Many people can agree that the best fruit to go with pork is the apple. Owing to the fact that pork roast tastes amazing with apple sauce….when mustard is not available. However, I recently learnt that pear works just fine. By having one too many meals where boiled bacon is usually paired with cooked apples or pears. Something that took my taste buds a bit of getting used to. Especially when I love my bacon all fried and greasy.
Located in central Switzerland and one of the founding states of the Swiss Confederacy, the canton of Schwyz is probably the most Swiss as Switzerland can get. Even the name Switzerland (der Schweiz) and its national flag is derived from the name and cantonal flag of Schwyz. Solothurn on the other hand, is located in north Switzerland. Close to the national border with Germany and a later member of the Swiss Confederacy. Yet this dish which supposedly hails from there is extremely similar to what we are eating in Schwyz right now. I suppose most regions in the German part of Switzerland has their own version of such a dish. And canton Schwyz where I live in is no exception.
Solothurn Potato, Bacon & Pear Eintopf
- 75g white sugar mixed with 2 tablespoons water
- 150ml boiling water
- 500g firm pears (make sure they are not too ripe), halved, seeds removed and cut into large cubes
- 500g smoked boiling bacon, uncut
- 500g waxy potatoes, cubed
- 100ml double cream
- salt & pepper to taste
- In a large pan, bring the white sugar and water mixture to a boil without stirring. Reduce heat and simmer mixture till golden brown, shaking the pan occasionally
- Remove the pan from heat and slowly add the boiling water, constantly stirring until the caramel dissolves. Add the pears and bacon
- Bring the mixture to the boil again. Reduce heat and cover the pan with a lid. Simmer for approximately 30 minutes. Stirring occasionally.
- Remove bacon from pan and allow to rest. Add potatoes and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer mixture for another 30 minutes. Or until potatoes are tender
- Add double cream and season mixture with salt and pepper
- Cut bacon into thick slices. Place bacon on the mixture and serve
A week ago, I decided to visit a few friends in Bern for the day and we stopped by Tibits at the train station for a quick lunch before heading out into the old town. Tibits is a small chain of restaurants that specializes in modern ethnic vegetarian food. With an emphasis on fresh produce and healthy eating. Upon arrival, I was amazed by the diversity of dishes being offered at the buffet counter. The system of payment in this restaurant is unique to Asia but not uncommon in Switzerland. All you have to do is take whatever you want from the buffet counter and the price of your meal depends on the weight of your food at the cashier.
After too many meals of slap dash Swiss food at work (all equally interesting and meat laden, some delicious and some downright unpleasant), Tibits was a much needed change. The array of dishes offered reflected the amount of countries taken into consideration during the buffet planning.
I am sure that the buffet selection changes on a daily basis. But during my visit to Tibits, some of the dishes available were:
- Osaka-style Chirashi Zushi
- Thai Tofu Salad
- Szechuan-style Seitan (mock meat made from soy)
- Vegetable Green Curry
- Power Greens Selection
- Jalapeno Poppers
- Vegetable Pakoras
- Homemade Guacamole
- Assorted Bread rolls
The list goes on. All I can say is that from all the eateries, restaurants and cafes that I have been to so far in Switzerland, Tibits has been so far the most innovative, inspiring and refreshing place from my point of view.
For more information, do visit www.tibits.ch
I was once given egg pancakes for dinner at work which were filled with a spreading of soft butter and a generous amount of sweetened strawberry puree. Not exactly a very ‘dinner’ dish for me. But it still tasted fantastic. Of course my Swiss colleagues seemed very used to it and were actually enjoying it with a slices of parma ham. After 10 minutes, they had polished off the entire tray of pancakes.
Egg pancakes can be filled with a variety of ingredients. In the fruit category it is not uncommon to find apricot jam or cherry compote being used too. I have always enjoyed red fruit compotes with a generous amount of freshly whipped cream, and cherry compote is no exception. Cherry compote is extremely versatile and can be eaten on its own, as a filling for egg pancakes, or served with spätzle. However, due to the warm summer weather and the seemingly eternal amount of heat and sunshine now, I feel that the best way to have a warm compote like this is too pour it over a few scoops of ice cold vanilla gelato. Not the most traditional, but certainly better than having it with plain croutons in the original recipe. This recipe that I have originates in the St Gallen area, a region in North-East Switzerland.
- 1kg sweet cherries, stones removed
- 200ml sharp apple juice (ordinary apple juice works just fine)
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter (softened)
- 1 tablespoon plain flour
- In a large pan, bring the cherries, apple juice, sugar and cinnamon to a boil, mixing well gently to avoid crushing the cherries
- Once boiling, reduce the heat and simmer the cherries for approximately 5 minutes
- Strain the cherries, reserving the liquid and return liquid to the pan
- In a separate bowl, whisk softened butter and flour until it forms a smooth, lumpless paste
- Bring the cherry liquid to a boil and reduce heat, slowly stir in the flour and butter mixture, whisking well to prevent any clumping
- Simmer liquid for approximately 10 minutes until it becomes a thick sauce
- Remove from heat, gently mix in the cherries
I remember filling up on this hearty delight during the cold winter days. It is rather iffy on its own but goes extremely well with a huge helping of extra creamy mashed potatoes. This simple (but time consuming) dish varies throughout different regions in Switzerland. Some are prepared with herbs, some without. Some are marinated in wine, some in cider. Some contain dried fruits, some do not. Some contain a dash of schnapps, others do not. Either way, I suppose it is really up to you to experiment and play around with it until you find a variation that suits you. Here is a simple and basic recipe that uses red wine and a minimal amount of herbs. Originally, the meat was marinated for up to 5 days to allow all the mellow woodiness of the wine and the subtle sweetness of the vegetables to permeate through. However, soaking the beef overnight should work just fine. Not everybody in today’s world has the luxury of waiting that long just to enjoy a piece of meat.
Wine Braised Beef
- 1.5 kg/1500g braising beef, uncut (eg: chuck, brisket, round)
- 30g clarified butter
- 2 tablespoons plain flour
- 1.2 litres red wine
- 100ml red wine vinegar
- 1 leek, slit lengthwise and coarsely sliced
- 1 carrot, slit lengthwise and coarsely sliced
- 1 celery, slit lengthwise and coarsely sliced
- 2 onions, peeled & halved
- 2 sprigs fresh rosemary, leaves removed and finely chopped
- 1 stick dried cinnamon
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 cloves
- 4 juniper berries, crushed (using a splash of gin works just fine)
- salt & black pepper, to taste
- Place all the ingredients except beef, flour and clarified butter into a pan. Bring to the boil, stir, remove from heat and allow to cool to slightly above room temperature
- Place the beef in a vessel of your choice and pour marinade over. Make sure the beef is completely submerged. Allow to soak overnight in a cool place.
- Remove beef and season liberally with salt and pepper. Strain marinade and set aside. Transfer all the strained vegetables and herbs into a large bowl
- Brown beef with clarified butter in a large, heavy based pot over high heat. Remove beef from pot and set aside
- Add the flour into the pot and whisk over low to medium heat until flour browns but not burns. Make sure there are no lumps left in the flour mixture. Remove pot from heat and slowly whisk in the marinade
- Return pot to the heat again and bring the mixture to a boil, stirring frequently. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally until the marinade has been reduced to half of its former volume
- Bring to the boil and return the beef, vegetables and herbs to the pot. Make sure that the now reduced marinade does not cover up to more than 1/3 of the height of the beef.
- Cover and reduce heat again. Cook over low heat for approximately 3 hours (or until meat is tender), turning beef every 30 minutes
- Remove and rest the beef for approximately 10 minutes before slicing
- Season the sauce to taste with salt & pepper. Serve
A year before I moved to Switzerland, I came to this country via Paris to visit my friend Vanessa in Fribourg. It was not a very cold winter compared to what I experienced in Luzern. But it was unusually wet, and a little gloomy. One night, she drove me to a town nearby to have dinner at a restaurant where the chef apparently killed either himself, his wife or her lover (I don’t really remember the details). I never remembered the restaurant’s name but we always referred to it as The Dead Chef’s Restaurant. When we arrived, she ordered a huge bowl of vegetable soup. Apparently it was one of their specialities. The other being a steak served with char-grilled vegetables and herbed champagne butter. Not being a big fan of vegetables, I took a modest spoonful of soup, thinking that it would be rather ordinary. But to my surprise, it tasted amazing (partly because it also reminded me of Filipino sopas which I grew up eating). And I spent the rest of the night wishing that I had ordered soup too instead of the steak. My wish came true the next day when we decided to go back to the same restaurant again. Needless to say, I ordered the soup.
Everytime it rains here now, I still find myself thinking and wishing for this soup. I used to prepare it whenever I can as it is rather simple to make. Unfortunately the recent burden from work has put me off the thought of dicing and chopping for a while. Being completely drained and hungry after work on a rainy day, I now settle for an instant meal of microwaved Japanese curry and rice instead (not that I am complaining). However, I recently found a small supermarket in the town next to mine that sells the instant version of this soup marked under the name Hüttensuppe. It may not be anywhere close to the real thing. But it will just have to do for now.
Fribourg Vegetable Soup
Makes 1.5 litres
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 150g leeks, cut into thin strips
- 1 onion, finely diced or chopped
- 1 potato, peeled and diced
- 1 carrot, peeled and diced
- 500ml strong vegetable stock (a simple way will be to dissolve extra vegetable stock powder into 500ml boiling water. reduce or omit adding salt later to taste)
- 50g macaroni
- 1 tin (approximately 430g) butter beans, rinsed and drained
- 250ml cream
- 100g baby spinach leaves
- 50g grated Gruyere cheese (Parmesan or Romano will also work as good substitutes)
- 1 pinch nutmeg powder
- salt & pepper to taste
- Melt butter in a large pan or pot and gently sweat leeks and onions over low to medium heat until onions are translucent
- Add diced carrots, diced potatoes, macaroni and vegetable stock. Bring to the boil over high heat
- Cover the pan or pot with a lid and reduce mixture to a simmer, stirring occasionally. Simmer for approximately 10 minutes or until pasta, potatoes, carrots and are tender. But not too soft
- Add cream, butter beans, spinach and grated Gruyere. Bring to the boil, mixing soup well so that the grated cheese does not clump together
- Remove from heat and add nutmeg. Season to taste with salt & pepper. Serve
Whenever we had white fish fillets of any sort back at school, it was always prepared like this. I always thought that it was a Luzern way of preparing fish. But recently I found out that it originates in the city of Biel. Also known as Bienne. Biel is one of the few cities of Switzerland that straddles between the French and German speaking regions of the country. Hence, it is often known officially as Biel/Bienne. With both French and German having almost equal importance (German having a slightly upper hand in contrast with French in Fribourg city), Biel is a unique and charming town.
I have to admit that I rather have my fish grilled plain and served with a creamy and tasty sauce alongside roasted potatoes. But since I am in Switzerland now and have no choice but to eat this whenever it is being served (in school its either this with boiled potatoes or the salad bar…..a rather rotten combination), I had to eat it and like it. However, after a while, I realized that it was a rather refreshing change and am actually starting to miss it a little.
Biel-Style Perch Fillets
- 4 shallots, finely chopped
- 500g perch fillets, skinned and seasoned with salt and pepper
- 2 tablespoons chervil, finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons parsley, finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon dill, coarsely chopped
- 100ml white wine
- 100 ml fish or vegetable stock (I prefer using instant vegetable stock as fish stock can be a little smelly)
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 100ml double cream
- 1 tablespoon flour and butter paste (made by mixing well 1/2 tablespoon softened butter and 1/2 tablespoon plain white wheat flour)
- salt & pepper to taste
- In a large casserole dish greased with butter, scatter the shallots and place fish fillets flat on top. Make sure they do not pile up too much
- Sprinkle chopped herbs over fish
- In a bowl, mix stock, wine and lemon juice. Gently pour over fish. Take care not to displace the chopped herbs
- Cover dish with aluminium foil and bake in a preheated oven at 180 deg celsius for 25 minutes or until fish is well cooked
- Remove from oven and transfer fish and herbs to serving dish
- Strain liquid from the casserole dish into a pan and bring to the boil. Reduce the liquid to a thick and syrupy consistency
- Add cream and bring to the boil again. Reduce heat, add flour and butter paste and mix well to get rid of any lumps. Simmer for approximately 10 minutes. Whisking occasionally
- Season sauce with salt & pepper and ladle over fish. Serve
I have always loved being in big cities. Zurich is absolutely amazing and Geneva is breathtaking. Luzern is somewhat a little less urban and currently im stuck between mountains and a lake in rural Schwyz canton. Schwyz is one of the founding cantons of the Swiss Confederacy, along with the cantons of Uri and Unterwalden. And as a little tribute to one of the founding cantons that created modern Switzerland, I have dedicated this post to a dish from Uri called Urner Häfelichabis.
Being Asian, my first instinct and urge is to eat this eintopf with plenty of boiled white rice and a lashing of chili powder and soy sauce. However, as a little….gesture of goodwill to my European friends, I now eat this plain, and sometimes with some crusty country bread. I arrived in Switzerland during autumn and shivered my way through winter. During such a time, a piping hot eintopf like this instantly warms up the body. But with summer now in full force and with temperatures that can soar up to above 30 degrees celsius, I do not think that I will be wanting to eat this anytime soon. It is so hot and sunny now that I had to jump into the lake next door an hour ago just to cool off. Now all I can think of is having a nice, tall glass of icy cold soda.
Lamb And Cabbage Eintopf
- 600g lamb stew cubes, seasoned generously with salt and pepper
- vegetable oil
- 3 onions, halved and sliced
- 1kg white cabbage, quartered, mid rib removed and coarsely sliced
- 300ml lamb or vegetable stock ( I usually mix boiling water with vegetable stock powder as lamb stock powder is not easy to find)
- 1 pinch grated nutmeg
- 500g waxy potatoes, quartered
- salt & pepper to taste
- In a large, heavy based pot or pan, heat vegetable oil and brown lamb in batches over high heat. Set lamb aside
- Add a little more vegetable oil if needed and sweat onions until translucent
- Add cabbage and stock. Bring to the boil
- Add meat and reduce to simmer. Cover and allow stew to simmer for approximately 1 and a half hours or until lamb is tender
- Add potatoes to the stew and bring to the boil. Simmer again for another 30 minutes. Add more stock if mixture starts to dry out
- Remove from heat and add nutmeg. Season to taste with salt & pepper . Portion into deep plates or bowls. Serve