Sort of healthy apple crumble… ish: Liechtensteiner ribel

Some facts about Liechtenstein:

· It is the sixth-smallest country in the world
· Despite its tiny size, it has one of the highest GDPs in the world
· It is situated between Austria and Switzerland, and as a result, its cuisine is significantly influenced by that of both countries
· We’ve never been there, but it looks pretty nice:

Balzers village in Liechtenstein

· Its national dish is käseknöpfle (basically mac and cheese)… which we made for Germany

A combination of many of these factors meant that finding something to make for Liechtenstein was a little tricky! A tiny country with big influences from neighbouring countries doesn’t have a long list of traditional recipes to its name, unfortunately. In the end, we opted for ribel (also spelt rebl), which a Liechtenstein tourism website describes as ‘probably the most traditional dish in Liechtenstein’ due to its origins as a staple dish for the country’s ‘poor population’. Traditional was what we wanted; a vague recipe for a slightly odd-sounding dish wasn’t quite, but a lack of other options meant that ribel was on our dessert menu on the weekend! (Is it even a dessert? We’re not really sure.)

Describing the recipe as ‘vague’ in the previous paragraph was not an understatement, and there was a bit of guesswork that went on while we were making it. What follows is our version, but if any native Liechtensteiners are reading and want to correct our mistakes, please go ahead!

Ribel

Ingredients
300g cornmeal
166ml water
333ml milk
Pinch of salt
2-3 tbsp butter

Method
1. Put the water, milk, salt and a little bit of butter in a pan, bring to the boil and add the cornmeal.
2. Stir the mixture (this will take some doing!), remove the pan from the heat, cover it and leave for around 15 minutes.
3. Using another couple of tablespoons of butter, continue cooking the ribel in the same pan until it turns crumbly.
4. Serve with coffee, apple sauce, cooked cherries, elderberry sauce, compote or sour cheese.
Serves 4

1170a Ribel compressed

1171a Ribel compressed

1172a Stewed apple compressed

1173 Ribel with apple

It was a fairly simple recipe, but we still have no idea whether we actually did it right! We ended up with a bit of a stodgy mess rather than the looser crumb texture we saw on various websites, but having made it, we can’t imagine how that texture could ever be achieved. We gave up adding butter after 2 tablespoons (which was already a bit more than the original recipe said), but adding more didn’t seem like it was going to have the effect of making the mixture any more dry or crumbly than it already was. Looking at other images now, it looks like people tend to use a frying pan rather than a saucepan, so perhaps that was our mistake – maybe a greater surface area for cooking would have created more of a ‘fried crumb’ effect.

Nonetheless, we still ended up with something edible, albeit rather heavy! We already had some stewed apple in the freezer (just Bramleys with some mixed spices) so served it with that, which is what created the ‘sort of healthy apple crumble’ effect. It was sort of healthy because it had no added sugar and only a small amount of butter compared with a normal crumble or cake, and it was sort of apple crumble because it was a spiced stewed apple mixture with something resembling a crumb. Honestly, if we want apple crumble again, we’ll probably just make an apple crumble – but ribel wasn’t a total flop and we could convince ourselves to feel half-virtuous eating it!

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