Before coming to University, I took a year off and worked as an au pair for a family in Regensburg, south east Germany. It was there that I discovered that the stereotype of German diets consisting of solely sausages, potatoes, kraut and beer was incorrect – stereotypes exist for a reason and of course these foodtypes do feature heavily, but there is so much more to German cuisine (particularly in Bavaria). Schweinebraten, Zwiebelkuchen and, featured here, Spätzle quickly became my favourites, and finally, almost five years later, I decided I would start trying to cook more things like this at home in England. Without a press to form the Spätzle shapes it can be quite tricky to do single-handedly, so I’d recommend asking someone for help when it comes to step 4 – luckily I had Emily there to help! I hope you will be inspired to try some of these delights for yourself.
300g plain flour
3 tbsp vegetable oil
Salt and pepper
1. Mix together the flour and the eggs, slowly adding the water (you may not need 100ml – the trick is adding it gradually until you get the right consistency). Germans say that the mixture is ready when it begins to “bubble” – it shouldn’t be runny, rather elasticky and firm, but you won’t be able to mould it with your hands, and there shouldn’t be any visible lumps of flour. It should take 10-15 minutes to reach the right consistency if mixing by hand. Season well with plenty of salt and a bit of pepper.
2. Leave the mixture to set. Meanwhile chop the onion into strips and separate the rings. Dust with some extra flour.
3. Heat the oil in a large frying pan and fry the onions on a low heat for around 20-30 minutes, stirring to ensure they do not stick. At this point you could add some brown sugar to give a caramelised flavour and a deep colour. Remove the onions from the heat and set to one side.
4. Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil. Using a wooden spoon, flatten some of the Spätzle mixture onto a chopping board (a wooden board is best but any will do). Chop the mixture into strips, anywhere between 5-10cm long and about 1cm wide. Drop them into the boiling water, and when they float to the top remove them to an ovenproof dish using a slotted spoon. This process is quite time consuming (and is where a press really helps time-wise!) but it is worth it in the end! Don’t worry about the Spätzle which are done going cold – they will all go into the oven once the whole mixture has been cut up.
5. Preheat the oven to Gas mark 5/180C. Grate the Emmental and sprinkle over the Spätzle as they go into the dish, ensuring the cheese is well dispersed. Save a bit of cheese for the top and sprinkle over once all the Spätzle are in the dish.
6. Cover with the onions and bake for around half an hour, checking every now and then to see that nothing is burning.
7. Finally, after all your hard work, serve with a simple side salad and enjoy.
Guten Appetit, Mahlzeit, und, falls du ein Bier auch dabei hast, Prost!