Recipe: Irish Soda Bread on the Griddle

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If you crossed an English muffin with elements of a baked pretzel and a fluffy American-style biscuit, then I think you would have something like an Irish soda farl. Unlike baked versions of Irish soda bread I’ve made in the past, the Northern Irish soda farls are cooked on a stove top. With only five ingredients, you can quickly throw these together for breakfast, serve them warm and eat up the whole batch.


Belfast and Bushmills

During our trip to Dublin for the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Meeting 2014, my family and I made time for an excursion to Northern Ireland to see friends and visit Giant’s Causeway.

While we were in Belfast, our dear friends took extra effort to prepare an allergy-friendly dinner for my son, and even helped pack a lunch when we went out the next day. I appreciated this so much. It kept my son from feeling excluded or from limiting what we could do—the two things I always try to avoid when it comes to managing his allergies.

In Bushmills, we stayed at a wonderful self-catering cottage just up the road from Giant’s Causeway. The boys had fun exploring along the scenic coastline, and we especially enjoyed Dunluce Castle and Whiterocks Beach. Also, I’m happy to report we had an excellent meal at a local restaurant two friends had recommended to us: the Bushmills Inn Restaurant. Per my request, the chef prepared steamed veggies and fresh fish cooked in olive oil for my son, which he loved (except for the broccoli, of course).

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The famous hexagonal rock formations at Giant’s Causeway

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The Bushmills Inn Restaurant

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Dunluce Castle

Ulster Fry

My favorite food discovery of the trip is the Ulster Fry—a traditional Northern Irish breakfast with beans, tomato, mushrooms, sausage, bacon, eggs, pudding, soda farls and potato bread. Please keep in mind that the “pudding” is not a sweet and creamy dessert, but rather a coarse beef sausage made with oatmeal and suet. The pudding is either black or white, and both are apparently made with the same ingredients, but the black version gets its color from dried blood powder.

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The Ulster Fry from St. George’s Market in Belfast

If you want to try making a homemade Ulster Fry, here’s a dairy-free recipe for Irish soda farls to get you started. Instead of the buttermilk, I used a mixture of rice milk and vinegar. Soy milk works too, and seems to thicken more with the vinegar, but my family preferred the ones I made with rice milk.


Irish Soda Farls

Recipe adapted from Ita at allrecipes.com.

(dairy/egg/nut-free)

Dry ingredients:
1-1/2 to 1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt

Wet ingredients:
Put 2 teaspoons white vinegar in a measuring cup and then add rice milk until it reaches the 3/4 cup line. (Please note: Here in Switzerland, I use vinaigre de table, since I couldn’t find white vinegar this week.)

1. Whisk together the dry ingredients and make a well in the middle. Pour the wet ingredients into the well and mix together to form a soft dough, adding extra flour as needed.

2. On a well-floured surface, gently knead the dough a few times until it can be rolled into a 8-9 inch (20-23 cm) circle with with a well-floured rolling pin. It should be about 1/2 inch thick (1-1/4 cm). With a sharp knife, cut the dough circle into four quarters.

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3. Over medium heat, cook the four quarters of dough on a frying pan sprinkled generously with flour (I use a cast iron griddle). Cook the soda farls for about 5-10 minutes on each side until lightly browned and firm.

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The secret is out, I’m a very messy cook!

4. Eat the bread while warm, straight off the stove. If you have some left over, try to eat them the same day—either lightly toasted or fried on the stove with some dairy-free margarine. My friend in Belfast says she likes to use them for pizza bases as well.

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Tomorrow, I’m heading to Bern for the aha! Swiss Allergy Center‘s annual award ceremony, thanks to a kind invitation to join in the festivities. I look forward to sharing what I learn during this event!

Allergy-Friendly Restaurants in Switzerland: Seeking Your Recommendations

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Dairy/egg-free meal at Grindelwald’s Hotel Belvedere

During a rare meal out at a restaurant last month, my son raised up his arms and cheered loudly at the table—with a fork in one hand and a knife in the other. He really liked his fish, and was pretty excited about having a meal in a restaurant. Although, I can’t help but wonder if he was just glad to not be eating my cooking! Either way, it was a nice moment on our vacation that I won’t soon forget.

Have you ever been served a delicious allergy-friendly meal, carefully prepared by a restaurant in Switzerland? This most recent meal was at the Hotel Belvedere‘s restaurant in Grindelwald. With a lot of advanced preparation and emails back and forth, my son enjoyed a safe meal made without dairy and eggs. We were all very happy to be there—even though I can never fully relax when my son eats a meal I didn’t prepare myself.

Based on our experiences, and those of others living and traveling with food allergies in Switzerland, I’m constantly adding to my list of allergy-friendly restaurants and accommodations. For example, I just received an email last week with a new restaurant recommendation for Zurich: Widder Restaurant.

If you have places to recommend, please leave a comment below or send me an email. We can learn so much from each other. This information is helpful to our family and for so many others living with food allergies and intolerances. I really appreciate your help!

I’ll be offline for the next two weeks until school starts, as we’re taking a short vacation with family visiting from the United States. As usual, I hope to discover some new Swiss foods while we’re traveling. Thanks to you all for your continued support!

Recipe: Petits Pains for Swiss National Day

Petits Pains

Every year on August 1, Switzerland celebrates Swiss National Day. Here in Suisse romande, we know this holiday as Fête nationale or 1er août. Given the Swiss affinity for bread, it’s not surprising that there’s a special bun prepared for the holiday. Known as August-weggen (German), Pain du 1er août (French) or Panino del 1° agosto (Italian), the small and large versions are cut and baked to look like there’s a Swiss cross on top. They’re typically decorated with a small paper version of the red and white Swiss flag.

This year marks our first time celebrating Fête Nationale in Switzerland. Our first year here, we arrived one day after the celebration on Saturday, August 2, 2012. Now I understand why everything was so quiet the morning we drove from the airport in Zurich to our new home! The Swiss were sleeping in after a day of local celebrations and feasting—traditionally an outdoor brunch at a local farm—and watching fireworks late into the evening.

Instead of heading to a farm for a local brunch on Friday—which would undoubtedly have tables heaped with delicious Swiss cheeses and other milk and egg-filled dishes—we’re choosing to have our own picnic and bonfire at a local park. We’ll be roasting cervalas, often referred to as the Swiss national sausage, as well as marshmallows, to give our celebration an American twist. I’ll also be serving my own version of Petits Pains du 1er août, but mine will be made without dairy.


Rütli Meadow: The Birthplace of Switzerland

To give you some background, Swiss National Day commemorates the founding of Switzerland in 1291. The story goes that the leaders of three cantons—Schwyz, Unterwalden and Uri—came together at the Rütli Meadow to form a strategic alliance. The pact made by these three original cantons ultimately led to the formation of Switzerland and the 26 cantons we know today (there’s a great video from Swissinfo.ch with some beautiful images of Rütli and more detailed info about its history).

We visited the Rütli Meadow earlier this month when we stayed a few nights in Brunnen (as an aside, we had a pleasant stay at the Hotel Schmid & Alfa, which has a few apartments with kitchens, so we could make our own meals). From Brunnen, we took a 10-minute ferry ride across Lake Lucerne to Rütli. During our visit to this historic site with incredible views, only a few other families crossed our path. We had a peaceful time exploring the pristine meadow, seeing happy Swiss cows and having a snack at the picnic area (that’s shown in the video above). If you’re in the vicinity, it’s certainly worth a stop.

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The view from Rütli Meadow

Swiss National Day started in 1891, but it became a federal holiday over a century later in 1994. Also, the Swiss didn’t start making Pain du 1er août until 1959, when it was invented by the Swiss national association for bakers and confectioners. The small version of the buns are very similar to Petits Pains au Lait, except they have a patriotic shape cut into the top.

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Pain du 1er août in a Suisse romande bakery window

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Pain du 1er août (even a chocolate version) at the supermarket


Petits Pains for Swiss National Day

Recipe adapted from one of my favorite Suisse romande bloggers, Delimoon

(dairy/nut-free, can be made without egg)

Makes 8 rolls

500 grams all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
300 ml soy or rice milk,
very warm
7 grams (2 1/4 teaspoons) active dry yeast

60 grams dairy-free margarine, softened
1 egg,
beaten (or 1-2 tablespoons dairy-free margarine, melted and cooled)

1. Whisk together the first three ingredients in a large bowl. Add the softened margarine. Set aside.

2. Add yeast to the warmed soy or rice milk, along with a pinch of sugar. Gently stir and let sit for a few minutes until the yeast has dissolved and the mixture begins to foam slightly.

3. Pour the yeast mixture into the large bowl with the flour mixture and margarine. Stir until a dough forms. Knead the dough for 10 minutes, stopping when it becomes smooth and elastic.

4. Let the dough rise for about 1 to 1-1/2 hours. Punch down the dough and cut into 8 equal pieces. Shape the pieces into round buns and set on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Cover the buns with plastic wrap and let them rise for another 30 minutes.

5. With a pastry brush, gently brush on the egg wash (or melted margarine). Then, using kitchen shears or a very sharp knife, make cuts into the dough that resemble the cross on the Swiss flag.

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6. Bake the buns for 20-30 minutes at 200°C/400°F. Remove and tap the bottoms. If they sound hollow, then they’re done. Place on a wire rack to cool.

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Happy Swiss National Day! We’re looking forward to a 3-day weekend. Thanks so much for visiting my blog. Bon week-end, all!

Saas-Fee and Zermatt with Food Allergies

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The Matterhorn view from Zermatt

With my mother visiting us from the United States, we went on a mini-vacation to the canton of Valais. Along with relaxing in the mountains, we had the ultimate goal of seeing what’s arguably the most famous Swiss peak—the Matterhorn (which I’m embarrassed to admit I didn’t immediately recognize!) As always, my son’s food allergies required us to undertake some additional planning. I’m sharing what we learned, including some restaurant recommendations, in case it might be helpful to others traveling to Saas-Fee and Zermatt.


Saas-Fee: The Pearl of the Alps

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Ski chalets and mountain views in Saas-Fee

In Saas-Fee, we rented an apartment for three nights from the Dom Collection. The kitchen was well-equipped with the basics for cooking allergy-friendly meals. The town also has two well-known Swiss grocery stores that I refer to all the time—Migros and Coop. We were very familiar with the products and could easily find what we needed without having to read lots of new food labels.

For these reasons, we didn’t try eating out with our son at any of the local restaurants in Saas-Fee. Whenever we left the apartment, I always packed along lots of allergy-friendly snacks. These came in handy when we took two cable cars and the world’s highest underground funicular up to see the mountains towering above the Saas valley. Our chaotic crew needed a break, so we stopped in a small coffee shop surrounded by the snowy peaks for a snack. I spread out a small smorgasbord of allergy-friendly baked goods for the little guy that included some of my homemade baked goods—Petits Pains with Bear’s Garlic and glazed Madeleines. I also brought along one of our favorite cookies from the United States that we can’t find here in Switzerland: belVita Golden Oat crunchy breakfast biscuits.

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Allergy-friendly snacks at the coffee shop at the Allalin (3500 m.)

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The view from the three sixty coffee shop at the Allalin


Seeing the Matterhorn from Zermatt

We had two and a half days in Zermatt, and our hopes for a clear day to see the Matterhorn came to fruition, and fittingly on Easter Sunday. To top it all off, we successfully had three delicious meals at hotel restaurants with our food-allergic son. I had contacted these places in advance via email about my son’s allergies (and in English). Thankfully, all wrote back indicating they could prepare a safe meal for him.


Zermatt Youth Hostel

The Zermatt Youth Hostel served as our temporary home, and the staff there were great. While our son skipped the hostel breakfast that’s included in the nightly rate, he ate dinner in the restaurant on our first night there.

I was very impressed because the hostel went out of their way to make sure he could have a safe meal. First, even though the hostel always serves a set menu for dinner, the cook prepared a special dish for my son: a chicken breast sauteed in olive oil in a separate pan. Also, when planning the set menu for the evening, the staff person at the front desk told me they tried to avoid using my son’s allergens in order to reduce the potential risk of cross contamination. For example, instead of a typical Swiss dessert that would likely include milk and eggs and nuts, I noticed they served generous slices of fresh melon. Finally, when I had questions about how the rice and peas were prepared, the cook let me read the label for the vegetable bouillon, so I could double-check that the ingredients were safe.

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Allergy-friendly meal at the Zermatt Youth Hostel

On Sunday morning, the Easter Bunny left treats for the boys in the lobby of the hostel. My dear mother brought along lots of allergy-friendly chocolate and candy from the United States. It made me so happy to see my son get his fill of chocolate bunnies and foil-wrapped chocolate eggs—just like all the other kids.

In my opinion, the Zermatt Youth Hostel did a great job accommodating my son’s food allergies. Also, if your kids like bunk beds as much as ours, this is the place to stay if you’re visiting Zermatt. Plus, the hostel has a more affordable rate when compared to some of the other pricier hotels in town.


Cervo Zermatt

A spectacular view of the Matterhorn, excellent food and a beautiful interior, Cervo Zermatt should not be missed. We had a fabulous lunch there on Easter Sunday, and they pulled together a beautiful allergy-friendly meal for our little guy. Of course, he slept through the meal… So, he enjoyed his fancy meal in the stroller when he woke up on the way back to the hostel. We highly recommend this restaurant.

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Sea bass for Easter lunch at Cervo Zermatt


Parkhotel Beau Site

By the time we got to the historic Parkhotel Beau Site for their Easter Gala dinner, we were all tired and still full from our delicious lunch. The restaurant at the hotel is quite formal, and the gala menu included four separately-served courses, which I knew my two young children would not make it through without a major scene. Thankfully, the kind and patient servers at the hotel allowed us to all order off the À la carte menu. All of us opted out of the gala menu (even though it looked great), and our meals were excellent.

For our son, our server first brought out crudités—carrot and cucumber sticks without any dressing. Then, for his main course, he had Spaghetti Napoli—an allergy-friendly version of pasta and tomato sauce without cheese. He said this was his favorite restaurant meal from the trip!

Overall, the Parkhotel Beau Site is another great option for people dining out with allergies in Zermatt, especially if you’re looking for an elegant and leisurely meal in a more formal setting.

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A beautiful Matterhorn view on Easter Sunday in Zermatt

I’ve updated my list of allergy-friendly Swiss accommodations and restaurants to include the establishments described above. If you have any other suggestions for my lists, please leave a comment below or send an email to dairyfreeswitzerland@gmail.com. Thanks for your help! We can learn so much from each other.

During our trip, I stopped at nearly every bakery I could find! So many delicious Swiss treats to discover, and I’m hoping to share some new recipes soon. Bon week-end, everyone!

Part II: Gâteau aux Noisettes Success

For February vacation week, our family went searching for snow in the Jura mountains of Switzerland. Thankfully, we found it in Le Locle and La-Chaux-de-Fonds. Since 2009, UNESCO has listed both cities as World Heritage sites for their watchmaking history and how it shaped their development. When we came home, the trip had inspired me to finally tackle an allergy-friendly version of a local Neuchâtel specialty: Gâteau aux noisettes (hazelnut cake, but I call it a tart).

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Allergy-Friendly Accommodations

In Le Locle, we stayed in a 2-bedroom apartment in a wonderful old farmhouse outside of town. Relais de La Baume sits on a hillside, surrounded by evergreen trees and snow-covered pastures. Our apartment had a kitchen, so we planned to make all of our meals there. At the same time, I emailed two local restaurants in advance to inquire about allergy-friendly options for my son. I never heard back from one, and the other said they couldn’t guarantee a safe meal for him. While it would have been great to eat out together as a family, we played it safe by buying groceries at the Coop in Le Locle and cooking for ourselves in our well-equipped kitchen.


Neuchatel’s G
âteau aux Noisettes

During our trip, I had the chance to sample yet another gâteau aux noisettes from a bakery in La-Chaux-de-Fonds. I first discovered these hazelnut tarts last year when we visited a well-known bakery in Valangin. These nut-filled tarts traditionally have a thin layer of icing and are a local treat here in the canton of Neuchâtel. They come in all shapes and sizes. You can find similar ones in German-speaking Switzerland, but likely without the icing. In my opinion, they taste best with a strong cup of coffee.

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Hazelnut tart from Interlaken with Rivella, a popular Swiss soda that contains whey

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Gâteau aux noisettes and other baked goods from La-Chaux-de-Fonds

In the canton of Neuchâtel, according to Patrimoine Culinaire Suisse, the gâteau aux noisettes was originally developed in Colombier at Confiserie Zurcher. The bakers started using hazelnuts in the tarts instead of almonds, when they became too expensive during World War I. Yesterday, I finally made it to Zurcher with my 2-year old. We picked up a petite gâteau aux noisettes—the last one in the case.

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Home of Gâteau aux noisettes: Confiserie Zurcher, Colombier

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Gâteau aux noisettes from Confiserie Zurcher

When we got back home, I had the Zurcher gâteau for my second breakfast, while my 2-year old had the allergy-friendly version I made the day before. While shortcrust pastry is more traditional, and what Zurcher uses for their version, my homemade tart used allergy-friendly, pre-made puff pastry. Puff pastry is an acceptable alternative, and one used by the bakery in La-Chaux-de-Fonds. Plus, it’s nice taking a shortcut once in a while with store-bought pastry dough!


Gâteau aux Noisettes

Recipe adapted from the vegan blog, Loetitia Cuisine—another one of my favorites from Switzerland.

(dairy/egg-free)

Makes 1 tart in a 9-inch American-style pie pan or 4 smaller 4-inch tarts.

Dough:
Prepared pâte feuilletée (i.e., puff pastry to fit the specs listed above)
Dairy-free margarine, for greasing the pan/s or line the pans with parchment paper

Filling:
100 grams ground hazelnuts
100 ml rice milk
25 grams brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons corn starch
1 teaspoon vanilla sugar (optional)

Icing:
1/2 cup powdered sugar
3 teaspoons water

1. Lightly grease the pan with dairy-free margarine and lay the puff pastry into it. Press in the pastry dough, and cut away any excess dough. Please note: the pastry dough should only go about halfway up the sides of the pan.

2. Mix together the filling ingredients until well-blended. Pour and spread the filling evenly into the prepared dough in the pan. The filling should roughly be the same height as the edges of the dough.

3. Bake at 180°C/350°F for 30-40 minutes, until the crust has lightly browned and the bottom isn’t soggy.

4. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly. Whisk together icing ingredients and spread a thin layer on the tart while still a little warm.

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My homemade hazelnut tart sans dairy and eggs

My husband just discovered this morning that he has a minor allergy to hazelnuts, among other things, which helps to explain why he’s not a huge fan of this tart! However, if you can tolerate hazelnuts or almonds, this is an easy and satisfying recipe. Bon week-end!

Marathon Weekend in Luzern

Last Friday night after dinner, we hopped on a train to Luzern (German) or Lucerne (French). I ran in the Swiss City Marathon, and we had a great time exploring one of Switzerland’s most beautiful cities.

Once again, we had another weekend away from home without attempting a meal at a restaurant, but that’s primarily because we had a good hostel with a well-equipped kitchen: Backpackers’ Lucerne. Even though someone had kindly recommended Hotel des Alpes as having an allergy-friendly restaurant, we didn’t get the chance to go there. We’ll save it for another trip, as we hope to visit Luzern again soon.

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Luzern’s Chapel Bridge and Water Tower

On Saturday night at the hostel, I made a very basic carbo-loading dinner for my family: pasta with sausage and spinach. When we travel, pasta with jarred tomato sauce is a staple meal, and it worked especially well for this trip. Our hostel didn’t have a restaurant, but there were a few food items for sale in the lobby. We packed along our own soy milk, and thankfully the hostel had a few small boxes of cereal we could safely serve our son for breakfast.

Here are a few more photos from Luzern and the rainy marathon:

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The view across Lake Luzern

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Rainy conditions during the race

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Swiss alphorn performance along the course

Overall, another nice weekend in Switzerland, despite rainy weather. While I had a wonderful cheering squad, I think my family is glad my training schedule will be easing up over the winter months!

As always, if you have any recommendations for allergy-friendly restaurants or accommodations in Switzerland, please leave a comment below or send me an email

Beer and Bretzels (Pretzels)

A cold glass of Swiss beer and a freshly baked bretzel (a.k.a. brezel or pretzel). Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? We enjoyed this pairing over the weekend in Rapperswil at the third annual Craft Bier Festival. My husband is a beer enthusiast, and our trip served as a belated birthday present.

Held in the Rapperswil Castle, the event featured 32 different kinds of beer, along with delicious Swiss bratwurst and bretzel. A typical Swiss street food, you can find bretzels in Brezelkönigs and bäckereien throughout German-speaking Switzerland. However, across the Röstigraben in Suisse-Romande, we see them much less frequently.

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All of us sampled the delicious bretzels at the bier festival, but our 2-year old son did not. We couldn’t be sure they were free of his allergens (milk, egg and almond), and we certainly don’t ever want to take the chance—particularly when traveling. I packed along a separate bag full of allergy-friendly food for our trip, so he never ate anything during our time in Rapperswil that wasn’t prepared or provided by us.

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No Hot Meals in Rapperswil

Before we left for Rapperswil, I emailed a hotel that’s part of a large international chain to inquire about ordering an allergy-friendly meal at their restaurant. My son hasn’t had a hot meal at a restaurant for nearly a year, since we’ve been cautious and hesitant to trust someone else to prepare his food. A large majority of this restaurant’s online menu had items free of his allergens, so I thought it might be a safe option.

While the hotel wrote that its restaurant could prepare a meal free of my son’s allergens, it would be difficult for them to avoid cross-contamination. The one menu item they could safely serve him was french fries. I appreciated the prompt and honest response. It would be challenging for most restaurants, I’m sure, if they aren’t used to preparing allergy-friendly food—particularly if requested to do so during a busy time or without advance notice.

Even though the hotel provided the phone number for the restaurant and said I should contact them directly, I felt like the response did not warrant further investigation. Maybe I should have called to talk with the restaurant, but I was lazy and hoping to find a place that seemed a little more familiar with and willing to accommodate patrons with food allergies. And, I should have contacted more than one restaurant. I will have to try harder next time, especially as it gets closer to winter and an outdoor picnic with homemade sandwiches become less feasible.

For more information, Allergy Eats in the United States has compiled a great list of resources and tips for dining out.

 

Dairy-Free Bretzels

While my son didn’t get to have bretzels at the bier festival, I wanted to make sure he could try a dairy and egg-free version back at home. I’ve always thought homemade pretzels were too time-consuming, but I made them yesterday morning, and they were really quite easy. These will definitely be a new staple recipe in our household. Now I just need to improve my pretzel-shaping technique…

Adapted from Annabelle’s recipe for Riesen-Brezel. Makes 6-8 bretzels.

(dairy/egg/nut-free)

Dough:
1 1/4 cup lukewarm water
1 tablespoon sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons dry yeast
4 cups of flour
4 tablespoons dairy-free margarine, softened
2 teaspoons salt
olive oil for greasing

Boiling solution:
4 1/4 cups water
9 tablespoons baking soda

Toppings:
Coarse salt (or sesame, poppy, etc.)

Dough: In a large bowl, mix together water, sugar and yeast. Let stand about 8-10 minutes until it foams. Add flour, margarine and salt and stir together until dough forms. Knead for about 5-10 minutes until the dough become smooth and elastic. Cover and let rise at room temperature for about an hour, until doubled in size.

Boiling: Boil the water and baking soda in a large pan. Cover baking sheet/s with parchment paper and grease them with oil. Divide the dough into 6 to 8 pieces. Pull out long strands and form into pretzels, put onto greased paper.

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Place each pretzel in the boiling water for approximately 30 seconds, remove with a slotted spoon, and place them back on the same greased and paper-lined baking sheet. Sprinkle with selected toppings.

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Bake for 12-15 minutes at 225°C/450°F. Best served warm.

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Finding a safe place to eat when traveling with food allergies can be challenging, and the following are resources to try and help make it easier.

  • For Switzerland, you can check out my growing list of allergy-friendly restaurants. If you have other suggestions for Switzerland, please leave a comment below or email me at dairyfreeswitzerland@gmail.com.
  • For the United States, check out AllergyEats, a great online guide to allergy-friendly restaurants, and you can share your own reviews.

Swiss Bread: Valaisan Pain de Seigle

Our latest Swiss adventure happened last weekend in the canton of Valais. My brother-in-law’s invitation to run in the Sierre-Zinal race led us there, along with a great vacation rental with a kitchen that we found via airbnb.com. Known as one of Europe’s premier trail races, the Sierre-Zinal celebrated its 40th anniversary this year. So, we packed up the family and hit the road in a rental car, ready to explore the Val d’Anniviers, cheer on all the runners and enjoy some traditional Valasian rye bread.


Arriving in Grimentz

The quiet village of Grimentz served as our base for exploring around the valley. We took a narrow and windy road with lots of switchbacks up from Sierre. Squished in the middle between the boys and their enormous car seats, I felt a bit nauseous by the time we arrived. Luckily, the beautiful scenery made it worthwhile—mountain views, historic sun-weathered granaries and tons of window boxes filled with brilliant red geraniums.

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Rye Bread from Valais

Our first morning in Grimentz, I picked up a loaf of rye bread or pain de seigle at one of the two local bakeries we visited. Throughout Switzerland, with its several hundred bread varieties, the Valaisan rye bread is the only one that can use the AOP label (appellation d’origine protégée or protected designation of origin). Bread adorned with this label must be made with rye flour grown, milled and processed in Valais.

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I brought the rye bread with us to the playground in Grimentz, along with some other sweet pastries from the bakeries. After I photographed the bread on a picnic table while the kids were playing, I tried to rip off a hunk to try it. The bread was so dry and dense, I almost couldn’t tear it apart. After several tries, I wrestled off a small piece, took a bite and found myself chewing for a while. The taste was great, but I really needed a hot beverage, bowl of soup or a lot of jam to really enjoy it.

Before we left town, my husband picked up a bag of the traditional Valaisan rye flour, so I could trying making it at home. The tourist office in Grimentz sells the flour and has copies of the recipe to share. I was pleased to see the traditional recipe was dairy, egg and nut-free—although it can be made with nuts, raisins, dried apricots, cumin or other ingredients.

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“The farmers, bakers and millers of Grimentz wish you all enjoyment in making and tasting your own rye bread.” –From the Grimentz office of tourism

The bread was extremely easy to make, but with a 12-hour rising time, you have to be patient. My version was a little softer, but I actually prefer it that way. I’ll have to try making this again with rye flour from the grocery store to see how it compares. For now, we’re enjoying our AOP-like bread with dairy-free margarine and raspberry jam for breakfast.

 

Grimentzard Rye Bread

(dairy/egg/nut-free)

1 kg rye flour from the mill
750 ml cold water
20 grams gfresh yeast
30 grams salt

1. Knead all the ingredients well for at least 15 minutes. Let the dough rise in a large bowl somewhere cool for 12 hours.

2. When the dough has doubled in volume, make it into a ball and roll it in flour. Let the dough rise and settle so the surface becomes cracked.

3. Bake for about an hour at 240°C/475°F. Wait until it cools completely to eat it. Store the bread in a paper bag.

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I’m always looking for traditional Swiss recipes I can make at home, especially those sans dairy, eggs and nuts. If you have any to share, please leave a comment below or email me at dairyfreeswitzerland@gmail.com. Thanks, and bon week-end!

Interlaken Weekend

With the school year finished, we spent the weekend exploring Interlaken with my husband’s parents. Known as one of Switzerland’s major vacation destinations, Interlaken has been a tourist haven for centuries. I think we heard more English spoken over the weekend than we had since our arrival to Switzerland last August. I don’t have any allergy-friendly restaurant recommendations this time, but we did find a decent place to stay in a great location.


Hostel Stay with a Kitchen

Our hostel in Interlaken had a kitchen available for guests’ use. Our rooms in the guesthouse also had their own shared kitchen, along with access to the main kitchen downstairs. Having a kitchen when we travel allows us to prepare our own meals, so we can be absolutely certain we’re serving safe meals to our food-allergic son. Located within walking distance of public transportation and grocery stores, it also had a great view of the Jungfrau up the street.

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Overall, we had a great stay at the hostel. The staff were extremely helpful. For those meals we made ourselves, we could use the kitchen downstairs, while also being able to order off the restaurant menu. Plus, our boys loved the foosball and ping pong tables indoors and the chess game and lawn area for chasing around outdoors. The other guests were friendly and nice. The place had a comfortable atmosphere.

A few things to consider, if you’re planning to stay at the hostel though… A shared kitchen can be challenging, especially if you have untidy neighbors. My husband was planning to make pasta in the kitchen adjoining our room, but discovered it full of leftover eggy breakfast dishes from our neighbors. This wasn’t the hostel’s fault of course, and when he mentioned it at the front desk, they left a note with the guilty party. The dishes were cleaned up by dinnertime.

Also, there’s a nightclub onsite in the basement. When I had read the hostel’s description online beforehand, I somehow missed this. Our family can sleep through almost everything, so the noisy drunken club scene didn’t bother us. I can’t say the same for my in-laws though, who didn’t sleep very well (or at all, in the case of my father-in-law). Not only that, our room was right on the street, and every tractor that drove by felt like a loud boom of thunder right outside our windows. Again, somehow our little guys slept right through it, but if you’re a light sleeper, I wouldn’t recommend staying on the street.


Lunch at Harder Kulm

On Sunday morning before we left town, we took an 8-minute funicular ride up to Harder-Kulm. At the summit you’ll find an historic, pavilion-style restaurant. Our two-year old happily ate his leftover pasta, dried beef, grapes and Oreos that we packed along in a small cooler, while the rest of us had the local beer, bread and bratwurst from the outdoor food stand. The view of the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau really was incredible, and it was great being able to share it with the visiting grandparents.

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Summer vacation is officially here! If you have recommendations for allergy-friendly Swiss restaurants or accommodations, especially hotels and apartments with kitchens, please leave a comment below or email me at dairyfreeswitzerland@gmail.com.  

Traveling with Food Allergies in Paris

Last night, we returned home from our family trip to Paris. For our first visit to the City of Lights, we managed to squeeze in many of the major sightseeing landmarks, including the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, Arc de Triomphe and Louvre (luckily, we got there before the temporary shutdown!). I even celebrated my birthday during the trip, thanks to my husband’s thoughtful planning.

Chasing the boys around the Louvre

Chasing the boys around the Louvre

During our trip, we stayed at a great apartment I found via airbnb. Located right across from the Louvre, we prepared all of our food-allergic son’s meals there in our small Parisian kitchen.

Another great find was baby’tems, a Paris-based company that rents out baby equipment like portable cribs and high chairs. Baby’tems delivered the equipment right to our apartment, saving us from hauling the stuff ourselves. It was easy placing the order, and the crib and booster seat were immaculate—so no crazy worries about milk residue or egg-based pastry crumbs. If you’re looking for short-term baby stuff in Paris, this is a great option.

Allergy-Friendly Food in Paris

I did some baking the night before we left—pumpkin bread and lemon-hazelnut sugar cookies (I happened to see this ridiculous “Hey Girl” version circulating on Facebook as I was baking!). We packed our lunch and lots of snacks for the 4-hour ride from Switzerland to Paris.

My husband also contacted a few vegan restaurants in advance of our arrival. Although they said it was possible to accommodate my son’s food allergies, the timing never seemed to mesh with our sightseeing and sleeping schedules. So, we unfortunately never tried them out. Given the age of our son (22 months) and his multiple food allergies, cooking and eating in our temporary Paris apartment just seemed easier… and less stressful.

Of course, you can find small markets and grocery stores nearly everywhere in Paris, so we had little difficulty tracking down allergy-friendly foods. In particular, Le Grande Epicerie at Le Bon Marche had an amazing selection of products. I wish I had more time to explore it (and read labels)!

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Afternoon snack: blueberries, mango and knacks

When we’re together as a family, we all typically follow the same allergy-friendly diet—even though my youngest is the only one with food allergies. So, when our little guy napped in the afternoon, the rest of us took turns exploring Paris and its various boulangeries, restaurants and cafes. Between the three of us, we sampled lots of non-allergy-friends foods, including a raspberry tart, delicious macarons, ice cream, crêpes with Nutella and pain au chocolat, among other treats. My personal favorites were the baguette and éclairs (chocolate and speculoos, a kind of gingerbread-like cookie) that my husband picked up at a boulangerie previously recognized among the Top 10 of the Paris “grand prix de la baguette.”

Tarte framboises (left), and macarons from Pierre Hermé

Tarte framboises (left), and macarons from Pierre Hermé (right)

Overall, we had a truly amazing trip to Paris. When I asked my 5-year old what he liked best, he told me the park across the street (Jardin des Tuileries), the Museum of Natural History’s Galeries de Paléontologie et d’Anatomie and the TV channels (he really liked watching the Pink Panther). His younger brother won’t remember the trip at all, but we have great memories of spending time together as a family in Paris—without letting food allergies limit our experiences.

Our son’s baked egg food challenge is tomorrow. I’m hoping for the best possible outcome. And, don’t forget it’s World Allergy Week! I’ll have more news and info soon, on both topics…