During my recent holiday in Austria, I made a point of eating almost exclusively traditional dishes. Not just because we had Lyn with us, a South-African friend who had to be initiated, but also because I thoroughly enjoy eating this comforting food every once in a while. I could not survive exclusively on this diet as dishes tend to be quite substantial and not of the healthiest kind, but I just cannot resist them when my mum prepares them at home. This time I made sure I was not just eating, but also watching and helping in the kitchen. You will be seeing more Austrian recipes over the next few days and weeks - today's post is for all of you who have been skiing in the Alps at some point and had a delicious pasta dish in one of the comfy chalets - Kässpätzle. You must have fallen in love with them.
The word “Spätzle” (or spaetzle) refers to tiny pieces of dough, something between fresh pasta and dumplings. Easy, cheap and quick to make, these little nuggets are used as a side dish for gulash and other meat dishes. However, the best way of eating them is either baked in the oven (for Kässpätzle) or (with the individual pieces slightly bigger) fried in a pan with eggs (for Eiernockerl). Last week we made both out of one batch of dough - either follow our lead or double the quantities for the egg mixture or the cheese accordingly.
For the Spätzle you will need a special tool, a Spätzle-maker or a Spätzle-mesh. I have tried both and find the former much easier to handle. With the latter, the dough has to be of a certain consistency, otherwise half of your pasta will be overcooked before you have pushed everything through into the water.
Spätzle-makers are available in specialist shops or by mail order, cooking.com has some pictures and descriptions. There are two kinds: one resembles a food mill and the other a cheese grater. Both push the dough through little holes to drop tiny dumplings in simmering water where they cook in no more than 3 minutes. You then finish your Spätzle either in a pan on the stove or in the oven - with gooey cheese (go for traditional Vorarlberger Bergkäse or other strong hard cheeses like Gruyère or Appenzeller), eggs, fried bacon, mushrooms... whatever takes your fancy, really!