As I am planning our summer vacation in Austria - we've rented a little block house on a farm near Salzburg and the famous lake district for five weeks, which will be wonderful for the kids, I think - there's no way I can resist booking another night at Obauer's... following the development of Austria's top restaurants with the eyes of an eagle, I notice that top chefs come and go. The Steirereck, hallmark of internationally renowned Austrian cuisine for decades on end, has moved into its new quarters in the idyllic Stadtpark in Vienna's city and may now sport an awe-inspiring location, but they've lost their head chef on the way - and consequently do not feature amongst Austria's top anymore.
Joerg Woerther, who used to be a personal favourite of mine, has given up his famous restaurant next to Schloss Prielau (a hunting estate which belongs to the Porsche family, which I can thorouly recommend for an enchanting and relaxing break) to explore new ways of serving food, namely in cones, at Carpe Diem in Salzburg's main pedestrian street, the Getreidegasse, sponsored by the beverages brand of the same name. From what I hear it may be novel, but haute cuisine it ain't, so I might drop in for a quick snack, given that I'll be at a mere 10-minutes' drive from there, but I am not holding my breath.
But there's one thing that doesn't change: it appears that the Obauer brothers continue to produce top notch food and their breakfast is still to die for... and yours truly is going to find out for you if the critics are right.
On my last visit, I bought their (then) newest cookbook "Hemmungslos Kochen" (translates roughly as uninhibited cooking) ... I haven't cooked as much from it as I'd like to, but the book is great, even just for inspiration. Apart from the fact that it is beautifully laid out, I like the fact that it is not at all prescriptive, but aims to encourage you to experiment with a variety of flavour combinations - nuts & vegetables, seafood & fruit, apple & liver, bitter & sweet etc. For each flavour pair you get an explanation of why it works so well and a multitude of quick ideas for recipes, then a few carefully selected, stunningly presented dishes. It's one of those books where you start putting post-it notes on memorable pages only to realise that this is an utterly futile endeavour, as you're bookmarking nine pages out of ten! One day, I'll translate it into English, so you can enjoy it, too!
So this is another recipe from the archives: Aubergines tartare-style, combined with nuts, almonds, curry and lemon thyme - a wonderfully stylish entrée which vegetarians and carnivores will enjoy alike!
Caramelised aubergine tartare with curried nuts and almonds*
(serves 2 as a starter)
1 medium aubergine (aka eggplant)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 big clove of garlic (thinly sliced)
3 sprigs lemon thyme
1 tbsp caster sugar
15 g pecans (or walnuts)
15 g blanched almonds
1 tsp curry spice mix
2 tbsp sherry vinegar
2 dash tabasco
2 tbsp fromage frais
Half the aubergine, then cut 2 thin slices from the middle. Make
sure they're as even as possible. Dice the rest of the aubergine (cubes
of less than 1 cm) and rest in a bowl with salted water for about 10
Heat 2 tbsp olive oil in a non-stick pan, add the lemon thyme and garlic and cook until starting to brown lightly. Add the drained aubergines and the sugar, then cook for about 10 minutes, with the lid on.
In the meantime, put the pecans and almonds in an oven-proof dish, sprinkle with the water, then season with salt and pepper and dust with the curry. Pop into the pre-heated oven (250 C) until the water has evaporated. Make sure the nuts don't burn.
When the aubergines are done, season with salt, pepper, vinegar and tabasco, then set aside. In the same frying pan, cook the aubergine slices without adding any oil until soft and starting to brown.
Divide the aubergine tartare between two plates and wrap and aubergine slice around each. Beat the fromage frais with some salt. Divide the nuts between the plates and drizzle some of the fromage frais over the aubergines and the plate. Decorate with some remaining lemon thyme and serve with crusty bread.
*Based on a recipe in Obauer's "Hemmungslos Kochen"