permits, I use blossoms and herbs that will enhance the taste and look of my dishes. Give the blossoms a good shake to rescue any small insects that may be sheltering in the chalices and between the leaves.

Both my family and I have always enjoyed the benefits or an alkaline or largely alkaline diet. For this reason, I have included many dishes of this type. The relevant entries are marked:

PREDOMINANTLYAlkaline

Alkaline

And, because there are many small households, most recipes have been designed with two people in mind. If a dish is better prepared in larger quantities, the amounts of ingredients have been increased accordingly. The recipes presented are intended as suggestions that may be varied according to the season and in line with your own whims and moods.

Small & perfectly formed

Naturally appetising

HERBAL CREAM CHEESE

Ingredients for 2 – 4 portions

¼ bunch of chives

2 fresh sage leaves

1 clove of garlic

½ a small onion

1 pinch of caraway

1 teaspoon of tarragon mustard

125 g curd cheese (20% dry matter fat content)

125 g sour cream

Crystal salt

Milled pepper

Preparation

1 Finely chop the chives and sage, peel the garlic and chop very finely. Peel the onion and cut up very small, finely chop the caraway on a wet board.

2 Mix all the ingredients in a bowl (stir only briefly, otherwise the mixture will become liquid) and season. I find that crunchy jalapeño provides a very good contrast to the mild taste of the cream cheese.

MY TIP

A good spread for a snack, a perfect accompaniment to freshly cooked potatoes in their skins and an excellent vegetable dip. The cheese will keep for several days in the fridge and can also be frozen in portions in screw top jars.

DIFFERENT VERSIONS

Finish by adding nettles and other wild herbs. The version shown here features sage, garden orache, rucola and a few rose leaves to give colour.

WINE RECOMMENDATION

Grüner Veltliner Federspiel

HERB BUTTER

Ingredients for 2 portions

125 g butter at room temperature

1 tablespoon of mixed herbs (see tip)

½ teaspoon of herbal salt according to taste

A little finely grated frozen lemon (see p. 48)

Blossoms (lilies, dahlias, nasturtium, roses) to garnish

Preparation

1 Mix the butter in a bowl using a whisk or mixer until it becomes creamy. Pluck the herb leaves from their stalks, chop finely and thoroughly mix into the butter together with all other ingredients. Season, put into decorative containers or cups and leave to go hard in the fridge.

2 Dip the vessels briefly in hot water prior to serving and tip the butter out onto plates. Decorate as you like with various blossoms.

MY TIP

Many garden and wild herbs are suitable for the flavouring of butter. Depending on taste and availability, these include parsley, chives, oregano, marjoram, lovage (predominates slightly), rosemary, lavender (not everyone’s preference), sorrel, nettles, dandelion and many more besides.

DIFFERENT VERSIONS

Blossom butter can be prepared in exactly the same way as herb butter using roses, violets, dandelions, lilies, dahlias, lime blossoms, fruit tree blossoms and all other edible varieties. Blossoms and herbs may also be mixed.

A wide range of different flavours can be created by also using garlic, milled pepper, saffron, chilli, turmeric and other spices.

Making your own herbal salt

Use a mortar to grind crystal salt with dry herbs such as yarrow, ground ivy, daisies, dandelion, sainfoin, meadow sage, nettles, sorrel, origanum, parsley, marjoram and oregano. Store in a screw top jar.

APRICOT BUTTER

Ingredients for 2 portions

125 g butter at room temperature

2 – 3 fully ripe apricots (depending on size)

1 teaspoon of herbal salt according to taste

A little finely grated frozen lemon (see p. 48)

Honey according to taste

Preparation

1 Mix the butter in a bowl using a whisk or mixer until it becomes creamy. Remove the stones from the apricots, chop up finely and thoroughly mix into the butter together with salt and lemon. Season (add a little honey if the apricots are not sweet enough). Put the butter into decorative containers or cups and leave to go hard in the fridge.

2 Dip the vessels briefly in hot water prior to serving and tip the butter out onto plates.

DIFFERENT VERSIONS

Plums and other ripe fruits can also be mixed with the butter. Try it out!

FLAXSEED CRACKERS

PREDOMINANTLYAlkaline

Ingredients for 2 baking trays

500 g flaxseed

2 large tomatoes

4 dried tomatoes

½ teaspoon of hot paprika powder

Herbal salt (see p. 18) according to taste

1 pinch of cayenne or Tabasco

Dried basil or oregano

Preparation

1 Empty the flaxseed into a sufficiently large container, add just enough water to cover and leave overnight to soak.

2 Remove the stalks from the fresh tomatoes, chop tomatoes roughly and use a blender to mix finely with the dried tomatoes. Bring to the boil in a small saucepan. Allow to cool, and then add the mixture to the softened flaxseed (including the water in which it has soaked). Add the spices, mix well and season.

3 The mixture created will be relatively liquid. Spread out thinly across two baking trays lined with baking paper (or on the trays of a dehydrator) to a depth of about 2 mm. Allow it to dry in the oven at 60 °C for around 10 – 14 hours (do not bake). Leave the oven door slightly ajar to enable the moisture to escape.

4 Break up into pieces and store in glass containers.

MY TIP

The crackers can be eaten dry or slightly moist to accompany salads or soups. In the former case, you will find that they totally eclipse any kind of industrially produced snack.

During winter the fresh tomatoes may be replaced with a good quality tinned variety. On warm summer days, the crackers will dry out in a hot sunny spot.

DIFFERENT VERSIONS

The crackers may be varied in a number of different ways by using sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, sesame, herbs, garlic, finely grated cheese, turmeric and many other spices.

Prior to drying, they may also be sprinkled with flaxseed or sesame (picture).

SAGE PRUNES

Alkaline

Ingredients

Soft stoneless prunes (without preservatives)

1 sage leaf per prune

A little grape seed oil, olive oil or ghee according to taste

Fresh sage blossoms and leaves to garnish

Preparation

1 Wrap each prune in 1 sage leaf, fasten with a toothpick.

2 Heat a little fat in a pan and lightly fry the sage prunes on all sides. (Take care, they burn easily!) Serve hot. The prunes make a great starter when garnished with green or vegetable salad.

MY TIP

Sage prunes may be prepared in advance. Wrap up, fasten and store in a container in the fridge. They will keep for about 1 week. Fry off in the pan as needed.

In the summer months, sage prunes are also a tasty barbecue option!

DIFFERENT VERSIONS

The fruits may also be wrapped in nettles or other large-leafed herbs instead of in sage leaves. Wrap in thin rashers of bacon to create tangy bacon prunes.

WINE RECOMMENDATION

Muscat Blanc or Neuburger

HEMP SPREAD WITH HERBS (HEMP PESTO)

Alkaline

Ingredients for 2 – 4 portions

200 g hemp nuts (peeled hemp seeds, available in organic food stores)

Total of about 90 g herbs, e.g. 20 g basil, 20 g dill, 10 g sorrel, 10 g lemon balm, 5 g coriander, 5 g savory, 5 g hyssop, 10 g tarragon, 2 g sage leaves (or any other mix according to taste and season)

100 ml hemp oil (available in organic food stores)

Crystal salt

Milled pepper

Finely grated frozen lemon (see p. 48) according to taste

Preparation

1 Lightly brown the hemp nuts in a pan without adding fat, then finely grind using a mortar.

2 Pluck the leaves from the herb stems, purée all ingredients in a blender, season with crystal salt, pepper and lemon.

MY TIP

The small hemp seeds (hemp nuts) contain large amounts of healthy antioxidants, Vitamin E and the B Vitamins. They are also one of the best suppliers of B2.

Store your hemp spread in the fridge in small jars, covered with oil. This will enable the spread to be kept for several weeks. (Do not be afraid about using a large amount of oil. There is virtually no limit to the quantity of high quality fats that can be consumed.) Hemp spread can be used on bread, as a dip for vegetable snacks and as a pesto to accompany pasta or potatoes.

WINE RECOMMENDATION

Grüner Veltliner Federspiel

SPICY HUMMUS

PREDOMINANTLYAlkaline

Ingredients for 4 – 8 portions

300 g dried chickpeas

3 bay leaves

1 bunch of parsley

5 cloves of garlic

1 small chilli pepper (or 1 pinch of chilli powder or Tabasco) as required

5 threads of saffron

½ a finely grated frozen lemon (see p. 48) according to taste

1 tablespoon of cumin powder

1 tablespoon of curry powder

2 tablespoons of tahini (sesame paste)

Milled pepper

Crystal salt

Olive oil as required

2 tablespoons of sesame

Preparation

1 Soak the chickpeas overnight in three times the amount of cold water, drain the next day. Rinse the chickpeas well. Place in a saucepan with three times the amount of fresh water. Add the bay leaves and parsley stems and boil for approximately 2 hours. The chickpeas should be very soft. Strain the chickpeas, reserving the cooking liquid. Allow to cool. Remove the bay leaves and parsley stalks.

2 Finely chop the parsley leaves, peel the garlic and cut up small. Remove the seeds from the chilli pepper (if using) and also chop finely. Soak the saffron threads in a little warm water.

3 Use a blender or stick blender to purée all ingredients except the sesame together with the cool chickpeas. Add cooking liquid and oil as required until a light and fluffy mixture is created. Season and leave to infuse in the fridge for a few hours. Add further seasoning if needed.

4 Lightly fry the sesame in a pan without the addition of oil until its aroma is released. Sprinkle over the hummus prior to serving.

MY TIP

Store hummus covered with oil in jars. It will keep in the fridge or several days. The spread can also be frozen in jars.

DIFFERENT VERSIONS

Hummus can be made from other pulses such as beans and lentils. Almond butter can be used instead of sesame paste.

AVOCADO & PEAR SMOOTHIE

Alkaline

Ingredients for 2 – 4 portions

½ an avocado (without stone and skin)

1 pear

Juice of an orange

Lemon juice as required

Preparation

Purée all ingredients thoroughly in a blender.

MY TIP

Smoothies make a good light snack or small appetiser depending on the ingredients they contain. Endless variations are possible, and each smoothie will always taste a little different.

DIFFERENT VERSIONS

Ingredients such as spinach, lamb’s lettuce and dandelion can be used depending on the taste and consistency required. More orange juice (or water) may also be added.

GRAPE SMOOTHIE

Alkaline

Ingredients for 2 – 4 portions

500 g grapes

1 handful of nettle leaves or 1 tablespoon of dried nettle leaves

Preparation

Purée all ingredients thoroughly in a blender.

MY TIP