Swiss Onion Pie (Boelletuenne)

33.Onion Pie -1 (800 x 600)

No need to say that I cried a lot this week ; cutting all those onions was some task. Lately I keep on going back to my mother’s Swiss recipe book and I try to make these same recipes but with my own touch. Continue reading

Switzerland is a big mix of influences coming from the bordering countries and this is many cultural and traditional traits which comprehend the food culture. This onion pie comes from the canton of Schaffhausen. Traditionally it calls for diced bacon and it doesn’t contain cheese, only cream and eggs. I thought it would be an idea to turn it vegetarian as not all of my acquaintances eat bacon.  I made this pie the first time according to the traditional recipe but I found that without blind baking, the crust ended up to be a bit wet and not cooked all the way. My second try went better except that I must have been dreaming while the pie crust was in the oven because it ended up being a bit darker than I had planned; as you can see in the picture…

To avoid saying that this is not something one would eat when on a diet ; I’ll say that this recipe brings energy and heat for the colder months. I guess that serving a nice salad with it is a good idea as it brings a little lightness to the meal.

About the onion :

It is believed that the onion comes from central Asia and that it is one of the earliest vegetables cultivated (about 3500 years ago). By its resistance to different weather conditions it is easy to see why its cultivation spread to the rest of the world and why so many civilizations made use of it. The onion was the symbol of intelligence in ancient China ; the Egyptians  made a large use of it and the Romans exported it to the north of the Alps. Very much appreciated and popular during the Middle ages it has conserved its reputation up to today (sources in French and Italian : www.legumes.ch and www.cookaround.com).

33. Onion Pie (800 x 738)

Swiss Onion Pie

For a 28-30 cm cake pan

Prep time : 15 min

Cooking time : 55 min

 

Ingredients :

Pie crust pastry recipe for a pie dish 28-30 cm (or use a store bought one) :

100 g white flour

100 g wholemeal flour

100 g butter

½ tsp salt

 

For the onion pie filling:

500 g onion

1 tbsp butter

Salt and pepper

2 dl cream

2 eggs

¼ tsp grated nutmeg

60 g Gruyere

 

Pie pastry recipe :

In a bowl mix the two types of flour, and the salt.

Cut the butter into cubes and place it with the flour mix. Rub the butter with the flour until the preparation has a sand like appearance. Lightly knead the dough and leave to rest for 20 min.

Once the dough has rested roll it out.

 

The following steps also apply to a store bought dough :

Heat oven at 200°C

Place the dough in a greased pie dish and incise it with a fork.

Place a sheet of baking paper on the dish and fill it with rice, beans or those specially made chains and place in the oven to blind bake for 15 minutes.

Filling :

Cut the onions in half and slice them.

Heat the butter in a pan and add the onions. Cook until they have become translucent. Set aside and leave to cool.

In a bowl put the cream, the egg the nutmeg, the salt and the cheese and mix together.

Take the blind baked pie crust and place the onions at the bottom. On top pour the cream preparation and place in the oven for 30 min or until the top is brown. Serve hot.

Chestnut Waffles

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Autumn is now here and I don’t know about you but I crave those product that come with the colder weather. I am obsessed about foods such as mushrooms, cabbage, grape, creamy  and/or cheesy food  just to mention a few and not to forget chestnuts. Continue reading

Chestnuts also have a sentimental side to them. When I was small, with my mother we would go walk our dogs (a Pointer and a Yorkshire) in the woods just behind our home. Complete with a bag each, we’d stop every few steps to pick up the brown smooth shelled fruits. Once back we would light the fireplace, grab the chestnut pan; incise the chestnuts and get them roasting on a live fire with a humid cloth over them. Once they were nicely charred we would open the shell and taste the chestnuts while giggling and chatting while sitting near the fireplace which warmed our backs. Reminiscing those good times led me to the idea of this week’s recipe. So last Sunday I went down to the cellar and grabbed my (vintage) waffle iron and tried this recipe out. To begin with, I had a classic waffle recipe at home in the form of a little piece of paper stuck in one of my mother’s recipe notebook but I was not sure about the right ratio to combine the chestnuts into the batter. I put the recipe aside and went online. What I found as a good base for my recipe were the Pumpkin Waffles recipe from smittenkitchen.com. In the end I made a combination of my old recipe with the one I found on the net and it turned out to be good match. I made these chestnut waffles twice because the first time, besides forgetting the baking powder, I also forgot to grease the surface of the waffle iron (the result was a shredded waffle all over the waffle iron). On the second try I didn’t skip any step and I added just a bit more sugar and the story ended in a delicious experience. The plus is that waffles leave a good memory of their passage… there was such a sweet smell around the house that would put anyone in a joyful mood.

 

About the chestnut:

In Italian we call them “castagne” which comes from the Latin word “Castanea”. The origin of the tree originates from the Caucasus and it spread from there. The tree of the chestnut was much appreciated by the Romans for its fruits and for the quality of its wood which was optimal for weatherproof constructions. It is easy to imagine how useful the chestnut tree and its fruits was to the people who lived in places like my valley; the cultivation of wheat was either just enough to subsist or scarce after a bad season. The first  positives of the chestnut is that it grows up to heights of 1000 meters (making it grow also on the northern side of the Alps). The second positive is that the amount of calories provided was higher that the common cultivated grains. One of the very common ways to consume chestnuts was by transforming it into flour. It is for this reason that it is called “the tree of the poor’s bread” (source in Italian: http://www.strazzini-marroni.ch/it/cms-storia/storia.html)

 

Chestnut Waffles

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Makes about  12 waffles

Prep time : 15 min

Cook time : about 2 min per waffle

Total time:  about 40 min

 

Ingredients :

 

1 vanilla pod

160g T80 flour

200g vacuum-packed chestnuts

50g sugar

1tsp baking powder

2 eggs

300ml buttermilk

50g butter

¼ tsp salt (+ one pinch for the egg whites)

 

Recipe :

In one bowl mix the dry ingredients  together : the flour, the sugar, the baking powder and the salt.

Put the chestnuts in a blender and reduce it to a puree. Open the vanilla pod lengthwise and scrape out the seeds of both sides.

Separate the eggs and add the yolk to the buttermilk, the vanilla seeds and the mashed chestnuts.

Heat the waffle iron (a higher heat is better because the waffles will have a nicer outside crust).

Add the wet mix to the dry one. Mix but not for long, don’t worry it if doesn’t look too smooth.

Beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt until they form peaks. Add them to the rest of the ingredients and gently incorporate them. Here again it is better not to overwork the batter.

Once the waffle iron is hot grease the surface with either cooking spray or a neutral tasting oil such as rapeseed. Place the batter in the middle of it and lightly spread it out. For my heart shaped waffles I needed about 2 ½ scoops per shape. Close the machine and wait a couple of minutes or until the vapour had almost stopped coming out (of course if your waffle iron has a timer use that, unlike mine which could belong to a vintage range). Serve.

Serving suggestions: honey and hazelnuts, whipped cream, chocolate, maple syrup, vanilla ice cream…

Bell Pepper Pilaf with Shredded Omelette and Almonds

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Last Sunday I went to the wedding anniversary of my boyfriend’s parents. We were on a boat sailing around the Swiss part of the Lago Maggiore (the larger part is in Italy), ‘finger fooding’ and sipping wine. Continue reading

Pity that the umbrella was not an option; it was the first rainy day in a month. After a quick salute and the presentation to the, up to then, unknown members of the family, we went from water on our heads to water underneath our feet in the warmth of the boat. I am happy to say that as soon we got on the boat we sat down and enjoyed the moment; I like it when I don’t have to pretend listening to a speech.Some are great speeches; others gradually become like a background noise disturbing me think ‘Why did I get here this early?’. And I know something about boring speeches. I thought of sharing a couple of pictures of the day because there was a nice familiar atmosphere and I feel we all had a good time.

 

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Yes, I was practicing my food photography skills… which I aim to improve.

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L’isola dei Conigli (in English: The Island of the Rabbits)

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This is the weather that waited for us when we set foot on land after the boat trip.

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Today instead of checking out the history of a recipe or an ingredient, I went to look for information on anniversary celebrations and it logically turn out to be since about forever. For a link between this week’s recipe and a celebration think about what is traditionally thrown at the newlyweds…

 

About anniversary celebrations:

This is a passage of information I found on the subject; I did not change it because I like the way it’s written:

“From the dawn of humanity, when Homo Sapiens first began walking upright, they have always been a group of dedicated party animals. Life was hard in those days, what with fighting off cave bears and saber toothed tigers. The Ice Age made modern winters look silly. Food was hard to come by. There was no such thing as walking down to the market. It was a rough existence. Any excuse for a celebration was welcome.

If the fish were biting and there was a good catch… a fish food party! If hunters managed to bring home a woolly mammoth so the tribe could eat for a while? Yes…a mammoth party! The problem with those types of parties was that you could go for a very long time between good feasts. There had to be an excuse for celebrations, even during the lean times.

That’s when the cave social director decided that annual events were a good cause for celebration. They started by celebrating big events, like the beginning and end of the nicer weather—what we now call Easter and Thanksgiving. Holidays like that were reliable, but there weren’t too many of them. There had to be other reasons to celebrate that occurred more often. So, birthdays and anniversaries joined the list of holidays.

Of course, anniversaries were a little easier to remember when they were first introduced as a party theme, because most groups didn’t have individual ceremonies. They’d have a big get together and pair off the eligible bachelors with the young unmarried ladies once or twice a year. No one ever forgot the dates and the anniversary party idea was a great hit with everyone. That changed when individual marriage ceremonies began. The anniversary celebration, as we know it, was born. It was probably very soon after when the first husband forgot his anniversary, but by then the tradition was established and it was too late to turn back.”

(from: http://www.chiff.com/a/anniversary-history.htm )

 

I have a basic pilaf rice recipe which, with what I have learned over the past few years: I dressed it up. This week I am happy to write that I only had to remake this recipe twice. The second time I added a bit more salt and the basil and I was much more satisfied with the way the picture looked.

 

Bell Pepper Pilaf with Shredded Omelette and Almonds

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Recipe for 2

Prep time: 8 min

Cook time: 15-30 min (depending on the cooking time of the chosen rice)

 

Ingredients:

1 bell pepper

1 onion

1 small saffron bag

150 g rice

Olive oil

Zest of ½ lemon

about 15 dry roasted almonds

1/8 tsp paprika

1 good teaspoon grated cheese (I used Parmesan)

3 eggs

A small bunch on basil leaves

3 dl vegetable or chicken stock

 

Recipe:

Dice the bell pepper and chop the onion.

Add the saffron and the lemon zest to the stock and set aside.

In a pan put 1 tbsp olive oil and add the bell pepper and onion. Cook on a medium-low fire until the onion is  translucent, about 4-5 min. Pour in the stock, bring it to a boil and sprinkle in the rice. Reduce heat and leave to simmer until rice has absorbed the water (normal rice should be about 20 min, quick rice about 10 min).

Break the eggs, add salt and pepper and whisk them with a fork.

In a non-stick pan, on a medium heat, add 1 tsp olive oil and make sure the bottom of the pan is evenly greased. Reduce the heat and add the egg. As soon as it begins to take at the bottom you can move the egg around with a fork for about 30-40 seconds, then leave it to cook further or another 45 seconds or until the upper surface has become firmer. Sprinkle over the grated cheese, leave a short moment, fold the omelette in two and remove from fire. Now you can chop the omelette into strips.

Slice the basil leaves and add them to the rice along with the omelette strips and mix delicately. Roughly chop the almonds and sprinkle on the rice. Serve.

Broccoli Gorgonzola and Walnut Pasta Bake + My Day at Gusta il Borgo 2013 event

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As I mentioned last week, last Saturday I attended the enogastronomic walk “Gusta in Borgo 2013” Continue reading

which is an event organised by the association of the “Amis da la Forcheta” ( the term is in our Italian derived dialect and in English it translates as the “friends of the fork” ). I was really looking forward to the event and I was so right. I met up with my boyfriend Stefano and an old friend of ours Andreas for coffee before we headed to the departure point. We were among the last ones to depart so the sun was already up and it was warm. Throughout the walk there were nine spots where we enjoyed all kinds of treats: from coffee and a filled croissant, to beer and scrambled eggs and bacon, to cheese and wine, fried fish and veggies, risotto…

Here are a few pictures of the day. We walked through the nine stops with our little bags containing the tasting glass which was to be pulled out each time we saw a tent and a bunch of people around it. My advice is that if you have the possibility to attend such an event, it is really worth participating; there is a great ambience, you encourage local products and walking is good for the mind and the body. In case there is nothing in your area, come and join Gusta il Borgo next year!

These were my two adventure companions.

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 This was the second stop where we tasted local beer with scrambled eggs and bacon. I don’t really drink beer but this one was an exception, it had a refined taste and the gas comes from natural fermentation. IMG_0828

 

The third stop was a bit of a walk and with the sun hitting it was warm but the reward was worth the effort, at least this is the way I see it. My friend Andreas (in the blue shirt) instead could have done with having a taxi driving him from one stop to the other.

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This spot was in the middle of the town of Ascona. We Had some more wine and goat cheese with a raw pumpkin carpaccio and goat cheese dried meat.

 

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This stop I particularly liked because the products came from my valley (Valle Maggia) and behind the counters I found some acquaintances.

 

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Venison tartar, venison dried meat and a small dark bread roll.

 

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This is the Terreni alla Maggia and among other products they produce rice (they have the northernmost rice cultivation in Europe). We had a simple but delicious risotto.

 

 

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This is how our beautiful day went. At the arrival we had one more drink and we headed to my place and ended the day with the same tastin glass that had accompanied us throughout the day. The only difference was the content…

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About the pasta bake:

The pasta bake is an ancient recipe which dates back to the middle ages. In the beginning the dish was served at banquets but soon the recipe spread out to the general population and still today is it seen as a festive dish in Italy. There is no basic recipe and the dish is subject to personal taste and the available ingredients (source http://thepaddingtonfoodie.com/2013/02/13/pasticcio-di-pasta-al-forno-a-pasta-bake-by-any-other-name/ ).

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Broccoli Gorgonzola and Walnut Pasta Bake

 

Recipe for 2

Prep time: 15 min

Cook time: 30 min

Ingredients :

160g short pasta (fusilli, penne…)

160g of small broccoli florets

1 onion

1 knob of butter + more for greasing the baking dish and to sprinkle on top of the pasta bake

a pinch freshly grated nutmeg

1 tsp flour

100g Gorgonzola

6 tbsp cream, it shouldn’t be too liquid

Salt and pepper

1 tbsp breadcrumbs

1 tbsp grated Parmesan

12 walnut kernels, chopped

 

Recipe :

Heat oven at 200°C

Cook the pasta until almost ready that is make it very al dente. Towards the last 3-4 of the cooking process throw in the broccoli florets to blanch. Set aside.

Chop the onion and cut the Gorgonzola into cubes.

In a pan melt the butter, add the onion and sweat for 4-5 min. Cook on a medium heat until the onion is translucent. Reduce the heat and add the cream, the flour, the grated nutmeg, the pepper and the Gorgonzola . Stir occasionally until the cheese has melted, about 4-5 min . Taste and add salt if needed. Add the pasta to the pan and mix it in the sauce.

Grease an oven proof dish and add the pasta. On top sprinkle the grated Parmesan, the breadcrumbs and the chopped walnut kernels. Sprinkle a few bits of butter on top and place in the oven for about 15-20 minutes or until the surface is nice and brown. Serve hot.