ZURICH, SWITZERLAND – Environmental group WWF would like to see us stop wasting 75 percent of the electricity we use to hard-boil some 900 million eggs every year. The group doesn’t comment on our consumption of 100 hard-boiled eggs each, but it does says we could prepare them more efficiently.
The group asked Salt (Swiss Alpine Laboratories for Testing Energy Efficiency) to test and compare several methods. Their results (left to right in the graph):
1) egg cookers, which use little water and turn off once the eggs are cooked;
2) eggs cooked in two-fingers depth of water, lid on and heat turned off as soon as the eggs come to a boil; eggs are left for 20 minutes
3) same as number 2 but on a vitroceramic stove
4) vitroceramic stove using a lot of water and no lid
5) non-votroceramic, a lot of water, no lid
6) induction heat, a lot of water, no lid.
WWF says that unfortunately, most cookbooks still advice people to do it the old-fashioned and energy-inefficient way.
GENEVA, SWITZERLAND – This is the day when hearts will wave at us from every corner and chocolates and flowers be pressed in front of us, mainly in the name of romance. But take a minute to think about your heart, the real one that is beating away and acting as a motor to keep the rest of you moving.
The Swiss Heart Association publishes three excellent books, available in French and German, that make an excellent gift for anyone who needs to give more thought to a healthy heart. Frankly, that is most of us and we would all benefit from having these excellent reference plus recipe books on our shelves. I decided to be kind to myself and have a heart checkup yesterday; waiting in the doctor’s office gave me the opportunity to have a good look at these three books and I can heartily recommend them.
Price for each: CHF28.90, plus shipping and handling, order online or print out their form and fax/mail it. The shop also has a few other fine gifts, such as wine and oil, a pedometer.
“La cuisine pour le coeur. Pauvre en sel – riche en épices”
62 recipes, 144 pages
Switzerland is making an official effort to reduce the amount of salt we consume, but it’s up to each of us individually to learn how to cut back without losing out on flavour in our cooking. The guide to using spices and herbs is one of the best I’ve seen, with a number of practical tips , such as when to use balsamic vinegar to replace salt (a tiny bit when cooking meat) or how to ensure you have basil year-round. It explains why you should be using sea salt instead of commercial table salt and why one of the worst things you can buy is packaged dry soup mixes.
“La cuisine pour le coeur – avec un test de risque”
116 recipes, 192 pages
Wonderful recipes, plus practical medical advice on how to lead a healthier life in terms of your heart, plus a risk test for heart attacks, strokes and other vascular medical problems.
“La cuisine pour le coeur – les bonnes huiles et graisses”
75 recipes with nutritional values noted, 158 pages
Taking its cue from Mediterranean cuisine, the book offers guidance on selecting the right ingredients to get the balance you need, with foods that help you reduce fats and cholesterol coupled with useful tips on balancing eating and the amount of daily exercise you need to stay healthy. This is a great source of information about good for you oils.
LAUSANNE, SWITZERLAND – I always thought the characters in Stieg Larsson‘s and Henning Mankell’s Swedish novels drank coffee endlessly out of nervousness or boredom, despite their crime-chasing lives.
Our icy winter weather with days on end of sharp winds and sub-zero temperatures on Lake Geneva have made me reconsider that this might just be a reaction to too much cold weather.
I’ve tripled my coffee intake in the past two weeks, sitting in front of the computer.
LAUSANNE, SWITZERLAND – I came home from a wine/food pairing tasting evening at the Chateau d’Ouchy that was exceptional in every respect, only to go to bed wondering if I should really have enjoyed the crisp, scrumptious pork skin as much as I did (photo to be added Sunday).
Yes! yes! yes! is the answer, according to Ron Silver, the owner of Bubby’s restaurant in Brooklyn, New York, or so reports National Public Radio in the US. NPR published an article that has to be read, if only for love of the title, “Who Killed Lard?” Silver put on a one-night-only “Lard Exoneration Dinner”, writes NPR, and his effort alone must just bring back the magic of great fat.
If you’re skeptical, read it as a financial history story, since it’s part of NPR’s money section.
I love to bake pies and on just a few occasions I have had lard on hand, and all those old cookbooks that swear by lard crusts are right. Great stuff, makes light crusts with just the right amount of crisp, that melt in your mouth.
Once on a cold winter’s night in the west of Ireland I was riding my bicycle down a lonely country road when the neighbours invited me in. They insisted I have dinner with them, knowing I was living alone in tight circumstances. To my chagrin they fried up two pork chops with terrific strips of fat, then stood and watched expectantly while I sat and ate. Their circumstances weren’t much better than mine and I knew their cow was illegally grazing on my landlady’s land and they were keen to butter me up, so to speak.
I grew up thinking you didn’t eat strips of fat even though I always tried to sneak some because I loved it, cooked tender and crispy. But the look on my hosts faces when it appeared I was going to leave the fat uneaten convinced me I’d better do something.
“Do you eat this bit?” I asked politely
“Isn’t that the bit you don’t want to miss!” said the missus.
They rubbed their hands with delight, having shared their best treat, as I diplomatically wolfed down the strip of fat.
I make no apologies and can only say that although I have a few kilos to lose and don’t get enough exercise I just had a heart checkup and was told I have the heart of an athlete.
Go figure. Must be something good in all that sinful fat over the years.
GENEVA, SWITZERLAND – Here’s my version of our family recipe for the classic American 1950′s dish that we, as Catholics who didn’t eat meat on Friday, often had that night of the week. When you watch Mad Men, remember that in Iowa we were sitting around the table eating this. We bought our first TV in 1956 and those ads created on Madison Avenue hadn’t yet started to reach us.
The main recipe change is that I use better noodles than the ones my mother, in Iowa, had access to. And since I live in Switzerland I’ve added Gruyere cheese, but any hard cheese will do.
First, a word on peas and freezers.
A word on peas
Florence Lonergan Wallace, my mother, liked canned peas, which I never have. We had fresh peas on occasion, when we would visit my grandmother in Reinbeck, Iowa, but I was never fond of them because we had to sit on her back steps and shell them first.
I’ve just been reading the history of frozen food and discovered that Clarence Birdseye brought the first quick frozen products to the US market in 1930.
My mother bought food once a week when I was a child, and our refrigerator had a freezer compartment just large enough to hold ice cubes, so while frozen foods were available, we didn’t buy them for storage until the 1960s. I immediately became a fan of frozen peas, a lifetime food love affair, as long as they are really good quality (the smaller the better).
When I moved to Ireland in 1981 for a few months I was astonished to discover dried peas and to learn that for many Irish and British families, this was a staple vegetable. I’ve never learned to appreciate them, except in soup.
Here is what we ate two nights ago at my house, in celebration of the centenary of my mother’s birthday, 26 January. It’s a one-dish meal, not costly, can be increased or decreased for the size of the crowd, and if it’s made well, with good ingredients, you can’t go wrong, especially with kids. A key to success it to make sure it doesn’t dry out; I know too many Americans who has memories of flannel-flavoured tuna noodle casseroles!
Florence’s tuna noodle casserole, circa 1950
Preheat oven to 190C / 350F
Ingredients, sauce: milk, butter, flour
canned tuna, “natural” (packed in water, not oil), 200g
noodles / tagliatelle, 500g
green olives with pimiento stuffing, 10-20, quartered
medium green pickles, gurkens and not cornichons, 2 diced
pepper, green and/or red, 1/2, diced
onion, 1 medium, diced
celery, 2 stalks (peel, if slightly bitter European celery), diced
cheese, 100g of Gruyere (I used the sharper salé), grated using large holes
frozen peas, small, 250g
Seasoning: salt and pepper, paprika, mustard (optional)
1. Chop as indicated the main ingredients, except for the noodles (tagliatelle), crumbling the tuna, and mix in a large casserole baking dish. Salt and pepper very lightly.
2. Cook the noodles (tagliatelle) according to instructions, usually about 8 minutes, run cold water over them to stop the cooking and drain. Set aside.
3. While the noodles cook, make a white sauce:
- melt over very low heat 2 T (tablespoon) of butter, then take it off the heat and add 2 T of white flour, stir to blend
- add in, all at once, 1 cup of milk, return to medium-low heat
- stir very frequently (to avoid lumps forming) until the sauce thickens, about 10 minutes, noting that towards the end it can thicken very quickly and stick to the bottom of the pan.
3. As soon as the sauce is ready, add the drained and slightly cooled noodles to the other main ingredients, toss gently to mix, then pour the sauce over, making sure the ingredients are covered evenly with sauce. Use a knife tip to add a touch of mustard here and there. Sprinkle with paprika.
4. Bake uncovered just long enough to blend flavours and heat through, 20-25 minutes uncovered, checking to make sure the noodles don’t dry out. If it looks too dry, place a piece of foil loosely over the top.
Tip: if it doesn’t look like it’s moist enough before baking, add a few drops of milk. Better: if you think you don’t have enough sauce you can increase it (but it will be a bit thinner) by taking some of the finished sauce, adding it to 1/2 cup milk off the heat, blending well, then adding this back into the prepared sauce, over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, for another 2-3 minutes.
GENEVA, SWITZERLAND – The Swiss Federal Health Office in November 2011 released a report on Swiss sodium (salt) consumption, suggesting that Swiss consumers should reduce their intake by half. A study done by the Bern University of Applied Sciences, as part of the government’s continuing programme to find ways to reduce salt in processed foods, has shown that this can be done while maintaining quality.
Their work is part of Switzerland’s Salt Strategy 2008-2012, which calls for average salt intake to be reduced by up to 16 percent (4 percent a year over the four years) to 8 g per day by the end of this year. The long-term goal is for a maximum intake of 5 g per day, in line with WHO (World Health Organization) recommendations.
In November, Bern noted that “processed foods such as bread, cheese, sausage and other meat products, soups and ready meals are major hidden sources of salt. Efforts are therefore being made, in close collaboration with the food industry and researchers, to investigate how salt levels in processed foods and in the catering sector can be reduced over the longer term without adversely affecting taste.”
The Bern study, run at the School of Agricultural, Forest and Food Sciences in Zollikofen, has shown that processed foods account for about 34 percent of salt intake and bread and pasta for 21 percent.
Swissinfo 26 January 2012 carries a good background story on Switzerland’s use of salt in food and how it is changing.
GENEVA, SWITZERLAND – Forbes carries a wonderful article about food and expiry dates, where it goes, who buys it and whether or not they should all expect to die within hours (if you read no further, the answer is “no”).
The problem of old but still good food isn’t limited to the US, of course. Swiss supermarkets throw away massive amounts of food that have reached their expiry date, but Tables Suisses, run by volunteers and with 31 refrigerated vans, last year collected and distributed more than 3,000 tons of food from the stores.
The food gathered must be past its sell-by date but in good condition and perfectly edible. Swiss laws were aligned with European Union ones in 2009 for food safety, and while both federal and cantonal governments have roles to play in overseeing food safety, expiry dates are generally determined by the point at which a product is at its best, not whether or not it is still safe to eat.
Swiss consumers throw away 36 kilos of food per inhabitant each year, a total of 250,000 tons, of which 25,000 tons is considered by law to be fit for consumption.
The organization is a project of the non-profit (and tax exempt) Espoir pour personnes en détresse/Hoffnung für Menschen in Not foundation and it just celebrated its 10th anniversary in December 2011. Stores in 11 cantons participate.
The project distributes via a number of social work and charity groups, rather than directly to the needy. About 15 percent of the Swiss population is below the poverty line, some 1.1 million people, and half of these are considered in serious need of material aid; this is the group targeted by Tables Suisses.
Credit Suisse and Coop have been among the major sponsors since 2001, with the supermarket chain providing cash as well as food goods.
TSR ran a television report on Tables Suisses in 2009, and most of the information is still current, despite the show’s expiry date.
BERN, SWITZERLAND – Swiss supermarket chain Migros will undoubtedly have chocolate Santas and trees for the holiday season, but this year it’s come up with an unusual Christmas treat: a milk chocolate foil-wrapped camel fit for the Three Kings of Christmas lore.
The supermarket will stock them in 100 of its shops.
It notes that at least 21 percent of the milk is powdered camel’s milk from camel stables in the Emirates. Camel’s milk has been considered by desert nomads “since the start of time to be an elixir”. The other ingredients: natural Bourbon vanilla, acacia honey and selected cocoa beans.
The 130g treat was designed by chocolatier Al Nassna de Dubai and sells for CHF19.
BERN, SWITZERLAND – The Swiss Statistical Office 15 November spilled the beans about how the Swiss spend their food money. Given the relatively high cost of meat in the country, it’s a wonder that the highest expenditure, for meat, is not more than CHF149 a month on average, per household. The second biggest outlay goes for bread and cereal, CHF101 a month, followed closely by milk and cheese, CHF100 a month.
Vegetables are in fourth place, with CHF75. Spending on fruit: CHF56.
The famous 12 kg per person of Swiss chocolate consumed is part of the CHF41 spent monthly on jam, honey and sweets. If you’re trying to work out how much the Swiss therefore spend on chocolate, remember that the consumption figures include tourists.
The food expenditure figures are part of a report on 2009 household spending in Switzerland published 15 November.
Household food and drink spending also goes for (average per month, per household):
- coffee, tea, cocoa – CHF24
- mineral water, juice, sweet drinks – CHF36
- alcoholic beverages – CHF68, of which wine is CHF52
- dining out – CHF462, of which CHF222 is meals in restaurants, cafes and bars, CHF66 is alcoholic beverages and CHF62 is non-alcoholic drinks. The rest is snacks and drinks in small food outlets.
GENEVA, SWITZERLAND – “Floris” in Anières, canton Geneva, and “Mesa” in Zurich, are the newcomers to Michelin’s list of Swiss two-star restaurants. Floria is headed by Claude Legras and Mesa by Marcus Lindner. They bring the number of eateries with two stars to 18.
Switzerland now has a total of 96 restaurants with stars from the famed French guide, more than any other per person among European countries. The new edition, 520 pages, is on sale in Switzerland, Germany and Austria 17 November, for CHF33. It includes hotels as well as restaurants.
Just two restaurants have three stars: Philippe Rochat and Benoît Violier’s “Hôtel de Ville” in Crissier, canton Vaud, and Andreas Caminada’s “Schauenstein” in Fuerstenau, Graubuenden.
Seventy-six one-star restaurants make up the bulk of the list. Eight restaurants lost their stars for the 2012 Guide which is available Thursday 17 November. Eleven new retaurants joined, with one star.
The other two-star restaurants the Lake Geneva area are:
- “Le Domaine de Châteauvieux“, Philippe Chevrier, Satigny, Geneva
- “Georges Wenger“, Georges Wenger, Noirmont, Jura
- “Le Cerf“, Carlo Crisci, Cossonay, Vaud
- Beau-Rivage Palace, Anne-Sophie Pic, Lausanne, Vaud
- “Le Pont de Brent“, Stéphane Décotterd, Brent/Montreux, Vaud
- “Denis Martin“, Denis Martin, Vevey, Vaud
- “Hotel Terminus“, Didier de Courten, Sierre, Valais.