Lunch in Lucerne

March 3, 2011 § 1 Comment

Next stop after Zürich airport en route to Engelberg for our half term ski holiday was Lucerne. The city is spectactularly situated by the lake we know in the English speaking world as Lake Lucerne but is known in Switzerland as the Vierwaldstättersee (lake of the 4 forest cantons).

Lucerne missed by a whisker being nominated as Switzerland’s capital city (rather than sleepy Berne) and has a definite cosmopolitan European capital feel with its lakeside concert hall, museums and galleries.

We spent a few days here last summer too and had one of the most perfect al fresco meals ever in the grounds of the lakeside Hermitage Hotel:

Lucerne can lay claim to a number of local specialities. Luzerner Birnenbrot, a giant fig-roll type affair crammed full of dried pears and nuts, can be found in most bakeries.

But arguably, Lucerne’s most famous dish is the “Ächti Lozärner Chügelipaschtete”, a giant vol-au-vent type pastry case filled with chunks of veal, sweetbread, sausage and tiny mushrooms in a savoury saffron flavoured sauce. With its magnificent egg-wash gilding and pastry decoration and its saffron flavouring, the dish has a medieval banquet feel and is unusual and delicious. Here’s the version we tried, toned down a little for modern appetites:

Back home, I’ve combed through my collection of cookery books for a recipe for this dish and have come across an authentic sounding one from Marianne Kaltenbach’s “Aus Schweizer Küchen” which I translate and paraphrase below. This version doesn’t include saffron or sweetbreads which is a pity as they add to the character of this dish and were certainly present in the version we ate.

I also found this beautifully photographed and meticulously written Swiss blog entry on how to make a miniature version of this delicacy. I give the link below but you’ll need to brush up on your German if you want to read it!

Recipe for Ächti Lozärner Chügelipaschtete

From Marianne Kaltenbach’s “Aus Schweizer Küchen”. Apologies in advance for any errors in translation which are mine alone!

Serves 4-5 people


For the pastry case

600-700g puff pastry
1 small bread roll plus a handful of tissue paper
2 egg yolks

For the filling

250g lean pork
250g lean veal
1 onion
3 dessertspoons butter
1/2 litre white wine
approx 150g pork and veal sausagemeat
1 teaspoon each of ground coriander seed and chopped marjoram (more to taste if liked)
300 ml stock
2 dessertspoons flour
50g grapes macerated in 1 dessertspoon of Swiss pear Schnapps or Kirsch
Salt, pepper, grated nutmeg
a little cream
1 dessertspoon chopped almonds

Roll out the puff pastry to a thickness of 4mm and cut out from it 2 circles approx 24cm and 32cm in diameter. Place the smaller circle on a dampened baking sheet. Wrap the bread roll in sheets of tissue paper until it forms a ball approx 37-38cm in circumference. Place it on the centre of the smaller pastry circle. Brush the border with water and place the larger circle over the top. Seal the join and crimp the border.

Roll out the rest of the pastry and cut strips approx 3mm thick and 6mm wide. Brush them with egg yolk and stick them onto the pastry dome laying 4 strips in the form of a cross and 2 others in the form of a ring. Place further strips around the base to cover the ends of the strips neatly.

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C.

Further decorate the pastry dome with star, heart and half-moon shapes cut from the pastry remnants. Finish with a large pastry rosette on top. Brush the lot with egg yolk wash.

Bake in the lower part of the oven where the temperature will be only 160 degrees C for 40 minutes. After 25 minutes, cover with aluminium foil. Remove from the oven when cooked and leave to rest for 5 minutes. Remove the top part of the pastry shell from the upper ring and take out the paper-wrapped bread roll.

(This all sounds a bit complex but the lovely photos from the La Mia Cucina blog to which a link is given above make it all visually clearer).

Now make the filling. Cut the meat into small cubes. Peel and chop the onions. Melt 1 and 1/2 dessertspoons of butter in a pan and brown the meat and onions. Add 50ml white wine to the pan and cook for 10 minutes.

Mix the sausagemeat with coriander and marjoram and form into small balls. Bring the stock to the boil in a medium saucepan and poach the sausagemeat balls for 10 minutes.

For the sauce, melt the remainder of the butter and add the flour to form a roux. Off the heat, gradually beat in the rest of the wine. Add the collected meat juices from the previous cooking steps to the pan together with the grapes and their soaking alcohol. Cook for 20 minutes. Add the meat and sausagemeat balls, heat through, season and thin the sauce if necessary with a little cream or additional stock.

Toast the almonds. Fill the pastry dome with the meat and sauce mixture, scatter over the almonds and top with the pastry lid

Variations: add a grated apple to the sauce; replace some of the meat with button mushrooms.

This dish is especially associated with “Fastnacht”, the night before the Lenten carnival, what we would call Shrove Tuesday or Mardi Gras. It makes whipping up a few pancakes seem like a doddle!

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