It’s always great to hold a newly published book I translated in my hands. It can be a proud moment, especially if the publishing house did a nice job with the editing and I don’t see any typos at first glance – as was the case when I opened my mail on Tuesday to find this:
I care about all ‚my‘ books, but this one was a pet project indeed, because it triggered so many memories, both culinary and actual. My mom lived in Swabia for the last 15 years of her life, and I frequently went to see her, and got to know and appreciate many things about that region. Not a small number of them were mentioned in the editorial sections that precede each of the chapters in this cookbook, cleverly – and fondly – observed by the author who is in fact not a native Swabian himself.
When I moved to Berlin, one of my Swabian friends gave me my very own Spaetzle press, check it out. It’s a utensil not unlike a potato ricer (an item I incidentally also have – does that make me a true foodie, you think…?). The Spaetzle press is not in heavy use at our house, partly because my family’s addicted to Cecco pasta, and partly because I – alas – rarely have time for elaborate cooking these days. And of course I also live in fear of carbs, just like everybody else my age, so.
I do know how to make homemade Spaetzle, though. Would you like to learn? It’s pretty straightforward, if a teeny little bit messy. This is the method I was taught by my old friend U. who is the only person I know brave enough to have made Maultaschen (another archetype of Swabian food culture) herself, dough and filling and all. The process is comparable to making Strudel, and I say RESPECT to everyone who does these things.
For 4 helpings of Spaetzle, you will need
200 g white flour
200 g spelt flour if you can get it (do try, because it adds such a distinct, nutty flavor and chewability to the batter)
1/2 TBSP salt
about 125 – 150 ml lukewarm water
Nutmeg, freshly grated (optional)
A Spaetzle press :-)!
You can sift the flour into a bowl – some recipes call for that, but personally I never bother – you want to make noodles, after all, not meringues. Add eggs and salt. Beat with a wooden spoon and carefully add a splash of water at a time, until you’ve got a smooth, viscous batter that starts to form bubbles as you stir. Let rest for at least 20 minutes, check the consistency and add a bit of flour or water if required.
Bring heavily salted water to a boil in a large cooking pot. Reduce heat. Set the Spaetzle device on the open rim of the pot, spoon in some batter, and in a smooth, steady motion, squeeze it into the simmering water. Stir gently so the Spaetzle won’t stick together as they cook.
Spaetzle will rise to the surface shortly, at which point you swiftly fish them out with a slotted spoon, drain and place in a warm shallow dish, adding a few flakes of butter, and if you want to go all out, dusting them with a bit of freshly grated nutmeg. Repeat this process until you’ve used up all your batter.
And that’s how you make Spaetzle. As you know, they’re a side dish and usually come with a stewy meat affair heavy on the sauce (roast, goulash and the likes). I’ve also had them with creamy mushroom sauce not unlike the one I posted here, or as Käsespätzle (garnished with butter-fried onion rings and a heavy load of grated Gruyère or Swiss cheese). Swabians frequently eat them with a lentil stew and Wieners, a combination that may seem odd at first, but is actually quite good, as most Swabian dishes I’ve had. As you can see, I’m a believer :-).
One last word on cleaning the Spaetzle press (because you may be tempted to just sit down and enjoy your meal, as you’re entitled, of course). But do soak it in cold water before you dig in, I promise you won’t be sorry. The batter will come off easily if you do, and you’ll have a nicer time with cleaning up after dinner. Obviously this is also true for the bowl you used. It’s sticky, yucky stuff – and it’ll be everywhere, stove-top, spoon, side of cooking pot … ugh.
Still, everyone will love you if you go to the trouble – homemade Spaetzle are nothing like anything you can buy at the store. You’ll see. I try to work in some exercise before I cook a massive dish like this. Whether it actually makes a difference I don’t know, but it makes me feel better. Spring is coming, hopefully soon … we actually had snow yesterday. It’s getting difficult to remember these…