Young chef Johann Egger puts a culinary spin on traditional Alpine staples. His innovative style of cooking uses fresh and local ingredients and an inventive twist on classic favourites. The result is a spectacular menu of dishes you won’t soon forget, from charcoal butter with grilled venison loin and salad with beer dressing to grilled sourdough bread. Try these recipes if you want to get a “wild” factor into your cooking!
At just 21 years old, Johann Egger turned heads when he became Austria’s youngest head chef. Now at the grand old age of 30, he prepares fresh, locally sourced ingredients together skilfully as head chef at Schweizerhof Hotel in Kitzbühel. And he spends a lot of time helping at his parents’ organic farm in St. Johann in Tirol. From those first days on the farm with his family, Johann has been surrounded by quality produce, something that he says he does enjoy working with – so when it comes to sourcing locally, he heads to the woods together with his father, as a recreational hunter. What he likes cooking is classic Tirolean food and giving a bit of a fun twist to it, such as his recipe here on the Blog: Grilled venison loin with wild herb crust.
Grilled Sourdough Bread & Cheese Dumplings to Start With:
- 600g rye flour
- 350g whole wheat bread flour
- 50g black rye flour
- 25g salt
- 30g yeast
- 100g yogurt
- 400ml cold water
Mix together all ingredients a bowl. Turn out on to a clean kitchen surface and knead for 15 minutes. Put the dough into a bowl, cover with a damp tea towel and let it prove for one hour. Turn out the dough onto a clean kitchen surface and knock back. Portion the dough and shape into small flat loaves. Leave to prove for a further 20 minutes. Bake breads on the grill.
Pressed Cheese Dumplings
- 250g bread cubes or two pieces of stale white bread
- 100ml milk
- 3 eggs
- 60g piquant mountain cheese
- 40g grey cheese
- 40g cream cheese (quark)
- 2 sliced shallots
- 1 boiled potato
- 20g herbs (parsley, chives, marjoram)
- Black pepper, salt, nutmeg, caraway seeds
Trim the bread slices and cut them into small cubes. Add salt, pepper, nutmeg, marjoram, caraway seeds, parsley and chives in a bowl. Pour with warm milk and stir in cream cheese. Cut the boiled potato in thin slices and add to the bowl. Sauté the finely sliced shallots and add. Chop the mountain cheese and grey cheese into small cubes and blend with the bread and potato mixture. Add eggs and knead the mixture to a firm dough. Dampen hands and form dumplings from dough. Level the dumplings off and place on the hot grill.
Charcoal Butter for the Wild Herb Crust – Johann’s Special Recipe!
- 1 piece of charcoal
Mix cream, salt, herbs and one piece of burnt charcoal and let rest for an hour. This will infuse a nice smoke flavour in the butter. Pour the cream into a strainer and churn to butter. Once the butter has separated from the buttermilk, sieve through a fine cloth and add salt. Press the butter into a butter mold and refrigerate.
Grilled Venison Loin with Wild Herb Crust for Main
- 1 venison back strap, trimmed
- Wild herbs (nettle, yarrow, coltsfoot, wild thyme, wood sorrel)
- Schüttelbrot (Tirolean flatbread, ground)
- Charcoal butter, garlic, salt and freshly ground pepper
Wash the herbs, pat dry and grind them in a mortar and pestle. Beat charcoal butter until frothy and add ground flatbread. Mix with the herbs and taste for salt and pepper. Add garlic and refrigerate. Trim the venison loin of all silver skin and connective tissue. Cut into pieces and coat with oil. Place the meat over the hot part of the grill. Cook until nicely marked on both sides. Remove from grill and brush with the herb glaze. Place the back straps on the hot grill again and gratinate. Move the meat to the cool area of the grill and let rest. Slice thickly and serve.
The Side Dishes:
Wild Tomato Salsa
- 5 ripe tomatoes
- 3 shallots
- Basil, star anise
- Tomato vinegar
- Sugar, extra virgin olive oil, salt
Finely chop the tomatoes and peeled shallots, combine in a pot and brown over the hot part of the grill. Add tomato vinegar, salt, star anise and sugar. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the salsa reaches your preferred consistency. Stir in basil and extra virgin olive oil. Season with salt and sugar to taste.
Grilled Root Vegetables
- Red beet, yellow carrots, carrots, parsnips, salsifies
- Lemon oil
- Aluminium foil
- Freshly picked herbs (thyme, marjoram, rosemary)
Wash the root vegetables and peel (to your liking). Place vegetables on aluminium foil, add oil and fresh herbs, and toss to coat well. Wrap in foil and put the packet in glowing grill charcoal for 20 minutes.
- A handful of freshly picked cranberries
- Sugar (as much as you like)
- A dash of vinegar
- Star anise, allspice, bay leaves
Bring cranberries, vinegar and sugar to a boil over the grill, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Add spices and simmer, stirring occasionally.
Grilled Porcini Mushrooms
- 2 porcini mushrooms
- Clarified butter
- Herbs, salt, honey
Clean mushrooms and cut into slices. Put the butter, herbs, salt and honey in a small bowl and stir to combine into a marinade. Place mushrooms on grill and drizzle with marinade.
Wild Herb Salad with Beer Dressing
- Different varieties of green leaf lettuce
- Pickled spruce tips
- Popped barley
- Wild herbs (yarrow, wood sorrel, daisies, dandelions)
- 50ml beer
- 1 tablespoon honey
- Salt, pepper, garlic
- 10ml apple cider vinegar
- 20ml grape seed oil
- Freshly grated lemon zest
Whisk together the honey, mustard, vinegar, garlic and lemon zests in a bowl. Slowly whisk in the beer until combined. Slowly drizzle in the oil, whisking constantly with a hand blender or whisk, until emulsified. Season with salt and pepper. In a large bowl, combine washed green leaf lettuces, pickled spruce tips, popped barley and wild herbs. Drizzle beer dressing on top.
Photo Credits: W9 Studios, Stephan Elsler