Yesterday I had the pleasure of taking in a Swabian cooking class in Horb, a small town in the southwest of Baden-Württemberg. Not only was it a fun day of cooking, but also a blogger meet up since I participated with the bloggers behind Ami in Schwabenland and Traveling Hopefully!
The 6-hour cooking class took place at Straub’s Krone, a family-run restaurant tucked away in Horb-Bildechingen. Chef Martin Straub welcomed us warmly to the class and guided us through our menu for the day which included classic Swabian dishes such as Spätzle and Maultaschen. I’ve barely cooked any German food before (with the exception of Franconian Klöße (potato dumplings) that my mother-in-law showed me how to make), let alone any Swabian food, so I was looking forward to learning a lot in the class!
Our menu consisted of the following dishes:
- Cheese Spätzle with Mushrooms (Käsespätzle mit Champignons)
- Swabian Ravioli with Potato Salad (Maultaschen mit Kartoffelsalat)
- Veal Ragout with Swabian Yorkshire Pudding (Eingemachtes Kalbfleisch mit Pfitzauf)
- Apple Fritters with Vanilla Sauce (Apfelküchle mit Vanillesoße)
All of our ingredients were laid out in advance for us to use and prep. After donning our aprons, each of us eagerly jumped in to tackle a different recipe.
Cheese Spätzle with Mushrooms (Käsespätzle mit Champignons)
Spätzle is like the German version of macaroni and cheese but made with homemade noodles. Spätzle is found all over Swabia and is a common festival dish with food stands making it in enormous pans for hundreds. It can be eaten plain, with cheese, with vegetables, with gravy – you name it. Our Spätzle for the day was a popular version made with cheese and mushrooms. The dough is made simply with flour, semolina (for texture), eggs, water, and salt. The consistency should be quite loose, somewhere between that of a pancake batter and a bread dough.
The dough should rest for about 15 minutes and then can be squeezed through a Spätzle-press or sliced off a board in strips into a pot of boiling salted water. Each of us was so excited to try the board-slicing method that we never actually got around to trying the press. We let the little, uneven strips of dough cook and float up in the pot for a couple of minutes before scooping them out and dunking them in ice water to chill.
We later prepared the sauce for the cheese Spätzle – mushrooms, grated cheese (Emmentaler and Bergkäse), diced onions, butter, cream (lots of cream!), salt, and pepper. We topped it off with crispy onions and a sprinkling of fresh chives. Oh my! This recipe wins.
Swabian Ravioli with Potato Salad (Maultaschen mit Kartoffelsalat)
Maultaschen (which translated literally means ‘mouth bags’) is another Swabian staple. It was recently recognized by the European Union as a regional specialty of cultural significance to Baden-Württemberg. Maultaschen come in all shapes and sizes and can be served alone, in broth, sliced and fried or dressed in butter and onions. We made small diamond-shaped pork and spinach-filled Maultaschen to top our potato salad.
The most fun part of making rather time-intensive Maultaschen is rolling the dough. The dough is a typical fresh pasta dough made of eggs, flour, salt and a little oil. The dough should have “the texture of a man’s face, not of a baby’s bum” (my favourite quote/cooking tip of the day). After letting the dough rest for 30 minutes, it’s cranked through a pasta roller until the dough is thin enough to read a newspaper through it (really!). The long rectangles of dough are half covered in filling, then are folded over and sliced into little diamond shapes. I forgot to spread my filling out before rolling it. Once I realized my mistake, I tried to unroll it and fix it which resulted in a mini dough-sticking disaster. Oh well – they still tasted good!
We also made potato salad, which here in Germany is a “thing”. The “thing”. Every region makes it a little differently. We made the typical Swabian version which is made with onion, mustard, oil, vinegar, salt, pepper, and broth. (Who knew you used broth in a potato salad?!). After cooking and slicing the warm (ouch!) waxy potatoes, we dressed it in the seasonings, constantly tasting and re-seasoning as needed. My other favourite cooking tip of the day? “Dress the potato salad with oil until it smiles and shines back at you”.
Veal Ragout with Swabian Yorkshire Pudding (Eingemachtes Kalbfleisch mit Pfitzauf)
Our third course of the day was veal ragout with Swabian Yorkshire pudding. The veal was cubed and slow-cooked in just-off-the-stove broth. The veal was served in a decadent white wine and cream sauce and topped with a Yorkshire pudding. Since I don’t eat beef or veal, I only tasted the sauce and pudding, but they were creamy and sumptuous. Well done, team!
Apple Fritters with Vanilla Sauce (Apfelküchle mit Vanillesoße)
Our dessert course was apple fritters in vanilla sauce. Right from the moment I saw the word ‘fritter’ on the menu, I was looking forward to eating these at the end of the class. For some reason I was picturing a donut-style fritter, but these were actually fried batter-dipped apple slices tossed in cinnamon sugar. (Incidentally, I’ve actually eaten these before at the Esslingen Christmas and Medieval Market). We made a vanilla-bean infused cream sauce to dunk/slather our fritters in which was the perfect complement.
The entire day was great fun – I learning some new cooking skills (rolling pasta, deep frying, piping, Spätzle-making), got to eat some delicious dishes, and made some new friends in the process. Chef Martin was a wonderful instructor – knowledgeable, helpful, relaxed and easy-going. He runs cooking classes about 4 times a year, each with a different seasonal or culinary theme. Do check them out if you’re looking to up your cooking game! You can contact Straub’s Krone to inquire here.
A big thanks to Beth at Ami in Schwabenland for organizing this fantastic event!
Have you ever taken a cooking class? What are your favourite German specialties to cook? Let me know in the comments below!