Späztle is another traditional Swiss and German food that I grew up with. They are a cross between mini dumplings and a form of pasta. To make them, an eggy batter is dropped through the holes of a colander or a specialised grater into boiling water. They can then be served as is, sautéed in butter, or baked with something else. I often sauté them in butter until brown and slightly crispy on the outside while still soft on the inside and serve them up with Rotkohl and sausages or roast chicken and veg, for example. Left over spätzle goes very nicely fried up with eggs for breakfast. In this case though, I cooked them in another traditional dish, Käsespätzle, where they are mixed with grated cheese and baked, preferably until crispy. I also added a couple of simple twists to the recipe. While travelling to Ticino in the autumn, we had lighter, fluffier spätzle than I had ever had. To try to emulate this, I added some baking powder to my regular recipe. The results were spot on and very tasty with a satisfying mouth-feel. I also sliced some apple over the top which then roasted with the Käsespàtzle. It would work well with bacon too.
3 c flour
1/2 tsp (at least) freshly grated nutmeg
1 1/2 c milk
1 tsp (generous) baking powder
2 c spinach (or 2 large cubes of frozen spinach)
1 apple, sliced
150g cheese - I used left over raclette, but really the choice is yours
1 tbsp butter
Salt and pepper to taste
Optional: sliced tomato and onion as toppings, bacon bits to be mixed in.
1) Mix the dry ingredients together. Add the eggs and whisk. Add the milk and mix.
2) Bring a pot of salted water to the boil. Place the spätzle grater* over it and spoon in a couple of dollops of batter. If it is too runny, whisk in a little more flour before proceeding. If too stiff, a little more milk.
3) As soon as the drops puff up and float to the surface, fish them out with a slotted spoon and drain them well.
At this point, you can either sauté the spätzle in butter and serve them up, or you can carry on to make the Käsespätzle.
4) Melt butter in the bottom of an oven proof dish (I like to use a shallow one so that more of the spätzle get a little browned. Toss the spätzle in the melted butter briefly to coat, allowing a few to begin to brown, then add the other ingredients and mix well.
5) Place in the oven at 180°C and bake 20-25 minutes or until the cheese is melted and there is some crisping on the top and sides of the dish. Serve on its own or as a side, with mustard, hot sauce, mayo...
So tasty and satisfying! An excellent comfort food dish for a winter evening. I haven't made this variant of a spätzle dish in ages, despite making spätzle at least once a month and am so glad I pulled this one back out! It was a hit with everyone, including Little Bit and I think I might have to make this more regularly.
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