We are settling into life in Linz. For context, Linz is a city in Upper Austria, straddling the Danube River midway between Salzburg and Vienna. Our apartment is in the Innere Stadt district which is pretty much the city centre. It’s about fifteen minutes walk from the main square. From the kitchen window we look out towards the Pöstlingberg, which is a hill (539 m) on the left bank of the Danube. So we’re central but looking out on hills not other apartments.
It’s all very well staying in a hotel and eating in restaurants in another language. It may take a couple of days to find your way around a menu but someone else does the shopping and the cooking and your job is just to eat. I don’t want to buy too much stuff. Remember the salutary lesson of #usingup. From now on we are taking #theminimalpantry approach. Before we embarked on the challenge of stocking the pantry so that we could prepare a basic meal we needed to build our strength. We enjoyed a traditional Austrian Frühstück in a Konditerei. Bread, meat and cheese seems to be the standard fare and everything comes with chives. If you are a long black drinker then you want to ask for ein Verlängerter. It is always served with a glass of water and apparently this is not to dilute the coffee nor to aid digestion. It is an historic custom symbolising that you are a valued customer. I have noticed that you also get a glass of water served with wine but not at any other time. I have read that if I ask for Leitungswasser I may get a glass of tap water rather than overpriced bottled water but have yet to try it. So far I have been charged for water unless it comes with wine or coffee.
Fortified with Frühstück we braved the supermarket. We bought potatoes and frankfurters along with basic items so that we could eat breakfast and a basic dinner. We found a wine shop and bought some Austrian wine so that we could toast our achievement. The first meal was a German-style potato salad. Halve the potatoes and simmer until just cooked. Add the frankfurters near the end of the cooking to heat them through. Meantime cook a few handfuls of roughly chopped speck in a pan then drain on a paper towel. Gently sauté some finely chopped spring onions in the speck fat then add the onion to the warm potatoes. In the same pan mix about 1/4 cup vinegar, a pinch each of sugar and salt, 1/4 tsp each of paprika and mustard with a small quantity of water and bring to the boil, whisking to combine. Roughly slice the frankfurters. Pour the warm dressing over the potatoes and crumble the cooked speck over the top. Add some chives. Notwithstanding the challenge of no measuring implements and no mixing bowls, our first Austrian meal could be deemed a success. One meal done, 49 to go.
On Sunday Austria is closed. What we hadn’t bought on Saturday would have to wait until Monday. We had the wherewithal to prepare Frühstück at home and at lunchtime I realised Mittagessen is Frühstück with beer. In fact I noticed on the previous day that beer is sometimes consumed with Frühstück. Although that might be with Gabelfrühstück or second breakfast. Yes, this is a thing and I will look into it further. At our table we had yogurt with strawberries, and bread, meat, cheese and tomatoes with coffee for breakfast and bread, meat, cheese and tomatoes with beer for lunch. We had left over potato salad for dinner.
The selection of vegetables in all the supermarkets seems to be limited. I did discover a vegetable market in the main square (Hauptplatz) on a Tuesday, however it seemed to consist of one stall with the same limited vegetable selection. I suspect I am not looking in the right places and further exploration will remedy this. A vegetable that does seem to be plentiful and with which I am not familiar is kohlrabi. Enter cabbage, carrot and kohlrabi coleslaw with quinoa. Cook about 1/2 a cup of quinoa and leave to cool. I discover I don’t have a sieve to strain the quinoa so I use the evaporation method to cook the quinoa – however with no measuring implements or mixing bowls and not having yet mastered the electric hob, this is challenging. When the quinoa is slightly cooled mix with a combination of finely shredded kohlrabi, cabbage, and carrot and 2 tbsp. chopped dill and 1/2 tsp nigella seeds. I fortuitously found these in the kitchen cupboard. Make a dressing with 3 tbsp lemon juice, 2 tsp mustard, 2 tbsp oil, 1/4 cup Greek yoghurt, salt and pepper and toss with the vegetables and quinoa. Serve with cottage cheese spooned on top. The cottage cheese here is delicious and often comes with mixed herbs.
I am discovering the specialities of Linz. The Linzer torte is reputed to be the oldest cake in the world. There is a biscuit version called a Linzer Augen. You pronounce these cakes as if there is a T between the N and the Z, Lintzer. Do not make the schoolboy error of asking for a Linsen Torte. You will be requesting a lentil cake and cause your waitress some consternation.
I have a long way to go before I can say I am comfortable shopping and cooking in a foreign language and an unfamiliar kitchen, however we have made a start. As my vocabulary improves it will be easier to both shop and order in a café. English is not widely spoken and in fact the language is Austrian German and not the German I learned at school, so it is very easy to get confused. The people however are very friendly and I sense that I am going to enjoy my sojourn in Upper Austria.