As the blogger of ‘Steppe und Stadt’, an Austrian food blog, I am very happy to have met my wonderful blogger friend Fariba from ‘Zozobaking’ and that I have the chance to dedicate this article to her and her great project. What does ‘Steppe und Stadt’ mean and represent? ‘Steppe und Stadt’ literally means ‘Steppe and City’, which is a reference to the grasslands in my home region (Burgenland, Austria) and the city I live in namely the great city of Vienna.
The Burgenland I grew up in was always a region of cultural, language and culinary diversity. The city of Vienna in turn as a melting pot of cultures and culinary identities reflects a similar spirit. The dialogue among cultures with its most common denominator the food we share is what I strongly believe in and cross-cultural topics interest me much!
My cooking is influenced by the traditional Burgenland kitchen, which is very much influenced by the Hungarian kitchen as well as by international influences in the City of Vienna – not to leave out the Iranian kitchen or Persian cooking! So my recipe for this post will be Iranian with a touch of a special spice from my hometown. Finally I’ll recommend a fine Austrian red wine.
But first some interesting facts about the region I come from:
Burgenland is the most easterly Austrian region famous for the largest endroheic lake in Central Europe (Lake Neusiedl) on the one hand and for the great wines on the other. Because Burgenland in the time of the Habsburg monarchy belonged to Hungary, the culinary tradition and daily language is still much influenced by Hungarian culture. Burgenland in general is a land of great cultural diversity appreciated by myself and many others.
Lake Neusiedl named after the City of Neusiedl where I come from is a national park area and since the early 1990s together with the lake is registered with UNESCO’s world heritage program.
Because of the very mild climate Burgenland has developed into a great wine region and wines from Burgenland have won many international prizes. In terms of wine production, the region I come from can be compared with that of California albeit on a much smaller scale.
In turn, my hometown, Neusiedl am See, was until the 1960s very famous for its vegetables and herbs – and nowadays more and more people have become interested in these old traditions. I love gardening and working in our family’s vegetables, fruits and herb garden where I am also cultivating old Persian roses like the Damascus roses (Mohammadi rose). Here, I have learned about the tradition of marjoram cultivation in Neusiedl am See. Until the 1960s, Marjoram in Austria was more or less only cultivated here. I have discovered that the Middle Eastern ‘za’atar’ (Oreganum Syriacum) Persian: مرزنجوش spice blend or one of its main ingredients is similar to a related herb here in the region. So, I took it as a challenge to create spice blend with Burgenland’s marjoram.
Finally some words concerning the wine I have chosen for this dish: ‘Heideboden 2013’ is a fine cuvée cultivated and pressed by the innovative wine grower Helmut Preisinger. He and his wife Gabriele own a winery situated in Gols, Austria’s biggest wine growing village. The wine is a cuvée out of Merlot and Blaufränkisch, the latter is a typical Austrian sort that creates very rich wines (70% Merlot, 30% Blaufränkisch). This rich and aromatic wine reminds of blackberries and cherries.
- 1 teaspoon honey (liquid)
- 300 ml luke warm water
- 1/2 Ounce fresh yeast (about a tablespoon)
- 1 pound hard wheat flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 2 tablespoons olive oil and some more olive oil
- sesame seeds, black cumin
Stir the honey in 150 ml water (5 Ounces) and add the yeast. Let rest for 5 minutes, and then stir well so that the ingredients dissolve. Mix the flour and salt in a big pot, form a hollow trough and add the dissolved yeast to it.
With a wooden spoon stir some flour from the rim into the yeast mixture until you have a paste. Cover the pot with a kitchen towel and let rest for 20 minutes until the yeast starter has dissolved in a fluffy way.
Pour in the half of the rest of the water and the oil into the yeast starter, stir in the flour from the rim until you have a thick, moist dough. If needed, add more water.
Put the dough on a countertop which had been sprinkled with flour. Squidge until the dough is smooth and elastic.
Put the dough in a pot greased with oil and dab the dough with oil. Then allow the dough to rise for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours until the dough doubles in volume. Then knock the dough and let rest for 10 minutes.
Form 4 portions and form round or oval breads. Let the bread forms allow to rise, covered, for 45 minutes until the forms have doubled in volume.
Preheat the oven and use baking paper for the baking sheets. With the fingers create lines on the bread forms. Dab with olive oil and sprinkle with sesame and black cumin. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes (428° F or 220° C).
- 3-4 Persian cucumbers
- 3 tomatoes
- 1/2 red onion
- olive oil
- fresh lime juice
- salt and pepper
- dried and fresh mint
For the salad cut cucumbers, tomatoes and the onion in very small cubes, mix the ingredients in a pot, add olive oil and fresh lime juice and spice up with salt and pepper. I think that everyone has to find his or her very own way in choosing the composition of ingredients – this is a matter of taste and tasting! However – the wonderful fresh vegetables and the lime juice make the salad a refreshing dish! By adding dried and fresh mint the salad becomes even more aromatic!
Za´atar spice blend with olive oil:
For my very personal mixture I used Burgenland’s marjoram (origanum majorana; Middle Eastern regions: majorana syriaca or oregano), roasted sesame for a woody aroma, and sumac for a lemony touch and mixed this blend with olive oil – the combination is ideal for a taste of the countryside on a hot summer day!