In his book “Kräuterreich – Geheimnisse der alpinen Küche”, Vitus Winkler from Verwöhnhotel Sonnhof in St. Veit in the Pongau district of SalzburgerLand masterfully combines his personal experiences with products from his home Alpine region and unique dishes. Here we present this masterpiece of culinary storytelling by means of 10 sample recipes from the book, a book which actually contains 58 dishes in total, many additional preparation tips and fascinating information about the herbs he uses.
“Fritztaler Schweinerei” – free-range pork/ginger – white cabbage/apple
From the chapter “In the Village”: This dish is also a homage to Max Mann, a butcher and breeder of Fritztaler free-range pigs from Hüttau in Pongau, who supplies Vitus with all parts of the pig he uses in the kitchen. Pork belly and roasts are integrated into marvelous dumplings. Ginger adds freshness and spiciness to the steamed white cabbage. Blossoms of wild mountain chives provide a hint of the herbal kingdom h.
Goldegg – One-Hour Egg /red kale/elderberries
From the chapter “In the Village”: The eggs for this dish come from a rear breed of hens in the neighboring town of Goldegg, a breed that actually lays eggs with a green shell. Gold dust gives the One-Hour Egg a true golden aura. Mashed mountain potatoes, chips and feathers of puréed celery provide the finishing touches.
Strawberry Field – strawberry-basil ice cream /chocolate mousse/chocolate nut cake/strawberry meringue
From the chapter “In the Field”: Two classics of the dessert scene, strawberries and chocolate, in varying consistencies and aromatic nuances, meet different types of mint garnished with strawberry blossoms!
Wild River – crawfish/pumpkin/potato croquettes/speedwell
From the chapter “River & Lake”: In this dish, Vitus works with wild-caught crawfish which. After he has cooked them, he marinates them in speedwell tea. In this slightly bitter tea, the crawfish carcasses are then simmered and further refined with herbs, mango juice and coconut milk. A beautifully nuanced pumpkin sauce prepared in multiple stages and potato croquettes (crispy on the outside, soft on the inside) along with the beautiful speedwell flowers (lat. Euphrasia) turn this into a complete work of art, not just optically!
Tauern Lamb – crown/leg/filet/salt lemon/kohlrabi
From the chapter “Forest & Meadow“: The recipe for this filigree, complex dish takes up a densely worded double-page in this book. The business operated by the Zehetner family, which raises and markets lamb, goat and beef from the Hohe Tauern National Park Region, also plays a central role. The filet is given a dry rub of blended herbs, the crown is steamed and the leg is roasted. Dishes such as these used to be referred to as “A trio of…”. In Vitus’s interpretation, buckwheat crackers, arugula pesto and arugula crème add the finishing touches to his creation
Forest Pool – wild garlic tarte /mountain-cheese short crust pastry/forest herbs
From the chapter “Forest & Meadow”: The photograph of this Sonnhof classic has rightfully made it onto the cover of this book. Congratulations to Mario Stockhausen, the book’s photographer! The central element is wild garlic, which is celebrated as an oil, pesto, cracker and as the filling for an eponymous tarte, with a supporting role played by spinach, leek and parsley.
Sweet surprises from forest & meadow – sorrel tarte /meringue/hay-yogurt sorbet
From the chapter “Forest & Meadow”: Let us follow Vitus as he makes his way across the meadow into the forest. Grazing on this meadow are the cows that give the milk which is paired in the kitchen with fresh hay in the Pacojet to create a hay-yogurt sorbet. Sorrel thrives on the forest’s edge in the mountains surrounding St. Veit, which Vitus then brings to the plate in the form of a crème and tarte. The result is a wonderful dessert!
Hunter & Gatherer – saddle of venison/celery in salt dough/mushrooms/black walnut
From the chapter “To the Tree Line”: Vitus dedicates this dish to his father, a hunter through and through. The wealth of wild game inhabiting the local mountains surrounding St. Veit provides top-quality meat year-round. The “gatherer” is, of course, Vitus himself, who regularly collects blueberries of which, incidentally, there are more than 450 varieties. In creating the finished product, Vitus draws upon numerous components in his treasure chamber: blueberry compote, pickled green blackberries, black walnuts, jus of wild game and oils of wild herbs.
Waidmannsheil – liver of young venison/pickled onion/wild raspberry/porcini
From the chapter “To the Tree line”: The second grandfather who was an avid hunter is Hans, who plays his own role in this dish. Whenever he was out hunting, he would always bring an onion with him so that, if he successfully brought down an animal, he would have the perfect accompaniment to the delectable liver of the chamois or deer right there at hand. Vitus’s interpretation of liver of young venison is served with a wild-berry sauce, pickled onions and roasted porcini.
Alpine Meadow – herbal foam soup/ potato /meadow herbs & flowers
From the chapter “Alpine Pastures”: a pure homage to summery, flower-strewn alpine meadows, definitely a kind of “home-field advantage” for herbal experts such as Vitus Winkler. The basis is a potato soup which is refined to perfection and colorfully refreshed by a cream of herbs from the Alpine meadows – including buckhorn, wild thyme, yarrow, dandelion, wild mountain chives.
Tauern Gold – plum/poppyseed/ Tauern-rye ice cream /dandelion foam
From the chapter “On the Summit”: In the Late Middle Ages, the Hohe Tauern was famous for its wealth of gold. Today’s guests don’t have to go panning for this special treasure. The “edible stones”, small pastry pockets filled with dandelion honey and a sour cream foam, meet on the plate edible gold nuggets made of chocolate, pumpkin- and cheese dumplings, additional classics from Vitus´s Alpine treasure trove of desserts. Also ingenious is the ice cream made from Tauern rye, spelt and sesame. A delectable treat for the eyes you would likely prefer not to disrupt through the despicable act of eating it. But at some point, that’s unavoidable, too.
Kräuterreich – Geheimnisse der alpinen Küche
recipes, philosophy: Vitus Winkler
texts & book concept: Rainer Schillings
photography, design, layout: Mario Stockhausen
Matthaes Verlag, Stuttgart, 2020