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Swiss Cuisine: Potato pie
In Switzerland Friday is “Pie Day”
I dedicate this hub to my mother, who at age 84 still religiously bakes her pies every Friday.
Pies (Wähen) have a long tradition in Switzerland and for a huge part of the Swiss German speaking population, pie is the traditional Friday lunch - at least in the Catholic regions. You have to know that pies have a religious background: In the old days, Catholics were supposed to fast on Fridays. This didn’t mean, that they had to starve all day. No, fasting simply meant, not eating any meat. Thus meat was banned from Friday’s meal plan. Meat is very expensive in Switzerland and has always been some kind of a status food. The more meat you can afford, the richer you are. While the wealthier Catholics were eating fish on Fridays, the poorer souls were condemned to eating fish sticks or pie. My family belonged to the latter category and my mother would usually alternate. One week fish sticks, one week pie. Since most housewives faced the same cooking dilemma, Switzerland became the capital of pie recipes. The potato pie featurered in this hub is not a very common recipe, but I chose it as it is very tasty, filling, inexpensive and kid friendly, making it the perfect dish for the whole family.
Lunch is the main meal in Switzerland and most people only have a snack for dinner. The working population usually eats in the company owned canteen or a nearby restaurant. Another, less popular option is taking your own lunch to the office, or buying it at the local bakery. No wonder Swiss bakeries are gold mines.
Still to this day, the school kids go home for lunch. In my days we used to get a 2 hour lunch break and there was plenty of time to walk or cycle home and have lunch, followed by a little nap. School buses are extremely rare and getting to school is the kid’s responsibility, even at kindergarten age.
Of course in the old days, all our moms made home-made pies which were served steaming hot right out the oven. My mother’s specialty were cheese, onion or spinach pie. Sometimes, as a special treat she would also make us some fruit pie. Depending on the season it would be rhubarb, apricot, plum, cherry or apple. My mouth is still watering, thinking of it.
Pies are still hugely popular in Switzerland and part of the Friday lunch diet. While more and more mothers are working these days, kids still go home for lunch or participate in a “lunch table” at a neighbour’s house. Boxed lunches are unheard of.
Even the tiniest bakery will have a sign outside advertising “frische Wähen” (fresh pie). Cheese, onion, spinach or fruit, the Swiss people religiously eat their Friday pie, whether they are Catholics or not.
Friday is pie day, and that’s an old Swiss tradition!
Rate my Swiss potato pie recipe
Swiss potato pie
Makes a 32 cm / 12 inch pie
Serves 6 - 8 persons
Preparation: 30 minutes
Refrigerate: at least 30 minutes
200 grams all purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
75 grams cold butter
100 ml cold water
- Sift the flour and salt together into a large mixing bowl. Grate the butter onto the flour, using the coarse blade of a cheese grater. As you grate the butter, mix the flakes together with the flour occasionally, using your fingertips. Crumble with your fingertips until the mixture resembles cornmeal (do not use your whole hands as this would melt the butter). Add the water to the flour mixture and mix well. Using your hand, pull the dough gently together into a ball. Knead lightly and briefly on a floured board until the dough forms a cohesive mass (do not overwork as this will make the dough tough). Pat into a flat round and wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before using.
- Take the dough out the refrigerator and roll it out on a lightly floured surface, just thin enough to be about an inch and a half (3,5 cm) wider than the pan. Drape the dough over the rolling pin and move over to the pre-greased baking pan. Carefully tuck the dough down and flatten it against the pan's bottom and the sides. Trim off excess dough by rolling the rolling pin over the top edge. Prick the bottom of the crust with a fork.
Tip: The crust can be made in advance and refrigerated for several days. I usually make at least 3 portions and freeze the rest for future use (defrost overnight in the refrigerator).
Preparation (not including boiling of the potatoes): 30 minutes
Baking: 30 minutes
600 grams boiled potatoes, peeled (approx. 4 potatoes)
50 grams grated Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon butter
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, pressed
1 small bunch of parsley, finely chopped
1 tablespoon marjoram, finely chopped
- Grate the potatoes using the coarse blade of a cheese grater. Mix in the Parmesan cheese and set aside.
- In a frying pan melt one tablespoon of butter. Add chopped onion and pressed garlic clove and sauté. Add parsley and marjoram and sauté some more. Remove from stove and cool down lightly before adding to the potato cheese mix. Set aside.
100 ml milk
180 grams low fat sour cream
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground pepper
1 pinch nutmeg, grated
150 grams low-fat cottage cheese
- Whisk milk, sour cream, eggs and spices until thoroughly blended. Add cottage cheese.
- Pour over potato mixture and toss until well blended.
- Pour onto pie crust and bake for 30 minutes at 250° C. / 480° F. in bottom half of oven.
- Serve warm. Leftovers can be stored in the refrigerator and reheated.
Don't throw away leftover dough!
I had a little bit of leftover dough and made these two cute little apple pies for dessert. I sprinkled some grated hazlenuts (filberts) on the dough, cut 2 apples into cubes, tossed them in a tablespoon of sugar and a little cinnamon and garnished mine with some raisins.