Allgaeu is a beautiful region in southern Germany, in Swabia. I was there quite a few years ago when I first moved to Germany. This region does not only boast of picturesque scenery but also of great tasting food and wine.
A very good friend of ours, Rainer, originally comes from Wangen in Allgaeu. He used to be Tom's collegue at the university. Once we realized that he and his girlfriend Uli share many of the same intersts we became pretty good friends. Uli, at that time worked in Heidelberg, leaving Rainer here in Weimar. One of Rainer's hobbies were also cooking and of course eating. He was always complaining that he would start putting on weight.
Well, you can imagine that we often spent many a lovely evening cooking up some great recipes together.
The last meal we cooked together before they moved to Basel in Switzerland was this great tasting Cheese Spaetzle. I believe the recipe came from Rainer's mum and he was very particular in getting it right in exactly the same way.
He left the recipe with me and today I decided to make the delicious Allgaeuer Kaesespatzen, as they are called in Swabia.
So, what exactly are Spaetzle? They are noodles that are made from a simple dough and scraped into boiling water.
Here in Germany, in Switzerland, in Austria and in Italy you can find ready made Spaetzle in the supermarkets either dried or fresh. However, the tedious work to make your own fresh Spaetzle really will be much appreciated by all those sitting at the dinner table. Your kitchen will look like a bomb has exploded in it, but the smiles all around will make you feel so satisfied that you know that you will do this again.
I am sure Rainer's grandmother probably used a simple board and scraper to scrape the dough into the boiling water. Nowadays we can buy what is known as the Spaetzle press. There are many different types of presses available on the market, but I know a few people that still choose to use a simple board and scraper!
Another very important ingredient in making the cheese spaetzle is naturally the cheese.
Using good sorts of cheese is very vital here. In Europe we are spoilt for choice when it comes to the selection of cheese. The Allgaeu Emmentaler is always one preferred type of cheese and a Bergkaese, a cheese that is made during the summer months in the 70-120 days the cows graze high in the Alp mountains. A Gruyère would probably also do.
So, lets's get on to the recipe.
500g sifted flour - in Germany one can directly buy special Spaetzle flour, however, any other flour will do. I used just plain white flour.
200-250 ml water
500g onions - I prefer using red onions as they taste better. Cut in half and then sliced.
125g Emmentaler - grated
225g Bergkaese or Gruyère - grated
Salt and pepper
Basic Spaetzle Recipe:
In a mixing bowl add the flour and all the eggs. With an electric dough kneader, start kneading the mixture. Slowly add the water until the dough in a sticky, runny mass. A good test is when it slowly runs from a spoon in a gooey consistency.
Set aside and covered, allow to rest for half an hour.
In a large pot bring salted water to a boil. Fill the press until the bottom is covered with the dough. Gently press the dough in small "blobs" or buttons into the boiling water. Sieve out each batch after approx. 2 minutes or when the spaetzle swim on the surface of the water. Repeat this until the dough has been used up.
Preheat oven to approx. 180°C.
In a hot frying pan melt part of the butter and gently sautè the onion rings until they are soft and slightly caramelized.
Mix the two types of cheeses together in a bowl.
In an oven proof dish cover the bottom with some spaetzle, cover this with a layer of cheese. Add another layer of spaetzle, then a layer of cheese. Repeat this method until all the ingredients have been used up. The top layer should be covered with a layer of cheese. Salt and pepper each layer as you go along.
Spread the caramelized onions over the top. Sprinkle the top with a few butter flakes. Covered place in the oven and bake until the cheeses have melted - aprox. 15 minutes.
Serve with a nice chilled white wine.
What can I say? You sit down on the dinner table, looking at the hungry faces around you. Each cannot wait to tuck into this. The suspense, if strenuous effort in the kitchen paid off, is killing.
Once you cut portions into the kaesespaetzle you are greeted by a fantastic fragrance of cheese and onions.
A bite and everything melts into your mouth. The mixture of the cheeses and the sweetness of the onions is delectable. The spaetzle itself is light and spongy - perfect.
I say this often when it comes to noodles. Soeren loves noodles in all forms, shapes and types. This is so perfect for kids that you just know you will be satisfying their picky tastebuds. Although he picked out the onions he cleared away everything on his plate.
Tom found this too good to be true. His joke at the table was "An Indian that cooks better German food than the German!" "The German" being Rainer in this case.
Rainer, thanks buddy. We've got to do this again ;-)