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EASTER

Easter trees and egg smashing: How to celebrate Easter the Swiss way

The days are getting longer and the Schneeglöggli (snowdrops) are making their appearance. a sure sign that Easter is around the corner. If you want to add a Swiss twist to your Easter this year, Swiss food writer Franziska Wick from Little Zurich Kitchen has some suggestions for you.

Easter eggs
Easter egg hunts are popular in Denmark. Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash
Make an Easter tree
 
The Osterbäumli (small Easter tree) is a lovely Swiss tradition that brings spring into your living room. Cut some sprigs off a tree or bush, put them into a vase and hang them with colourful Easter eggs. They don’t need to be real eggs, the smaller plastic ones from the supermarkets do the job perfectly too. 
 
 
Decorate boiled eggs
 
But, of course there’s no Swiss Easter without dyed eggs; there are various colours available in the supermarkets to dip the eggs into, to paint them with a brush or to smear them with paint using your hands.
 
Or, for some more elaborately dyed eggs, do it the traditional Swiss way with red and yellow onion skins and nature objects, instructions here
 
 
Have an Easter egg hunt
 
On Easter Sunday morning hide your eggs, your favourite Easter chocolates and sweets and some small toys if you have children and go on an Easter egg hunt or Ostereier sueche as we Swiss call it. 
 
Must haves for Swiss Easter sweets and chocolates are the small nougat eggs filled with chocolate (Nougateili), the large nougat eggs without filling (Nougatei), the sugar coated jelly eggs (Gelée-Eili) and of course the chocolate bunnies – buy a handcrafted one at a bakery or artisan chocolate shop for high-quality chocolate or, if you don’t want to spend quite as much money, go for a Chocolates Frey bunny, which in my opinion is the best factory-made chocolate available in Switzerland – sold in Migros only. 
 
Osterchüechli (small Easter cakes) are another Swiss Easter treat; their base is made of sweet shortcrust pastry and the sweet filling is either made with rice or semolina. You can buy them in bakeries or supermarkets or make your own small or large cake (recipe with rice here). 
 
Smash your eggs
 
When I was a child, Easter lunch after the morning church was the thing do to, but nowadays Easter brunches are equally popular. Whether you decide on lunch or brunch, don’t forget to do an Eiertütsch (egg smash) with another person before you eat your dyed egg: both people choose an egg and hit the broad side of the egg against each other’s egg, then repeat with the pointy sides.
 
If one person ends up with both ends cracked, the one with the intact egg wins. If both have one cracked side, they repeat the procedure with the intact sides. The one who ends up with one intact side wins. 
 
If, after Easter, you end up with too many Easter eggs, you can make what I’ve been eating after Easter ever since my childhood – Eierbrötli (small egg breads): spread some butter onto a slice of bread, cover it with sliced egg and sprinkle it with salt and chopped chives. 
 
Recipe for Easter Zopf breads
 
The bread bunnies ready for baking. Photo: Franziska Wick
 
Zopf is the braided bread the Swiss traditionally eat for breakfast or brunch on Sundays (here’s our Zopf recipe). Besides making braided breads, the Swiss also use this enriched dough for making bread animals, like the Easter bread bunnies:
 
Take a large bowl and add 500g plain flour or Zopfmehl (Zopf flour), 1.5 tsp salt, 1 tsp sugar and mix well. Add 2 tsps dried instant yeast or 20g fresh yeast, crumbled up, and stir again. 
 
In a pan, melt 60g butter and then add 3dl milk. Warm it up until the mixture reaches room temperature. Then pour the milk butter mixture into the flour and stir until combined. 
 
Knead the dough for 10 minutes by hand or 5 minutes using an electric mixer. Then let the dough rest in the bowl, covered with clingfilm, until doubled in size. This will take 2-2.5 hours.
 
Once proved, knock the air out of the dough and form three to four bunnies or Easter nests with a boiled egg in the middle (rub the egg with oil so it doesn’t stick to the dough after baking. You can bake the egg nest including the boiled egg; the egg is still edible after baking. But use a non-dyed egg and replace with a dyed egg after baking if you like). 
 
Prove the breads for another 30-45 minutes, paint with the egg wash of one egg and sprinkle them with coarse sugar (Hagelzucker). 
 
 
Bake at 220C for 20–30 minutes, depending on the size of your breads. The breads should look nicely browned and sound hollow when you knock the base with your finger. More detailed instructions here.
 
By Franziska Wick, Little Zurich Kitchen
 
A version of this article originally appeared in The Local in April 2017.
 

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FOOD & DRINK

What is Swiss rösti and how do you make it?

If you thought Swiss food is just about cheese and chocolate, think again: rösti is no small potatoes.

What is Swiss rösti and how do you make it?

You can’t live in Switzerland for more than five minutes without realising what an important role rösti potatoes play not only in the country’s culinary traditions, but also in its culture in general.

It is such an integral part of local customs that the Swiss Farmers’ Association has set a new world record when its members prepared a giant rösti in front of the parliament building in Bern on Monday.

The approximately 1,300 kg of potatoes were used for the event, where potatoes were fried in a 13.7-square metre pan shaped like a Swiss cross.

This year’s record beat the previous one from 1994 by three square metres.

And it was no small feat, given the logistics involved in the project. “The potatoes needed for this had grown over the summer in all the cantons before being brought to Bern for this culinary event”, the Association said in a press release. “In a solemn ceremony opened by bell ringers from the region and alphorn players, 27 delegations from all the cantons as well as the Principality of Liechtenstein handed over the potatoes in wicker baskets”.

This event was held to celebrate the association’s 125th anniversary, which is very fitting since in centuries past the stir-fried potatoes served as inexpensive, simple dish for farmers working in the fields.

Recipe:

The main appeal of rösti in those days was that potatoes were plentiful in rural areas and the dish itself required only a very basic mastery:

  • Peel and grate the raw potatoes using a standard grater. You can grate them lengthwise if you like long strands.
  • Add salt and pepper into the mixture — season lightly or a lot, depending on your taste.
  • Melt butter (rather than oil or margarine) in a frying pot.
  • When hot, pour the potato mixture and stir-fry for around 10 to 12 minutes on each side. The end product should be crispy and golden-brown, never soggy.

With time, the dish has evolved somewhat, but not too much; as many foreign residents have observed, the Swiss like their food plain and made from locally sourced ingredients.

While various ingredients like ham, bacon, and cheese can be added to the mixture, and a fried egg sometimes tops it, the recipe is still true to its origins.

READ MORE: You are not Swiss until you try these seven weird foods

Cultural impact

Whether in its original or ‘modernised’ form, rösti can hardly be called trendy.

Yet, for such a simple dish, rösti has made quite a cultural impact in Switzerland.

While it is more associated with the German-speaking part, where it originated, it is sometimes served in other regions as well, mostly as accompaniment to meat or sausages.

But beyond the mere food, this potato dish came to represent the cultural (rather than geographical) divide between the German and French-speaking regions, called the Röstigraben

In German, “Graben” means border, gap or rift – and therefore Röstigraben symbolises the cultural rift between the two largest linguistic groups in Switzerland. 

Whether such a rift actually exists in reality or just in people’s imagination is another matter. Much of this idea has to do with stereotypes of each linguistic group, but beyond the language and local customs, they are all…Swiss.

And it is not excluded that they sometimes cross the invisible Graben to share a meal of rösti together.

READ MORE: Röstigraben: The invisible barrier separating Switzerland

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