In honour of the Lucernese Carnival, which begins this week, I made a traditional Chügelipastete.
Pastetli is a common Swiss dish involving puff pastry forms filled with a creamy sauce that can include meat or just mushrooms. This festive and historic Lucernese version of the dish, first recorded in the 18th century, adds boozy raisins to the creamy sauce. Yes please.
Normally, when you make pastetli, you can buy puff pastry forms in the supermarket, but this version involves a very labour-intensive construction of a decorated dome, plus some labour-intensive fillings that include sweetbreads, and make-it-yourself brätkugeli. It's a day's work.
This was my first time ever cooking with sweetbreads, which is the misleading name for cattle glands. They are not usually sold in the supermarket (at least not in my local Migros), but it was easy enough to ask for them at the butcher's. Although the English word can refer to various glands from a calf or lamb, the German term, kalbsmilke, refers simply to the thymus gland of a calf.
(Note: I was going for authenticity in this recipe, so was happy to include them, but because the process is time consuming, and because they sort of get lost in the creamy mix with the similarly textured mushrooms and Brät, I would probably choose to leave them out next time and save them for a dish where they can be the star.)
Another ingredient that was new for me was the Brät. When I asked the butcher he disappeared into the back room and came back with a huge metal bowl filled with it. He used a plastic scraper to thwop! the meat directly onto the butcher's paper.
I wasn't sure what exactly Brät was in English. The translation online came up as 'sausage meat', but my friend Richard said that it was closer to force meat, which indeed seemed to describe the creamy meat that looked like a heavily processed tuna salad.
For the pastry:
450-500 g puff pastry (or make your own)
1 egg yolk
For the filling:
150 g raisins
2 shots spirit of your choice
200 g sweetbreads
400 g Brät
1 L vegetable stock
200 g mushrooms
1 apple, grated
100 ml white wine
salt, pepper, and nutmeg, to taste
For the raisins:
Put the raisins in a bowl and cover with spirit of your choice—I used calvados, but kirsch, Williams, Zwetschgen, or even rum would do nicely.
For the pastry:
Roll out one third of the dough to about 0.4 cm thick and cut out a circle about 20 cm in diameter. The easiest thing to do is to use a 20 cm cake pan as a guide and cut around it. Move this onto a baking tray lined with parchment paper.
Now, take a large piece of parchment paper and scrunch this into a ball, then form it into a half sphere. Place it in the middle of your puff pastry circle. This is going to be the form for the dome of the pastry. (Once the pastry is baked, you can use scissors to cut the paper out.)
Now, roll out the other two thirds of the dough to about 0.3 cm. Roughly cut out a larger circle that will fit over the parchment paper form. Use a glass to cut out a large hole in the centre. (This hole will eventually be used to remove the parchment paper and to fill the pastry.)
Very carefully drape the dough over the parchment paper. Start pressing together the top and bottom layers of dough to form a border, using a paring knife to cut away any extra dough. Once you have pressed it all together, use a fork and go around the edge, making a pattern.
Using the leftover dough, cut out a large circle which can be used as a lid. This should be larger than the hole you cut with the glass, as the pastry will shrink. (I usually cut out a few in different sizes, so I can use the best fitting one.)
The rest of the dough can be used for decoration. You can cut out shapes with cookie cutters, or made braids and borders. Use a little bit of egg yolk or water to help the cutouts stick to the dough.
Once you have finished decorating, brush the whole thing with the egg yolk and let rest in a cool spot for about 15-30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 200 C / 400 F / gas mark 6, then bake for about 35 minutes, or until it is golden and the bottom is browned.
Once it is out of the oven, leave it for a few minutes to cool, then remove the paper inside. The easiest seems to be carefully using some sharp scissors to hack the paper into thick ribbons and pulling it gingerly out of the pastry. Take your time.
For the sweetbreads:
First, soak the sweetbreads for at least an hour, changing the water often.
Bring the litre of vegetable stock to a simmer. Add the sweetbreads and cook for an hour. Once they are cooked, take them out (keeping the stock in the pot) and remove the thick white membrane, as well as any veins or spots of blood. The best way to do this is with your fingers. They should easily break into small, bite sized pieces. Put aside in a large bowl.
For the Brät balls:
Bring the leftover vegetable stock (from cooking the sweetbreads) to a simmer.
Use a plastic scraper or spatula to fill the Brät into a pastry bag. Now squeeze little bits of meat into the simmering broth. The easiest way to do this is to press out a little meat from the bag with one hand, then use your other hand to squeeze the tip of the bag, releasing the meat into the liquid. The bits of meat will start forming into balls and floating to the surface. Once all the meat is in, let it cook for about 4 minutes, then use a slotted spoon to remove the balls and add them to the sweetbreads.
Reserve 300 mL of the cooking liquid (to use later in the sauce) and pour out the rest.
For the mushrooms:
Melt a knob of butter in the same pot until sputtering. Add the onion and cook until translucent. Add the mushrooms and cook for about 8 minutes. Then remove and add to the meat.
For the sauce:
Use the same pot again and add another knob of butter. Once it has melted, sprinkle with the flour and whisk this together. It will form a golden brown mass. Keep whisking and add the reserved stock and wine. Cook this for about 5 minutes, then add the cream. Cook this for an additional 5 minutes, until it has thickened. Add the grated apple and cook for a moment. Finally, add the leftover liquid from the raisins, as well as salt, pepper and nutmeg to taste.
Add the meats, mushrooms and raisins to the sauce to warm them all together.
Fill the pastry and serve.
The amount of puff pastry varies based on how many decorations you make. I used about 450 g, which included some additional lids.
Be careful when filling the pastry. Don't try to pour it in the hole, rather use a utensil to spoon it in, very gently pushing it to the corners. You can also make a funnel out of parchment pastry to protect the
If you don't use all of the filling, it can be refrigerated for a couple days and used again. It makes a great crêpe filling.
If you don't feel like fussing with meat, this also makes a wonderful vegetarian dish. Simply replace the meat with mushrooms.