As I mentioned in my Swiss Christmas introduction, those who consider turkey to be the “logical” and “automatic” meal for Christmas Day would here be faced with the additional concern of what to cook…! See, turkey is a very easy choice (though my daughter is at present having great difficulty finding one big enough that will still fit in her oven – she was offered two smaller ones which don’t fit in her oven and it’s not the same thing, somehow! Apparently the turkeys were all sold to American ex-pats at Thanksgiving…) – bet you never thought of that aspect, no questions asked, same procedure as every year.
Here in Switzerland, not so. Yes, some families do stick to a tradition of a particular meal, but most are happy to take up suggestions made in some of the most popular publications – either one of the supermarket supplements or Betty Bossi, the Delia Smith of Swiss cookery (although BB is not actually a person, sadly – we all picture her as the epitome of Swiss efficiency in the kitchen!). I thought I’d have a browse and let you know what Swiss families will be serving up this year. Apparently!
Firstly, a starter… I find chicken leek satay on fried lemon rice. Sounds nice. Or what about red wine and mushroom ragout puffs? A fish soup with saffron – or a fancy veal pâté with cranberry and fig mustard?
Turkey and goose have made some headway – but, see above, are apparently not considered standard! However, I see several veal dishes being promoted: a ragout with little pot-roasted onions, or else bacon and apples, for instance, and accompanied by little star-shaped röstis or spätzli or what is commonly known as “Festtagsnudeln” – pasta made with egg and especially tasty (noodles are often a side dish like potatoes or rice in Switzerland!). Of course, the most expensive cuts of beef, pork or veal are popular at Christmas time, and one way of cooking them that has everyone raving these past few years is to gently steam the meat at a very low temperature for a long time (this works with goose, too…) rather than a full-on roasting. Add a delicate sauce, say tarragon, and plenty of butter… voilà. All kinds of vegetables will probably be offered, too – salsify, kohlrabi, pumpkin (carpaccio or else spelt tagliatelle with pumpkin and coconut coriander for the vegis in the clan), carrots, celeriac (soup with balsamico mustard) and exotic mushrooms are as common as carrots, beans and sprouts! But try finding parsnips to go with your turkey; although our local supermarket has recently begun stocking them over the winter months only, they cost an arm and a leg (CHF 10/lb, if you’re counting… :o… last year in England I was buying them at 50p/lb!).
Fish is on a lot of families’ menus at this time of year, from seafood in both starters and main courses (“prawns with tomatoes”, I see here) to copious quantities of salmon (with avocado), cod (in sesame sauce with mie noodles) and trout (kebabs with lime salsa). In some German families, “blue” fish, usually trout, is something of a tradition… Many people don’t realise that Switzerland has more cheese to offer than just Emmental (that’s with the holes) or Gruyère, and we have as many different cheeses as countries famed for their variety, such as France. Just as nice, too, in my opinion. Whether hard or soft ripe cheeses, cow’s, sheep or goat’s cheeses, full-flavoured mature cheeses or light, mild spreadable cheeses, the selection is enormous, even in the smallest supermarket. Definitely a full course – or perhaps cheese-lovers might make their entire Christmas Day meal a cheesy one?!
And finally, dessert. Swiss housewives pride themselves on their desserts (remember the fancy biscuits I talked about?!). She who cannot produce a boozy tiramisu or delicious fruit tart might turn to the recipes featured – what about a clementine-berry gratin? Or homemade chocolate mousse with caramel almond sauce? Cinnamon pavlova with exotic fruit, sorbet AND ice-cream, anyone?! Even if it’s a bought dessert, there is plenty of choice – those with a sense of italianità (this is my in-laws!) produce enormous slabs of panettone, the French-speakers are more likely to go for a bûche de noël, those with German relations might be eating Stollen and the most Swiss will probably be looking for something boozy like a Zuger Kirschtorte (advertised here with 17% alcohol content – wheee!) or else the intensely-flavoured Bündner Nusstorte, a concoction of short pastry, walnuts and caramel that would be top of my list! Though don’t forget the frozen ice-cream cakes, chocolate-covered raspberry sorbet or just the remains of all those sugary cookie concoctions – very likely accompanied by that huge success, Nespresso coffee…
Right, back to preparing our turkey (when and if we get it!!) 😮