I remember taking a day trip from Luzern to Lugano with a couple of friends during a short school holiday. We wanted a little change of environment, but had not enough time and money to travel to neighbouring France, Italy, Germany or Austria. So we decided to travel out of German Switzerland and into Italian Switzerland instead. Lugano is a town in Ticino. The only canton in Switzerland where Italian is the sole official language. To get a full cultural immersion besides the usual sightseeing (or at least what we viewed it as), we decided to have dinner at a Ticinese restaurant. And I remember ordering this dish. A simple but satisfying sausage and risotto combination.
Luganighe sausage is a raw Ticinese sausage that contains pork, spices, salt, pepper and red wine. This makes it not too different from any other raw Italian sausage commonly found in most supermarkets. This means if you cant find Luganighe sausages, then any other raw Italian sausage will work just fine.
Luganighe Sausage With Saffron Risotto
- 600g Luganighe Sausage, simmered for 20 minutes in plain water
- 25g butter
- 1 onion, finely diced
- 250g raw risotto rice
- 200ml white wine
- 800ml meat, chicken or vegetable stock, kept warm (make it easy for yourself and just dissolve some stock powder in 800ml boiling water)
- 1/2 teaspoon saffron powder (1 teaspoon is also fine if you want a more intense coloured risotto)
- salt & pepper to taste
- 100g grated hard cheese (eg: parmesan, romano or sbrinz)
- In a large pan, melt the butter and sweat the onions over low heat without letting it caramelize
- Add the rice and mix well. Saute over low heat until rice turns translucent
- Add white wine and turn up heat. Stirring constantly until white wine is completely absorbed by rice
- Add stock to rice. Stop adding stock when rice has been covered by liquid. Bring to the boil and reduce heat to a simmer. Leave rice uncovered and stir occasionally to prevent bottom from burning. Add more stock if liquid has been reduced too much. Keep simmering until rice is creamy and al dente (approximately 20 minutes)
- Stir in saffron and grated cheese. Mix well and season to taste with salt and pepper
- Portion rice and sausage into deep plates. Serve
If there is something that I learnt so far in Switzerland, it is how pork (be it fresh or cured) goes extremely well with dried fruits. Of course back in Asia it is also not uncommon to find freshly grilled pork being served with apple sauce in American-style diners. But this dish takes it up another notch. Here is a recipe that is simple and delicious at the same time. It is extremely suited for autumn and winter but I suppose it can be eaten all year round. If dried apples are not easily found in your country (they are extremely common in Switzerland), dried prunes, pears, peaches and apricots also make a good substitute.
Pork, Bacon & Apple Stew (Serves 6)
- 75g white sugar
- 25g water
- 350g dried apple slices or wedges (I personally prefer wedges)
- 500ml pork, chicken or vegetable stock (it is easiest to use 500ml of boiling water mixed with instant stock powder)
- 400g thickly cubed smoked streaky bacon
- 800g waxy potatoes, skinned and cut into wedges
- salt & pepper to taste
- In a wide pan, boil sugar and water without stirring until mixture caramelizes
- Remove from heat and add dried apples, stock and bacon. Stir well and return to heat
- Bring mixture to a boil and stir well. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for approximately 45 minutes. Stir occasionally to prevent bottom from burning
- Add potatoes, bring to the boil and mix well
- Reduce heat again and simmer uncovered for approximately 25 minutes or until potatoes are cooked and cooking liquid turns creamy
- Season with salt & pepper, portion and serve.
Before I arrived in Switzerland, I thought that the best way to prepare macaroni was the all time classic mac n cheese. My favourite was San Remo instant cheese macaroni, a comfort and convenient food for me for as long as I can remember. However, not long after I was in Luzern, I found myself wolfing down this alpine macaroni (or also commonly known as Swiss-style macaroni) every time I had the chance. It is not exactly the most different from mac n cheese. But different enough for me. It is a typical farmer’s dish. Loaded with fat and carbohydrates but also simple and hassle-free to make. Which is also probably why I get it quite often at my workplace. It is rather common in the German part of Switzerland although I haven’t seen much of it in the French and Italian part of the country. I am not sure where exactly this dish originates from in Switzerland but some people say its from Appenzell, a region and state in German Switzerland.
Serves 5 (I suppose it also depends on your appetite)
- 125g grated Appenzeller cheese (use any other Swiss cheese if you can’t find Appenzeller. Emmentaler or Gruyere should also be fine)
- 200g macaroni
- 150g potatoes, peeled and diced. The size of the dices should be similar in size to the macaroni that you have
- 125g cream
- 125g milk
- 225g white onion, peeled and sliced
- 40g butter
- chopped parsley to garnish
- salt, pepper and grated nutmeg (nutmeg powder) to taste
- 1 can/jar good quality apple sauce
- In a large pot, boil macaroni in salted water for 3 minutes and add diced potatoes. Cook until pasta and potatoes are al dente but not soft and mushy. Strain and pour the pasta and potatoes into a large bowl of iced water to stop the cooking process. Strain the mixture again
- In another large bowl, mix cream, milk and 2/3 of the cheese until well combined. Add the macaroni and potatoes and mix well. Season the mixture with the salt, pepper and nutmeg
- Pour the mixture into an ovenproof dish and sprinkle with the remaining cheese. Bake for approx. 15 minutes in a 200 deg celcius oven or until cheese melts and starts to brown
- While the macaroni is baking, fry the onions in the butter until it starts to caramelize and turn golden brown. The fried onions are vital as they add a hint of sweetness and smokiness to this rich and starchy dish. Taste the fried onions and season with salt accordingly
- Heat up the apple sauce in a non-stick pan, stirring frequently to avoid burning. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.
- When the macaroni is out of the oven, tip the onions and spread it evenly over the top of the macaroni
- Sprinkle with chopped parsley and divide the macaroni onto plates. Dollop a serving of warm apple sauce onto the side and serve
It has been a long day at work and I am finally back in my room. Even though its considered pre-summer now, the weather still fluctuates like the chances of winning in a lottery. Right now it is cold and wet, with icy winds blowing in from the lake next door (yes I live right next to a lake). The mountains that surround the town I am in are covered in snow again, and the sky has gone from the usual blue to grey, constantly shrouded by low clouds and mist.
I have to be very honest. I am not a fan of this soup. But on a cold day like this, and with nothing much that I can cook with, I have to admit that it is an extremely practical and convenient soup to make. Some Swiss even use it as an early morning hangover cure after a night (or two) of alcohol guzzling over the weekends.
Roasted Basler flour soup originates in the city of Basel, a Swiss city that shares a border with both France and Germany. Being a border city, Basel has enjoyed being a trading hub since historical times. And one of the main imports coming into the city before being sent off to the rest of Switzerland was white wheat flour. A luxury for most Swiss at that time but a rather common product in Basel back then. Having a surplus and enjoying a lower price of white wheat flour compared to other parts of Switzerland, the Baslers created a soup that was both filling and easy to make. Trust me, it may not be the best of taste, but it works just fine on a cold night (or early morning). When all you have is a chill in your bones and a stomach swollen with nothing but a near sub-zero bottle worth of gin and vodka.
Roasted Basler Flour Soup
Makes: 1.5 Litres
- 60g clarified butter (use normal butter if its more convenient but take care not to burn it)
- 500g white onions, peeled and chopped
- 250g white wheat flour, roasted gently in a non-stick pan or slow oven until evenly brown. COOL flour before using
- 2 litres instant beef broth or stock (I prefer to use boiling water mixed with instant stock powder)
- 250g red wine (any cheap or trashy one will do)
- Salt to taste (or you can increase the amount of stock powder for saltiness, it gives it a rounder flavor)
- 75g grated hard cheese (Sbrinz or Gruyere is used here in Switzerland but if unavailable, substitute with grated Parmesan or Romano)
- On a medium heat, sweat the onions in a pot with the butter but try not to colour or caramelize it. If you do so by accident (or intentionally), its no issue. You will probably get an added sweetness to the soup
- Dust the browned flour into the pot and mix it well. Then add the beef broth/stock in batches, constantly stirring to break any lumps that form from the flour
- Bring the soup to the boil and add the red wine. Skim off any foam or scum that rises to the top and allow to simmer for an hour. Stirring occasionally to prevent any flour from sticking and burning at the base of the pot
- Strain soup through a not-too-fine sieve and ladle into a few bowls or deep plates
- Sprinkle with cheese and serve
8 months before I came to Switzerland, I had almost idea what Swiss food was. Like most of the people in the world (or at least in Asia), the limited items that I could visualize from Swiss cuisine was fondue, rösti, and a ton of cheese and chocolates. After living in the canton of Luzern and Schwyz, I can safely say that at least I know a little more now. Stuck in a small town and living right above my workplace, the only sane thing that surrounds me is food. Swiss food. So being completely stone bored during a usual workday and being swamped with grub from the land of the neutral, I decided to create a blog dedicated to Swiss food and maybe a little of its culture as well. Lets just hope that it works out….