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Switzerland – Rösti Valaisanne

Football:

Switzerland is like a footballing ninja. You only notice it once it has sneaked up on you and is tanning your hide. As I was compiling the dishes for this World Cup project and sorting the order by FIFA ranking, low and behold I see that Switzerland are lying in 8th (now they are up to 6th). I still assumed that they were one of the lower ranked teams, as has been the occasion quite often. But looking backing they seem to come on strong and then fall away in to obscurity. In fact they were ranked as the third best team in the world in 1993 and then ranked 83rd best in 1998.

Much of Switzerland’s current squad ply their trade in the top leagues in Europe, notably the Bundesliga in Germany, Serie A in Italy and the Swiss Super League (I always remember looking out for European results in football magazines as a kid and used to find great hilarity when the two top teams in Switzerland played: Young Boys vs Grasshoppers.). There is quite a pool of talent with the stand out players being Ricardo Rodríguez, Grant Xhaka and the glamour boy Xheredan Shaqiri, who is affectionately known as the ‘Alpine Messi’. The Swiss like to play on the counter attack, but have recently changed their rigid 4-4-2 formation to a more fluid 4-2-3-1.

Up next is Argentina which should be a cracking match. Switzerland’s best performance in a world cup was the quarter finals some 60 years ago. They are going to have to play out of their skins to equal that record in Brasil…but with the Alpine Messi anything is possible.

 

Dish:

Given its location the food of Switzerland is heavily influenced by neighbouring Germany, France and Italy. However, I can think of no bigger impact on 50s, 60s and 70s Western cuisine than that of the iconic Swiss dish, fondue. The idea of dipping morsels of bread and other things in to a pot of melted cheese sauce caught the imagination of many. And to be honest it’s pretty darn good.

I have fond memories of a eating a different Swiss dish (I’ve just figured out if you swap the last two letters of each word in Swiss dish you get a rather smart put-down) with magnificent mountains in front of me. The dish wasn’t great but in my hour of need it was fantastic, and the view made it sensational. The twist is that I wasn’t in the Alps, or even in Switzerland for that matter. I was on the Himalaya trail and trekking around one of the most beautiful mountains in the world, Ama Dablam. I was on my way back to a place called Lukhla during a 21 day trek to near Everest base camp and I had subsisted on dal bhat (lentil soup and rice) for much of the trek. This particular day I stopped at a small shack to make a lunch-time pit stop and on the menu was Swiss rösti, all buttered up and covered in melted Yak cheese. Eating this lunch in the middle of the Nepalese Himalayas staring out at the most incredible view I had ever seen, was for me the pinnacle of travelling. And to be able to tuck in to some real sustenance made me a very happy chap indeed.

So, in honour of wonderful trekking memories and my love for fried potato, Swiss cheese and bacon, todays dish for Switzerland is rösti Valaisanne. Normally when frying potatoes a non-waxy one is required, as waxy potatoes tend to have less matter and more moisture than floury ones and this moisture is not conducive to frying. However, with a rösti the Swiss use a potato which is more on the waxy side. Also, some use the potato raw and some parboil the potato first. For me this has been about experimentation with the goal of having the potato brown and crispy on the outside and soft in the inside.

 

Serves: 2 |   Preparation: 10 minutes   |   Cooking Time: 45 minutes + 3 hours cooling

 

Ingredients:

For the rösti:
3 Medium Waxy potatoes | Leave the skin on. I use desiree potatoes but Yukon golds are also good to use.
Seasoning Sea salt and black pepper |
2 tbsp. Butter |
2 tbsp. Duck fat |
Topping Swiss cheese | Thinly sliced. Ideally use Raclette (from Valais); Gruyere or Jarlsberg is good as a substitute.

For the bacon:
4 rashers Long middle bacon | Halved width ways.

Pickles to serve

 

How to:

Ensure your potatoes are clean. Add them to a pan of cold water with a pinch of salt and bring to the boil. Parboil until the potatoes are a little tender but not soft. Drain and put them in the fridge for 3 hours to cool.

Preheat an oven to 180°C. This method of cooking bacon is optional, but I like it because it gives a very even cook and the bacon remains flat. Line a baking sheet with baking parchment. Lay your bacon on the parchment and then cover with another piece. Place a second baking sheet on to top of the covered bacon. Cook in the oven for about 15 minutes.

To cook the rösti: remove the potatoes from the fridge and coarsely grate. Add some seasoning. In a small frying pan melt ½ a tablespoon each of the butter and duck fat. When melted and bubbling add half of the grated potato. Allow to fry for a couple of minutes and then with the back of a spatula compress the potato in to a round cake. Fry for a further 10 minutes on a low-medium heat. Now place a plate over the frying pan and turn out the half cooked rösti. Put another ½ a tablespoon each of the butter and duck fat in to the frying pan and return the rösti to the pan, uncooked side down. Place slices of cheese on top of the rösti and cook for a further 8-10 minutes, or until crispy and golden brown. Repeat for the other rösti. (Ideally, if you have two pans do them concurrently).

Serve the cheesy rösti hot with the bacon and a selection of your preferred pickles.

Pig’s Head and Potato Pie with Pig’s Ear, Sorrel, Spinach and Parsley Salad

Introduction:

There were murmurs around the room as the compère made the next announcement. To some it was heaven, to others it was a fence-sitter and to the rest it was a face-scruncher. It was going to come from one of New York’s finest, a talent that had titillated the culinary streets of New York and had stirred the innards and keyboards of the mumblers and meanderers of the gastro-critique fraternity.

The next will be bone marrow with a parsley salad, and here to show us how it’s done is Gabrielle Hamilton from Prune Restaurant in New York – Hands together if you please.

Inspired by the nose to tail genius that is Fergus Henderson, who was also in the building, Gabrielle captivated the audience no more so by the fact that amongst all the rare and expensive ingredients being manipulated by some exquisite chefs in this Master Class in Melbourne, it would be a humble piece of bone with its gelatinous and oozy marrow, and an ever so simple parsley salad with classic vinaigrette that would shine, and turn those fence sitters in to converts and the face-scrunchers to fence sitters.

It was 2008 and this was the year that I truly started to think about the wonders of offal, or the ‘other’ parts of what we carnivores have on offer to eat, but often choose not to. As the next course of fried veal sweetbreads and bacon was served I delighted at the unctuously soft deep fried pancreas, and the horrors of being faced with tripe (the lining of a cows stomach) and onions as a child began to evolve  into thoughts of experience and knowledge.

I have recently been reading a book by the excellent writer and cook Jane Grigson, a beautifully written, in-depth look at ‘Charcuterie and French Pork Cookery’, first published in 1967. It has inspired me to think more about every part of the animal and the scope for some really tasty food. In conjunction with the marvellous and ‘iconic’ The Complete Nose to Tail by Fergus Henderson, I have for some while had a real desire to cook a pig’s head. As I have mentioned before (list post) I have access to a brilliant brilliant butcher who with a bit of luck and a fair wind can obtain virtually anything for carnivorous consumption.

Since, I have learnt that there a very stringent regulations on selling pigs’ heads based around the possible harmful bacteria that can sometimes be found in the pig’s mouth. As a consequence every pig’s head needs to be inspected before being released for consumption. This means that if inspectors are not present the head cannot be released. The upshot was that I had to wait about 3 weeks, but when I got the call to say it had arrived I was like a kid in a sweet shop. To do it justice, and as part of the learning process, I decided to do a slightly modified version of Fergus Henderson’s classic: Pig’s Head and Potato Pie with a Pig’s Ear, Sorrel, Spinach and Parsley Salad.

 

Serves: 6   |   Preparation:  1 hour give or take   |   Cooking: 5 hours

 

Ingredients:

For the Pig’s Head    
1 whole Pig’s Head | Best to get your butcher to cut it in half unless you have a 20 litre stock pot. I fit mine into an 11 litre stockpot when cut in half. Remove the pig’s ears.
2 Celery sticks | Roughly chopped.
2 large Carrots | Peeled and roughly chopped.
2 Brown onions | Roughly chopped.
1 head Garlic | Cut in half along the circumference so that each clove is in half.
5 sprigs Thyme | Tied together with the Parsley stalks.
1 bunch Parsley stalks | Lop off the stalks just below the leaves. Tie together with the Thyme.
4 Bay leaves |  Fresh bay leaves.
1.5 litres Chicken stock | This chicken stock is ideal.
350ml White wine | I used a chardonnay as I didn’t want anything too ‘fruity’.
To top up Cold water | As much cold water as needed to cover the pig’s head.
30 Black peppercorns | Tied in muslin with the white peppercorns.
10 White peppercorns | Tied in muslin with the black peppercorns.

For the Pie    
375g Puff pastry | Use a good quality butter puff pastry – I usually buy it unless I have time to make it.
1kg Potatoes | I used sebago, but King Edwards, desiree or Maris Pipers are great. Slice to a couple of mm thick with a sharp knife and a steady hand, or a mandolin.
¾ bunch Parsley | Leaves finely chopped. Leaves from the same bunch as the stalks above.
9 cloves Garlic | Finely sliced.
Seasoning Sea salt |
Seasoning Black pepper |  
1 Egg | Beaten.

For the Salad    
2 Pig’s ears | Assuming your pig’s head came with two ears!
1 litre or so | Cooking oil I use grapeseed or canola. This is used for frying.
A bunch Sorrel | Chiffonnade. This is a great zesty leaf.
2 handfuls Baby spinach | Leave whole.
¼ bunch Parsley | Picked Leaves.
3 tbsp. Capers in vinegar | Drain the capers. Small capers work better in this salad.

For the Vinaigrette    
1 clove Garlic |
1 tsp. Sea salt |
1 tbsp. Dijon mustard |
1 lemon Lemon juice | Freshly squeezed – no pips!
2 tsp. Rice wine vinegar |
250ml (1 cup) Olive oil |
To taste Black pepper | Freshly cracked.

 

 

How To:

For the Pig’s head: to a large stock pot add the pig’s head, celery sticks, carrots, onions, garlic, tied thyme and parsley stalks, bay leaves, chicken stock, white wine, and black and white peppercorn pouch.

Now add cold water until the pigs head is completely covered. Place the removed pig’s ears on top, but submerged under the liquid. Now bring the liquid to the boil, and then cover the pan with a lid and reduce the heat until the pot is murmuring (a gentle simmer). Leave this for 1 hour and remove the pig’s ears and gently rinse in cool water. Simmer the pig’s head for a further 2 hours. We want the flesh to just pull away from the pig.

Now comes the funky (messy) part. Remove the Pig’s head from the broth and allow to cool until you can safely handle it. I used a pair of clean Marigolds (dishwashing gloves) to do this next bit so I can do it whilst it is hot. Pull the flesh away from the head, separating meat from fat and bone. We want to keep all the meat; especially look out for the cheek meat – it’s just sensational. With the tongue you will need to peel away the tough membrane. Underneath you will find this incredibly rich meat with the consistency of ‘pulled pork’. Put all the meat into a clean bowl. The remaining broth can be strained (with the vegetables, herbs and spices being discarded), reduced and then retained for further use. I froze mine.

Pre-heat your oven to 170 deg C (340 deg F). Now to construct the pie: take a 23 cm deep pie dish and line it with a 6-8mm thick layer of puff pastry. We are going to have three layers of pig’s head meat and 3 layers of sliced potato. Start by taking a third of the meat and evenly spread over the pie base. Now take a third of the parsley and sliced garlic and sprinkle over the meat and season with salt and pepper. Now add an overlapping layer of sliced potato. Repeat this layer process another two times. The filling may seem too much but it will shrink when cooking. Now roll out the rest of the puff pastry and cover the pie with it. Seal the edges by pushing the pastry with your thumb around the circumference. Prick the top a few times with a fork and then wash the top with the beaten egg. Put in the oven for two hours. The pie is ready when the potato surrenders to a skewer.

 

Now the pig’s ears have cooled, slice very thinly. Heat the oil in a deep pan until it reaches about 170 deg C (340 deg F). Now, in batches, add the sliced pig’s ear. This is the most difficult part of the dish as:

1)      They will spit vehemently when added to the oil, so really take care.

2)      If they are not continually agitated (stirred) they will stick together in a congealed mess and will not crisp up.

Don’t be tempted to try a big batch at once or they will stick. After a few minutes the ear slices will become crispy. Drain on paper towel.

 

For the vinaigrette, bash the garlic with the salt in a mortar and pestle. Add the mustard, lemon juice and vinegar and mix and grind in the mortar and pestle until consistent. Now add the mix to a large bowl and in a steady stream add the olive oil whilst whisking away. The vinaigrette should be a nice emulsion. Add the black pepper to taste.

 

For the Salad, add the crispy pig’s ears, sorrel, spinach, parsley and capers to a bowl and then add 3 tablespoons of the vinaigrette dressing. Mix well – hands work great. Taste and adjust the amount of dressing according to your taste.

When the pie is ready serve a slice with the salad. The variety in texture and flavour of the meat will surely wow you.

Smoked Pea and Ham Soup

Introduction:

It’s currently summer here in Melbourne, averaging 30+ degrees C this week, which means it’s an ideal time for salads, charcoal flamed meat and glasses of the old jumping grape, or the fizzy hops. So, in a crazy contradiction to the ambience I decided to make one of my favourites, and indeed one of my five year old daughter’s favourites; pea and ham soup.

This is a recipe that I have worked on over the last couple of years and am really happy with it. The flavour hinges on a number of things, but the most important of these is the ham hock; the meat joint from the lower leg of the pig. I have the fortune of having a local purveyor of incredibly great smoked meat products. It’s a shop owned by a lovely old couple of Eastern European descent. They have had the shop for 51 years, and as I watch them quivering whilst manually slicing double smoked bacon with a well-used and worn meat knife I marvel that both of them have a full complement of digits on their hands. The produce is second to none though, and it is here that I buy the double smoked hock that I use in the soup.

All that’s required to accompany this little beauty is some rather good crusty bread. If you have the inclination then you could have a go at a home-made sourdough, which can be found here.

 

Serves: 12 or so   |   Preparation:  20-30 minutes   |   Cooking: 1 hour 30 minutes

 

Ingredients:

500g Green split peas | Pick through to remove anomalies i.e. black-eyed, off colour peas. Soak overnight, or if you decide to make this on the hop see below for a quick method of soaking.
2 rashers Long middle Bacon | Roughly Diced. If you are feeling indulgent then streaky bacon can be used – full of fat and taste.
2 large Carrots | Roughly chopped.
2 large Leeks | Use the white part only, and roughly sliced.
2 sticks Celery | Roughly sliced.
1 tbsp.  Olive oil |
1 large fresh Bay leaf | Plucked from the garden, otherwise greengrocers. Try to use a fresh bay leaf.
2 fresh sprigs Thyme | Dried can be used.
5 small Potatoes | I use Desiree or Sebago cut in to 1 inch diced pieces. Use 3 medium or 1-2 large if small ones are not available.
2.5 litres Cold water |
About 1 kg Smoked ham hock | The hock must be smoke-cured to add the depth of flavour required.
To taste   Sea salt |

 

 

How To:

The green split peas need to be soaked. You can leave them overnight and then rinse them well. If you don’t have time then there is a quick way of soaking them. Put them in a pan of water (about 2 litres of water) and bring them to the boil. When boiling turn down the heat and simmer for three minutes, covered. After three minutes turn off the heat and leaving the pan covered leave for an hour. Drain and rinse the peas well – they are now officially ‘soaked’

Put a stock pot (at least 5 litre) over a low to medium heat and add the olive oil and bacon. Fry until the bacon has browned and then add the carrots, leeks, celery, bay leaf and thyme sprigs to the pan – there should be enough fat/ oil already in the pan. Turn down the heat and gently sauté for about 7 or 8 minutes to soften the vegetables. The leaves should have detached from the thyme sprigs, so if you can pick out the stalks.

Now add the soaked split peas, and stir. Add the potatoes, water and the ham hock and bring to the boil. There is no need to skim this once boiled as we do not require a clear soup. Cover the pan, turn down the heat to low and gently simmer for 75 minutes. Once finished gently remove the ham hock and set aside to cool. Also carefully remove the bay leaf and discard. Now the fun bit; with a hand held blender blend the soup until it’s nice and smooth. Add sea salt and black pepper to taste.

Once the hock has cooled so that it can be handled break off what meat there is, cut it up into small pieces and then add to the soup. Serve with that crusty bread.

 

Notes:

  • I have to say that this soup is absolutely cracking the day after.

SMashing Lemon Drizzle Cake

Introduction:

This is a cracking little cake which has not only wowed people at gatherings but is also gluten free, which is a great asset to have up one’s sleeve. The credit for the recipe goes to the River Cottage, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s hugely successful project and television series. However, recipes for lemon drizzle cakes are abound and so one is never too sure where a recipe actually originated.

The secret ingredient for this wonderfully moist cake is mashed potato. This does seems quite an innovative, and dare I say aberrant, ingredient to use in a sweet cake, but when you think about it nobody would blink twice at carrot cake. The potato contributes to the cake’s moist texture, without imparting any ‘potatoey’ flavour. Almond meal is used instead of flour. The lemon syrup that is drizzled over the cake provides a great balance of sweetness and sharpness.

 

Serves: 12 or so   |   Preparation:  20-30 minutes   |   Cooking: 25-45 minutes

 

Ingredients:

175g Unsalted butter | I use Lescure French butter, but that’s just a personal preference.
200g Caster sugar | White or golden caster sugar can be used.
4 large Eggs | Free range.
200g Almond meal | I have used bought almond meal, and also blanched almonds that I have ground myself – either will do.
2 tsp. Baking powder | Baking powder is usually a mix of sodium bicarbonate and an acid. When the baking powder is heated the bicarbonate and acid react to produce carbon dioxide, which is the gas that causes the cake to rise.
250g Mashed potato | Boil potatoes, such as Desiree or Sebago. When soft push through a potato ricer and allow to cool. Don’t add any salt, milk, cream or butter.
From 3 lemons Lemon zest | Finely grated.

For the lemon drizzle
From 2 lemons Lemon juice | Squeeze ‘em well.
75g Caster sugar |

 

 

How To:

I have made this cake using the electric mixer method and the manual ‘by hand’ method. Both produced fantastic results, so the decision on which to use is probably down to whether you have an electric mixer or not – wow, sometimes I feel like the Einstein of the food world.

Firstly preheat your oven to 180 deg C. Line a 23cm spring-form cake tin with baking parchment, and grease the side with butter.

Using an electric mixer: Beat the butter and sugar for about 5 minutes, until soft. Then add one egg with about a tablespoon of the almond meal. When beaten in repeat the process with the other 3 eggs. Now add the rest of the almond meal and the baking powder and beat until mixed. Add the mashed potato, beat until mixed and then finally add the lemon zest, and again beat until mixed.

Using the hand method: Soften the butter slightly and then add to a bowl with the sugar. Beat with a wooden spoon until soft and fluffy. Carefully add one egg and a tablespoon of almond meal and beat really well to prevent curdling. Repeat with the other 3 eggs. Stir the baking powder in to the rest of the almond meal and then fold both into the mixture. Then fold in the mashed potato and finally the lemon zest.

Pour the mixture into the prepared cake tin and pop it in the oven. Now, I have had variations in cooking time, so check after 25 minutes and then use a skewer to test every few minutes (when ready the skewer will be clean after prodding the cake). It usually takes about 40 minutes for me.

Once out of the oven prepare the syrup. Add the sugar to the lemon juice and stir a couple of times ensuring that not all of the sugar has dissolved. Whilst still warm pierce the cake with a skewer, about two-thirds the way into the cake i.e. not through to the base. Evenly pour the lemon syrup over the cake, and watch it seep in. By not completely dissolving the sugar you should end up with some crystalline sugar at the top of the cake, by design. Let the cake cool before removing from the cake tin. Dig in.

Notes:

  • Keep in a sealed container at room temperature to keep in the moisture. Should keep a few days, but in reality will only be in existence for a couple.

Duck Fat Chips

Introduction:

There is nothing better than a crispy and well salted chip. Well that is what I thought until I was playing around with potatoes trying to produce my ultimate chips, and I discovered Duck Fat Chips. The secret behind this great chip is the crispiness and the flavour which the duck fat imparts. I tested a variety of potatoes, and in the end settled with King Edward. These tended to give the outer crispiness and inner fluffiness that for me was just perfect. I believe Maris Pipers are also great, but as these are not readily available in Australia I have not been able to test them out.

I had this funky idea to create a ‘Jenga’ stack; that is cutting the potatoes into Jenga shaped pieces (or cuboids) and stacking them. I thought it would be even funkier to add Sweet potato versions in to the stack – which from a visual point of view I think really worked, but they are immensely difficult to get the right consistency, so for this recipe I have concentrated on the potato.

It is necessary to have medium to large potatoes to get the right shapes, and preparing the chips in this manner does leave quite a bit of left over potato – great for mashing.

 

Serves: 2-3  |   Preparation:  1hour   |   Cooking: 30 minutes

 

Ingredients:

3 medium to large King Edward Potatoes | Cut into cuboids (or close enough – for 3 star then be very very precise). Other potatoes can be used of course, such as Maris Piper, Sebago, or Desiree.
750g Duck fat | The quantity depends on the size of your pan and how many chips you are making. Use this measure as a guide.
4 Cloves Garlic | Used for flavour.
2 Sprigs Rosemary | Used for flavour.
750g Peanut oil | Peanut oil imparts a nice subtle nutty flavour, as well as being perfect for high temperature. frying. You can use Canola oil also. Olive oil tends to overpower in terms of flavour.
A good pinch Sea Salt | Sea salt, for me, has wonderful flavour and crunchy texture.

 

How To:

Soak the potatoes in water for about 30 minutes. I find that this removes some of the starchiness and thus provides the final chip with a crispier and fluffier texture.The next part of the process is to boil the cut potatoes in the duck fat, as you would in water. Melt the duck fat in a deep pan until it reaches 100 deg C – it is important to maintain the duck fat at about this temperature, which I monitor with a digital probe thermometer. Boil the potatoes until they become soft – should take about 15 minutes. During boiling carefully and occasionally agitate the potatoes so they do not stick to the pan. Once ready very carefully life them out and lay them out, on a baking sheet for example, and let them cool.Next I add the peanut oil to a large frying pan, along with the garlic cloves and rosemary sprigs and heat it to 180 deg C. This is the optimal temperature for getting that wonderfully brown and crispy surface. Carefully add the potatoes to the hot oil – depending on the size of your frying pan you may have to do these in batches. I have a very large Scanpan and can do these in one hit. When the chips are a deep golden brown colour – you will be able to feel the resistance when tapped, indicating the that outside has crisped then remove the chips from the pan, drain on absorbent paper and then salt with the finest sea salt – I use Maldon Sea Salt (from England). Stack them in a column as per Jenga, and enjoy. Notes:

  • Just to clarify one thing; although I live in Australia I refer to the chip as the hot thick version and not the thin packeted version we English call crisps.