Today the sun is shining and as I looked out my window in Clapham I started to sing to myself. “The hills are alive with the Sound of Music”. At times I worry about myself, but then I realise there are two types of people in this world. The sort that feel the Sound of Music is a beautiful story of love and good conquering evil and the sort that love to see the baddies fight the good ones. We may also joke in these times of austerity of some of the outfits featured in the Great British Sewing Bee on BBC that they could have been Von Trapp curtains. But today, I’m discovering Austrian Food in London.
As I think about Austria, I’m reminded of a school ski trip more years back than I care to remember. This has been my only experience of the country, however I have been to the surrounding countries on many occasions. Right, you know the drill. Google. What is Austrian food? I’m sure it’s not cream coloured ponies with crisp apple strudel. In fact, part of this is correct, the crisp apple strudel. For years I’ve been trying to find out the flavor of a strudel, you know that European flavor that you cannot match with cinnamon in the UK. A few weeks back I found it, and it’s a mixture of cinnamon and cassia bark. I know that Viennese biscuits and breads are from Austria, as well as the famous rich Sachertorte chocolate cake being developed in the Sacher Hotel in Vienna.
I get off the Tube at High Street Kensington, choice of District or Circle line, but I’ve always wondered does the Circle Line still exist? I find myself next to Kensington Palace at Bodo’s Schloss. German for Bodo’s Castle. This place is fabulous. It’s the new place to see and place to be seen in London. As their website said, anyone who wears traditional Alpine Dress (Lederhosen, dirndl etc.) or mountain ski wear are entitled to complimentary entry. I will confess I do have Lederhosen in my wardrobe, the respectable other is German so I do own a bit of European chique. However, party wear it may be, for travelling on the Tube it is not. As we enter Bodo’s Schloss I’m taken back. It is in every way an Alpine chalet. Wood paneled walls, stone floors, a big log fire, skis and sleighs on the wall, with waitresses wearing the Dirndl and waiters in Lederhosen. If I am to prove that the world is in London, I’ve definitely found it for Austria.
I meet Franz Schinagl who’s company Speck Mobile provides the catering at Bodo’s Scholss. Franz and I talk about what makes Austrian food Austrian. We run through lots of things, and I ask if we can cook Wiener Schnitzel. We do and I ask what it is served with, he tells me a potato and cucumber salad. All sounds good to me, and then I see it in the corner of the kitchen. Spätzle. Now I know spätzle is German. For Christmas past Frau B (my mother-in-law) gave me a spätzle maker (or spätzle hoop) so I could feed her offspring native food. Franz shows me how to make spätzle. Really it’s just a noodle that’s eaten in the region. Words like Goulash and with this odd appearance of spätzle have confused me. I’m on Austrian food today, not Hungary and Germany. Franz explains the history. The Austro-Hungarian Empire covered a great part of central Europe, so the foods from that time are not country specific.
As I walk back through Bodo’s Schloss I’m taken back, the DJ booth is a bright red bubble – it’s a cable car planted in the middle of the room. Excellent.
Back to Divertimenti to cook a Wiener Schnitzel and (unt) Spätzle on the AGA. Easy. Wiener meaning veal is not so easy to get, so I make it with turkey (it can be made with chicken or pork). I cut the turkey thin, pound it with a meat mallet, egg it, flour it, bread it and place it into a hot pan in the AGA to cook. Meanwhile, the water is boiling for the spätzle. The dough is easy to make, just mix eggs, strong plain flour and milk together in a bowl and place into the spätzle hoop that is sitting over the pan. As I slide the spätzle hoop at speed so the dough falls through the holes and is cut to the correct size as it falls into the water I’m presented with another type of spätzle maker. I laugh as it looks like one of those maximuscle shakers gym bunnies use to make their power drinks to bulk up. Did Arnold Schwarzenegger use this for his spätzle I wonder? I add the ingredients as shown on the outside of the tub, add the mixing widget and shake. Easy. Spätzle cooks in no time, it floats, I’m sure Mozart could have used this quick fall and float concept of cooking as a metronome for the development of Cosi fan Tutte. Wolfgang Puck a huge celebrity chef in the USA is Austrian, I’m sure both him and Franz would be proud of my spätzle. But, as every man fears, “is it as good as my mother in laws”? I resort back to Julie Andrews, “I have confidence in me”.