Last weekend I visited the small Beuerberg abbey in Bavaria, near the lake Starnberg where in the closter laden I had found an interesting sort of dry noodle. Its name’s Spätzle and later on I figured out that it’s a diminutive plural of Spatz, what literally means “little sparrows”, and also known as Spätzli or Chnöpfli-Knöpfli in Switzerland, and in Hungary it is known as Nokedli, Csipetke or Galuska- and they are all a kind of soft egg noodles or dumplings found in the cuisines of southern Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Hungary, Alsace and also in South Tirol.
Their names were invented before the invention and use of mechanical devices were spread Europe-wide to make these noodles, and they were shaped by hand or with a spoon. So the results resembled Spatzen (sparrow) or Knöpfle (means “small buttons”) and describes the compact form of this spätzle variety.
How to make it
Spätzle dough typically consists of few ingredients, principally eggs, flour, and salt. The Swabian rule-of-thumb is to use one more egg than the number of persons who’ll eat the spätzle. Often, water is added to produce a thinner dough, but care needs to be taken. The flour traditionally used for spätzle is a coarse type, which gives a chewier texture but can produce a dough too crumbly for scraping if no water is added, particularly when cutting short on eggs for health reasons. If fine (“all-purpose”) flour and the full complement of eggs are used, all fat and moisture in the dough is derived from these, and water is rarely necessary.
Traditionally, Spätzle are made by scraping long, thin strips of dough off a wooden (sometimes wet) chopping board into boiling salted water where they cook until they rise to the surface. Altogether, the dough should thus be as viscous as to slowly flow apart if cut into strips with a knife, yet hold the initial shape for some seconds. If dropped into boiling water, the albumen will congeal quickly in the boiling water, while the yolk will keep the dough succulent. After the noodles have become firm, they are skimmed and put aside.
Since this can be a cumbersome way to prepare spätzle, several devices were invented to facilitate cooking that resemble a strainer or colander, potato racer, food mill or coarse grater. As with scraped Spätzle, the dough drops into the boiling water. Those instruments that use muscle pressure in addition to gravity can be used with a firmer dough; that for a Spätzlehobel should be as “runny” as the one for scraping.
This soup recipe is an absolut keeper. Beside of this soup you can make from knöpfli a rich one plate dish which gonna be the Swiss equivalent of mac and cheese just you make the pastra from scrap and the cheese is Swiss. By the way many dishes that are made from knöpfli are favorites in many Swiss homes around the country, especially for the kids. Instead of self making the pasta you can buy in grocery stores under different names such as on the above mentioned names spätzli or knöpfli. They look like little globs of dough, which are turn out, they are. Thankfully, those little globs you cover in butter and cheese, will make them super delicious.
Soup with knöpfli
Ingredients: 2-3 tbsp of oil, 3 carrots, 2 white carrots or small turnips, 100g peas, 1 big potato, half of an onion, 150 g knöpfli, 1 vegetable stock (1,5 liter soup), salt and pepper to taste, 1 teaspoon Hungarian sweet paprika powder
- Fry the knöpfli until golden brown. Add chopped, raw vegetables with the potatoes, (peeled and cubed) to it and fry them together for a few minutes until beginning to soften.
- Cover with the stock (1,5 liter) and simmer for 10-15 minutes or until the vegetables are tender. Season with salt and pepper and with the Hungarian sweet paprika. Serve with some fresh herbs.