Our grocery list changes significantly during autumn. Apples, pears, persimmons, pomegranates and rhubarb go into the market basket, along with broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, celeriac, fennel, leeks, parsnips and potatoes.
Peter does a happy dance at the mere sight of potatoes, he loves them so, particularly when I cook them as mash. He and my father would have made a great pair. Dad was renowned for making huge pots of mashed potato to accompany his Rostélyos or slow-braised steak with onions. Incidentally, I plan to share the recipe for Rostélyos here in the fullness of time, it was fine (finom)!
My father loved to cook and potter, although he never seemed to spend enough time in the kitchen, which was firmly my mother's domain. Clearly, I have inherited traits from both my parents. Just ask Peter, I'm sure he'd be delighted to tell that he (almost) has to make an appointment to use the kitchen because I'm always in there pottering or cooking. Ha! It's not that bad, truly it isn't. シ
Moving on, let's focus on my featured recipe. Apple and bacon potato mash is a traditional and much loved German dish, known as himmel und erde, which translates to 'heaven and earth'. This is peasant food at its best, comprising mashed potatoes (and often turnips, too), served with apple sauce, bacon and onions.
Himmel und erde is usually served as a side to black pudding or Blutwurst. It's surprisingly delicious as a stand alone meal, but also makes a tasty, if not indulgent, accompaniment to pork chops. With Swabian origins on my father's side, I think he would have eaten this with as much gusto as I do.
My receipt is adapted from a version in Sophie Grigson's Country Kitchen, in which chunks of apple are added to the potato pot close to the end of cooking. Ms Grigson writes that 'the apples impart a mild, fruity sourness to a rich buttery mash' and 'it's great with sausages, chops, fish (particularly cod or salmon), and other elemental, plainly cooked main courses'.
You'll need to source floury potatoes which are good for mashing, some smoked bacon, and a handful of cooking apples. I like to to add more apples for a burst of extra flavour.
APPLE AND BACON POTATO MASH
(Himmel und Erde)
750g floury potatoes
350g cooking apples
4 rashers smoked bacon
1 tablespoon fresh chives
sea salt, to taste
Peel the potatoes and cut them into chunks. Place them into a medium sized saucepan, cover with water and bring to the boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 10-15 minutes. Meanwhile, peel and core the apples, and cut them into segments. When the potatoes are close to being cooked, add the apples. Cover and cook until the apples are just tender.
While the apples and potatoes finish cooking, cut the bacon into diced pieces. Fry them in a cast iron pan over a low heat, until they are crisp and well browned. Drain on paper towelling and set aside to keep warm. If you prefer, you could grill the bacon pieces too.
Remove the saucepan of potatoes and apples from the heat, strain off the water, add the butter and some salt, then mash to a smooth consistency. Add some of the crisp bacon to the mash and stir it through. Spoon the whole thing onto a serving platter or bowl, top with the remaining bacon and finish off with a sprinkling of chopped chives. Serves 4.
Tell me dear readers and fellow cooks, have you ever eaten himmel und erde? Perhaps it's a traditional dish in your family? Do you think you might try this recipe? Do please share your stories. I love hearing from you.
Cooking and writing have been a lifelong passion.
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NB: I use Australian standard measuring cups and spoons in my recipes.