[PLACE] ZWEISIMMEN | SWITZERLAND | Bündnergerstensuppe (Barley Soup)

We are standing on the stone-paved forecourt in the half shadow of the century-old chalet on Zweisimmen station. A night fall of light snow has shrouded the lower mountain slopes and the rolling meadows.

Cow bells echo in the distance. The Simmental cows are being brought down to be safe and snug from the winter that beckons.

These are not the only portents for the evolving season. In Bäckerie Tea-Room Rio on Montreuxstrasse several hundred metres from the station, bündnergerstensuppe has been put on the menu.

Rio is one of two premises in the town where they make their own bread, cakes, confections and pastries and pay homage to the rustic food of Switzerland. The other, a little further along, is Cafe Pony Pizza, an establishment that is much more than its name. It also serves a full range of Swiss traditional foods.

CafePonyPizzaZwiesimmen
Timeless Treats

A small breakfast in both places will feature the small breads that are common in the Berner Oberland, the soft weggli and the flaky gipfeli. Go to Swiss Breads for the recipes.

Rio is open on a Sunday, when a menu of soup, salad, main course and dessert is offered for a modest price.

When that soup is the Graubünden barley soup that is now served in cafes and restaurants throughout the confederation, it is worth the effort to step in.

One of these days we will bring you the recipe from Rio. In the meantime here are some variations.

 

Gerstensuppe – 1

The barley soup of the mountain cantons, this is the simple version. It is made using a broth from beef or pork bones containing pieces of meat, and is generally served to the sick, after being sieved.
2 litres meat broth
90 g barley
15 g flour
15 ml water

Wash barley thoroughly in several changes of water.

Cook in broth on low heat for three hours, until the barley grains have broken down.

Mix flour and water into a paste, stir into soup 15 minutes before serving.

 

Gerstensuppe – 2

2 litres water
90 g barley
1 bone, large
1 carrot, cubed
1 celery stalk, cubed
1 leek, sliced
1 onion, chopped
25 g fat

Wash barley thoroughly in several changes of water. Dry.

Put the water in a large pot with the bone. Bring to the boil, remove scum.

Sauté barley in fat, add to pot with vegetables, cook on low heat for two hours.

 

Gerstensuppe – 3

 
2 litres water
Ham bone, large
100 g barley, soaked overnight
100 g beans, soaked overnight
2 carrots, cubed
1 celery stalk, cubed
1 leek, sliced
45 g butter
Salt, pinch
Pepper, pinch

Put the water in a large pot with the bone. Bring to the boil, remove scum.

Sauté vegetables in butter, add to pot with barley and beans, cook on low heat for three hours.

 

Gerstensuppe – 4

2 litres water
1 kg pork bones
100 g barley, soaked overnight
100 g beans, soaked overnight
2 carrots, cubed
2 celery stalks, cubed
4 leeks, sliced
Salt, pinch
Pepper, pinch

Put the water in a large pot with the bones. Bring to the boil, remove scum.

Add barley, beans and vegetables, cook on low heat for three hours.

 

Gerstensuppe – 5

2 litres water
500 g pork bones/ribs
200 g bacon piece, cubed
100 g barley, soaked overnight
100 g beans, soaked overnight
100 g kohlrabli, chopped
2 carrots, cubed
2 celery stalks, cubed
2 leeks, sliced
15 g bouillon

Put the water in a large pot with the bones. Bring to the boil, remove scum.

Add bacon, barley, beans and vegetables, cook on low heat for three hours.

 

Gerstensuppe – 6

This is a richer, modern version with less barley.
2 litres water
300 g smoked pork
300 g potatoes (2-3)
200 g beef
200 g carrots (2)
150 g bacon, cubed small 
150 g cabbage leaves, cut into strips
150 g celeriac root, cubed
2 carrots, cubed
2 celery stalks, cubed
1 leek, sliced 
60 g barley, soaked overnight
10 g black pepper
5 g salt

Bring water to the boil, season, add barley followed by the meat. Cover and simmer over a low heat for three hours, until the beef and pork begins to break up.

Add vegetables and cook for a further two hours.

Taste for flavour, add more seasonings if needed.

 

This is an extract from Ice Travel and Snow Food: A Culinary Adventure in Western Switzerland.


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