Swabian cuisine part I: Spätzle

Sitting on the train to Manchester Airport to catch a flight to Stuttgart (in Swabia, the Schwabenländle), I feel like it is time to share the recipe for one of the most important (South) German dishes with you: Spätzle!

Spätzle are eaten as a side for meat dishes or as a main dish. As you can see from the recipe, Spätzle are very easy to make, so you should definitely give it a go! 
Maybe you have already seen a pack of them during Lidl’s German week, but I can assure you that homemade ones will be much better :)

The first time my English boyfriend tried real Spätzle in Germany was four years ago, and he has been in love with the dish ever since. Hence, we end up making Spätzle at least twice a month, which makes me both proud and happy. It’s so nice to know when foreigners embrace one’s own food culture!

As you might have noticed, the two German words that have been mentioned in this little extract so far, both end in ‘le’: Spätz – le, Schwabenländ – le. So besides getting to know another recipe today, you will also learn a little bit about the Swabian dialect! 
The ending ‘le’ is the Swabian version of ‘lein’, a suffix that is added to German nouns in order to make the described object sound smaller and cuter. Let’s have a look at an example:
The German word for ‘rabbit’ is Hase. Now imagine, this rabbit is still a baby, or it is just extremely cute (which in my opinion applies to most rabbits!): it becomes a Häs – lein. In Swabia, we would then call it ‘Häs – le’

However, Swabians are obsessed with this suffix, and it is added to a lot of nouns that usually would not have a ‘lein’ in the end in High German. Since ‘le’ is used to such an extent, it is indeed a typical feature for the Swabian dialect. Therefore, the county itself is often referred to as 'Schwabenländle’ and its beloved dish is called Spätzle.
One question that might arise is, whether the word Spätzle has any meaning, or where it originates from. Spätzle without the suffix becomes Spatz, which means ‘sparrow'. Personally, I cannot make any connection between a Spatz and the shape of a Spätzle, so feel free to ask Wikipedia for more information. 

The only thing I know is that you should really buy some eggs and flour now, and prepare yourself for a dish you will never ever want to live without any longer.
Ready? Here you go:

  • 125ml water
  • 400 g flour (or even better: 320g flour + 80g of fine semolina)
  • 4 eggs
  • Pinch of salt

1. Mix all the ingredients in a big bowl and start beating the batter as hard as you can. Some people use a mixer, but you might as well use the preparation of the batter as a biceps workout!

2. The batter is ready when it is smooth and big air bubbles appear. The texture should be quite thick and sticky, not runny!

3. Bring a large pan of salted water to a rolling boil.

4. There are different ways of making Spätzle. Most Swabians would probably say that ‘schaben’ (scraping) is the only real technique. In my family we put the batter in a special press, which is easier. A few years ago, clever people invented a ‘Spätzle-Shaker’ that squirts the batter into the water. Tom and I have tried all of these techniques – we prefer to take the Spätzlepresse that Tom got for Christmas. An English kitchen tool that works just as well is a potato ricer.

In case you want to try scraping the batter into the water, use a chopping board and a long sharp knife. Wet the board with hot water and spread a layer of batter on it. By tilting the board over the boiling water, the batter will slowly run down the edge of the board. That’s the moment where you want to scrape the knife along the rim, thus cutting long Spätzle into the boiling water.

5. No matter whether you scrape, press or squirt the Spätzle, make sure they don’t stick to the bottom of your pan by carefully stirring. As soon as the Spätzle start floating, you can spoon them into a colander and quickly run them under cold water. Then, keep them warm in a bowl.

6. If you are in love with butter, like many Germans, add some to your bowl. Yet, it is definitely not necessary to do so, and they will be just as nice without the extra fat. 

Guten Appetit!

Tipp 1 : You can add spinach or herbs to the batter to add some nice extra flavour and a fancy colour!

Tipp 2: You can use left over Spätzle for a main dish called 'Kässpätzle

1. Lightly fry some chopped onions and bacon (or don't if you are a vegetarian). 

2. Preheat the oven, fill the left over Spätzle, the bacon and the onions into a cassarole dish, add a splash of milk (or cream...) and a lot of grated cheese. 
I usually also add other vegetables like broccoli or mushrooms to stick to my 5 a day, but that's up to you!


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