Thursday, 23 June 2011

How To Blow Your Nose Off

Oh Leberkäse - what a thing of beauty you are! Never has abattoir slurry been more attractive. If you've never tried it I recommend that you book yourself on the next flight to Graz immediately, drink yourself into a lather and then reach for a slice of this offally good snack as a morning hangover cure. It works. Really. And if it doesn't, what have you lost?

Describing Leberkäse without making you feel ill is quite difficult. It looks like a meat blancmange. Well, when I say meat, I mean all the bits that can't be sold as meat in their own right, ground to a paste and then baked like a cake. It's like Spam without the class. Its name literally translates as 'liver cheese', but the inclusion of 'liver' in the name is just to attract more punters. It doesn't contain anything as recognizable as that.

It's best served on a bun with a giant squirt of mustard and a good shaving of fresh horseradish. You have to treat fresh horseradish with respect. It's not like the mildly pungent creamy sauce you sometimes get with beef in Britain. This stuff can blow your nose off your face. When I used to live here back in the 90s, I took an English friend of mine to an Austrian restaurant. She ordered a plate of cold meats, which, as is fairly normal here, was topped with a fistful of the freshest grated horseradish. I feel bad. I didn't warn her in time. "Oh good," she said, "mozzerella!" She picked up a giant forkful and stuffed it in her gob. She couldn't really explain what happened next. Cheese doesn't normally do that. She danced around with her eyes streaming, wafting her face and howling. I think she thought she was dying. I'm glad it happened though because, first, it serves as a warning to anyone reading this, but mostly because I laughed my tits off. Her nose has only recently grown back.

Other Austrian meat products are equally dangerous. If you want a tasty sausage I recommend the Käsekrainer. But don't fry one without supervision, for inside its dense meatiness are hidden pockets of cheese. And as its core temperature increases, the cheese somehow transmutes into molten lava. Prod it roughly enough in the pan to break its surface and you'll be down Graz's A&E with a badly charred but really quite delicious eyeball.

Austria's good at soups and stews too. Leberknödelsuppe is a baseball-sized liver dumpling floating in a warm bath of beef bouillon. It's delicious although visually it's very reminiscent of an overly full potty. But there's one thing in this category I've never, ever had despite having lived here for five years. And, as you might have guessed, I'm hoping to sample it on this trip. It's called Beuschel. This is a heart, lungs, spleen and liver stew. Doesn't that sound yummy? No? I didn't even know you could eat a spleen. Why did we stop eating them? Why aren't there spleen-flavoured crisps? Is it because it tastes disgusting? Or maybe it has a foul odour. If it does, there's a simple solution. I'll just reach for a handful of horseradish and launch my nose across the room.

Bis später!


  1. As an Austrian native I can tell: food in Austria is the best in the world (admitted, I am biased) - I just want to add Stelze and Wienerschnitzel to the menu, before you go to the desert ...

    Have a safe ride!

  2. Thanks! Yes, I agree. I lived in Graz for five years and never had a bad meal. My favourite dish of all though was a typical Buschenschank's hearty Brettljause. Yum!