From “Fireside Food for Cold Winter Nights: More than 75 Comforting and Warming Recipes” by Lizzie Kamenetzky (Ryland Peters & Small)
Photography by Nassima Rothacker copyright Ryland Peters & Small, 2015, 2021
“Fireside Food for Cold Winter Nights” can be purchased on Amazon or through Bookshop.org.
Said to be the oldest cake in the world, this torte is named after the Austrian city of Linz. The crust is delightfully crumbly and its spiced, jammy filling is just the thing to take the edge off a wintry chill. A useful piece of advice to grind hazelnuts without them turning oily is to put them in a food processor with half the flour, and pulse them together until the hazelnuts are finely ground into the flour.
1 1⁄2 cups (150g) mixed finely ground hazelnuts and almonds
2 cups (275g) plain/all-purpose flour, plus extra to dust
1 teaspoon ground mixed spice/apple pie spice
1⁄2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 cup (225g) cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1⁄2 cup plus 1 2⁄3 tablespoons (85g) icing/confectioners’ sugar
2 egg yolks, plus 1 egg yolk beaten with a little water, to glaze
finely grated zest of 1 lemon and a squeeze of juice
3 tablespoons dry breadcrumbs
10 tablespoons each of redcurrant jelly and raspberry jam/jelly, mixed together
9-inch (23-cm) fluted, round, loose-bottomed tart pan, greased
SERVES 10 to 12
Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C) Gas 4.
Mix the ground nuts, flour, mixed spice/apple pie spice, and salt in a bowl. Add the butter and rub it into the flour mixture with your fingertips until it resembles breadcrumbs. Add the icing/confectioners’ sugar, stir well, then quickly mix in the two egg yolks, lemon zest, and juice, so that the mixture starts to come together.
Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead briefly until smooth. Remove one-third of the dough. Shape the smaller piece into a disc, wrap in cling film/plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for 10 minutes.
Roll out the remaining dough on a lightly floured surface into a circle large enough to line the tart pan. Lift into the pan and press into an even layer over the base and sides, patching any gaps, as the dough is very crumbly. Add any trimmings to the pastry disc in the fridge. Chill the base for 10 minutes.
Put the base in the preheated oven and bake for 10 to 15 minutes until it has barely begun to color, then set aside to cool. While the base is baking, roll out the remaining dough between 2 sheets of baking parchment into a circle about 10 inches (25cm), then return to the fridge for 20 minutes.
Sprinkle the cooked base of the torte with the breadcrumbs, then spoon the redcurrant jelly and raspberry jam/jelly evenly over the top (spoon on in blobs, and then use a palette knife/metal spatula to spread them out).
Remove the chilled pastry from the fridge and take off the sheets of baking parchment. Cut the pastry into strips, about 3⁄4 inches (2cm) wide, across the diagonal. Lay these, one at a time, over the jam/jelly, using a long spatula, as the pastry is crumbly, to make a criss-cross lattice pattern. Neaten the edges by pressing any excess pastry against the side of the pan.
Brush the pastry with the egg yolk glaze, then bake for 45 to 50 minutes until golden. Allow to cool for 10 minutes before removing from the pan.
Lizzie Kamenetzky’s favorite holidays are those from her childhood years when she and her parents would travel to the Swiss Alps for ski trips. Staying in a small chalet in the village of La Fouly—home to just over 200 people—is where Kamenetzky experienced some of her dearest memories. Located on the border between Italy and France, La Fouly is one of the tiniest villages in the Alps, yet boasts some of the most culturally diverse cuisines on offer—a mixture of Italian, French, and Swiss. Her childhood ski trips allowed Kamenetzky to experience a range of different foods which greatly influenced her future passion for cooking.
As a young child, she remembers baking brioche bread with her mom for Christmas—an annual tradition in their family. She recalls a strong memory of herself punching down the dough and dotting it with sticky butter in the kitchen of their small farm in Kent, England. This experience sparked her love of cooking. Later, she went to university and would often prepare a range of delectable dishes for her friends on campus.
Fireside Comfort Food
Kamenetzky carefully curated a collection of some of her favorite dishes in her latest cookbook: “Fireside Food for Cold Winter Nights.” The cookbook includes recipes for hearty soups like celeriac and parsnip velouté, rich, cheesy casseroles like tartiflette, and warm drinks like spiced apple cider—the perfect combination to warm up any red-cheeked skier in the Alps. But these recipes are also meant for anyone looking for something comforting and delicious this winter. Another favorite is the osso bucco with risotto—a dish both she and her father equally admire. “Especially if you add to that a lovely braise of veal, it’s just as delicious,” Kamenetzky said.
Her most treasured recipe is Käsespätzle and it was taught to her by her Jewish-Austrian grandmother-in-law who left her homeland of Austria when she was very young. Despite that, she always kept a strong affinity towards her heritage. “She just loved cooking and that’s sort of how we really bonded,” explained Kamenetzky. Her grandmother-in-law knew recipes handed down from her mother and even kept an old notebook with past recipes. Many of the dishes featured in Kamenetzky’s book carry a heavy Tyrolean influence inspired by her, particularly ones like the Germknödel—sweet steamed dumplings served with jam traditionally made from tiny mountain berries. “She tried several of the dishes and gave me the seal of approval and definitely told me when they weren’t right,” Kamenetzky chuckled. She is also proud to have her very own späetzle maker, made in the 1950s and donated from her grandmother-in-law—a gem in her collection of cooking tools.
During her research process, Kamenetzky utilized her friends and family’s distinct knowledge of hearty, alpine food. She also traveled to the Swiss Alps to shoot some photos for the book, as well as to prepare the recipes, adapting the traditional ingredients more readily available there, particularly the crozets—small, square-shaped buckwheat pasta. The pasta used to make Diot—a pork and cabbage sausage from the Savoie region of the French Alps is commonly served with a side of crozet pasta covered in Comté cheese and heavy cream.
As a young child, Kamenetzky’s favorite memory was returning to their chalet in La Fouly after a long day of skiing on the slopes. Her cheeks flushed from the cold, she would notice a lovely supper waiting for her next to a cozy fire. “I think that’s the perfect moment when you feel like you’ve really earned your supper,” she said. When discussing memorable dishes, Kamenetzky said she had many such favorites but the ones that have really stuck with her include fondue, raclette, and Morteau sausage served with creamy lentils.
The snowy, mountainous terrain of the Swiss Alps is home to many diverse species of wildlife; ranging from fiery red deer, golden eagles, snowy hares, and brown bears, to alpine marmots. As a young girl, Kamenetzky enjoyed going out on the deep snowy slopes to watch the red-black squirrels and white rabbits as the sound of church bells rang out from across the mountains. She even experienced a few avalanches. “One time, the whole other side of the village where we normally stayed was almost wiped out by a huge avalanche that came down,” said Kamenetzky. Often they would hear the rumbles and feel the ground starting to shake, which the children found exciting.
Family and friends have always played a particularly important role in her life. After one of her mother’s oldest friends married a Frenchman, Kamenetzky’s family began visiting them often when she was young, during their regular trips to the Swiss Alps. The two families became very close and the children spent many happy times playing together. The father of the family, Blaise, “was just one of the most vivacious life-loving people,” she said. He taught her that anyone could get down any slope and this belief is something that she continues to cherish to this day, especially since he passed away.
Cooking Bold Flavors
When cooking for herself, Kamenetzky most enjoys making Mediterranean and Middle-Eastern-inspired dishes. “Cumin is one of my favorite spices. I also love dishes with chickpeas and lots of spice and warmth,” she said. When deciding on what to prepare for supper, she naturally gravitates towards “something that’s maybe a bit Italian or Greek with those lovely flavors of oregano, cumin, and chili would be my regular sort of cooking,” said Kamenetzky. Rather than favoring quick meals, she prefers dishes that require more time, such as slow braises, slow roasts, “things that require a lot of patient love,” Kamenetzky explained. She added that they don’t necessarily have to be complicated or hands-on. “For me, it’s like a kind of meditation to create something that takes a bit of time and a bit of patience so it’s something that I definitely enjoy doing.” She believes it’s one of the reasons she loves baking bread so much, especially sourdough. She views winter food in the same way, as the longer the dish is cooked, the richer the flavor becomes.
Aside from cooking comforting winter recipes, Kamenetzky enjoys spending time outside. She said, despite the lack of adequate daylight in the winter months, she actually likes it when the evening starts to draw in. “I love that feeling of having been outside and in the cold fresh air and then coming into somewhere warm and settling down to cook something delicious.” According to her, it is very important to get as much time as possible in the fresh air, particularly in the winter. “The sunlight in the UK is just so short that I think you have to make the most of it,” she said. Whether that means having to put on your warmest coat or step into a pair of tall winter boots—it’s really important to get out there and brave the elements for the sake of your mental and physical well-being, according to Kamenetzky. Spending more time with family during this time is equally as important. In the summer, it’s easy to host barbecues and family get-togethers—picnics, a trip to the beach, or sit in people’s gardens drinking rosé, she commented. “In winter, it’s more difficult—it almost feels like you have to try a bit harder to want to do things,” making it even more important to spend more time with family and friends for the sake of happiness and mental health.
Kamenetzky’s book, “Fireside Food for Cold Winter Nights” is currently available for purchase in Kindle format or as a hardcover from Amazon or Bookshop.org.