IT's hard to believe that a week ago, I was freezing my a*** off in Switzerland, where I was lucky enough to be for about 10 days. Although it was unusually cold for this time of the year (late April/May), the main reason I was freezing my a*** off was because I didn't pack my warm clothing. I thought the weather would be manageable - after all, I always adjusted to the cold much better than the heat. Also, I kept packing to the very last minute and I wasn't thinking too straight. So what I ended up with was a few sleeveless (say, what?) dresses for work and for play, some barely warm t-shirts, jeans and a long sweater coat (like that was going to do much good).
So, freezing? Well, it serves me right. (Thank goodness for really nice colleagues with additional scarves and sweaters!).
Switzerland was amazing. Sure, it was chilly but there were a few nice sunny days that interspersed the gloomy, rainy days (and a hailstorm too, I must say!). Sunny days that allowed me and my friend JY (who lives there with her husband R and her black Lab, Umbria) to go for walks and, literally, forage for food - more on this later.
What did I love? The crisp air and the beautiful spring flowers.
Oh! the flowers. I just couldn't stop talking photographs (with my phone, of course. I couldn't find it in me to lug my camera and it's accompanying lenses along!).
What else did I love? The Cheese! Oh boy, did I overload. Cheese for breakfast, lunch and dinner. And champagne (for you must have cheese with champagne).
Oh, and the other thing I loved? Hanging out with Jy.
We didn't do much really - which was fantastic. Just chilling (no pun intended), grocery shopping, eating, walking Umbria two or sometimes three times a day, cooking and more chilling.
She did feed me well though. Oh, my. I wasn't allowed to just eat cheese. But I wasn't complaining. Which leads me back to us foraging for food.
JY's husband made some baerlauch gnocchi one night that was just scrumptious. Baerlauch, otherwise known as bear's garlic, grows freely in the wild in Springtime in Cham where JY resides (just an hour away from Zurich).
Yeah, that picture above, that's me foraging. If you're wondering about the exposed hand and flip flops, this was one of the rare sunny days in Cham, hallelujah!
And this picture above is the gnocchi, served with butter-fried sage leaves and cheese (I only remembered to photograph it AFTER I started eating... it was just too good). Oh! My! I loved the baerlauch so much that JY and I picked more the following day to make pesto (baerlauch + basil + cheese + olive oil + pine nuts + salt).
JY made a sauerkraut and cheese pie the next day which didn't require any plant-stealing. Having never tried sauerkraut (fermented cabbage) before (I know ... quite incredible), I was eager to try it. Also because the pie had cheese in it ... and you already know how much I love cheese.
By the way, if you want to make your own Sauerkraut, check THIS article in saveur.com.
The pie was delicious ... again I ate it up before remembering to photograph it. Oops, my bad. The pickled cabbage mixed so well with the cheese and with just minimal seasoning (salt, pepper and a little sugar) and a short, tasty pastry, it was a pie to die for.
I went to the supermarket the next day and bought myself a kilogram of Sauerkraut to bring home. I was definitely making pie for myself back home.
And guess what? I did. I made it the day after I returned home. Yes, it was that yummy.
I followed JY's recipe (there were no quantities exchanged but I kinda eyeballed her as she made it), adding just a couple more ingredients: chopped, toasted hazelnuts for some crunch and some parsley to garnish because, well, I love parsley. I also omitted the cream that she added to her egg custard that was needed to bind the pie - I just used milk instead.
I made quite a large pie and, thankfully, all at home loved it else I'd have (gladly) finished it off on my own. And, the good thing is that the pie, like most pies, tastes even better a day later - straight out of the fridge (reheating is optional).
Sauerkraut and Cheese Pie
For the filling
250g sauerkraut, well drained (I bought mine but here's another link to tell you hot to make your own)
2 cups cheese (I used gruyere and cheddar)
1 leek, sliced fine
Handful of hazelnuts, toasted and chopped
1/2 cup milk (or 1/4 milk, 1/4 cream)
1 tbsp sugar
Chopped parsley to garnish
350g plain flour
175g butter, cubed (cold)
pinch of salt
4-6 tbsp ice cold water
To make the pastry, whisk the flour and salt together. Rub the butter into the flour mixture until it begins to resemble coarse breadcrumbs. Add the iced water bit by bit until the pastry comes together smoothly. Wrap in cling film and chill in the fridge for at least 30 mins.
Saute the leeks in butter till soft. Add the leeks (once cooled) to the sauerkraut. Add in the cheese, nuts, pepper and a teensy pinch of salt, and sugar. Stir to mix.
Beat the egg and milk together.
Once the pastry is chilled, roll it out and press onto a pie dish or a round baking dish.
Prick the base with a fork and blind bake for 15 mins (180C).
Once base is slightly cooked (the pastry should be a little firm but not brown), add the sauerkraut filling into the shell. Pour in the egg custard. If you wish, sprinkle some more cheese on the top.
Bake at 180C for about 45 mins or till filling is firm.
Garnish with chopped parsley.