BOOK | Blue Window | Culinary Adventures in the Alps and Carpathians — Switzerland I France I Italy I — Austria I Germany I


The ride through the Tyrol alongside the mighty Inn river is as enchanting as any route in the European Alps, but not all the way on a railjet. It is useless for sightseeing. Everything is a blur. Blink and you’ll miss it. So while our first trip on this marvellous high-speed luxurious train was memorable it isn’t as pleasing as the ride on the regional train.

So we are getting on the railjet at Feldkirch, stopping at Saint Anton am Arlberg, for the ‘slow’ run into Innsbruck, where we are hoping to find more alpine secrets.

One of the most enchanting dishes of Austria is schmarrn. Originally known as Kaiserschmarrn, for obvious reasons, this aristocratic dish has been transformed into a traditional dish with several variations because of its enduring popularity.

Ask an Austrian to suggest their favourite food, and one that is traditional and representative of the country’s food culture, and this is the answer.

And it was once untouchable.

Made only with cream, eggs, flour, raisins and sugar it epitomised haute cuisine. Then it lost its kingly status, no more so than in the Tyrol where this torn pancake became all things to all people. The raisins were replaced by red cherries, pine nuts were preferred by those with a creative streak, almonds and hazelnuts got in on the act, and then Radio Tyrol decided that the schmarrn could become an oven-baked version of the rösti. They came up with a recipe using streaky bacon and waxy potatoes combined with the basic schmarrn ingredients – cream, eggs, flour, milk.

But for us it is back to basics – Tyrol style of course. [snip]


RECIPE — Alt-Art Apfelstrudel old-style apple pastry

RECIPE — Bärlauchbutter wild garlic butter

RECIPE — Bärlauchknödel wild garlic dumplings

RECIPE — Bärlauchpesto wild garlic paste

RECIPE — Bärlauchsuppe wild garlic soup

RECIPE — Gebratene Gans roast goose

RECIPE — Stollen fruit cake, South Tyrol style

RECIPE — Tiroler Schmarrn

RECIPE — Vanillekipferl




The ascent of strudel was thought to have reached its nadir when this delicate pastry came to epitomise the Viennese kitchen in the 1800s. The thinly drawn dough that makes the strudel iconic has its origins in ancient Assyria. It was associated with the Ottoman Turks and the Spanish Moors, and known as ’Spanish Dough’ in cookbooks of the 1700s. By then it was an established aspect of pastry baking throughout the period of the Austro-Hungarian empire, moving westwards from Budapest to Vienna and Salzburg.

The strudel went through various changes until it started to resemble a coiled pastry.

Fillings included beans, cheese, fruit, gourds, leaf and root vegetables, meat, nuts and seeds and rice. When Anna Dorn mentioned ’solid apple strudel’ in the Great Viennese Cookbook in 1827, the strudel had been boiled and baked over open fires for 200 years.

Strudel cookery changed with the emergence of oven baking and white flour. The translucent dough became crispy, and the apple strudel became legendary. Ground cinnamon, soaked raisins and toasted breadcrumbs (from kipfel bread) complimented the tart apple filling to produce a sweet-sour taste.

In Vienna sour cream was added to accentuate that sourness. In Salzburg the apfelstrudel was sweetened and softened with warm milk. In Innsbruck and alpine regions the old style remains constant. And in Berlin kirschwasser was added to the raisins, and walnuts were included in the filling. Sugar was used to offset the acidity of the tart apples, which included a range that became known as ’strudler apples’.

Gradually, throughout the 20th century, apfelstrudel epitomised the art of the Viennese patisserie, and its Assyrian, Arabian, Moorish and Turkish origins were forgotten. [snip]

South Tyrol Specialities
Tyrol Traditional Dishes

Innsbruck to Wörgl (train) 26–46 minutes

Hay Milk Cheese


Herb Brandy




Wörgl to Munich (train) 77-80 minutes



Munich to Garmisch-Partenkirchen (train) 71–87 minutes

Bayerischen Leberkäse

The snow is visceral. Seasonal smells mingle with seasonal stragglers. The wafting aroma of baked fruits, nuts and spices. The smell of roast chestnuts. A fragrant air colliding with cold vapours. Christmas is long gone, yet its essence lingers. The carnival detritus is also evident. The Maschkera have put away their hand-carved wooded masks for another year. The sun shines with a fierceness that contradicts the season, reflecting our images on every casual surface. We live in that lightness of being, walking the path from serendipity to inevitability.

This morning that path is alongside the Loisach river. We are not alone under the southfacing Almhuette and Wetterstein mountains, as we survey this magical twin-town and its surrounding peaks. Like us the people glance skywards. Unlike us they know their beloved heimat in the valley is sacrosanct. Up at Zugspitze and Leutasch Dreitorspitze, familial high peaks, comforted by the knowledge of their perpetual existence.

As is the traditional food. Leberkäse – equal beef and pork, a quarter of that amount in bacon, one part water to four parts meat, seasoning and herbs – served with potato salad – potatoes and chicken stock, lemon juice and mustard – is our treat today.

The 4000 Bavarian butchers who specialise in leberkäse cannot afford to deviate from tried and tested recipes. Attempts to introduce an ingredient they believe will improve the quality of the finished product are usually rejected. More often than not that ingredient is an egg, because the Bavarian leberkäse is made with an emulsion that can fall apart during baking. Butchers prevent this by freezing the meat, adding ice and keeping air bubbles out of the emulsion, so that when it bakes in a low oven it holds both its shape and texture. An egg would achieve that end.

A Bavarian leberkäse should not be grey, it should be a pale pink with a reddish brown crust. The end slice, called scherzel, is coveted because it combines the crunchiness of the crust and the melt-inthe-mouth softness of the loaf. Leberkäse should taste delicious hot and cold. Hot it is cut into thick slices and served with potato salad or two fried eggs, and with sweet mustard. Cold it is eaten as a snack, usually with gherkins and a bread roll. [snip]

Bräustüberl Garmsich




Garmisch-Partenkirchen to Zugspitze 15 minutes (return 15 / 20 minutes)


At Niesenhorn in Switzerland a shimmering blue sky, casting its light on the settlement between the lakes, created an effusive mood, everything bright and light.

At Zugspitze in Germany a creeping gothic mist, moving eerily around crystal peaks, creates a claustrophobic feeling, everything doom and gloom. On a clear day we would have seen the expanse of our alpine journey, written in the sky, from Mont Blanc in the Savoy Alps to Mount Triglav in the Julian Alps. It wasn’t to be.

Instead we contend ourselves with the knowledge that we have been to the top of the European world. Time for dinner! Sauerbraten is on the menu and it has got us wondering about the origins of this wonderful dish. A traditional dish rooted in the regions, the Bavarians and the Rhinelanders argue that their version is the best, while the Swabians know their soured meat by a different name – bofflamot.

Originally made with game meat, sauerbraten is now associated with beef and is generally served with boiled potatoes and red cabbage, with dumplings or noodles.

Zugspitze Panorama

RECIPE — Bayerischer Fleischpflanzerl meatballs

RECIPE — Bayerischer Kartoffelsalat potato salad

RECIPE — Bayerischer Leberkäse Bavarian meat loaf

RECIPE — Bayerischer Sauerbraten Bavarian soured meat

RECIPE — Bratkartoffeln mit Zwiebelrostbraten und Bratkartoffelgewürz spiced fried potatoes with fried onion

RECIPE — Eintöpf pot stew

RECIPE — Hutzelbrot fruit bread

RECIPE — Laugenbrötli lye bread buns

RECIPE — Spanferkelrollbraten roast suckling pig roll

Gasthof Fraundorfer


Chef Hansjörg Betz


Garmisch-Partenkirchen to Mittenwald (train) 21–33 minutes (bus) 30 minutes



Alpine Herbs
Bärlauch (wild garlic) Story
Carnival Pastries


Mittenwald to Landeck-Zams (train) 125–150 minutes

Farmers Plate


Landeck-Zams to Martina (bus) 64-72 minutes

These are edited draft versions of some the sections that will appear in the finished book.

Blue Window – Austria-Italy