Tag: Cholera

European Comfort Food | Potato Pies


Potatoes epitomise the rural relationship with food throughout northern and central Europe, but rarely are they combined with anything more than cheese, eggs, fish, meat and milk, especially in pies, which tend to be a marriage with meat and their juices or with the mountain cheese. So why wouldn’t you make a potato pie with the fruits of the forest or the fruits of the orchard?

In Terchová in Slovakia the potato pie is a cake that combines the savoury with the sweet, with berries and nuts. In the Wallis in Switzerland the potato pie contains apples and pears as well as cheese. In Lancashire in England the potato pie is a variation of the traditional Irish mutton stew encased in pastry.


Terchovej Zemiakový Koláč
potato cake of Terchová

The Terchová region in Slovakia is reknown for its local produce. This potato cake makes use of indigenous ingredients, and the choice is personal. We have adapted a recipe from the 2003 book of old recipes by Cabadaj and Cross.


550 g flour 
400 g potatoes, boiled in skins
250 g blueberry / raspberry jamSlovakPotatoCake-lowres
150 g sugar
100 g almonds / walnuts, ground
100 g pork fat / sunflower oil
1 egg
30 g vanilla sugar
15 g yeast
Salt, large pinch
Butter, for greasing
Sugar, for finish
Water, for finish


Rub the potato and fat or oil into the flour. Beat the yeast into the egg, leave for 15 minutes, add to the mixture followed by the sugar and salt. Knead the dough, leave for an hour, degas, divide into two equal pieces. On a floured board roll each piece out to the size of a large round baking tin. Grease tin, place first piece of dough in the bottom, even out, and spread with jam. Sprinkle choice of ground nuts and vanilla sugar on top of jam, cover with the second piece of dough. Pierce surface of cake. Bake in a 180ºC oven for 45 minutes, until the cake is brown. Finish with water and a sprinkling of sugar. Leave to cool.


Zemiakový Koláč
potato pie

This traditional cheese and potato pie has gone through so many variations it now resembles the quiche of eastern France and western Germany or the borek of the Balkans, made with the relevant cheeses. Traditionally this pie was filled with bryndza, the mountain cheese, encased in a milkly yeast dough. For a softer filling cream was used instead of butter.


550 g flour
300 ml milk, warmed
45 g pork fat
20 g yeast
5 g salt
5 g sugar
Pork fat / lard, for dressing
600 g potatoes, cooked, skinned, mashed
400 g bryndza, crumbled
30-60 g sour cream (45 g butter)
Black pepper, large pinch
Salt, pinch


Dissolve yeast in the warm milk and a teaspoon of sugar, whisk. Add salt to the flour and rub in the pork fat (or lard). Pour in the milk and yeast mixture. Knead into a smooth dough, leave to rise for an hour. Combine the cheee and potatoes with the cream or butter and seasonings. Divide dough into two equal pieces, roll out on a floured surface into thin sheet to fit choice of baking tray. Greased tray, fold in the first sheet, cover with filling, top with remaining dough sheet. Melt a tablespoon of fat or lard and brush surface of dough. Pierce surface with fork. Bake at 180°C for 45 minutes.


apple, cheese, pear, potato pie

The 1830s were difficult for the people of the hidden Swiss valleys. Cholera swept across the land, confining people to their homes, where they relied on the stable foods of the land. Out of adversity a traditional dish emerged and survives today.


500 g puff pastry
400 g potatoes, boiled whole, peeled, sliced 
400 g raclette cheese, sliced
250 g Gala apples, sliced
250 g Bosc pears, sliced
150 g leeks, halved, sliced, braised in butter 
Egg for glaze
Nutmeg, grated


Preheat oven to 215°C.

Cover the base and sides of a cake tin with pastry.

Prick the base lightly with a fork. Layer evenly with apple followed by the potato, leeks and onions.

Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg.

Lay cheese on top, then a pastry lid, press edges of pastry together, prick lightly with a fork in several places.

Brush with egg and bake for an hour.

The traditional Gommer Cholera contained equal amounts of apple, cabbage and potato, half the amount of cheese, and was baked using a plain pastry dough.


Meat and Potato Pie with Peppered Hot Pastry Crust

Meat and potato pies are a traditional dish of northern England, especially the counties of Cheshire, Lancashire and Yorkshire, where the combination has always formed the basis for a hearty meal. Packed in a pastry it becomes portable.

These pies have never been a home-baked product, largely because they have always been ubiquitous in the cafe and chip shop culture of north-west England, Holland’s version being the most popular of the mass-produced brands.

Made with beef, potato and yeast extract in a shortcrust pastry, Holland’s meat and potato pies are also synonymous with sporting events.

Meat and potato pies, as they are known today, began as a workhouse product, are probably related to Irish mutton pies, and were hardly known as a recipe in cookbooks.


1 kg potatoes, peeled, quartered
750 g lamb, cut into 2 cubes
750 g onions, chopped
30 g black pepper, freshly ground
25 g salt


This is essentially an Irish stew recipe. The quantity is much more than you will need for the filling.

Arrange lamb in the bottom of a large pot, turn heat to medium and allow fat to run out of the bones.

Stack potatoes on top of the lamb, then the onions and seasoning, more pepper than salt.

Fill the pot with water, three-quarters up to the level of the onions, bring to the boil.

Cover, turn heat to lowest setting and cook for three hours.

The result should be a thick meat and potato stew, with the onions completely melted.


450 g strong white flour
150 ml water
125 g lard
10 g pepper
10 g salt
5 g icing sugar


Bring the lard and water to the boil.

Sieve flour and salt into a large bowl, add pepper and sugar.

Pour the hot liquid into a well in the centre of the flour, and using a sturdy wooden spoon quickly form into a soft dough.

Divide dough into eight equal pieces (approximately 90 g each), cut again – two thirds for the base, one third for the lid.

Push the dough into the bottom and sides of small deep pie tins, diameter 8 cms.

Preheat oven to 220°C.

Pack the tins with the filling, roll the remaining dough out, place over the top of the filling, crimping the edges. Pierce a hole in the centre of the lid.

Reduce oven temperature to 180°C, bake for 90 minutes.


Fish and Potato Pie

Always thought of as a fish pie rather than a potato pie, this traditional dish combined ingredients that have always come together. Baking the fish in a cheese sauce topped with mashed potato and grated cheese made this dish a meal instead of a snack.


1 kg assorted smoked and unsmoked fish fillets, 
fresh or frozen, cut into bite sized pieces
1 kg potatoes, cooked, riced
600 ml milk
200 g mature melting cheese, grated
40 g butter
40 g flour
25 g parsley, chopped
15 g black pepper, freshly ground


Make a light roux. Remove pan from heat, whisk milk a little at a time into the mixture. Back on the heat bring to the boil stirring constantly. Turn heat to low, stir in half the cheese.

Add parsley and pepper, allow to cool.

Preheat oven to 200°C.

Arrange fish in ovenproof dish, pour sauce over fish and finish with potato and remaining cheese.

Bake for 45 minutes until crisp and golden, and piping hot in the middle.


Ingredient | Potato

Domesticated and cultivated in the highlands of Peru thousands of years ago, the potato (papa to the Incas) made its appearance in Europe with the Spanish in the 16th century (1539), quickly spreading throughout western and northern Europe to become a field crop despite resistance from the peasantry in Germany and Russia, where potato production would eventually become the highest in Europe and the world.

The tradition of boiling potatoes whole in their skins and serving them with butter or buttermilk is gradually dying out. A dish made from mashed potatoes and buttermilk was called THE STIFFNER in the west of Ireland, but it is now a rare sight on a plate. PURÉE DE POMMES DE TERRE, baked potato mashed with butter and milk, is hardly seen anymore.

ROAST POTATOES have managed to survive, largely as an accompaniment to roast meat dinners in Britain. In eastern Europe and Russia potatoes were boiled and roasted in animal fats – goose, duck, etc – a tradition that is still holding out, despite health concerns.

MASHED or PUREED POTATOES remain popular. You can still go into a shop in south London and order a plate of JELLIED EEL or PIE, POTATO MASH and PARSLEY SAUCE. Mashed potatoes and carrots, and spiced with nutmeg, called STOEMP in the Netherlands and Belgium, is a clever interpretation of an early food tradition brought into the region by the Spanish. In Ireland kale and potatoes are mashed together to make COLCANNON. The potato and garbanzo (chickpea) pate called TOPIK made in Armenia is having a makeover.

They were added to stews and soups. IRISH STEW, initially with mutton, potatoes and onions, now with lamb, potatoes, onions and seasonings, has also survived the test of time. In the Alpine regions of Austria and Italy BOZNER HERRENGRÖSTL, a potato and veal stew, has done the same. Less so in Scotland with STOVIES, a stew made with potatoes and onions and leftover meat.

SODD is a spicy meat and potato soup in Norway. Potato is an essential ingredient in SEAFOOD CHOWDER. KÄSE UND KARTOFFEL SUPPE is always on the menu in Germany and neighbouring countries. In Scotland CULLEN SKINK is smoked haddock, potato and onion soup.

MEAT and POTATO PIES are not as popular as they once were in the north of England because the recipe is being lost with the generations. In Slovenia they make a wonderful potato pasty called IDRIJSKI ZLIKROFI. And back in England the CORNISH PASTY, made with beef, onion, potato and swede, is managing to hold its own against fast-food competition. Potato is a main ingredient in the Swiss mountain dish called CHOLERA, which also contains apples or pears, cheese and onions.

FRENCH FRIES, aka CHIPS, appeared on Paris streets in the mid-19th century and soon became synonymous with street fried fish.

In England the two were combined to become FISH AND CHIPS.

In Switzerland the tradition of grating raw potatoes and baking them on hot griddles to make RÖSTI can be traced to the Zurich region in the 17th century. MALUNS are toasted potato lumps in Switzerland, served for breakfast.

In Italy they were prepared pureed with flour and blanched in hot water to make GNOCCHI. Potato dumplings are still popular in northern and central Europe. In Austria dumplings made with apricot and potato are called MARILLENKNÖDEL.

Northern and central European countries got into the habit of making POTATO PANCAKES but it was the Spanish who made the TORTILLA, potato omelette, an essential element of the frying pan or griddle.

Slowly dying out is the tradition of making POTATO CAKES on a griddle. Once common across northern Europe, it is only in southern Europe, in Andorra, the Basque Country and Catalonia that it is still popular, albeit as the bacon, cabbage and potato cakes known as TRINXAT

Baked in the oven they became the base for POTATO GRATIN. Various ingredients, from anchovy to cheese and bacon, go into these baked dishes, such as TARTIFLETTE in France.

KÖTTBULLAR, meatballs in Sweden, are made with potato and meat – beef, pork or veal.

Then there is KARTOFFELSALAT, served hot and cold in Austria, Germany and Switzerland. A good potato salad is still a mystery to be solved, because those who know the secret are reluctant to share it.

In many countries they were the base ingredient to make raw alcohol (poteen and vodka).

High in carbohydrates, protein, minerals and vitamins.


Potato Varieties


… list to follow …


Traditional Potato Dishes


… list to follow …




A Pear in the Valais, Switzerland

Italy is the spiritual home of the pear in Europe.

In a good frost-free warm year production in the pear growing areas, largely Emilia-Romagna and Mantua, will be close to a million tonnes.

In a bad year, a third less. Varieties include Abaté Fétel (sweet, yellow), Beurré Bosc/Kaiser (sweet-spicy, brown), Conference (sweet, yellow-green), Doyenne du Comice (sweet, green-brown) and the popular table pear William Bon Chrétien (juicy-sweet, green-yellow).

Soil and climate make all the difference to the pear crop.

Spain, with its Mediterranean climate – hot and dry in the summer, cold and semi-dry in winter, produces the blanquilla (juicy, green), ercolini (juicy, yellow-green), conference and limonera (sweet, green- yellow) varieties.

A good year will bring half a million tonnes.

Switzerland, by comparison, is lucky if it produces 30,000 tonnes in a good year. What it does produce is good-quality William Bon Chrétien, whose origins are disputed between England and Italy.

At Martigny in canton Valais, the Rhöne river turns sharply to the east towards Sion and Sierre. Here, under the high alps, 200 growers will produce Beurré Bosc/Kaiser, Guyot (juicy, yellow), Louise Bonne (juicy, green-brown) and William BC varieties using the espalier method.

Travellers passing these pear orchards will see rows of supported trees in various stages of growth.

Pear trees require four years of careful training before they bear fruit. In full bloom they will produce a crop for 25 years.

In the Rhöne valley the pears are harvested green from August 20 for three weeks. They are stored until they turn yellow, about 15 days, when they will be full of juice.

Four-fifths of the Williams BC crop goes to Distillery Morand in Martigny, where they are mashed and distilled into Williamine, their famous pear brandy.



A slice of Cholera

The 1830s were difficult for the people of the hidden Swiss valleys.

Cholera swept across the land, confining people to their homes, where they relied on the stable foods of the land – cured and dried meat, cheeses, fruit, leaf and root vegetables.

Packing leftovers into a pie encased with pastry provided a pragmatic solution.

Out of adversity a traditional dish emerged and survives today.

500 g puff pastry
400 g potatoes, boiled whole, 
peeled, sliced 
400 g raclette cheese, sliced
250 g apples, sliced
250 g Bosc pears, sliced
150 g leeks, halved, sliced, 
braised in butter


Pear Varieties

BELGIUM 255,000 tonnes
Doyenne du Comice
William Bon Chrétien
FRANCE 124,000
Doyenne du Comice
Passa Crassana
William BC
ITALY 717,000
Abaté Fétel
Beurré Bosc/Kaiser
Doyenne du Comice
Passa Crassana
William BC
Doyenne du Comice
PORTUGAL 179,000
SPAIN 349,000
Passa Crassana
William BC

Traditional Pear Dishes

Armut Tatlisi TURKEY carmelised pears 
Birnenkuchen SWITZERLAND pear cake
Birnweggen SWITZERLAND pear wedges 
Gaufres avec Pomme et de Poire Sirop BELGIUM waffles with apple, pear sauce
Hutzelbrot GERMANY fruit cake
Oie Rôtie aux Fruits FRANCE roast goose with apples and pears and prunes
Pečená Kachní Prsa CZECH REPUBLIC duck breasts in pear sauce
Peras al Vino SPAIN pears in red wine