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Cholera Beats Cornish Pasty Any Day!

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These Swiss Alpine pies 'cholera' taste infinitely better than Cornish Pasties but neither made it to the exclusive club of export-grade European food specialties.

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Neither this intriguing Swiss pie nor Cornish Pasty made it to the world's shot list of export-grade dishes. But whereas this is only fair for Cornish pasty, which only starved Englishmen can actually finish, it is my contention that alpine cholera would have deserved a better future. So let me give cholera its five minutes of fame and see a full comparison with Cornish Pasty at the end bottom of the article.

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Cholera
Swiss Alpine Bacon, Potatoes & Apple Pie
2 sheets of puff pastry
4 large waxy potatoes boiled the day before
1 leek
4 small onions or 2 large ones
200gr seasoned bacon*
200gr raclette cheesee*
2 pears
2 apples fit for baking
Salt and peper
1 egg yolk

*The proper bacon to use for this is Valaisian petit lard, which you can buy in Switzerland and store for month. It is a thin bacon slice seasoned with salt and spices and air dried for a few months. It is a very fragrant and addictive cold cut. The cheese should be alpine meadow raclette cheese but you could substitute with another quality full-fat semi-hard cheese fit for melting.

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Cut the bacon in small sticks thick as a matchstick and as wide as a cigarette is thick.

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Fry the bacon with no added fat over medium-high heat until it becomes soft.

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Reserve.

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Wash the leek and finely chop it. Peel the onions and slice them thinly (photo). Fry onions and leek in the bacon's remaining fat until they are soft and start turning brown. I can't emphasize enough how important is this browning process. If you add every ingredient raw to the pie it will just boil and you'll miss half the flavor.

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A very original feature of this recipe is its use of pears and apples for a sweet and savory pie.

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Start by peeling the cooked potatoes and grate them coarsely. Salt.

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Peel, core and dice pears and apples. Save this for last lest they turn brown.

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Dice the cheese, heat the oven and prepare your ingredients around a large baking tray.

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Spread the puff pastry onto a baking sheet. Spread the potatoes evenly on the pastry, leaving a good 2.5/1'' space all around. Please note that on the picture I used nearly twice as much potatoes as needed.

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On this bed of potatoes, lay the pear and apple cubes...

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... and cover them with the onion and leeks and then the bacon.

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Finish with the diced cheese and sprinkle with crushed black pepper.

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Cover with the second puff pastry sheet and carefully seal around the edges. Make a few holes on top with a fork to let the steam escape.

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Beat the egg yolk or whole egg and paint the pie with a kitchen brush. This will turn it golden when it bakes.

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Bake for 30 minutes in a hot oven (190°C) until golden.

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Let it rest for 5 minutes before slicking with a long and very sharp serrated blade.

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This is a delicious first course or main course. The fragrant fried leeks and alpine bacon sit on the earthy cheese with the fresh tartness of the apples. Amazing and delicate, and not all that filling. Another success in FXcuisine!

How does Swiss Cholera compare to Cornish Pasty?

  Cornish Pasty Cholera
Origin Cornwall, South of England Valais/Wallis in the Swiss Alps
Dough Short dough made from lard or kidney fat Puff pastry (formerly with short dough)
Fillings Steak, leek and potatoes. Seasoned air-dried alpine pancetta, potatoes, leeks, onions, alpine raclette cheese, pear and apple.
Method Raw ingredients are wrapped in dough and cook inside the pasty. Leeks and onions are finely chopped and browned in a frying pan to enhance their taste by the Maillard's reactions. Same process for bacon.

I love Cornwall and you may accuse me of being partial here - after all I'm a Valaisian and this is a traditional recipe from my neck of the Alps. But cholera is a real hit and I've never been able to finish a cornish pasty, even those bought in those special bakeries in the Cotswold or in Cornwall said to make the best Cornish Pasty in England. If you are British, please do not feel insulted, because despite its relatively discreet audience Cornish Pasty still enjoys much greater success than the cholera ever had. The closest I've come to it is in Swiss cookbooks. This recipe comes from High-Valais, where for centuries scientists have mistaken the local dialect for throat cancer. It has now been established it is an Alpine brand of Swiss-German. Even there most young people have never heard about cholera.

Published 29/10/2007
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17 Comments

  • #1
  • Comment by Macha
  • on: 30/10/2007
I get the distinct feeling that its lack of international success has something to do with the unfortunate name. As for the Cornish Pasty, it is said to have kept the miners warm for up to 8 hours, hence the dense, heavy, and igneous nature of its pastry. In fact, whenever I have sampled the greasy pie I thought to have accidentally bitten into a ball of clay filled with molten lead. Surely more utilitarian than a poncy swiss bacon-filled puff. Deserved fame imho.
  • #2
  • Comment by Lali
  • on: 31/10/2007
I tried the recipe yesterday, it was fantastic!I hate when people start commenting: "I did this or that instead"... But since I am in Denmark, I got some smoked bacon and emmental cheese instead of what you wrote.
  • #3
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 31/10/2007
Macha, thank you for your comment. You are very right that the Cornish Pasty is first and foremost a miner's meal and was designed for the most extreme eating conditions. It needs to be eaten with respect for the miners' hard life. But the Swiss cholera, for all its  humility, is a mountain farmer meal and not quite poncy. At least not here!
Thanks for your visit and hope to see you back on FXcuisine.com
  • #4
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 31/10/2007
Thanks for visiting my blog Lali! This is a peasant dish borne out of necessity using the ingredients available throughout the winter time. You are well in line with the spirit of the dish to use ingredients local to you - much better like this than to have given up the recipe altogether just because this special Alpine bacon was not available. I'm very glad my article convinced you to try and that it was a success!
Hope to see you around on FXcuisine.com
  • #5
  • Comment by Stephen
  • on: 03/11/2007
Many thanks for this recipe and indeed your entire site.  Any suggestions on how to keep the bottom crust dry?  You mention potatoes boiled "the day before".  Do you leave them in the refrigerator (as I did) or out to dry?
  • #6
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 03/11/2007
Thanks for your visit Stephen! The potatoes are boiled the day before and left in the fridge to firm up enough for you to peel and grate them the next day. That's standard procedure for making rösti. I did not get around to keeping the bottom crust dry and crusty, mine was all wet and sogged like skin under a week-old bandage!
  • #7
  • Comment by Gudvin, Gudvin
  • on: 12/11/2007
Hello, my name is Gudvin, I like yours blog.
  • #8
  • Comment by Alex
  • on: 19/11/2007
Amazing recipe!  It was a huge hit with my friends and really fun to make.  Cooking the leeks and onions in bacon fat is such a good idea.  I went to bed dreaming about them.  
  • #9
  • Comment by Cynthia
  • on: 26/11/2007
Dear Mr. FX: This is just one of several recipes I found here that I just must try! Thanks for re-iterating that the potatoes are to be cooked ahead of time; I missed that in my first reading. About the crust.. I will try this on a pre-heated pizza stone to see if I can avoid the "wet skin under an old bandage" effect. I have heard of (antique) pie plates where the bottom is made of metal screening, but am not sure if these are currently commercially available anywhere, either in a 'pie' version or a flat, baking-sheet, version.I love the flavor combination of pork, potatoes, and apples, and introduced my Italian husband to the concept of both potato pancakes and pork chops served with applesauce. (Here applesauce seems to be something only dosed out in tiny quantities for toddlers.) This sounds like a great dish and deserves a better name than that of a life-threatening disease.Of the many food blogs I have visited, yours is truly outstanding! Really a labor of love. I appreciate the clarity of both the pictures and text, and am thrilled to find another person in Europe with a copy of Harold McGee's excellent book. [As one who obviously loves languages, I hope you will not be offended if I indicate that the word 'discreet' which you used above means private/reserved/low-profile while 'discrete' is what you mean: separate, isolated.]You have given me new inspiration for cooking, especially dishes of Italian origin. I live in Tuscany (where so many culinary pilgrims flock), but the dishes and the local tastes here are quite restricted. Often I make "foreign" dishes ("foreign" could mean Umbrian or Neapolitan as easily as Chinese!), and while the reception is good, old habits die hard. It is also quite difficult to to find "foreign" ingredients (decent bread with salt, much less tofu!). I am keen to get a flour mill now. I've made arancini before, but your recipe appears to take them to the next level; the ones I've made and purchased (even in Sicily) were very heavy on the rice. They are now on my menu plan for Capo d"Anno. Best wishes, and thank you!
  • #10
  • Comment by Sue
  • on: 27/04/2008
This looks fantastic!  What kind of spices are used on the petit lard?  I'd like to try to get the flavor, but bacon choices here in the US are limited.  
Love the blog.
  • #11
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 27/04/2008
Sue, I think you could use some air-dried pancetta or some other Italian bacon instead. Our petit lard uses mainly salt, pepper, thyme, oregano and rosemary. I am not entirely sure of how you should make it but I'll ask my uncle Harvey. Thanks for visiting!
  • #12
  • Comment by Justine
  • on: 07/07/2008
Hi there - just stumbled across your website and without wanting to sound like an insulted Cornishwoman (which I am!) I would just like to point out your recipe for the pasty is wrong - it contains steak, potatoes & swede, not leeks, (that's for the Welshmen! though most pasties now also include onions). In fact originally there was also a fish pasty for the hardworking fishermen of the county.  One end of the pasty would have meat or fish, the other would have apple or similar fruit, supplying a built in dessert for the eater.  The crust would be thrown away, it's only use a way of workers holding the pasty without contaminating the food.  These days there are more varieties of pasty than you can shake a stick at, many of which do not deserve the name pasty, but which are sadly often the ones visitors to our beautiful part of the country sample.  For connoisseurs the   pinnacle of pasty making is surely achieved at the Horse & Jockey Bakery in Helston (home of the Flora dance) & Porthleven.  Here you will find the ultimate Cornish pasty!
  • #13
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 07/07/2008
Justine, you are right to point out that the crust is best discarded, but nowadays I get the feeling that most people eat it, and it would be better to use a puff pastry in my opinion. No offence for the fine people of Cornwall, I am confident they'll work out an improved version of the Cornish pasty in the future. Are there any addresses closer to Plymouth and Okehampton for me to give Cornish pasty another chance?
  • #14
  • Comment by Paul
  • on: 09/09/2008
Hmm Francois, I am half Cornish myself and I'm concerned that you are poking fun at our pasty!!!!! And let me tell you that you should NEVER EVER make it with puff pastry!   My aunt, my mother and my brother all make (made) them (poor aunty has now departed this earth) and I'm sure that my grandmother did too, although I didn't meet her as she is also departed (although she departed before I arrived so I never tasted hers).  

I can't lay my hands on the exact recipe for the pastry right now, but it is a good robust short savoury shortcrust pastry, strong enough to form the curly crust, by which you traditionally hold the pasty - if you were a miner or labourer or other worker you would have had dirty hands, and so you used the curly crust to hold the pasty by, so that you could eat it and then just throw the crust away - this was from the days before sandwich boxes - just as Justine says above.  But in our family, when my aunt cooked them, we would sit down and devour them hot; and eat all the crust, and it was always good.  The beauty of the pasty is that is is good hot OR cold.  In fact, the traditional pasty (steak, potatoes and swede) (and sometimes with onions) is delicious cold.  I think every family had their own versions, because apparently (my aunt told me) my granny would make each pasty to suit each of her sons; one like pastry so he would get extra; another less; one did like swede, another not, and one liked lots of onions, etc. etc. - so they were all hand tailored!  I loved this story, and also the story of having savoury filling at one end and sweet at the other - jam, or apples.  Anyway, I rather think that a proper pasty has to be made by your family to the traditional recipe to be any good.  My mum (not Cornish, but a wonderful cook) learned to make them to keep my (Cornish) father happy, which he was.  And if she couldn't be bothered making the pasties. then the same mixture and ingredients would be presented as a large, and equally delicious, steak pie.  I've never really had a restaurant or shop-bought pasty that comes close.   They always either get the pasty or the filling wrong and then the whole thing doesn't taste right!

All the best,

Paul.


  • #15
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 09/09/2008
Paul, thanks a lot for these details of your family's pasties, I'll give it another try then!
  • #16
  • Comment by Rick
  • on: 05/11/2010
Hi Francois,

Today I made Cholera for dinner. It was delicious! I baked it on a preheated pizza stone and I didn't find the bottom crust soggy at all. Not as puffed as the top, but still...

It's been a while since I cooked one of your recipes and I'm glad I chose this one. It was a big hit around my house!

All the best,
Rick...
  • FX's answer→ Rick I just saw your comment, I'm very pleased that you finally ventured in a European dish, from my parts even! I do these also as mini pasties but the ratio of caloricious puff pastry to the filling is not satisfactory. I think it's a great one for large crowds in cold weather.


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