Switzerland at Christmas time was hands down one of my favourite adventures. The lights, the Christmas markets, the freshly fallen snow, the beautiful alps all around, and of course the delicious food were all almost to much to take in. Now granted, as a vegetarian travelling to other countries can be challenge in terms of finding food that I can eat, so I was a bit skeptical. I was, however, pleasantly surprised that I had little to no trouble finding food that met my needs. Now was it my healthiest trip I have ever been on, no, but the cheese, fresh bread, yummy rosti and of course chocolate all had me wanting more.
While in Zurich, my husband and I popped into a local bookshop that sold English books. I of course headed straight to the cookbook section and picked up “Swiss Cooking” by Alfred Haefeli. It was a good size (we had to travel home with it so it needed to be somewhat light), reasonably priced, offered beautiful pictures and had some recipes that I experienced in Switzerland and wanted to try at home.
I tried out 3 recipes in this cookbook including:
- Minestrone (Vegetable Soup)
- Berner Zwiebelsuppe (Bernese Onion Soup)
- Fondue Moitie-Moitie (Fondue Half and Half)
This was a big winner for me. It has been a very, very long time since I had chicken soup, but this reminded me of that warm and comforting feeling you get from having a nice big bowl. I subbed in shell noodles instead of macaroni since that was what I had on hand and I chose to cook the noodles separately (tip: if there is going to be leftovers, it is best to keep the noodles separate from the soup as they will absorb the liquid). It was easy to make and flavourful. For my herb I chose dill as I love the fresh spring taste it adds.
I was a bit disappointed in this recipe. I had some challenges with the milk and cream (they seemed to over cook/separate) and I think I added too much carrot, which gave it a more orange complexion and not the white creamy look the cookbook picture showed. For the onion garnish, it simply said to fry the onions in olive oil which left them a bit bitter. Plus I used the wrong cream as it didn’t specify so I think that might have been part of the problem as well. I think I want to give this another shot though. Overall not great.
Unfortunately this wasn’t exactly an inexpensive meal as the ingredients called for close to $40 in cheese and another $30 in alcohol. That being said…it was so worth it! I wasn’t sure at first if it was going to work out as it looked a little thin, so I added a bit more cornstarch and once it was in the fondue pot it thickened right up. Our whole house smelled of cheese and we couldn’t make this on a regular basis, but it was definitely an amazing treat! I served it with homemade pretzels and vegetables. Will make again for sure!
Organization of Book
This cookbook was organized by regions in Switzerland vs the traditional categories of food (i.e. Appetizer, Main, Dessert, etc). As Alfred says “Swiss Cooking can only be regarded as a collective term because the variety between the regions is too great to enable the development of a standardized cooking culture.” Not exactly helpful if you need to quickly flip to a certain type of food, but still interesting as each section gives a brief description of the region.
Ingredients – Obscure or Common?
The book calls for fairly easy to find ingredients. Perhaps some of the cheeses might be more challenging if you don’t have a local cheese shop, but overall the recipes use basic staples that are found in the cupboard or can be purchased in your local grocery store. Some of the recipes let you choose the ingredients, like the Onion soup called for 200 g vegetables, so I used what I had on hand. The onion soup also called for cream so I purchased 18%, however it seems like whipping cream would have been better as the instructions said to fold in stiffly beaten cream which I was unable to do with 18%.
The instructions tend to be very short. I like this as it means the recipes aren’t overly complicated. You need to know a thing or two around the kitchen in order to be successful with these recipes.
Surprisingly yes! Most of the time when I see a soup in a cookbook, it calls for a chicken or beef broth and I simply sub in veggie broth. All the soups that I tried called for vegetable broth, which I was very appreciative of! There are 21 vegetarian recipes in the book, which is more than most I would say.
I would say this is good for an intermediate to advance cook. Some of the recipes are pretty vague on ingredients and what to do with them, so it takes a little know how.
Buy or Leave on the Shelf?
I love the imagery, the information about Switzerland and the different regions and most importantly the recipes it had to offer. I would definitely recommend this for anyone looking for a Swiss experience. I look forward to trying more recipes in the future!