When we saw this recipe, we knew we had to try it, as it sounded so simple, and, to us at least, quite a bit different from most soups. So, unless you eat a lot of Pennsylvania Dutch food, you’re probably asking, “What are rivels? And is that misspelled?” The answer to the second question is no, “rivel” is the correct spelling, and, for the answer to the first, well, probably the best way to find out is just to scratch up this soup.
We found this recipe in The Soup and Bread Cookbook, by Beatrice Ojakangas, and were immediately taken in by the name. We had no idea what rivels were, but, in reading the recipe, it seemed as if they be like dumplings. We weren’t far off. Just so you know, we scaled the recipe down a bit, plus we added some of our own touches to liven up the soup.
Our addition is the small amount of vegetables; if you don’t have carrots or mushrooms, use something else. For the egg, use free range, if possible. The hens will be happier, and that means the eggs will be better. Broth, use a kind you like. We made ours that morning using some beets, chard and kale stems, onion and garlic peelings, and a bay leaf.
Procedure in detail:
Brown flour. Place the flour in a heavy-bottomed skillet over medium heat and, stirring continuously, cook the flour until it browns, about 10 minutes. Almost all the browning happens in the last few minutes, so don’t get bored and wander away. As it browns, it’ll smell surprisingly good, a bit like coffee, perhaps.
Cool. Transfer the flour to a heat-proof bowl. It’ll be really hot, so, if you added the egg right away, it’d cook. While it’s cooling for about 30 minutes, just add the salt and stir it in.
Add egg. Now that the flour is cool, stir in the egg. If you think this is going to be like pasta (that’s what we thought), you’re wrong. So, just stir in the egg and add water until everything is moist and the dough will hold together when pinched. It’ll crumble apart easily, and won’t resemble a dough otherwise. Set the rivel dough aside while you make up a quick soup.
Fry vegetables. Heat oil in a large saucepan or soup pan over medium heat. When hot, add the vegetables and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender.
Add broth. Add the broth to the vegetables and bring to a simmer. If you want, you can simmer the broth and vegetables together for a few minutes — we did — to make sure the vegetables are cooked through. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.
Add rivels. The original recipe called for rolling out the dough into snakes and cutting it. Ours crumbled too easily for that, so we pinched off bits and pressed the dough together to form small dumplings and dropped them into the simmering broth. Since we had a smaller amount of broth than the recipe called for, we didn’t use all the rivel dough — use what you think is a good amount.
Simmer. Let the rivels simmer for a few minutes. Some will break apart, which is okay, because that will help thicken the broth, but try not to stir, as we think that would cause all the rivels to disintegrate.
Serve. Carefully ladle into bowls.
We were glad we tried this soup, but we’re not sure that we’d make it again. It was good, and it didn’t taste quite like any soup either of us had before, but we found it a bit odd. Browning the flour really added a lot of savory flavors, but they weren’t flavors we could identify, which made the soup interesting. The rivels were similar to dumplings, only softer on the outside where they almost fell apart, but surprisingly chewy on the inside. Overall, this is a soup that everyone should at least try once in their lives. Even so, three stars.