The cuisine of Switzerland is quite regional, it also is seasonal and makes the best use of the fresh produce available . The fact that Switzerland has French, German and Italian languages, varying climates and ways of living, brings influence on the different regional dishes of the country, and we must not forget the fourth language, Romanche. Not all dishes are regional and there are many that are traditional to Switzerland in general. Cheese is a main ingredient in many of the traditional dishes of Switzerland, and there are many delicious varieties of cheeses produced in Switzerland. When a lot of people think of Switzerland they think straight away of Fondue and chocolate, and although these are wonderful there is an awful lot more to Swiss cuisine than these.
In the southern, Italian speaking regions of Switzerland you will find that polenta is very popular, once considered a poor man’s meal, it is now a staple food of the area. Polenta is made from cornflour and mixed into boiling water and stirred until ready. Polenta is an ideal accompaniament to rich stews, although with meat being very expensive in Switzerland it is not normally eaten every day. Maize is grown quite extensively in this region. Saffron rice is also a popular food of this area of Switzerland, as are risottos of any kind, rice has become more popular over recent years due to it’s ‘keeping’ abilities. Pastas are also found in many dishes and are often accompanied by vegetables. Like the rest of Switzerland, this region makes good use of seasonal vegetables, salads and fruits, and the warm climate of the region provides many varieties throughout the summer and autumn. Swiss chard is a very versatile vegetable and is also very hardy making it possible to enjoy for most of the year. Bread accompanies every meal, and you will find that bread in the Italian speaking Tessin is similar to the Italian breads from over the border.I n the Tessin you will find a type of restaurant which is unique to the region a ‘Grotto’, these Grottos are rustic caves serving good homemade foods typical of the region and are extremely popular with local people and tourists alike.
The French regions, or Kantons,use a lot of cheeses in their dishes, along with cream for delicious sauces. Butter is mainly used for cooking because of it’s superior flavourairy products are used more freely than meat as cattle are reared for their milk, when they are too old for dairy use the meat is tough and stringy so it is then used in long, slow cooking or in producing sausages. A traditional regional dish of the french swiss is ‘Papet vaudois’ a tasty, filling dish of leeks and potatoes.
In the German-swiss regions you tend to find a few more meat dishes, but swiss housewives know exactly how to get the most out of the meat and nothing goes to waste.’Zürcher Geschnetzeltes’ is veal cut into small strips, quick fried and put into a rich cream sauce, so delicious,this like many dishes around Switzerland is often served with ‘Rösti’. Rösti are cooked potatoes, grated and fried into round, flat potato cakes, sometimes small bits of smoked bacon and cooked into the rösti to add to the flavour. Another favourite dish is’Älplermagronen’,pasta,potatoes, onions, bacon and cheese and often accompanied with ‘apfelmus’-apple sauce, it is surprising for those who have not had pasta dishes with a sweet apple sauce, but it is the perfect partnership.Again bread is an important part of each meal, often breakfast will consist of bread and jam with bread meat and cheese at lunch-time. Again the seasonal vegetables and fruits play a major part in everyday dishes, many people grow their own vegetables if they have the space to do so, and fruit trees are everywhere.
Teigwaren (pasta) are especially good in Switzerland, and come in a huge variety of shapes, the supermarkets have whole rows full of varieties of the different teigwaren. The swiss make very clever use of hebs but do not overpower the food with them, lovage is used in soup making and gives a wonderful flavour to all sorts of soups, it is also great when placed in a pan of potatoes or vegetables to enhance the flavour. The swiss also use ‘maggi’, a condiment which will be placed on the table and also they use ‘aromat’ or ‘fondor’ on many of their dishes. You will see most gardens have a variety of hebs growing throughout the summer months.
Breads and Cakes of Switzerland. Small double bread rolls called ‘Bürli’ are found in bakeries all over Switzerland, made from a sough dough starter they are the most popular form of bread rolls sold. Zopfbrot is a specialty sweet bread in the form of a plait, this is often eaten on Sundays along with wonderful aromatic cups of coffee
Swiss chocolate has an international reputation for exceptioal quality, and there are quite a few different brands to choose from. The Swiss eat, per capita, the most chocolate in the world, but fortunatly for the rest of the world some does get exported thus allowing others to sample the delights of chocolates such as Lindt, Suchard,Nestle and Tobler, amongst others.
One of the most important days on the Swiss calendar is the 1st August, Swiss National Day. On the 1st August 1291 three of the alpine Kantons-Schwyz, Unterwalden and Uri- came together in the ‘Rütli field’to swear an oath of confederation, which later was regarded as the foundation of Switzerland. Communities all over Switzerland, and also the Swiss abroad, come together on this special day to celebrate with bratwurst, potato salad and often strawberry tartlets (red and white), and as darkness falls the fireworks begin,Music is played and children parade through the streets with lanterns decorated with the Swiss flag.
Muesli originated in Switzerland around 1900 by the Swiss physician Maximilian Bircher-Benner as a diet for his patients. In Switzerland it is often referred to as Birchermüesli, and is still popular throughout Switzerland, not just as a breakfast meal but also eaten in the evening,as Birchermüesli complet along with ‘butterbrot’and milchcafe, if a full meal has been eaten at lunch time. Müesli is a great source of nutrients, helps lower cholesterol and fulfills the daily fibre requirements, so all in all it makes for a very healthy meal,and has become popular in other countries since the 1960s.
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