BOOK | Blue Window | Culinary Adventures in the Alps — Austria I


The ride through the Tyrol alongside the mighty Inn river is as enchanting as any route in the European Alps, but not all the way on a railjet. It is useless for sightseeing. Everything is a blur. Blink and you’ll miss it. So while our first trip on this marvellous high-speed luxurious train was memorable it isn’t as pleasing as the ride on the regional train.

So we are getting on the railjet at Feldkirch, then at Saint Anton am Arlberg we are taking the stopping train to Landeck Zams for a quick interlude, then back on the stopping train for the run into Innsbruck, where we are hoping to find more alpine secrets.

One of the most enchanting dishes of Austria is schmarrn. Originally known as Kaiserschmarrn, for obvious reasons, this aristocratic dish has been transformed into a traditional dish with several variations because of its enduring popularity.

Ask an Austrian to suggest their favourite food, and one that is traditional and representative of the country’s food culture, and this is the answer.

And it was once untouchable.

Made only with cream, eggs, flour, raisins and sugar it epitomised haute cuisine. Then it lost its kingly status, no more so than in the Tyrol where this torn pancake became all things to all people. The raisins were replaced by red cherries, pine nuts were preferred by those with a creative streak, almonds and hazelnuts got in on the act, and then Radio Tyrol decided that the schmarrn could become an oven-baked version of the rösti. They came up with a recipe using streaky bacon and waxy potatoes combined with the basic schmarrn ingredients – cream, eggs, flour, milk.

But for us it is back to basics – Tyrol style of course. [snip]


RECIPE — Alt-Art Apfelstrudel old-style apple pastry

RECIPE — Bärlauchbutter wild garlic butter

RECIPE — Bärlauchknödel wild garlic dumplings

RECIPE — Bärlauchpesto wild garlic paste

RECIPE — Bärlauchsuppe wild garlic soup

RECIPE — Gebratene Gans roast goose

RECIPE — Stollen fruit cake, South Tyrol style

RECIPE — Tiroler Schmarrn

RECIPE — Vanillekipferl





Farmers Plate



The ascent of strudel was thought to have reached its nadir when this delicate pastry came to epitomise the Viennese kitchen in the 1800s. The thinly drawn dough that makes the strudel iconic has its origins in ancient Assyria. It was associated with the Ottoman Turks and the Spanish Moors, and known as ’Spanish Dough’ in cookbooks of the 1700s. By then it was an established aspect of pastry baking throughout the period of the Austro-Hungarian empire, moving westwards from Budapest to Vienna and Salzburg.

The strudel went through various changes until it started to resemble a coiled pastry.

Fillings included beans, cheese, fruit, gourds, leaf and root vegetables, meat, nuts and seeds and rice. When Anna Dorn mentioned ’solid apple strudel’ in the Great Viennese Cookbook in 1827, the strudel had been boiled and baked over open fires for 200 years.

Strudel cookery changed with the emergence of oven baking and white flour. The translucent dough became crispy, and the apple strudel became legendary. Ground cinnamon, soaked raisins and toasted breadcrumbs (from kipfel bread) complimented the tart apple filling to produce a sweet-sour taste.

In Vienna sour cream was added to accentuate that sourness. In Salzburg the apfelstrudel was sweetened and softened with warm milk. In Innsbruck and alpine regions the old style remains constant. And in Berlin kirschwasser was added to the raisins, and walnuts were included in the filling. Sugar was used to offset the acidity of the tart apples, which included a range that became known as ’strudler apples’.

Gradually, throughout the 20th century, apfelstrudel epitomised the art of the Viennese patisserie, and its Assyrian, Arabian, Moorish and Turkish origins were forgotten. [snip]

South Tyrol Specialities
Tyrol Traditional Dishes

Innsbrück to Garmisch-Partenkirchen (train) 79-82 minutes

These are edited draft versions of some the sections that will appear in the finished book.

Blue Window – Germany