8 Swiss dishes to warm you this winter
With the weather remaining stubbornly chilly, the time is right to indulge in some tasty, warming comfort food. Luckily food in Switzerland both satisfies the palate and warms the soul. Here are eight Swiss dishes to try this winter!
Winter food in Switzerland
Being a nation so intertwined with the mountains, the best food in Switzerland mostly has its origins in the Alps. Historically, residents of rural areas often suffered from food shortages, with most having to rely on supplies stored up from summer and the primary goods available to them through livestock.
As a result, winter Swiss dishes are mostly meat or potato-based, and are be both tasty and filling. What’s more, their origins mean that most dishes are relatively inexpensive to prepare. Here are eight dishes to get your teeth into:
1. Fondue and other famous Swiss cheese dishes
First, any list of alpine winter dishes must include fondue and many of the other famous Swiss cheese dishes on offer. When the winter nights draw in, there's nothing better than huddling around a rechaud and fondue pot and watching the melted Swiss cheese, wine and garlic simmer. When it's ready, dive into the mix with a hunk of bread to try that first delicious batch of melted cheese.
Another great Swiss cheese-based dish is the käsewähe, a spicy cheese tart similar to a quiche or savoury cheesecake. Need something to warm you up in the bleak midwinter? This mixture of paprika, cheese, bacon and shortcrust pastry is a mood-saver!
We would also be remiss if we did not mention fondue’s little sister raclette. In its purest form, raclette involves heating half a cheese wheel on a plinth before scraping the melted cheese onto bread or potatoes.
However, modern times call for a modern way to eat this dish, and nowadays no Swiss household is complete without its own raclette grill, an electric table-top grill with small pans, in which the slices of cheese are melted. Many people also cook hunks of meat on a griddle above the melting cheese, in what can only be described as a self-service feast for all. If you have guests to entertain over winter and don’t actually want to cook, a raclette is for you.
2. Fondue Chinoise
Another staple of winter in Switzerland has to be fondue Chinoise or meat fondue. Similar to Japanese Shabu-Shabu or Sukiyaki, the dish involves immersing slices of raw meat into a boiling meat broth, ideal for when the mercury plunges below zero.
The fact that the broth, meat slices, dips and sauces can be prepared in advance means that it is an excellent party food. Its flexibility also means that the dish is quite popular in Switzerland at Christmas and on New Year’s Eve.
Älplermagronen is arguably the best comfort food Switzerland has to offer. The history of the hearty dish dates back to the arrival of Italian workers who helped build the original Gotthard Tunnel in the 1800s. These workers are celebrated as the first to make pasta a staple dish in the alpine nation.
Locals in the mountains combined this new pasta with eggs, milk, Swiss cheese, bacon, potatoes and crispy onions to create the sumptuous dish we enjoy today. Älplermagronen proved such a hit that it is a staple in both Swiss cities and in the military as a quick and easy dish to whip up. En Guete!
4. Swiss rösti
Like the rest of Europe, the Swiss really do have a romance with potatoes, but Switzerland’s primary contribution to the world of spuds has to be rösti, a pan-fried dish of coarsely grated potatoes.
Rösti has its origins in Canton Bern, where the dish was often eaten by farmers. However, the popularity of rösti soon spread to all parts of the alpine nation and beyond, so much so that many in Switzerland consider it to be the country’s national dish and the border between the rösti-loving German-Swiss and gratin-adoring French-Swiss is now called the Röstigraben or rösti trench.
While it is often used as a side dish for meat products like bratwurst, there are plenty of ways to let rösti take centre stage. Chief among which is Berner rösti (rösti with bacon lardons) and rösti with egg and cheese.
From a universal dish to one that is special to Canton Graubünden: capuns. While recipes vary by which valley of Graubünden you are in, generally capuns are made from a knob of spätzle dough - a type of Swiss egg noodle mix - which together with some dried meat (typically sundried meat like bündnerfleisch) is rolled in a chard leaf - similar to a cabbage roll.
The capuns are then boiled in a bouillon of milk and water and served with a grating of Swiss cheese. If that doesn’t sound like heaven, we don’t know what does!
6. Minestrone ticinese
What could be better on a winter’s day than minestrone soup? While the Italians lay claim to creating the vegetable and pasta-based dish, the people of Canton Ticino have put their own special twist on it with minestrone ticinese: a sumptuous combination of borlotti beans, bacon, onions, garlic, leeks, carrots, celery, cabbage, potatoes, risotto rice and majoram.
The Italian-speaking canton is well known for its delicious food, mostly inspired by their cousins south of the border. Some of the highlights of cucina ticinese include Ticino mushroom risotto, pumpkin soup and braised meat in polenta.
7. Roast chestnuts (heisse maroni)
One of the best parts of living in Switzerland in autumn and winter is the emergence of small shacks on the sides of parks, stations and streets offering so-called “Heisse Maroni” or hot chestnuts. A staple of Swiss wintertime, these chestnuts are roasted in vats heated by charcoal until they split open.
They are then placed into two-sided paper bags (one side for the chestnuts, the other for the empty shells) and served piping hot. If you need a way to warm up on the go, heisse maroni are for you!
Image credit: Michael Derrer Fuchs / Shutterstock.com
8. Zürcher geschnetzeltes
Finally, a personal favourite of ours is the cantonal dish of Zurich, zürcher (or züri) geschnetzeltes. The warming mix of pork or veal cooked and served with a delectably rich mushroom and white wine sauce is the ideal tonic for any winter blues. Served with rösti and vegetables, you can’t go wrong with a zürcher geschnetzeltes.
Swiss dishes: the ideal tonic against winter chills
Hailing from a snow-covered wonderland, it’s perhaps no surprise that Swiss dishes are designed with winter in mind. Have a Swiss winter dish that dances on your taste buds? Let us know in the comments below.