About Me
I'm a Melbourne boy, hailing from St Kilda with one ex, one current wife and four kids. Love the outdoors and making new discoveries. I cook a lot at home (cheers from wife) and do some preserving, mostly jams, pickles and fruit liqueurs. This is the diary of a cooking journey.

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Monday, July 09, 2007
You Say Spatzle, I say Knopfli

Funny looking cheese grater. That's because it's not really a cheese grater at all. It's a spatzle maker, those cute looking little dumplings that are a mainstay of any authentic Swiss or German restaurant.

Years ago, I used to knock around with a Swiss bloke who used to manage the Swiss Club in the city. A large group of us would regularly meet there for a meal and it was here that I was first introduced to these tasty, tiny dumplings. Naturally, I wanted to recreate them at home and bought the first book I could find that had a recipe for them, it was called A Taste Of Switzerland by Sue Style. Really, finding the book was the easy part - finding the special spatzli maker was to prove a little more difficult.

Still the absence of one wasn't going to be an insurmountable problem, for the batter is so thick that it's easy to cut off small slices into the boiling water, producing a very rustic noodle, but still, I wanted to produce the spatzli as served to me in the Swiss Club. It wasn't at the top of any list that I had, but whenever in a kitchenware shop, I would keep a weather eye out for one as we consumed my hand made version.

Then a couple of years ago, I asked at one shop where I was convinced they would have one and lo and behold, yes, they did! I breathlessly followed the shop assistant as she led me to the deeper recesses of the store where sad, sick and crazy people like me ventured and produced what could really be described as a potato ricer, but there on the box it said spatzle press. I couldn't quite see how pressing the batter through the small holes would produce the shape I was looking for, but nonetheless, I purchased it.

Well, my doubts were well founded, for the press produced long worm like dumplings, still, an improvement on my hand cut slug like version, but a far cry from the shape I wanted. My search wasn't over just yet. I asked some German friends and they told me that they used a press like mine. Now really, a long noodle doesn't taste differently to the small button shape that was eluding me, but there is a certain step that makes the button shape a better choice. When my German friends make spatzle, once they had risen to the surface of the boiling water, they are scooped out and straight away served. What the Swiss Club did was to drain their little dumplings and then fry them in butter until they were a nut brown colour and ever so slightly crunchy.

This last weekend, I had some business at Scullerymade, a specialist cookware shop that I generally avoid these days as I have tendency to go weak at the knees and buy whatever they put in front of me; most of my original kitchenware came from this shop. After we were finished with my reason for the visit, I asked if they had the cheese grater type of spatzle maker and they gently led me to the nether regions of their shop and showed me a commercial one that caused me to tremble and nearly faint. Of course it was way to big and expensive for I wanted, but I was then led to the display that contained the spatzle maker in the photo...the holy grail was mine!

I bought it and took it home and produced a batch of spatzle that were the equal of what I had had all those years ago, but these noodles weren't done with me yet. In my recipe book, there are three different noodles listed - spatzli, knopfli and pizokels. The pizokels are easy, they have an addition of buckwheat. What is puzzling me is that spatzli means little sparrows and knopfli, little buttons and are apparently produced from the same batter, only the shape is different.

Well, I now have the implements to produce both shapes and what the Swiss Club called spatzli or little birds could far more accurately be called knopfli. But it doesn't stop there. My new machine is producing what is known as knopfli or little buttons and I suppose you can see that in them. Trouble is, my overactive imagination can also see little birds too, say a robin for instance, with a puffed out chest and narrowing down to a tail, but there is no way that the pressed noodles look anything like little birds (spatzle) which it seems is what they are called.

Confused? Me too, but whatever they're called, they sure are tasty and simple to make.

Spatzli or Knopfli
(Adapted from A Taste Of Switzerland)

300g flour
200ml milk & water
1 teaspoon salt
3 eggs

In a bowl place the flour and salt and make a well in the centre. Break in the eggs and start to whisk, drawing in the flour whilst adding the milk until you have a thick batter. Use either a spatzle press or grater over a pot of boiling salted water to form noodles - you can also tilt the mixing bowl over the water and slice off noodles with a knife. As soon as they puff up and rise to the top, they are ready. Scoop them out and into a bowl of hot water until all the batter is used up. You can serve them as they are, drained, or you can melt some butter until either just melted or a nut brown colour and pour over the noodles. If you like you can also melt some butter in a frying pan and add all the drained noodles and fry until lightly coloured. Serve with any dish that has a lot of sauce or gravy.


  posted at 12:16 pm

At 4:03 pm, Anonymous Ellie said...

They sound interesting enough to try...but reading through the instructions, I wonder about the amount of coordination required to keep this assembly line going...I don't think I'm quite level-headed enough to pull this one off without losing my nut halfway through!

At 4:34 pm, Anonymous Stephanie said...

Nice one Neil! Had fondue at the Swiss Club a fortnight or so ago... brilliant but took me days to recover... my grandfather was Swiss, but sadly, he didn't cook... just ate.. although I remember his brother visiting from Bern and bringing in some wonderful cheeses and sausages. Don't think he'd get away with it these days though...

At 6:08 pm, Anonymous cin said...

but where are the photos of these sparrows? i'm trying really hard to imagine what they look like - buttons, robins...a photo would really help :)

At 6:18 pm, Blogger neil said...

Hi ellie, you'd be alright, once the batter is made it's just a matter of pouring it into the hopper and running it back and forth over the boiling water. Honestly, it took less than five minutes to weigh and mix the batter and no more than ten minutes to cook it all, though frying the cooked nooles took a little while.

Hi stephanie, the Swiss Club is a brilliant little place, though I haven't been for a few years now. A Swiss friend of mine did exactly what your great uncle did and got caught. Was it wrong to be sorrier for missing out on the cheese than I was for him!

Hi cin, sorry, we ate them before I thought about the photo. I will correct that for you soon though.

At 10:47 pm, Blogger MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

Wow, this have been on my list since Angelika gave me one of these Spatzie makers on this last trip! So sadly I didn't get to journey into the deeper recesses of a store where sad, sick and crazy people like you/me don't hesitate venture!

At 10:56 pm, Blogger ilingc said...

Neil, of the famous scullerymade I have heard of. I've been told that I will also suffer the weak knees and hole in pocket when I get myself there.
I was a bit confused when I saw the spatzle, I thought it was related to the similar sounding word meaning crazy. I am now semi-enlightened hehe. But as cin said, a picture tells a thousand words. I'm looking forward to see the photo of these spatzles. :)

At 4:49 pm, Blogger neil said...

Hi tanna, I can't wait to see what you come up with.

Hi ilingc, okay, okay, a picture is coming!

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