17 February 2010

Nockerls, Schweinshaxe and the Mozartkugeln…

For us here at ‘it’s the little things’, one of the best parts about living in Munich is the fact that we are only 2 hours from our favourite European city, Salzburg.  From the moment we first visited this city it was love at first sight. Not only is it one of the most beautiful cities in the world as it sits nestled between the alps and astride the mighty river Salzach, with its gorgeous cobble stone winding streets and historic buildings, it is also home to a few of the most delightful treats that may ever tantalise your tastebuds!  So without much further ado (although I would love to tell you more about Salzburg) may I introduce you to the heavenly Salzburger Nockerl,  the humble schweinshaxe and the delicious Mozartkugeln.

With a temerature of around -4° and after having spent the afternoon wandering around the lanes of the city, we decided comfort food was the way to go for dinner on Saturday night and let me tell you, boy do Austrians do great comfort food!  The Sternbräu, a traditional brewery restaurant, which is situated in the heart of the old town and has a history dating back over 600 years, was our choice for dinner. When you are eating in a traditional brewery you can't go past the schweinshaxe as your main.  We call it pork knuckle in English, but it’s one of those phrases that sounds so much better in German.  I have the feeling that it tastes so much better in Germany or Austria than anywhere else too.  

You can guess by the name that it’s not a delicate cut of meat; it is a fatty football of meat and tendon and its sawed off protruding bone gives it a look of Teutonic barbarity!  Just remember looks can be deceiving.  Once you have ordered your pork knuckle it's not long before it arrives laid out on a bed of sauerkraut and is usually accompanied by a potato dumpling or two bigger than the size of your fist.   There is no doubt about it, this is the mans man of meals for sure! The meat has been boiled and then baked with pride, the end result is so moist it just falls off the bone.  I think it is the combination of moist meat and pork crackling with tangy saurkraut that makes this dish a German/Austrian delight.  

So that was the main, now comes my personal favourite: the famous Austrian pudding, the Salzburger Nockerl.  With the Nockerl all your senses are activated at once: the delicious sweet sugary smell; the dessert is so light and fluffy that you just have to feel it (or poke your finger into as my children love to do); your eyes tell you it is something special - well just take a look at that photo; your ears hear the slight crunch as you break through the meringue and then of course comes the taste, heavenly.  As you can tell, I am definitely a dessert kind of girl! 

This is a reasonably simple dessert and one that I have heard is fairly easy to make, however for me it will always be that special treat to have when in Salzburg. It’s basically a soufflé so it consists of egg whites, sugar, lemon zest, eggs, vanilla, a little flour and some cranberry jam.  Baked until the meringue is puffed and golden and then given a dusting of icing sugar and served immediately …mmmmm, heavenly!

The other great Austrian treat that I love is the chocolate sweet known as the Mozartkugel. In English it would be the Mozart ball…again sounds better in German!  It was first created by Salzburg confectioner Paul Fürst in 1890 and named after Salzburg’s favourite son Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.  Fürst’s still produce the original Mozartkugeln by hand according to the original recipe and only sells them from their shop on Getreidegasse, the main shopping drag in Salzburg’s old town area, or from their website.  The chocolate is a ball of green pistachio marzipan covered in a layer of nougat, then placed on a wooden stick and dunked into a dark chocolate coating.  Very nice with a cup of coffee or a hot chocolate on a cold winters afternoon in the old city of Salzburg!

Incidentally, a number of imitation Mozartkugeln have popped up over the years from various other confectioners resulting in (if you will pardon the pun) a war over Mozarts balls! But only Fürst products may be called the original Salzburg Mozartkugeln.

So that was my wintery weekend treat. I love a good comfort food kind of weekend treat. Hmmm, what to have this weekend...

Posted at YaYa's Yum Yums

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