Interview with Andie Pilot, pastry chef and cook book author
One of the highlights of a visit to a different country is trying the local cuisine and Switzerland is no different. Naturally you’ll want to enjoy some Swiss cheese and chocolate but there are many other dishes – both seasonal and those available year round – that feature on menus across the country.
As well as talking about some of the tasty dishes you might like to try in Switzerland, I thought it would be interesting to delve a bit deeper and learn about the history of these dishes, too.
So, who better to ask than a Swiss-Canadian pastry chef who has lived in Switzerland for over 10 years and is the author of three Swiss cook books?
My guest in this episode is Andie Pilot, who, as well as producing some amazing cook books, shares Swiss recipes on her website Helvetic Kitchen.
Click the green button below to listen:
Topics covered in this episode:
- Andie’s background and her connection with Switzerland
- How Andie combined her career with her life in Switzerland
- Cultural differences between meal times in Canada and Switzerland
- Popular Swiss dishes
- Andie’s favourite Swiss meals
- Swiss desserts
- Swiss drinks
- Useful tips for dining in Swiss restaurants
- Andie’s cook books
Swiss dishes and drinks discussed in this episode:
>> Gipfeli – buttery croissants, often with almonds or other nuts added. They are particularly popular accompanied by a coffee for morning tea.
>> Zopf/Tresse – Switzerland’s most famous bread, a buttery plaited loaf with soft, chewy interior and a shiny exterior. It is often enjoyed on Sunday’s for breakfast or brunch.
>> Birchermüesli – usually served for breakfast, there are many different versions of Birchermüesli but most include oats, apple and yoghurt.
>> Fondue – a melted cheese dish which is served in a large pot and heated over a table-top stove. Cubed bread is then dipped into the melted cheese using long handled forks. Gruyère and Vacherin Fribourgeois are said to be the best cheeses to use for fondue.
>> Raclette – another cheesy dish which is hugely popular in Switzerland. Hard Raclette cheese is melted under a grill (usually a table top grill) and then poured over the top of potatoes, pickled onions, cornichons and other vegetables.
>> Rösti – similar to what we know as hash browns, Rösti is a grated, fried potato pancake. It is mostly served as a side dish.
>> Alplermagronen – this Swiss version of macaroni cheese consists of macaroni and potatoes topped with melted cheese. It is usually served with apple sauce on the side.
>> Cervelat – the most popular Swiss sausage which is made from a combination of beef, pork and bacon.
>> Wildteller – translated as ‘game plate’, this dish is served in the Autumn/Fall and often consists of game meat, Brussels sprouts, red cabbage, chestnuts and spatzle.
>> Vermicelles – a dessert made by pressing cooked chestnuts through a press similar to a garlic press.
>> Zuger Kirschtorte – a layered meringue and sponge cake flavoured with cherry liquer that originated in the city of Zug.
>> Rivella – unique to Switzerland, Rivella is a soft drink which contains whey, a bi-product of cheese production.
>> Ovomaltine – another famous Swiss beverage, Ovomaltine is a milk flavouring product made with malt extract. It is often known as Ovaltine in other countries.
Tips for eating in Switzerland if you have special dietary requirements
If you are Coeliac or require gluten free foods but would like to try some of the dishes mentioned in this episode, Andie has provided the following great advice.
“Raclette would be a safe bet. Cervelat SHOULD contain no gluten, but I would have a quick peek at the label to make sure, as wheat can be used for binding.
For Rösti at a restaurant I would definitely ask the server, because some might use flour as a binding agent. Same with fondue—it almost certainly contains cornstarch as a binding agent, but if someone is very sensitive to gluten, they might want to just double check.
Ovomaltine would be a bad choice, because it isn’t gluten free (it contains barley malt).
Of course the breads are off limits, though you will find bready products made by the brand Schär at the grocery store—this brand is completely gluten free. In some of the more trendy cafes and restaurants you will also find gluten free cakes and cookies.
One place that is particularly good if people have allergies/intolerances/preferences is the cafe chain that I mentioned during the episode, Tibits (they are also vegetarian/vegan). They are in most big Swiss cities, in most of the big railway stations, and it is buffet style, with all allergens clearly labeled.
Most products are clearly labelled and people who work in food service are aware of these concerns and willing to help guests with their specific needs.”
On Andie’s website Helvetic Kitchen you’ll find recipes for a wide range of Swiss dishes, cakes, cookies and desserts. You can also find details about Andie’s books – Helvetic Kitchen Swiss Cooking, Drink Like the Swiss and her new book, Swiss Cookies.
Andie’s books can be purchased from her publisher Bergli Books or through Amazon or Book Depository (no international shipping fee). Note: there may be a shipping delay on Swiss Cookies in the short term due to the current pandemic.
You can learn about other Swiss specialties on Holidays to Switzerland:
- Read more about fondue as well as meringues with double cream, chocolate, Nidelkuchen and Vully tart in > this article
- There’s information about Schaffhauserzungen and Bölletünne in > this article
- and in episode 20 of the podcast, we chat about Capuns, Pizoccheri and Graubünden walnut cake.
- Andie joined us again in episode 40 of the podcast where she chats about Swiss wine, beer, spirits and other unique Swiss drinks.
Would you like to win a copy of one of Andie’s books? Simply listen to the podcast episode to find the answer to the following question:
What three ingredients does Andie mention that Dr. Bircher-Benner included in his original Birchermüesli?
Send your answer to firstname.lastname@example.org by midnight GMT+11 on November 30, 2021. All correct entries will go into a draw and one winner will receive a copy of the book of their choice (from those listed above). The winner will be announced on December 1, 2021 and will be notified by email.
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