Pilgrim’s progress – Europe’s top chefs unite to provide a summer of gastronomic delights in the Austrian mountains
My Sevenoaks Community Editor Frank Baldwin found a feast for foodies when he hiked ancient pilgrim paths in the Tirol
THE proliferation of television programmes involving culinary competitions such as MasterChef and Bake Off have turned many chefs and bakers into celebrities. They now attract their own legion of fans who watch out for the release of the latest creations in the same way music lovers wait for new songs from their favourite bands.
With such extensive menus now on offer, the challenge has been for the culinary world to come up with new or different ways for food lovers to enjoy their dining experience. This has led to offerings such as ‘pop up’ restaurants, where chefs prepare meals in unusual surroundings, and ‘Dark’ restaurants, where customers eat in pitch black surroundings!
Just over 10 years ago Austrian chef Eckart Witzigmann came up with the idea for another novel experience which combines gastronomic delights with the beauty and majesty of the Tirolean mountains.
He launched the Culinary Jakobsweg (St Jacobs) summer food programme which takes its name from the ancient pilgrims’ path of Jakobsweg that crosses the Austrian Alps on the route from France to Spain.
The event starts on the first weekend of July and centres around the four Tirolean mountain villages of Ischgl, Galtür, Kappl and See. It attracts award-winning chefs from all over Europe with each one adopting a mountain lodge restaurant for which they create a hearty dish using locally sourced ingredients. This then becomes that restaurant’s seasonal special on the menu.
Last year I stayed in Ischgl during the launch weekend when the five award-winning chefs taking part included the UK’s Michael Wignall, Switzerland’s Sven Wassmer, Heinz Winkler and Harald Wohlfahrt from Germany, and Arabelle Meirlaen from Belgium.
Although it is not compulsory, you are invited to get into the spirit of the Jakobsweg pilgrimage by hiking into the mountains to get to your chosen hut.
During my visit when all the chefs were present, I joined a group of diners hiking to the Friedrichshafener Hütte where we had been invited to sample all the new summer dishes. Our UK chef Michael Wignall showed his fitness, probably retained from his former career as a professional BMX rider, by doing the 3km hike with his two-year-old daughter on his back.
The effort for us mere mortals was certainly worth it as we arrived at the Hütte to find the chefs had set out their dishes on tables around a beautiful mountain lake. You could wander from table to table to sample their delicious food while taking in the spectacular views. Michael’s contribution was meatloaf with vegetable hash and beetroot kimchi (see recipe below).
An accordionist and guitarist added to the atmosphere by playing traditional Austrian music and this encouraged some of the diners – possibly after a few glasses of wine and schnapps – to have a dance.
The following day I joined Michael at his ‘adopted’ hut, the Almstüberl above the village of Kappl, where I sampled more of his delicious food.
And it doesn’t end there for ‘foodies’. The villages of Ischgl, Galtür, Kappl and See all contain their own fantastic restaurants. During my stay in Ischgl I ate at the 5* Hotel Trofana Royal which is home to local celebrity head chef Martin Sieberer, had dinner at Hotel Tirol and finished with another spectacular gourmet meal provided by chef Benjamin Parth at the Stüva Restaurant in the Yscla, one of the oldest hotels in the village. Benjamin is a multi award-winning chef who has been named in the Schlemmer Atlas Top 20 chefs in Austria.
I certainly needed a few mountain hikes after that to work all that food off!
London chef James Knappett heads to the Austrian Alps for another adventure
THIS year’s Culinary Jakobsweg UK representative is London-based top chef – and adventurer – James Knappett.
For James, hiking in the Austrian Alps will be like a walk in the park as his last few hikes have been arduous treks in Ethiopia, Myanmar and Nepal for the global charity Action Against Hunger.
James and wife and business partner Sandia Chang own and run Bubbledogs in London, with its signature hot dog and champagne menu, alongside the exclusive Kitchen Table which has a daily changing 12-course menu – and two Michelin stars.
“I’m really looking forward to being in the mountains and working alongside the other guest chefs,” said James, aged 37.
Like Michael Wignall, his adopted hut is the Almstüberl and his summer special is fallow deer, celery purée and plum soaked in black tea, served with a grating of chocolate.
His fellow chefs are Tristan Brandt from Germany; Paul Ivić, Austria; Onno Kokmeijer from The Netherlands; and Jean-Georges Klein, France.
* To find out more about the Culinary Jakobsweg and to book a holiday in the Paznaun-Ischgl area this summer, go to paznaun-ischgl.com and choose from the range of accommodation, where five nights’ bed and breakfast is from €153 pp, including the local Silvretta Card which entitles guests to many free services, such as use of cablecars and chairlifts.
For the foodies…
Some of the recipe’s from 2018 Culinary Jakobsweg
Sven Wassmer’s dish for the Jamtal lodge
Fried fillet of char with a sorrel cream, potatoes and salad
Filleted and boned (leave skin on)
Gently marinate in salt & sugar (mix 600g sugar & 400g salt well). Sprinkle over both sides of the fillet and leave for approx. 25 mins. Then rinse under cold water and dry the fillet.
Fry on the skin side in oil & butter.
Decorate with char caviar.
160g egg white
400g neutral rapeseed oil or sunflower oil
Wash the herbs well. Finely blend in a Vitamix or Thermomix and then mix with oil such a mayonnaise.
20g almonds, lightly toasted
30g Sbrinz cheese
50g olive oil
Chive oil: (garnish with char roe)
2 bd chives
300 g sunflower oil
Mix in a Thermomix at 70°C and then pass through a fine sieve.
Lettuce hearts / Watercress / Sliced radish / Sorrel
Arabelle Meirlaen’s recipe for the Ascherhütte lodge
Lentil risotto with corn-fed chicken and spices
Recipe for four persons
4 pcs. Corn-fed chicken breasts
Thyme, rosemary, olive oil,
100 g coral lentils (red)
3 garlic cloves
20 g ginger
Turmeric, cinnamon, fleur de sel
250 g leaf spinach, olive oil, fleur de sel
Marinate the corn-fed chicken with herbs and olive oil and vacuum seal. Then cook at 65 °C for 20 minutes in a water bath without cooking bag and subsequently season with salt and pepper. Sauté the chicken breasts briefly in olive oil and garnish with one handful of wild herbs before serving.
For the stock, fry the chicken parts, add root vegetables, garlic and ginger and pour in white soy sauce. Finally, add bay leaves, parsley and thyme, then fill with water, season and simmer gently for two hours – then strain.
Glaze the thinly sliced garlic and ginger, then add the lentils, pour the chicken stock over the lentils up to about 1 cm above, season and simmer for six minutes. Then let the lentil risotto cool down and warm just before serving.
Pluck the spinach, remove the stems and stir the leaves in olive oil and sea salt.
Arrange the lentil risotto with the leaf spinach on the plate, add the chicken breasts and garnish with marinated wild herbs.
Michael Wignall’s dish for the Almstüberl lodge
Almstüberl meatloaf with vegetable hash and beetroot kimchi
200g pork mince
200 g veal mince
50g pork liver
125g red wine
100 g Madeira
10 g yellow mustard seeds
10 g brown mustard seeds
1 large shallot
1 large garlic clove
30 g breadcrumbs
3g blanched sage
20 g Dijon mustard
80 g blood sausage
50 g Lardo
6slices of Parma ham
Mince the pork mince , pork liver and veal mince quickly to form a coarse consistency
Blanche the mustard seeds and sage
Sweat the shallots and garlic in a little oil a nd butter
Add the red wine and Madeira to the shallot mix and reduce down to ¾ of the volume
Dice the Lardo and stir into the meat mixture
Mix the meat, wine and Lardo with all the ingredients
Season with salt and pepper to taste
Lay out some cling film, place the Parma ham across it vertically and make sure the slices overlap
Place the minced meat mixture on top in a roll shape
Roll the Parma ham over the top as cleanly as possible, avoiding any gaps
Wrap in clingfilm until opaque
Secure in place with but cher’s string
Cook sous vide for 90 minutes and at 72 degrees
Leave to cool for Leave to cool for 15 15 minutesminutes
Carefully unwrap and chill
For the Grand Veneur sauce:
Sweat the shallots, garlic, pepper corns and thyme
Add the wine and port and reduce
Add the reduced game stock
Boil down to form a light sauce consistency
Refine with the green pepper corns, double cream and a knob of butter
Season with pepper to taste
Shortly before serving, add a small piece of 70% chocolate
Tokyo beetroot kimchi
3 garlic cloves
2 cm ginger, grated
2 tbsp fish sauce
2 tbsp Sriracha sauce/ chilli paste
1 tbsp cane sugar
3 tbsp rice vinegar
Sweat the garlic and ginger
Add all the other ingredients
Leave to cool
Grate the beetroot using a mandoline
Vacuum pack with the marinade
To serve the meatloaf: heat by the portion with the game sauce. Serve with roasted root vegetables, beetroot kimchi and pour the Grand Veneur over the top.
Heinz Winkler’s dish for the Friedrichshafener lodge
Sugared pancakes in a pan with apple sauce, cowberry jam, plums and vanilla
80 g flour
200 ml milk
10 g vanilla sugar
4 egg yolks
4 egg whites
50 g sugar
50 g raisins soaked in rum
25 g liquid butter
Mix the flour, milk, vanilla sugar and egg yolks well. Beat the egg white with the sugar and fold into the mixture.
Heat the butter in a pan until it foams then pour onto the mixture. Sprinkle the dough with the raisins soaked in rum and place in the oven for 7 minutes. Bake at 175°C (top and bottom oven). Then cut the dough into smaller pieces and sprinkle with a handful of sugar crystals.
Serve with apple sauce, cowberry jam and plums