This week we’re taking a trip to Austria, home of some of the most delicious food on Earth.
It’s a wholesome, robust cuisine – none of your dainty dishes here – with vast amounts of meat and potatoes on show.
There’s the Tafelspitz, a wonderful plateful of gently-stewed beef served with crunchy roast potatoes, and apple-horseradish sauce.
There are myriad stews and soups, recipes brought in from Hungary and Romania, thick and hearty, always with a dollop of soured cream. Mountain hams glisten in every charcuterie, and bakery shelves groan with beautifully elaborate, dense milk-loaves, darkly glazed like Stradivarius violins.
Café culture dominates; cakes and pastries, like the famous Sachertorte and Apple Strudel are demolished in vast quantities by locals and visitors alike.
Then, there is the famous Wiener Schnitzel, a tender piece of veal batted out to almost ludicrous thin-ness, then fried in a breadcrumb coating until crunchy.
It’s one of those dishes that you start eating and never want to stop, every mouthful a symphony of taste and texture.
I had my recipe idea for the week – Schnitzels it was. And I remembered that, in my notes, I’d saved a photo I’d once seen online, which was of a huge veal schnitzel, with the bone still attached, being served to a customer in some unknown eatery.
It was the size of a dustbin lid, beautifully golden and crunchy-looking, and I decided that I had to make my more modest version in the same way.
I often use my local farm shop, Bolster Moor, for my experimental meaty needs – my butcher friend Simon often indulges my whims for exotic new cuts of meat, and takes care of the fiddly stuff that, frankly, he’s better at and I can’t be bothered with.
Hence, last week, I was up at the butchery counter just as soon as the shop had opened, knowing that my odd request wouldn’t be a popular one with a shop full of impatient customers.
After a little head-scratching, it was decided that a couple of chops off a loin of pork would be ideal.
With sharp knife and hefty meat mallet, Simon set to, and I was soon presented with two beautiful batted-out discs of meat, frilled with a little fat and still attached to their impeccably-trimmed bone.
The rest was easy; just a little dredge in flour, then egg, then the schnitzels were plunged into a bowl of fresh white breadcrumbs.
I wanted a good thick coating, so I repeated the egg and crumb process, then set a pan of butter and oil to sizzle.
When finished in the oven, the schnitzels emerged golden and crunchy, ready for their special accompaniments.
The Holstein-style of garnishing schnitzels originated with Baron Friedrich von Holstein (1837–1909) a diplomat in Kaiser Wilhelm II’s government. He seemingly enjoyed multiple flavours on one plate, as original recipes for this dish also include caviar, crayfish tails and truffles.
This rather OTT approach has since settled into the more sensible garnish of a caper-based dressing, a fried egg and a couple of slivers of salty anchovy.
It’s a wonderfully piquant complement to the buttery flavour of the schnitzel, and a great way to fancy up a midweek supper.
Just give your butcher the heads-up in plenty of time!
For the schnitzel:
4 pork loin chops, on the bone, French-trimmed and batted as thinly as possible
A few tablespoons of plain flour
4 free-range eggs, beaten
About 400g fresh white breadcrumbs
Sunflower oil, for frying
For the Holstein dressing:
50g curly parsley
The juice of 1 lemon
A little olive oil
Freshly-ground black pepper
1 free-range egg per person
1x100g jar anchovies (the darker, thinner type)
First, make the Holstein dressing.
Rinse the capers in plenty of fresh water, then drain and pat dry in a tea towel. Chop the parsley as finely as you can, and mix with the capers in a small bowl.
Add the lemon juice and just enough oil to bring the mixture together into a pesto-like consistency. Add a little fresh black pepper and set aside.
Now for the schnitzels; set out your coating station by arranging three wide bowls in order – flour, beaten egg and breadcrumbs. Coat each schnitzel in plain flour, patting off the excess, then dip into the beaten egg, making sure every inch is moistened.
Finally, dredge the schnitzels in the breadcrumbs, covering completely. For a more crunchy coating, repeat the egg and crumb steps.
Heat the oven to 190ºC / Gas 5. In a pan big enough to fry each schnitzel, heat a big knob of butter and a splash of oil.
When sizzling, fry the schnitzels on both sides until the egg has set, and the crumbs just begin to turn golden.
Place into the hot oven on a tray and cook until the schnitzels are a deep golden colour and sizzling nicely.
As the schnitzels cook, fry four eggs, leaving the yolks runny. To serve, pop a schnitzel on each plate, and dress with a little of the Holstein dressing.
Place two anchovy fillets on each egg yolk. Additionally, you could serve the schnitzels with noodles (following Fräulein Maria’s famous advice) or roast potatoes, and perhaps a nice crisp salad.