These tiny German dumplings are simmered in water, in much the same manner as gnocchi. They are served in soups, or dressed in melted butter and used as an accompaniment to meat dishes and more often than not, cabbage. The traditional recipe calls for flour and eggs, but some variants include potato.
Originally the dumplings were made somewhat larger and were referred to as spätzen or sparrows, but as the years have gone by, they have reduced in size, a little fatter than a matchstick, and spätzle translates as, you guessed it, little sparrows.
There are high priced nifty gadgets that will make spätzle for you. You simply put the mixture into a reservoir, crank the handle and the dumplings pop out the bottom. If you own one of these, well and good, however I have an aversion to expensive kitchen trinkets that serve only one purpose, so I will give you an alternative method in this recipe.
500 gm (1 lb) plain flour
1 ½ tsp sea salt
125 ml (1/2 cup) water
In a large bowl, mix together the flour and salt. Crack the eggs into the mix and stir well with a wooden spoon. Pour in 100ml of the water and stir well. It should form a fairly stiff dough. Add more water or flour if necessary. Do not overwork the dough as this will ensure tough dumplings, and you don't want that. Rest the dough for an hour. This will also help the spätzle to be light and airy.
Bring a large pot to the boil with salted water. Now here is the trick. Most recipes will just ask you to cut the dough with a knife, but hey, that's gnocchi! What you need is a large metal colander or steamer. Chinese steamers are perfect. You need the holes to be at least a ½ cm in diameter, but up to 2 cm is fine. The larger the holes, the larger the dumplings. Oil the colander or steamer and using a plastic pastry palette, or any pliable piece of plastic, scoop up some of the mix and scrape it across the holes and let the dumplings drop straight into the boiling water. Cook until they rise to the surface, then scoop out. Continue until all the mix is used.
A small note on the spelling of spätzle. Without an umlaut, an "e" is inserted after the "a" to anglicise the word.