The Friday evening before we travelled to Nottingham for the weekend, we thought we would take a stroll along the Danube, which we call the Donau in Austria. We arranged to meet at the Nibelungenbrücke and discovered the streets closed to traffic and filled with people due to the annual Pflasterspektakel ,which translates as pavement spectacle and is an international festival of street performance art. We took our stroll and looked for somewhere to eat. On the way we stopped to listened to two performances, Faela, a Latin band whose members are from Argentina, England, Sweden and Spain, and Adam Kadabra who plays acoustic guitar using a lap-tapping technique. Both are worth looking out for in your local fringe festival. The evening was warm and the atmosphere was more lively than I expected to find in Austria. But we still hadn’t eaten and there were people teeming everywhere. We stumbled into Keintzel Wirtshaus im alten Rathaus, a tavern in the old townhall. This was brilliant because although it was full the turnaround was fast and they serve traditional Austrian food with no frills. It’s also cash only. Austria is a predominately cash society which can be a trap for the unwary. Apparently there is a high level of mistrust of cashless transactions, possibly because of data collection concerns. Cash is anonymous. We both ordered the Wiener Schnitzel and were not disappointed. Schnitzel is traditionally served with Petersilerdäpfel, (Petersilienkartoffeln in German), which are steamed potatoes tossed in parsley butter. It also came with a side salad dressed with the most perfectly vinegary Austrian dressing. I drank the classic Grüner Veltliner, which is a white grape variety grown primarily in Austria, Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic. And of course a glass of wine is served with a glass of water which is very welcome on a hot evening. A wonderful introduction to Austrian cuisine.
Our focus in Nottingham was family rather than food, although we did eat well. I recommend a visit to Delilah Fine Foods. We bought a delicious selection of English meat and cheese and a bottle of English sparkling wine. Yes wine. Following our principal of consuming local produce, we bought a bottle of Three Choirs sparkling wine. It was excellent.
I’m pleased to report that on our return the beetroot and fennel had survived in the fridge. With the beetroot I made an Austrian-style version of a Salade Russe, if there is such a thing. Mix diced boiled potatoes with diced roasted beetroot, chopped spring onion, radishes, hard-boiled egg, chives and peas in a large mixing bowl. Make a dressing with 2 tbsp vinegar, 2 tsp Dijon mustard, 1/4 cup olive oil, 1/4 cup Greek yoghurt, salt & pepper to taste. Combine vegetables with dressing. I made all the dressing although it was more than I needed and I keep it in a jar in the fridge. It is lovely on a green salad.
With the fennel I made a risotto. Sauté a red onion in olive oil for a few minutes, add diced fennel and cook until both are soft. Stir in 1/2 cup Arborio rice and add 1/2 cup white wine. I think Grüner Veltliner is great for this. Cook until the wine is absorbed, then add a handful of pitted chopped olives and 1/4 tsp fennel seeds. Gradually add 1 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable stock and cook on a low heat until all the stock is absorbed. Stir frequently to release the starch in the rice. When the rice is tender add 1/2 cup frozen peas and stir through. Add rind and juice of a lemon, a knob of butter and some grated parmesan. Cover, turn off the heat and rest five minutes. I always add a pinch of salt to the onions at the beginning as I think it prevents them burning and then taste and season at the end. I am using a stock cube here because I can’t make my own stock and it is more salty than my homemade, so I am cautious with seasoning. Serve with more grated parmesan and a green salad.
Friday was too hot to stand over a stove so we met up for a drink at the Café Traxlmayr which is a traditional Austrian bar/café. One of the attractions on this occasion was that if you sat outside the front of the café, every few minutes you were sprayed with a very fine mist of cool water – very handy when the temperature is in the 30s. These were fixed all along the front wall under the roof. We both enjoyed a Hugo. Have I mentioned this already? It is the most refreshing drink in the world. Combine Prosecco, soda, elderflower cordial and a lot of fresh mint. I am not sure of the ratios. The best ones are very minty. From there we revisited Keintzel Wirtshaus to sample the Eierschwammerl salad. It wasn’t nearly so frantic as the previous week and we had a very relaxed meal. We noticed there were a lot of large family groups and one family were playing cards.
On Saturday we revisited the Südbahnhofmarkt for breakfast and shopping. Interestingly it was hard to find somewhere to sit and eat, however we could drink beer or wine at any number of places. I have noticed this beer for breakfast thing but can’t find anything written about the practice. There seem to be small glasses of beer available on breakfast menus, however at the market we saw people drinking large steins and also people drinking wine which may have been spritzers. Does anyone know of this Austrian, maybe Bavarian, custom of drinking beer for breakfast? It hasn’t appealed yet. I’ll keep you posted. We found a delicious breakfast and did our shopping. I was looking for schnitzel and thought I’d found it. At a meat stall we saw a woman carefully cutting slices of pork which looked exactly like the pieces we had at the tavern. We waited our turn and asked for two pieces. But no, all the slices were for the customer ahead of us and they had sold out. We had to resort to the supermarket.
Could I make schnitzel and potatoes at home? Start by preparing the schnitzel. Gently pound the meat until thin. Lay out 50g flour, beaten egg and breadcrumbs on separate plates. Gently boil waxy potatoes whole until just cooked. I think I would steam if I had a steamer. When the potatoes have 10 minutes to go start cooking the schnitzel. Lightly oil and season each piece, then coat on both sides with flour. Draw through the beaten egg ensuring no part of the schnitzel remains dry and coat in breadcrumbs, carefully ensuring full coverage. Fry each slice separately for a couple of minutes each side in a hot pan with plenty of oil and butter. Ensure that the bread coating is golden brown. Keep the cooked slices warm in the oven. When the potatoes are done, drain and return to the pan. Gently toss in butter and plenty of parsley to coat. Serve with a green salad dressed with the yoghurt dressing above. Just like a bought one.