Swiss Retro Recipe: Riz Casimir

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An easy meal for kids, I’ve created a dairy-free version of a popular Swiss dish from the 1950s: Riz Casimir.

I first discovered Riz Casimir at Zurich’s Hiltl Restaurant in December 2013. When I saw it on the menu, I didn’t realize this curry dish was actually over a half-century old and known throughout Switzerland. Only after trying Hiltl’s vegetarian version did I start noticing this dish in other restaurants and among the prepared meals from Coop and Migros. Finally, after I came across a simple recipe for Riz Casimir in my Swiss cookbook for public schools, Croqu’menus, I decided to try making it myself.

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According to Betty Bossi, Riz Casimir is often mentioned as a favorite dish by people of all ages in Switzerland. The founder of the Mövenpick restaurants, Ueli Prager, developed this recipe in 1952 with ingredients considered exotic for the time: curry, pineapple and banana. Ultimately, it seems Riz Casimir is the Swiss interpretation of Kashmiri Rice, a northern Indian dish.

Instead of using cream, I’ve been making Riz Casimir with coconut milk. I also added a few other ingredients, like fresh garlic and ginger, and some optional toppings, like chopped cashews and cilantro, to give it a little more flavor and texture. My 3-year old isn’t a huge fan of curry, but this is a very mild recipe.

In terms of presentation, I modeled my version after the photo in my Swiss cookbook of a wreath of rice decorated with banana, pineapple and cherries, and the curry nestled in the center. Honestly, it feels a little ridiculous arranging the fruit like this on the platter, but if it helps my finicky kids find it more appealing, I’ll continue to do it!


Riz Casimir

Recipe adapted from Croqu’menus (9th edition, 2005, p. 91).
(dairy-free, egg-free)
Serves 4-5 people

Ingredients:

1-2 teaspoons sunflower or canola oil
2 shallots, finely chopped
1-2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 thumb-sized knob of fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated or chopped
4 chicken breasts, sliced into thin and bite-size pieces
100 ml white wine or allergy-friendly chicken/vegetable broth
250 ml coconut milk
1 tablespoon curry powder
1-2 teaspoons cornstarch
salt, to taste

Optional toppings: chopped cilantro and cashews, pineapple rings and apple slices

Serve with hot basmati rice

Instructions:

1. Heat the oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Saute the shallots, ginger and garlic for a few minutes until tender and fragrant.

2. Cook the chicken for about 5-10 minutes, stirring frequently, until its nearly done. Remove from the pan and set-aside. Add the wine (or chicken/vegetable broth) and simmer for a few minutes.

3. Add the coconut milk and curry powder to the wine in the pan, and whisk it together until well-incorporated.

4. Whisk in the cornstarch and return the chicken to the pan. Simmer for about 5 minutes more until the sauces thickens slightly.

5. Serve immediately with basmati rice and optional toppings.


Food Allergy Clinical Trials in Switzerland

Peanut allergy was in the news again recently, due to a study out of Australia using a treatment that combined probiotics with oral immunotherapy. The study offers some promising results, as 80 percent of the enrolled children could tolerate eating peanut by the end of the clinical trial. At the same time, 45 percent experienced an allergic reaction, which according to Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE) is similar to other studies using oral immunotherapy. If you didn’t see all the media coverage, here are a few links to get you up to speed:

Nuts

When I posted an article about this Australian study on Facebook, someone asked if I knew of any similar clinical trials being conducted in Switzerland. To address this question, I contacted a pediatric allergist working in Geneva via email. He wrote to confirm that no such study is currently being conducted here.

This inquiry made me curious about other food allergy clinical trials in Switzerland, and the pediatric allergist I contacted recommended an online database that’s maintained by the US National Institutes of Health (NIH): ClinicalTrials.gov. When I searched the database, I found three relevant studies that are currently open and recruiting participants. You can click the links in the table below for more information about each individual study.


Food Allergy Clinical Trials Currently Recruiting Participants in Switzerland
Study title Sponsor Types of allergens Estimated completion date Eligible ages
Molecular Analysis of IgE Antibodies in Walnut Allergic Patients University of Zurich Walnut November
2015
1 year to 70 years
Integrated Approaches to Food Allergen and Allergy Risk Management University of Zurich Peanut, hazelnut, walnut or celeriac February
2017
5 years and older
Tree Nuts Allergies: Does a Single Nut Allergy Necessitate the Dietary Eviction of Other Tree Nuts? University Hospital, Geneva Peanut and tree nuts January
2016
12 months to 16 years

Source: Search results obtained on February 16, 2015 from ClinicalTrials.gov for Switzerland when the condition entered was “food allergy.”


Additional resources:

  • For some helpful background information on clinical trials, check out the Frequently Asked Questions prepared by FARE.
  • In the United States, Vanderbilt University maintains ResearchMatch, an online patient registry. FARE and NIH worked together and used ResearchMatch to create a special food allergy sub-registry for patients interested in volunteering for clinical trials.

 

Have you ever participated in a food allergy clinical trial? If you have any experience or advice to share, please leave a comment below. Many thanks!

Special bites: A Zürich “Sweet Studio” with Delicious Gluten-free and Dairy-free Treats

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Elegantly decorated cupcakes, rich double chocolate cookies and cake citron garnished with candied lemon—all made without dairy and gluten by Special bites in Zürich. I had the chance to meet the baker who creates these delicious treats over the weekend, and my family and I are now her biggest fans.

Hungarian-born Timea Megyeri opened Special bites in October 2013 because she wanted to make sure that people avoiding dairy and gluten could still enjoy delicious sweet treats. Her goal is to make high-quality baked goods that taste just as good, if not better, than those made with milk, butter and wheat, for example. With offerings like Bakewell Cake and Victoria Sandwich Cake, Timea has a strong British influence in her baking, as she received her formal training at University College Birmingham.

After admiring her stunning photos of cupcakes and other treats on Facebook for months, I finally placed an order for pick up in Zürich. When I arrived at her commercial kitchen, her brightly lit workspace was immaculate and absolutely free of products containing dairy or gluten. Timea had set out a platter heaped with freshly baked cookies and bars. There was a layered sponge cake with berry filling and some lightly sweetened breakfast cookies, including one with grated carrots, gluten-free oats, agave syrup and raisins. I also had the chance to meet Timea’s boyfriend, Malcom Hett, who serves as her taste-tester and marketing advisera fitting role given his day job working as a global marketing manager.

Special Bites Tea Time

Photo courtesy of Special bites

For my 3-year old son with a milk allergy, it’s not often he gets to eat something that I haven’t made for him—which is why I was so excited to discover Special bites. He can safely eat gluten, so I don’t normally buy gluten-free products, but from my experience in Switzerland, its more common that dairy-free products are also made without gluten. Unfortunately, the few prepackaged cookies like this we’ve bought for him haven’t been very good. However, the photos I kept seeing from Timea made it seem that gluten-free ingredients weren’t holding her back from making really delicious baked goods, so I had to give it a try.

I had such a lovely time chatting with Timea about her baking, it wasn’t long before I realized an hour had passed! My usual snack time routines involve cleaning up spilled soy milk and reading children’s stories, so I enjoyed the opportunity to just sit and talk with someone who really understands how to bake exceptionally well, including for people with food allergies and intolerances. When it was time for me to leave, she bagged up my order of chocolate cookies and lemon cakes in a Special bites tote bag, and I could haven’t been more pleased.

Back at home, both of my sons were thrilled with everything from Special bites. The lemon cake had a great flavor and light icing, without being too sweet (she admitted to actually liking salty things more than sweets, and it’s reflected in her baking). I was especially impressed with the double chocolate cookies—so rich and with a texture almost like a brownie. I had to remind myself they were for my son, so I wouldn’t eat them all!

Double Chocolate Cookies

Double Chocolate Cookies

If you’re living or traveling in Zürich with special dietary needs, I highly recommend Special bites for delicious and elegant dairy-free and gluten-free, as well as vegan and gluten-free, baked goods. We plan on placing another order the next time we’re nearby. You can order products online that can be picked up in Zürich or you can find them at the following:

Eva’s Apples
Weinbergstrasse 168, 8006 Zürich
Phone: 044 363 56 54

Mr. and Mrs. Glutenfree
Forchstrasse 28, 8008 Zürich
Phone: 076 548 43 23

Simply Soup
Hallwylstrasse 24, 8004 Zürich
Phone: 044 554 66 71

Pelikanstrasse 19, 8001 Zürich
Phone: 043 497 22 32

FELFEL (no retail shop; food items delivered to enrolled workplaces)
Grubenstrasse 11, 8045 Zurich
Phone: 043 536 74 51

A big thanks again to Timea Megyeri of Special bites for hosting me and for creating quality products that taste great while catering to the needs of people avoiding dairy and gluten in Switzerland.

Recipe: Magenbrot – Chocolate Gingerbread

‘Tis the season for Christmas markets in Switzerland, and I hope to visit one soon! To date, I’ve strolled through these festive markets in Montreux, Neuchâtel and Zurich. With a steaming mug of vin chaud in my hands, I have to always stop and admire all the sweet Swiss treats. I still have many to try, but one of my favorites is Magenbrot—small cocoa gingerbreads coated with dark chocolate icing.

Christmas market stall - Zurich

Zurich Christmas Market, December 2013

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Onion Market in Bern, November 2013

Magenbrot means “stomach bread” in German. According to Patrimoine Culinaire Suisse, the name developed because the spices and sugar contained in the bread were supposed to aid digestion. Instead of wheat flour, recipes for Magenbrot call for rye flour, which gives the gingerbread a little more texture. You can typically find these at fall festivals in Switzerland, like the Bern Onion Market, and at Christmas markets. Bakeries that make Magenbrot traditionally sell them wrapped in pink paper.


Magenbrot

(dairy-free, egg-free and nut-free)

Recipe adapted from Betty Bossi.

Dry ingredients:
300 grams rye flour
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon salt

Wet ingredients:
125 grams sugar
150 ml rice milk
1 tablespoon kirsch

1. Whisk together the dry ingredients in a large bowl until well-blended.

2. In a separate container, whisk together the wet ingredients and then pour into the large bowl with the flour mixture. Stir until a dough forms.

3. Turn the dough on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Roll with a floured rolling pin until you have a rectangle, about 2 cm thick. Cut the rectangle into about 5 strips of dough with a sharp knife. Please note: The dough will be a bit sticky, so use a little extra flour to help shape it.

Magenbrot dough

4. Bake at 180°C/350°F for about 20 minutes. Let cool slightly on a wire rack. When still warm, cut into pieces, approximately 2 x 4 cm. Let the pieces continue to cool while you prepare the glaze.


Magenbrot Glaze

100 grams allergy-friendly dark chocolate
20 grams dairy-free margarine
100 ml water
250 grams powdered sugar
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon cloves
a pinch of nutmeg
a pinch of salt

1. In a small saucepan over medium heat, mix the first three ingredients together, just until the chocolate is melted and well-blended. Remove from the heat and whisk in the remaining ingredients.

2. Put the cooled Magenbrot in a large bowl and pour the warm glaze over them. Toss them gently in the glaze until well-coated.

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3. Place the Magenbrot on a wire rack to cool and for the glaze to harden. Store in an airtight container.

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I just froze some homemade Magenbrot so my son can have an allergy-friendly treat during our next visit to a Swiss Christmas market. They’re easy to make and highly addictive!

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!

Kugelhopf: The European Bundt

The American Bundt cake was not the first of its kind. Before the Bundt, there were European versions known by many names: Hefe-Gugelhopf, Gugelhupf, Kugelhopf, Kogelhupf, Kougelhopf, Türkenbund, Baba, and Napfkuchen. This fluted cake with a hole in its middle originally came from Austria, but has strong roots in the Alsace region of France. In comparison to a Bundt cake, kugelhopfs seem taller and more narrow.

Having grown up in Minnesota, I’m more familiar with the Bundt cake. Now that I live in Switzerland however, I finally tried making the cake I most often hear referred to as kugelhopf—sans dairy and almonds. These cakes are more commonly seen in the Basel region of Switzerland, but you can find them in bakeries and markets throughout the country.

While Swiss kugelhopfs have traditionally been yeasted cakes, I also see non-yeasted, more Bundt-like cakes as well. For example, when we were in Zurich during the holiday season, Confiserie Sprüngli appeared to have both kinds—delicious baking powder-leavened kugelhopf with chocolate icing alongside yeasted and more bread-like kugelhopf.

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Thanks to my dear mother, I now own Nordic Ware’s version of a kugelhopf pan. After 4 cakes during the last two weeks, I still haven’t mastered the yeasted dough. Thankfully, my husband got some kugelhopf tips from his Alsatian co-worker yesterday, so hopefully I’ll be seeing some improvements soon…

IMG_20140130_174401Kugelhopf #4: Lemon zest, vanilla and raisins

I’m determined to develop a good dairy/nut-free recipe for kugelhopf before the winter is over. If you have any kugelhopf advice for me, please leave a comment below. Bon weekend, everyone!

Zurich Weekend 2013: Allergy-Friendly Restaurants

The weekend before Christmas, our family spent two nights in Zurich. We took in the typical holiday sights, like the crystal-covered Christmas tree at the Zurich main station. We strolled along decorated downtown streets filled with music and holiday shoppers, while keeping warm with our steaming cups of glühwein (or vin chaud in French). It really felt like the holidays. And it was extra special because for the first time in over a year, we ate out as a family at two restaurants.

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Swarovski Christmas Tree, Zurich main station

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Zurich along the Limmat River

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Sweet treats at an outdoor Christmas market

At these Zurich restaurants—when my 2-year old wasn’t running away from the table to find some toys or another new adventure—we had a hot meal together with my in-laws, who were visiting from the United States. The food was safe, and it tasted good. My son didn’t get hives or have any other signs of an allergic reaction. The servers were very helpful, allowed me to read labels and responded fully to my questions.

Restaurant Hiltl

Haus Hiltl
Sihlstrasse 28, 8001 Zurich
+41 44 227 70 00
info@hiltl.ch

As the oldest continuously operating vegetarian restaurant in the world, Hiltl goes out of its way to make sure you know what you’re getting. Check out the “Declaration” section of their website, which has a glossary of acronyms used to identify ingredients on their menus (e.g., “Mi” = milk ingredients and “Ei” = egg ingredients). Recommend to us via Switzerland’s English Forum, Hiltl did not disappoint. We ate there for lunch on Saturday.

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The Hiltl complex: restaurant, cafe, and bar, etc.

Once our food arrived, my son happily tucked into his plate of spaghetti with tomato sauce sans dairy, eggs and almonds. This was a special treat because we didn’t have to cook it ourselves or clean up afterwards. I will never forget this meal. It was so incredibly nice.

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Saturday lunch: Globi spaghetti

Hotel Novotel – Zurich City West

Novotelcafé Restaurant
Schiffbaustrasse 13, Am Turbinenplatz, 8005 Zurich
(+41)44/2762200
H2731@accor.com

We stayed for two nights at the Hotel Novotel. Our family ate breakfast at the restaurant twice, but we packed along food for my son. There’s a Migros close to the hotel, so we could pick up some things like fruit, salami and soy yogurt for him. I also packed along some of my crescent rolls, this time filled with Enjoy Life chocolate.

On Saturday night, we made a reservation at the Novotelcafé Restaurant for 6:00 PM—right when it opened for dinner. As the only ones there, we had the full attention of our server, who was very helpful. She knew all about our son’s allergies in advance of ordering. Our little guy loves fish, and we were happy to find steamed a steamed version on the kids’ menu. He ended up with a very healthy meal of steamed salmon and vegetables. We were very happy with the restaurant and hotel, so we’ll likely stay here again. While not right in the center of Zurich, public transit makes it easily accessible.

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Saturday night dinner: steamed fish and veggies


Dining Out with Food Allergies: Our Approach

Based on these most recent restaurant experiences, here’s my latest 3-pronged approach to dining out with food allergies in Switzerland:

  1. Contact the restaurant in advance:  For me, since I’m still working on my French (and I don’t speak any German or Italian), this means sending an email in advance to the restaurant about my son’s allergies and finding out what meal options they may have.
  2. Make a reservation for when the restaurant isn’t very busy: A busy kitchen could be less likely to accommodate my son. We want to make it as easy as possible for the restaurant to prepare a safe meal.
  3. When you arrive, give a paper copy with notes about your allergies to your server: In Switzerland, I recommend that information about your food allergies be written in the language of the region you’re in (French, German or Italian) and/or English, depending on the restaurant.

How do you manage food allergies at restaurants? I’m always looking for new and better advice, so if you have some to share, please leave a comment below. Also, there are some great tools and resources from Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE).

Finally, if you have any allergy-friendly restaurant recommendations for Switzerland, we want to know! Thanks, and Happy New Year to you all.