Monday, 13 April 2009

Fresh Horseradish and Speck - an Austrian Culinary Moment

I like Austrian mountain food. It's expensive undoubtedly, but is very much itself. Some things are uniquely good in Vorarlberg, the alpine region encompassing St Anton, St Christof, Zurs and Lech.

Such as the pride each mountain refuge takes in its Speckteller. This is generally a large plate of tissue-thin Speck with assorted pates and pickles and topped with what to the unsuspecting closely resembles grated hard cheese. But have a care, dear reader, for this is an artful pile of raw, grated horseradish. On first taste the heat and astringency can over-power but it soon becomes apparent that it is the perfect fresh foil for cured meat. Suffice to say: the Campaign for Fresh Horseradish starts here.

[Speck is a distinctively juniper-flavored ham originally from Tyrol, a historical region that since 1918 partially lies in Austria and partially in Italy. Speck's origins at the intersection of two culinary worlds is reflected in its synthesis of salt-curing and smoking. It translates on menus as Bacon - but bears no resemblance to that word's English meaning, being closer to a smokier Pancetta.]

Unrelated to Speck but no less delicious (and because I have a photograph of it) is the best Strudel of the trip, made from Apple and Rhubarb, from the Mermeli Restaurant in Oberlech.

Above is a buzzard carrying what I suppose is nest material in Vorarlberg while flying over a skilift cable. Tragically I managed to delete my images of Specktellers. Some blogger, eh?

Time permitting, this brief thought will be followed by a blog-tome on Tafelspitz.


  1. Now's the right time of year for fresh horseradish. Not sure where you hang out, but lots available in greengrocers in areas with large Jewish populations as it's an important feature of Passover, which started last week and ends on Thursday night. It's amazing stuff, much better than the what you generally get in jars.

  2. Thanks - very much obliged.

    I have been meaning to let some loose in the garden in Devon but have been held back by horror stories of it taking over completely. Apparently one is best to plant it in a submerged container.