Saturday 7 November 2015

Home again

Liptauer, an easy and delicious snack.

London is dark and damp. Walking Barney in Abney Park on Friday morning, the bitter smell of sulphur from the previous night’s fireworks hung in the air.

A damp dog walk in Abney Park.

But all is not dreary. Our local church hall is hosting an evening of Sing Along A Sound of Music to raise money for UNICEF’s Sing for Syria appeal and my friend Liz has signed me up to help decorate the entrance to the hall in a suitably Austria en fête fashion. So last night, in Episode 1127 of my Jill Archer life, Liz came round to discuss the suitability of floral fabrics pulled messily from my craft cupboard and how many fairy lights was too many fairy lights. And by discuss I mean drink, and by fabric I mean wine.

The Sound of Music is the first film I remember seeing, with my dad and my grandmother, aged about five or six, back in the day when small market towns still had cinemas, so it’s always had a special place in my heart.

I also spent part of the summer I was 15 staying with friends of my parents in Vienna. My strongest memory of that trip is seeing women wearing dirndls in an entirely unironic fashion, to go to the office or walk to the post box. But I also remember eating liptauer, the hummus of the Austro-Hungarian empire, as a mid-afternoon snack. This spicy, paprika-spiked spread is terribly easy to make and I thought it would see Liz and I through our important decoration discussions. And it goes well with wine.

The things that make liptauer taste so good.

You can leave the butter out of this if you like (that’s not something I often say), and just make up the weight with more cream cheese or quark. Or you can substitute some cottage cheese for either. Just make sure it’s mixed until very well blended.

Serves 4 as a snack, or more as part of a selection of starters

100g butter, softened
200g quark (or cottage cheese, if that’s your thing)
180g tub of cream cheese
3-4 cornichons, diced
3 spring onions, white and pale green part only, finely diced
1 tbsp sweet paprika
1 tbsp capers, rinsed if salted, roughly chopped
2 tsps white wine vinegar, cider vinegar or juice from the cornichon jar
1 tsp caraway seeds
A good pinch of hot paprika
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

To serve
Rye bread, more cornichons and other pickles, chopped boiled egg

In a mixer or with a wooden spoon, beat the butter until smooth then beat in the quark and cream cheese a little at a time until very smooth. Beat the rest of the ingredients until well combined. Taste and season with more salt, pepper and/or vinegar or cornichon juice if required.

Beating everything together.

You can make the liptauer up to a couple of days ahead. I suggest you make it at least a couple of hours ahead for the flavours to develop. Seal in a tub or in a bowl with clingfilm and remove from the fridge about an hour before you want to serve it. Give it a good stir, spoon it into a serving bowl and sprinkle over some hot paprika.

Serve with rye bread (you can lightly toast this if you like) and more pickles, and/or some chopped boiled egg.


  1. This looks really tasty and I'm going to try it over the holidays when friends drop in. One thing though...I am new to your blog and also American, which makes me quite dense when it comes to converting measures...can you put those boring ounces, cups, etc. measuring units in for us metric challenged folks?
    Also, what is quark? I also wanted to tell you that I bought your book "Gifts from the Garden" and it is just lovely and I can't wait to try my hand at some of your beautiful recipes.

  2. Hello Christina,

    It's a great recipe for that, just the right thing to serve on some toast or crackers when guests drop in. Quark is a type of fresh, tangy cheese. If you can't find it, just use a bit of plain yoghurt to lighten up some cream cheese. I find that works quite well. Now, when it comes to measuring I'm afraid I side with your own, dear, brilliant Alice Medrich . Cups baffle me and when it comes to Imperial measurements, there are slight variations in American fl oz and our fl oz which make me nervous about precision. So sorry. I just don't have time to wade through all of that. I am delighted, delighted, delighted that you've bought my book. I hope you enjoy it and do let me know how you get on! x

  3. I think your lovely husband may have passed on the message that I was so inspired by this I tried it with possibly slightly out of date Quark, and ain interesting substitute mix of herbs and spices as we didn't have carraway and I couldn't bear to wait for the next shop! It was not bad at all but I have now gone for the proper combination and its fantastic!
    I really almost never cook so the fact you have inspired me to get out the mixer and create something is impressive. You may however have created a monster addiction as I think all the ingredients are already on the next shopping list. Thank you!

    1. Hello Hannah! Yes he did, so delighted you've made the liptauer and beyond delighted that I've coaxed you into COOKING! Liptauer is so adaptable, depending on what you have hanging about so let me know if you try any other experiments. X

  4. Greetings again and so sorry to keep bothering you but I am now going to try your lovely oatmeal and honey soap recipe in the book. Which I love btw! :) Can I just use my regular kitchen pans, utensils, etc. and just wash them after I make the soap or do I need special equipment? I'm assuming the melt and pour soap and other ingredients will wash right off? If not, I could always go to the second hand shop to get some extra pans, etc.
    Thank-you and what is the best way to contact you for any additional annoying questions? :)

    1. Hi Christina, Lovely to see your message - not bothering me at all. I just use my ordinary kitchen pots and pans and the melt and pour soap just washes right off. You're using very natural ingredients, nothing toxic at all, so there's no worry about cross contamination. If you want to get in touch with me here that's fine, or if you tweet, I'm on there as @lickedspoon, or email me debora at deborarobertson dot com - let me know how you get on with your soap making!

    2. Thank-you Debora...I was hoping I could use my ordinary pots and things but wasn't sure if the soap or oils etc. would leave any kind of residue on them...And I will be sure to let you know how it turns out.
      PS. I don't like rectangular plates either! :)

      Thanks again!


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