After hopping on the summer lifts to explore hilltop meadows and breathtaking scenery, you’ll probably have worked up an appetite. Dating back generations, the homely foods of the mountains are prepared with love, using local produce like meats, cheeses and vegetables, and all made extra special by the authentic experience of eating in a mountain hut or log-cabin restaurant.
Here are some of our favourite dishes for you to try while on holiday in Europe’s mountains.
Typical of Austria’s Tyrol region, tiroler gröstl is not one for the calorie-conscious. This warm and filling savoury favourite combines fried bacon, onion and cubed or sliced potatoes, topped off with an egg. It’s usually served with sauerkraut, a typical Austrian side dish of fermented cabbage. Traditionally, tiroler gröstl was a way of using up the previous day’s leftovers, whilst now it makes a great share-from-the-pan mountain lunch.
This tennis-ball-shaped food is known to the Germans and Austrians as knödel, to the Italians as canederli and to the English as a dumpling. They’re made from either flour, bread or potato, and then boiled and served hot. Look out for both the savoury and sweet types on menus. Savoury knödel are often mixed with meat, cooked in a delicious meaty stock, and then served in the flavoursome juices too. Sweet types regularly have cooked fruit inside the dumpling, normally warm apricot. Austrians love knödel so much that 26,000 dumplings are sold each year at the annual Knödelfest, which takes place every September in St Johann.
If you like sweet treats and want an excuse to eat pancakes outside of Shrove Tuesday, then kaiserschmarrn is the one for you. Some people even skip the main course and have kaiserschmarrn, along with a coffee, for lunch. This rich and sweet cake-like pancake is served in shredded chunks with a side pot of tangy fruit compote. The name comes from its debut serving to Emperor Francis Joseph I, with ‘kaiser’ being the German word for Emperor and ‘schmarren’ translating as ‘scrambled’ or ‘mess’.
Taking a trip to Krimml waterfalls? Stop off at Hanke’s Café Restaurant for a taste of this scrumptious dish before walking it off with a climb to the top.
Also referred to as the ‘bread of the Dolomites’, polenta is a staple food in the mountains of northern Italy. Dating back to the roman times, polenta was originally called ‘pulmentum’ and made from wild grains. The modern variation, now made with maize, arrived in Northern Italy in the 15th and 16th century when farmers were able to produce vast crops. It’s pretty versatile too. On warmer days, polenta can be sliced thick and then fried or grilled, as a replacement to a side such as potatoes or bread, whilst on colder days, nothing can beat a bowl of warm polenta and meaty goulash.
The wiener schnitzel is a national dish of Austria and one you’ll find on any menu. A piece of meat, traditionally veal, is pounded and thinned, then covered in a breadcrumb coating before being deep fried. Originating in Vienna and sometimes called the Viennese schnitzel, it’s now a popular dish across the country and has ‘protected geographical indication’ in Austria and Germany. This means that it can only be called a ‘wiener schnitzel’ if made in these countries. In France, you might find the schnitzel is called an escalope, while in Italy it’s known as a milanese.