Recipe: Swiss Comfort Food—Benedictine Stew from Einsiedeln Abbey

benedictine stew

Public schools don’t provide lunch here in Switzerland, as I’ve mentioned before. Kids either go home for lunch or to a grandparents house, for example, or they participate in an offsite parascolaire program. These programs in our Swiss city pick up kids from school at 11:40 AM, feed them and then bring them back to school by 1:45 PM.

Since I’m still working as a mère au foyer (i.e., stay-at-home mom), my son comes home for lunch. With a fixed amount of time to get him fed and returned to school, I find myself needing to do some meal prep in advance. This way, our time together isn’t too rushed (i.e., I keep my cool and don’t yell as much!), and he’s not late getting back to class.

This week, I wanted to share a very Swiss recipe from the canton of Schwyz that I’ve adapted to be dairy-free: Benediktinereintopf Kloster Einsiedeln (Benedictine Stew from Einsiedeln Abbey). It’s a hearty Swiss-style meal that can be made relatively quickly, with a little chopping done beforehand. So far, I’ve served it with mashed potatoes (which most of us prefer) and elbow macaroni (which my son with food allergies prefers). Surprisingly, it’s a dairy-free cheese that makes this dish work!

Einsiedeln Abbey

Our family visited the Einsiedeln Abbey this summer, where the Benedictine Stew apparently originated, but the torrents of rain prevented us from having a leisurely visit. We still enjoyed our time there, but I would love to return someday during the holiday season for the town’s famed Christmas market, as the Abbey makes a dramatic backdrop to the festive stalls of craft makers and food vendors.

Einsiedeln Abbey front

Einsiedeln Abbey in the pouring rain, July 2014

The current Monastery and Abbey Church in Einsiedeln were constructed in the 18th century, but religious pilgrims have been visiting this site for over a thousand years. The courtyard include stables for the historic Einsiedeln breed of horses. The boys would have loved seeing them, but it was raining so hard that day, none of us wanted to venture out across the courtyard!

Einsiedeln Abbey interior

Courtyard of the Einsiedeln Abbey; stables in the background

Back home after our trip, I came across the Benedictine Stew recipe in my Betty Bossi cookbook. Other than it being from the Einsiedeln Abbey, I haven’t learned much else about this Swiss dish. Although, I saw the Jewish Museum Berlin has a recipe online for a cheese soup served at the Abbey on “minor fasting days,” with leeks as a suggested addition. If you know anything else about the Benedictine Stew, please let me know!

The Betty Bossi recipe calls for a soft cheese with herbs, like Boursin. Instead, I substituted a dairy-free alternative: CreamyRisella, a soft Italian cheese made from brown rice. For the herbs, I just added some fresh tarragon. If you can use real cheese in this recipe, you should! However, if you’re like us and need to avoid milk-based products because of an allergy, CreamyRisella is a very good alternative.

Benedictine stew ingredients

Benedictine Stew

Recipe adapted from Betty Bossi’s “The Swiss Cookbook” (Zurich, 2010).


400 grams ground beef
1-2 tablespoons dairy-free margarine
400 grams leeks, cuts into thin strips lengthwise (or into rounds—it’s easier and tastes the same!)
3 small onions, finely chopped
500 ml vegetable broth
200 grams CreamyRisella (or another very soft dairy-free cheese)
1 tablespoons finely chopped fresh tarragon


1. Brown the ground beef in a large pan. Remove the beef and set aside. Drain the fat from the pan.

2. Add 1-2 tablespoons of dairy-free margarine to the same pan, and sweat the leeks and onions slowly for about 5-10 minutes over medium heat.

3. Pour the vegetable broth over the leeks and return the ground beef to the pan. Bring to a boil, and then reduce the heat. Cover and simmer for about 15 minutes.

4. Stir in the CreamyRisella (or other cheese substitute) and tarragon, over medium heat, until both are fully incorporated and the dish is heated throughout. Serve immediately over your choice of an accompaniment: allergy-friendly boiled or mashed potatoes or elbow macaroni.

Benedictine Stew 2
The Swiss holiday, Jeûne Fédéral, is this weekend, so I’ll be making a Tarte aux Pruneaux to celebrate. Bon week-end, everyone!


An Old Favorite: Bangladeshi Meat Patties

Hand pies made with ground meat—one of my favorite kinds of food. So many variations created by different cultures throughout the world, including two recipes I’ve already shared: Jamie Oliver’s Sher Ping Pancakes and empanadas. I love these recipes because you can make them in advance (i.e., during naptime). Plus, when we’re traveling, they’re a good alternative to a cold (but, equally delicious) Bündnerfleisch sandwich. It’s easy to throw a few meat pies in a small cooler bag that I can reheat later in a hotel microwave.

Today’s meat pie version—dairy, egg and nut-free—comes from Bangladesh. Years ago, I attended a dinner party in Western Massachusetts that featured a huge feast of home-cooked Bangladeshi foods. Afterwards, the generous hostess shared her recipe with me for meat patties, a very popular Bangladeshi snack eaten throughout the year. Typically served with hot sauce or ketchup, she told me you can use any kind of meat, including shrimp or vegetables, as filling.

I’ve been making these since before my boys were born, and now that I’ve found allergy-friendly puff pastry in Switzerland, they’re back in regular rotation.


At Coop, along with the pre-made pastry crust, I’ve also been using its ultra-convenient and allergy-friendly puff pastry—“Blätterteig” (in German) or “Pâte feuilletée” (in French). It contains gluten, but the allergy label doesn’t list milk, eggs or nuts, so it’s safe for my son.


Last week on the Great British Bake-Off—my latest TV obsession from the UK—the contestants made their own puff pastry. I didn’t even realize people actually made this stuff themselves? I love homemade baked goods, but after watching them roll out sheets and sheets of paper-thin dough, I just don’t think I’ll ever have the patience for making puff pastry.

Thankfully, Coop’s version works perfectly well for Bangladeshi meat patties, which we had yesterday at lunchtime with salad, roasted chickpeas and red grapes.


Meat Patties

Special thanks to our friend for sharing this recipe, which I’ve adapted slightly. Makes about 10-12 patties.


Sautéed onions:
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon vegetable or canola oil

Beef mixture, Part 1:
1 lb. or 1/2 kilogram ground beef
1 cup of water
2 cinnamon sticks
1 tablespoon of vegetable or canola oil
2 teaspoons cardamom
1 tsp. ginger, freshly grated
1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon coriander
A pinch of red chili powder

Beef mixture, Part 2:
1 handful of fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
1-2 tablespoons of flour
Salt and pepper, to taste

Puff pastry:
640 grams puff pastry

1. In a large pan, add 1 tablespoon of the oil and sauté the onion until soft and transparent.

2. Mix together the ingredients for Part 1 of the beef mixture in a large bowl, and then add to the large pan with the onions. Cook over medium-high heat until all the liquid has evaporated, about 5-10 minutes.

3. Add fresh cilantro, flour and salt and pepper to the beef mixture and stir until well-blended. Cool the mixture slightly.

4 .Unroll the puff pastry and cut into squares. Place the square onto an oiled baking sheet. Fill the center of the square with about 1-2 tablespoons of the slightly cooled beef mixture. Fold a corner to the opposite side, to create a triangle. Seal the edges by pressing on the dough with oiled fingers. Coat the tops of the patties with a little oil (or egg white, if you can).


5. Bake in a preheated oven for 25-30 minutes at 190°C/375°F until golden brown. Serve with hot sauce.



I’m working on a British baked good, hopefully for Friday’s post… Have a great week, and thanks for visiting my blog!

Super Quick: Japanese-Style Hamburger Steaks

More than 10 years ago, my husband and I spent a year living and working in Japan—before we were married and before we had kids. Many of my fondest memories from this time involve food. Homemade buckwheat soba noodles and steaming bowls of ramen in our favorite local restaurants. Street food, like takoyaki made with octopus and sprinkled with dried fish flakes. Japanese beer and edamame at an izakaya with friends after work. Eating whole fish cooked in an irori at Tsurunoyu Onsen. Onigiri at the summit of Mount Fuji. And so many more…

Cherry blossom viewing season near Mount Iwate

Hanami (cherry blossom viewing) near Mount Iwate in Japan, spring of 2001

One meal in particular from Japan has become one of my staple dinner recipes here in Switzerland: hamburger steaks. This is a good everyday and allergy-friendly meal, and both my kids love it. Plus, it’s quick to make, and the patties and sauce could be prepared ahead of time.


Japanese-Style Hamburger Steaks

Adapted from NHK World’s Dining with the Chef

Serves 2-4

For the hamburger steaks:
About a half pound (1/3 kilogram) of ground beef
1/3 cup onion, finely chopped
1/4 cup firm tofu, finely shredded or crumbled*
1/4 cup dairy/egg/nut-free bread crumbs or panko
3 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
A pinch of salt
A pinch of pepper

For the sauce:
Scant 1/4 cup of sake**
Scant 1/4 cup of mirin
1 tablespoon sugar
2 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce

1. Put all the ingredients for the steaks into a bowl and mix together with your hands. Form into about 5 rounded patties.

2. Whisk together the sauce ingredients in a glass measuring cup or small bowl.

Dairy-Free Switzerland7

3. Heat a skillet to medium-high heat and cook the patties until browned on one side. Flip the patties and brown on the opposite side.

4. Pour in the sauce around the hamburgers and bring to a boil. Spoon the sauce over the burgers while they finish cooking. Serve warm and garnish with grated daikon.


*My Swiss tofu is very dry, so I use a grater to finely shred it for this recipe. In general, use a firm tofu and be sure to drain excess water.

**If you can easily find sake, please use it. However, I’ve substituted white wine and even a light beer, when necessary (Shhh! Don’t tell anyone!).


I need to stop baking cakes and focus on quick, healthy recipes like this one. More to come in my “Super Quick” series, but I’ll likely have some new sweet stuff too…

Lazy Sunday Spaghetti and Meatballs

We had another lazy Sunday at our home yesterday, and I made spaghetti and meatballs for lunch. There’s an Italian restaurant in our building, but all their pasta contains eggs. I always want to stop in and pick up some cheesy ravioli. It would be so convenient and delicious, but instead, we enjoy allergy-friendly pasta at home. It’s easier, safer and cheaper. Plus, our food-allergic son is 19-months old, so we couldn’t linger over lunch anyway. Mealtime is usually quick and dirty—food all over the table, floor, etc.

My egg and dairy-free meatball recipe below is not fancy. It’s for every day. You can use them right away or throw them in the freezer. I sautéed about 3 cups of spinach with a tablespoon of olive oil, added 3 jars of prepared Barilla pasta sauce (400 grams each) and tossed in the meatballs. Then, I served it over a bowl of spaghetti from Coop, and everyone was happy.

DSC07240The ingredients. Prepared pasta sauce saves time.

Baked Egg/Dairy-Free Meatballs


I adapted this recipe from my favorite Betty Crocker cookbook, using flax meal with water instead of egg. I’m interested in hearing what others use as a substitution for eggs. For the bread crumbs, I grated some leftover and very dry bread.


About 1/2 kilogram or 1 lb. of ground beef
1/2 cup dry bread crumbs or panko
1/4 cup rice milk
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 small onion (1/4 cup)
1 tablespoon flax meal mixed with 3 tablespoons water; let set for a few minutes

1. Heat oven to 200°C/400°F. Mix all ingredients together; I recommend using your hands. Form into 20 meatballs.

2. Place on an ungreased pan. Bake uncovered for about 20-25 minutes.



An Afternoon Walk

After lunch, like we do on most Sundays, we took a family walk—or what our lovely Swiss neighbors refer to as a “promenade.” Nearly everything is closed, as I’ve mentioned many times before, so we head out to a local playground with the boys or find a hiking trail in the mountains. According to Newly Swissed, hiking is Switzerland’s “real national sport.”


We packed along some water and snacks, and yesterday’s excursion included homemade cookies. I just adapted my favorite Snickerdoodle recipe, replacing the eggs with a flax meal and water mixture. Next time, I’ll try making these: Chai Spice Snickerdoodles from Post Punk Kitchen.

Hope you all had a great weekend. We’re heading back to the allergist this week and keeping our fingers crossed for some more good news…