A meal from every country – Austria

The Menu

Everyone knows what they eat in Austria: crisp apple strudel and schnitzel with noodles (and raindrops, and roses etc etc). So that’s easy.

Except apparently, the noodles are wrong. I admit that “potatoes with parsley and optional cranberry sauce”, which is what we had in a very nice and very empty Viennese restaurant last night, wouldn’t have scanned nearly so well, but that is, apparently, more authentic.

Not a noodel in sight. No copper kettles or kittens either.

Authenticity of side dishes aside, I’d even found a website which did exactly what I needed it to:strudelandshnitzel.com. No really. Schnitzel was officially on the menu (not to mention I’d effectively cooked it in Poland and it was a great success).

Despite all that, I did wonder about postponing the Austrian cookery until we are in enforced isolation in France, where we head, ten days ahead of schedule, tomorrow (post to follow). But since we got here Austria has shut all museums and goes into complete lockdown on Monday. I didn’t therefore have much else to do this afternoon. Cooking it was.

But of course we’d had schnitzel last night. So I thought I’d have a go at lentils and bacon instead. There’s a recipe on the same site, and it is also, apparently, very authentic. Menu planning. Done.

The shopping

And then I went to the supermarket.

It seems the Austrians, when faced with a crisis, buy the same things I would. The pulses and rice had all gone too. Unless you wanted organic quinoa, of course. Very Waitrose.

So my bacon and lentils were out. And so were all my other recipe ideas, all of which rely on some form of meat (with two children who claim not to eat cheese – although have no problem with a pizza, a mounain of parmesan, or, indeed, fondu, any of the cheesy options felt a bit risky).

No prizes for guessing what should be here.

Along with the quinoa, the supermarket did, though, have cinnamon, and ground almonds. And I had flour, sugar (in the flat we are staying in), butter, breadcrumbs (that box I bought in Brussels comes in handy yet again) a lemon that needs eating up and apples.

You can see where this is going, can’t you?

Apfelstrudel

The helpful strudelandschnitzel website did exactly what its name suggests and provided me with a recipe. And after my, honestly, very depressing trip to the supermaket, and our also quite depressing realisation that at best we will not be visiting five of the twenty countries we had planned to, I needed to spend some time in my happy place. Baking.

But first, the equipment

This is another of those confusing kitchens. On one level it is very well equipped. It has a grater and a colander. It has a fish slice. it is the first kitchen we have stayed in that thas a potato masher. But it doesn’t have a peeler or a pair of scissors. Or a set of scales. Or a rolling pin. Or, most oddly of all, a chopping board.

Baking parchment and a potato masher made me very happy. It doesn’t take much.

It is also the tenth kitchen in a row (that’s all of them) where the light above the cooker doesn’t work.

The baking

But hey, if I can take four children across the world in the midst of a pandemic, I can cook an apple strudel without a set of scales or a rolling pin…

I took 250g of flour. Ish. No scales means I estimated. It was about what I had left in the packet. I think. With a bit of an alowance for rolling out.

I made a little well in the centre and tipped in an egg. In fact I broke another egg first, because it had, oddly, got stuck to the box, so when I tried to take it out it broke. Weird. I needed it later though so it’s not the end of the world.

I added a teaspoon of butter, a pinch of salt and a bit of water. I mixed it all together and added more water, and mixed and added…. The recipe says both “quickly mix” and “knead” which seem contradictory to me. Pastry needs quick work and a light tough and kneading is neither of those. I sort of erred on the side of caution and stopped as soon as my mixture was smooth.

Well it looks ok

Now leave it for an hour.

I then chopped up (but not peeled, because I couldn’t be bothered) six apples (the recipe said fourteen, but I got to six and decided that looked like plenty), with a bit of lime juice (I had other plans in mind for the lemon), on the basis that we had an old lime too (I think it’s now been to six countries) and it was only going in the strudel to stop the apples going brown, a generous handful of raisins (50g), and half the packet of (it turns out, very rustically) ground almonds. (Note to self, never attempt to make macarons with a packet of Austrian ground almonds).

I melted two tablespoons of butter and then got thoroughly misled by the recipe, which told me, having melted the butter, to toss the breadcrumbs (6 tablespoons, for which read the rest of the packet) with the icing sugar (we had caster, one tablespoon) and a pinch of cinnamon. So I did all that, and then read further and reaslised that the tossing did not involve the butter.

Oh toss. Never mind, it’s done now.

I turned to my pasty, which had, where exposed to the air, gone a little crusty. Wishing I had wrapped it in cling film (but which the recipe hadn’t suggested) I attempted to roll it out using a water bottle and a glass, before stretching it by hand (this bit is called Strudelziehen)

There were then some rather complicated and not very clear instructions involving putting the apples and butter (which I’d obviously already mixed in) and breadcrumbs on different parts of the pastry before rolling it up, but I just spread the breadcrumbs over part of it, put the apples on top, and went for it, a bit like making a cheese wrap (something I have a lot of experience of).

Then brush (ie spread unevenly) with the other egg (see, I told you I needed it) and into the oven at 180 degrees for 40 minutes or so.

Note presence of only one oven tray. Which I needed for the main course.

A little dusting of sugar (again, icing sugar not available) and it was ready.

Tips for next time though: The pastry could be thinner (I was a bit nervous, but I think it would have taken it). and icing sugar would definitely have been better. I would put a bit more sugar into the filling too, and definitely more cinnamon. Oh, and buy ice cream…

The main course

I did not, you may be disappointed to read, only feed my children apple strudel for supper. Despite the lack of much fresh in the supermarket, I did manage to find ready made pork (so not the real deal, but lovers of baby animals will be pleased) schnitzel and a packet of frozen peas.

No picture of the peas. you know what they look like. Erbsen in German, if you’re interested.

With the remains of the potatoes we already had, plus some parsley, that made a very serviceable, and very Viennese dinner. Apart from the peas of course.

Guten appetit!

France next. I feel some duck in a tin coming on. Don’t knock it til you’ve tried it. Oh, and in honour of countries we won’t visit, I’m going to find out what a Bled cake is.

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7 Comments

  1. Harriet, this is an absolute masterclass in making do. Bear Ghrylls can shove off – you should be on prime time. Especially given that we all have nothing else to do now except watch telly.

    • I’m not sure apple strudel is very blitz spirit!! I suspect for true making do I should have used more lard and chicory coffee, pr something….

  2. You have always been one of my heroes, but this post absolutely shows why. This is amazing. And having been stopped at Aldi yesterday for trying to buy our usual 4 boxes of eggs (the boys love a boiled egg in the morning) and told they were rationed to two, I’m feeling very lucky that I even managed that.

    We’re thinking of you all so much. There’s a lot of uncertainty here and it must be tricky to negotiate for you all, but it looks like you’re doing the most amazing job. Respect, Mrs C (and the C-clan) and much love,
    Jo xxx

  3. Looks delicious! What an inspiration your country-themed meals are! Keeping calm and carrying on seems to be your mantra–and your resourceful cooking is a joy to read! Also interesting to see the panic-buying going on in other countries and empty shelves.

    • Thank you! Baking is secretly a bit of a retreat from reality for me! The panic buying was interesting too – it was the fresh fruit and meat that were completely empty. We will see tomorrow what France is like.

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