Sunday, 17 November 2013

Kitchen Experimentation: Making Spätzle

Germany is not famous for its gastronomical wonders. Most people would struggle to name much more than Sauerkraut and Bratwurst if tested on the subject. And it is certainly not known for its vegetarian cuisine. Many people ask me 'but what did you eat?!' when they hear I lived in Germany as a vegetarian. Actually, I got on fine, as most restaurants did not serve specifically German food (Italian and Asian food was very popular in Berlin, where I spent two years), and when I cooked for myself, other than the lack of Quorn in the supermarkets, there wasn't too much of a difference from cooking for myself back home. But it is true that when you do go to a German restaurant or a traditional event with traditional food, it can be slim pickings for the vegetarians.

Yesterday I set myself the challenge of making Spätzle for the first time. Spätzle is a type of German dumpling, and I really enjoyed this dish when I was living in Germany (especially since it tended to be the only vegetarian dish at markets and festivals where all the meat-eaters were tucking into their Bratwursts). My brother came round to help out (with the taste test, mainly) as he also enjoyed Spätzle when he visited Germany, and he was kind enough to bring his ukelele, so my cooking could be accompanied by eine kleine Nachtmusik!

One of my friends, Danielle, had given my a rough guide to making Spätzle a while back, so I used that as my basic template, but also took a look at some other recipes I found on the internet for inspiration. The basic dough is just made up of flour, egg and water, with a little salt. But we both felt that it might be more interesting to add a little more flavour to the dough, so opted for nutmeg and mixed spices. We also felt that the pinch of salt I added initially wasn't really enough, so I think more salt is called for in the final recipe.

The main problem though, that I found, was getting the dough into the pan in little separate dumpling shapes, rather than all clumping together in one large mass. I used a potato ricer to form the dough into little fat noodles, but no sooner were these little shapes formed, than they stuck back together again, right as they hit the water! They separated out again to some extent, but there were still quite a few clumps. Perhaps my dough was too watery. Danielle did say that it should be 'between a dough and a batter' in consistency, so next time I will try adding less water.
Frying - but you can see the clumps.

Danielle advised that the Spätzle should be sauteed rather than fried, but I have to admit, I prefer it fried (it must be the Glaswegian in me - we fry everything!). So I fried my Spätzle in a little butter and then added cheese to melt on top. I am going to try making this again this week sometime - with less water and more salt - and intend to fry it with a little garlic, onion and mushrooms, as I think that will make a really tasty dinner. I will let you know how I get on, and if it's any good, I will post the final recipe here. If it's not....well, if you don't see a Spätzle recipe appearing on this blog in the near future, you can assume that my second attempt was a complete failure!

Do you have any tips for cooking Spätzle? Or can you recommend any lesser-known foreign dishes that I should try to recreate in my veggie kitchen? And let me know if you are a vegetarian living abroad - how easily do you manage?

Despite the clumps, still tasty!


  1. Sounds like a fun experimentation! Nicola

  2. It was fun, but next time it will be even better, I'm sure!


Let me know what you think...!