Food for the road: Maluns, Graubünden style

A few days ago I left the Alpine Lys Valley, where I visited my friend Federico’s new business Paysage à Manger, with some kilos’ worth of potatoes of four different types, species that have been unavailable from our tables for quite a long time. This is what I’ve come up with in order to use them.

Today it’s all about Switzerland and, to be more precise, about the Graubünden canton, the largest in the confederation. This because Graubünden, also known as Grigioni in Italian, is the homeland of both the potato and the dish we’re going to eat.

The potato carries the rather cumbersome name of Weltwunder, wonder of the world. A look at one of them would confirm that the Germans have a very odd sense of humour indeed, for the typical weltwunder is tiny, irregularly shaped and, in general, very much the kind of potato you’d leave behind should you find it in your shop’s vegetables section.

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The truth is that this diminutive tuber deserves its boastful name as it is, quite simply, an amazing example of nature’s power of adaptation to the environment. Weltwunder is, in fact, a potato designed to grow at high altitude, weathering happily everything that the climate has to thrown at them: freezing temperatures, heat, drought, sudden heavy rains and even the occasional out-of-season rain. It’s been the staple of choice for the Walser, the Germanic population that settled this canton and the northern part of the Lys valley, and it has been planted up to 2100 meters of altitude. To put things into perspective, the limit of the woods in the Alps is usually at 2200 meters, and we’re talking about strong, sturdy pine trees.

So, which recipe is the most apt to celebrate the humble yet heroic Weltwunder? The Maluns, obviously!

Maluns is a relatively easy dish to prepare, and it’s made of just two main parts. Weltwunder aside, the only difficult ingredients to find are the Graubünden cheeses but, in all honesty, a good slice of French Reblochon or Italian Toma will do.

Ingredients (for three commensals)

0.5 kg of Weltwunder potatoes; flour (enough to cover the potatoes); salt & pepper; 150 g of butter; 4 apples (golden or bromley, fit for cooking); cheese; honey or sugar

Instructions – potatoes

Wash carefully the potatoes and set them to boil in plenty of unsalted water. Once boiled, peel them and leave them to rest in a fresh place for at least a couple of hours (ideally a day). Then, cut them in small slices or cubes.

In a large bowl, mix the flour with salt and spices. Add the sliced potatoes and amalgamate together until every little cube is covered in flour.

Put 1/3 of the butter in a large pan on medium heat; once liquified add the potatoes and leave to fry until golden, adding butter according to the need (the potatoes should be golden brown and not darker). Once satisfied, pull from the fire and serve.

Instructions – apple purée

Maluns is always accompanied by a sweet apple purée, prepared in a rather simple way: peel the apples, cut them in pieces and put in a pot with about 1 and 1/2 glasses of water, sugar or honey (no more than two tablespoons) and cinnamon according to taste. Leave to boil at low heat until the apples have softened and most of the water has evaporated, then blend with a food blender and serve.

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This is a hearty dish, first described around the turn of the XIX century. Its preparation is quite simple albeit a little bit time intensive, but the result is a delightful melange of tastes: the deep, almost chestnut-like texture of the weltwunders, the softness of the cheeses and, if you haven’t exagerated too much with sugar, the lightly acid taste of the apples. After that, a glass of genepy and a long walk are warmly recommended.

 

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