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Thursday, 31 January 2008

Frolicking in Füssen: Part two - The Kässpätzle

There's definitely something about clean cold air that makes you hungry all the time. Especially when you've been busy hiking about in the woods and taking in amazing views, then rewarding yourself with refreshing German ale. Oh, life can be so rough.

What better way to finish off the day than with some hardcore German stodge. With discussions of Lily and I going vegan for a month, my heart fluttered as Nicky listed the ingredients of Kässpätzle to me.

"Lots of butter, eggs, onions, flour and three types of cheese. You don't skimp on the fat stuff"

Kässpätzle translates to 'cheesy sparrows' in English. Although I reckon a more appropriate name would be 'big coronary'. Cholesterol aside, one of the most interesting things about this dish is how it is made. You need a contraption called a Spätzle Hobel, which looks like a holey mandolin without the razor sharp finger-slicing capability. Another thing I really liked was the teamwork involved in getting it all together. It took four of us to make it happen, one slicing and frying the onions, another grating cheese, and two on Spätzle duty. It just makes it so much more satisfying when you're all chowing down on it together. Go Team Kässpätzle!

What you need
A Spätzle Hobel
Eggs (1 egg for every 100 grams of flour)
sifted flour (we used about 1 kg)
A few big pinches of salt
white pepper
10 onions, mixture of red and white - sliced roughly
a big pat of butter
3 wedges of your favourite melting cheese, grated (Emmental, Romadur, Bavarian Bergkase or a little bit of Gorganzola wouldn't go astray too)

The do
Heat the oven to about 150 degrees C and preheat the biggest and deepest baking dish you have (you will need depth of at least 12cm).
Sift flour into the biggest bowl you have. Break eggs into the flour, add a few pinches of salt and mix hard with a wooden spoon, slowly adding milk until you achieve a runny cement-like consistency with doughy bubbles bursting on the surface. Let it drop from the spoon - if it clings to itself as it falls, it's just right.
Set aside.

Put a big pot of salted water to the boil, then reduce to a simmer.

Grab a big fry pan, throw in a big chunk of butter (about 3 tablespoons worth) and when melted, add the onions. Fry until dark and soft. Remove from heat.

Take out the baking tray and melt half a tennis ball's worth of butter. Do not skimp on the butter. Return to oven.

Position your Spätzle Hobel over the barely simmering water, pour some mixture into it and glide it back and forth.
The little balls will drop out the bottom into the water. Stir them up with a slotted spoon to keep them from sticking to the bottom.
When the pot starts to look crowded, transfer them with a slotted spoon to the baking dish in the oven, taking care to drain off all excess water. Sprinkle a generous layer of cheese and some of the fried onion over the top, season with white pepper and return to the oven.

Keep repeating this process until you are out of onion and dough, but make sure you reserve some cheese and onion for the very last layer.
When it's all done. Put it all back in the oven and bake at about 200 degrees C for about 40 minutes, don't forget to check it occasionally.

Serve with a crunchy salad with some bitter leaves like endive or rocket and a good German beer. There should be enough for five hungry people with a little bit extra.

This dish may cause drowsiness. Avoid driving and operating heavy machinery.

* Big thanks to the lovely Leanne, Nicky and Kim for sharing their home with us for four days and showing us such a fantastic time!

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