BEETHOVEN – FRITTATENSUPPE
Frittatensuppe or “Frittaten Nudelsuppe”, as it appears in one of Beethoven’s conversational notebooks from the year 1825, is still one of the most popular soups in the repertory of Austrian cuisine. Nowadays, the frittaten soup is usually eaten as a starter preceding the no less famous “Tafelspitz”: that irresistible bliss of beautifully tender beef cooked with vegetables and herbs. The delicious broth that results from the beef cooking is used for this soup, to which the “frittaten”, strips of egg pancake, are added. The word, by the way, is derived from the Italian “frittata”, which stands for a dish of eggs and vegetables that can’t decide whether it wants to be an omelet, a pancake or a pizza but has, apart from the pancake part, nothing to do with our soup.
In Beethoven’s day there was no need to wait for the Sunday lunch “Tafelspitz”. Any cook who was worthy of that title had in her/his kitchen a big pot of strong beef broth in readiness at all times. That broth was used for soups, sauces, meat- and vegetable dishes, in short, for the major part of the delicacies that emanated from her (or his) realm.
That strong broth, “braune Suppe”, was made like this: the bottom of a large pot is covered with thinly sliced smoked bacon. On top of that comes a layer of sliced onions. Thereon come thin slices of lean beef and some slices of veal. That in turn is covered with cubed root vegetables like carrot, parsnip, knob celery, root parsley and such, and some veal bones, if at hand. A little bit of water is added, just enough to cover the bottom with a layer of about 2 – 2½ cm. (± 0.75 – 1 In.). It is put on the stove on low heat where it can gently simmer, until the water has practically evaporated and the juices and the onions brown. Now the pot is filled up with water and brought to a boil. A bay leaf, a few cloves, some peppercorns and some mace are added, the heat is lowered and the broth is left to simmer very, very softly. Any foam is skimmed off scrupulously, otherwise the broth will be cloudy. When it’s done, after 2 to 3 hours, the broth is sieved and the fat removed.
With this broth we are going to make:
BEETHOVEN’S FRITTATEN NUDELSUPPE
60 gr. (2 oz.) flour
1 dl. (3½ oz) milk
1 dash of sparkling water
1 pinch of salt
1 slice of fatback
1 l. (2 pt) strong beef broth
Mix the flour with the eggs, the milk and a pinch of salt. Add a dash of sparkling water, enough to make a nice, smooth batter. Put it aside for a while. In the meantime, cut the fatback in a few pieces and sauté them gently in a skillet until they have lost enough fat to cook the pancakes. Take the fatback out, pour the batter in and cook until golden brown on both sides. Let the pancakes cool down a bit, roll them up and cut them into 1½ cm. (½ in) strips. Put them in plates or bowls and fill up with the piping hot beef broth. Sprinkle with some chopped chives and serve.