Traditional Austrian fare this is, although my friend Kate says they do a very similar dish in the Czech Republic as well. But that's the thing with our food: the Austrian Empire once spread over so many countries and regions that our culinary heritage is very varied indeed. So we claim a few things to be ours which originated in countries which no longer form part of Austria - gulyas from Hungary, dumplings, strudel et al. from the Czech Republic, Schnitzel from Milan... the list goes on an on.
One of my personal favourites is Schweinsbraten (or Schweinebraten), a traditional Sunday roast - it's infused with heaps of garlic, coriander and caraway seeds, cooked in the oven for many hours, then served with dumplings, potatoes and a warm white cabbage salad with fried bacon bits. The best part is that you make this pork with the skin on, the end result being a very tasty and super crispy pork scratching - a delicacy everybody will fight over at the lunch table!
The roaster my mum uses for this dish is a Römertopf. It is made of clay and forms an oval shape, you prepare it by letting it soak in cold water overnight. Then the clay will not absorb the cooking juices but instead let off a bit of humidity during the roasting process and keep the meat nice and moist. I use an oval cast iron casserole dish with lid from LeCreuset.
I always ask my butcher to score the pork skin for me as it is difficult to cut through it without breaking through to the meat, and I brought this particular roast home with me from Austria. It was just one of the many items I bought there, my suitcase was so stuffed with kilos of meat, sausages, bread, chocolates and other foodstuff that I ended up paying more than 90 Euros for excess baggage - but just for this roast alone I have to say that it was worth every penny!
My Mum's Schweinsbraten (aka Schweinebraten) - roast pork with dumplings, potatoes and white cabbage
1.8 kg pork (a loin with skin on or a cut from the shoulder)
20 cloves garlic
ground coriander seeds
ground caraway seeds
1 l water
Prepare the pork the night before if you can. Peel the garlic and cut half of it into 3 mm sticks, which you will use to stud the meat. Use a thin kitchen knife to prick holes into the pork, sliding the garlic sticks over the blade into the meat and removing the knife. Rub the pork with the salt, pepper, coriander and caraway seeds. Crush the rest of the garlic and smear over the roast, including the skin. Leave to infuse for as long as you can, preferably over night.
The next morning, place the pork skin-up in an casserole with lid, add 1 litre of water and roast, lid on, for as long as possible. The longer you leave it, the lower the temperature should be, so roast for 2.5 hours at 200 C or for 4-5 hours at 150 C. During the cooking time, continually baste the pork with the juices. About an hour before due time prepare the accompaniments, peeling and cooking the potatoes in salt water and preparing the dumplings and white cabbage to the instructions below. (For enhanced flavour add the potatoes and dumplings to the pan with the roast for 30 minutes.)
Take the lid off ca. 1 hr before serving so that the crackling crisps up nicely. You can support it a little by putting the grill on full blast for the last 15 minutes or by using a blow torch.
For the dumplings:
(yield: 13 small dumplings)
700 g potatoes (the floury kind, use baking potatoes or maris piper, no new potatoes)
400 g plain flour
Cook the potatoes (skin on) in some salt water. When they're done, peel them and mash them in a bowl. Add the flour and salt and knead to form a thick dough. Form little dumplings of about 7 cm diameter and cook them in salt water until they return to the surface, this should take about 10 minutes. Lift with a slotted spoon and reserve in a separate dish or add to the pan with the Schweinsbraten.
For the cabbage:
1 large white cabbage
1 tbsp caraway seeds
200 g lean bacon
100 ml white wine or apple cider vinegar
Cut the cabbage into thin strips (no more than 5 mm) and cook in salted water with the caraway seeds until tender. Drain and return to the pot. Cut the bacon into 1 cm dice and fry in a shallow pan until nicely brown. When the bacon bits are done, add them and the fat they released to the cabbage. Return the pan to the stove and add the vinegar, heat it up and add to the cabbage. Mix through and serve.