26 October 2016

AUSTRIAN AUTUMN LAMBS LETTUCE SALAD WITH A STYRIAN PUMPKIN SEED OIL VINAIGRETTE



Velvety lambs lettuce, warm baby potatoes, crunchy fried bacon, sautéed mushrooms, and an egg, hard-boiled, on top; all brought together by a nutty vinaigrette made with 'Steirischem Kürbiskernöl'. Who said that a salad cannot be autumn comfort food? As the days get colder, my salads get warmer, and this one ticks all my grey and rainy Brussels weather boxes.




It's an Austrian salad, with typical ingredients you would find in Austria, and a vinaigrette made with 'Steirischem Kürbiskernöl' (Styrian Pumpkin Seed Oil), all reminding me of fields and woods, well, Austria.



'Steirisches Kürbiskernöl' (Styrian Pumpkin Seed Oilis a typical Styrian ('Steirische) delicacy, produced since the 18th century in southern Styria ('Steiermark'), a county in the southeast of Austria, from local Styrian oil pumpkins ('Steirischer Ölkürbis'). The oil is pressed from the pumpkins' dried, ground and gently roasted hull-less seeds, under strictest quality controls, putting it in line with the most protected, controlled, and exclusive European foods, such as Extra Virgin Olive Oil D.O.P., Prosciutto di Parma, Prosciutto di San Daniele, etc. with protection of European origin. It's a very high quality oil. Thick and dark green to almost black in colour in larger quantities, with an intense nutty, roasted aroma, a subtle spiciness and green, cabbagy note, and a strong distinct flavour, it's not only delectable, but also very healthy. It's free of cholesterol, has 80% unsaturated fatty acids and a high vitamin E content. For more see here. The oil is mainly used cold, as heating turns it bitter. Once opened, it has to be stored in the fridge to protect it from turning rancid.



In Austria we would use it on green salads, but also on potato and bean salads or our typical Austrian cold beef salad with onions; with scrambled eggs, incorporated into spreads, as accompaniment for wine and cheese tastings, and more. And it's even used for ice creams, sweets, and cakes. Since a few decades, the oil has also been popular internationally, for more, see here.


As a Styrian, I was brought up with Pumpkin Seed Oil. It has always been the main salad oil in my parents' house. Mixed with a little apple vinegar, salt and pepper, it just so perfectly compliments our hearty Austrian dishes. My favourite, on a salad with Wiener Schnitzel and rice. I'd take the salad right on my plate with my food. Now imagine: a piece of crunchy breaded Schnitzel, fragrant clove and onion perfumed rice, sweet-sour 'Preiselbeermarmelade' (cranberry jam), and the tang and nuttiness of the pumpkin seed oil with every bite. Austrian culinary heaven! :-)



I brought back a bottle of oil from a recent visit to Austria. My mum had bought it at the local farmers' market, where a producer sells it directly: thick, dark green, and so nutty - green styrian gold! Unfortunately I only had space for one bottle in my luggage, but then I bought another one at Vienna airport, that fit snuggly next to Austrian chocolates and Austrian Schnaps, amongst other things, into my hand luggage :-)



In Austria the oil is available in most shops and supermarkets, and many farmers markets, and as mentioned, it is also available at Vienna airport, and sold online; I found it even on Amazon. Important: look out for the originality of the oil, and the export stamp, if buying it abroad: it should say P.G.I. ('Protected Geographical Indication'), or in German: G.G.A ('Geschütztes Geographisches Angebot'), or have at least the yellow-blue EU label on the bottle, see below. This confirms that the oil is genuine, traceable, with the pumpkin seeds being genuine Styrian seeds, and the oil 100% cold-pressed from the first press, by domestic oil mills, and to highest quality standards.


For this salad, I experimented a little with different spices and ingredients, with the aim to make a tasty vinaigrette, but without losing the character and nutty flavour of the oil. I ended up adding salt, pepper, honey, vinegar and shallots, and think it worked very well with all ingredients. The shallots did not overpower the oil, but added an additional tasty kick. 


Important: prepare the vinaigrette and all the ingredients beforehand, and make sure everyone's at the dinner table before you start to assemble the salad, then serve it immediately before the warm ingredients get cold or start to wilt the lambs lettuce leaves. 

Serves 2: 
For the salad:
2 big handfuls/portions lambs lettuce, cleaned and washed
6 small new potatoes, unpeeled and thoroughly washed
80-100g smoked bacon, diced
2 eggs
2 large brown button mushrooms, or several smaller

For the Vinaigrette: (quantities are approximates, depending on the strength of your ingredients)
8 tsp Kürbiskernöl/Styrian Pumpkin Seed Oil
app. 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
app. 2 tsp shallots, finely diced
app. ¼ tsp honey
app. ⅛ tsp sea salt
app. ⅛ tsp pepper

Prepare all the ingredients in advance: 
Clean, wash (make sure to remove all the sand!) and thoroughly dry the lambs lettuce. 

Make the vinaigrette: put the oil into a small glass jar, the season to taste with salt. Add a little cider vinegar at the time, until you have the right acidity. Add the honey, shallots and pepper bit by bit, making sure that the vinaigrette does not get too sweet or spicy, and most of all not overpowers the beautiful nutty taste of the oil. 

Pre-heat the oven to 50C

Now cook the other ingredients: 
thoroughly wash the potatoes, then place them with their skin into cold water. Boil gently until soft. A knife should slide into the potato easily, but the potato should also slide off the knife easily. Drain the potatoes, then leave to dry completely. Place into the pre-heated oven to keep warm. 


Meanwhile, fry the bacon in a small pan, starting on low heat, until it starts to release some of its fat. Increase the heat to medium-high and fry until golden brown. Remove from the pan and drain on kitchen paper. Place the bacon into the pre-heated oven to keep it warm. 


Clean the mushrooms, lay on the cap and cut into slices. Fry at high heat in the pan used to fry the bacon. Season with a little salt and freshly milled black pepper. Once fried, add to the other ingredients in the oven to keep warm. 


At the end, boil the eggs: to do so, put the eggs in a small saucepan and cover with plenty of cold water. Bring the water to a boil, then remove the pot from the heat and leave to stand for 10 minutes. Drain the water off and pour a little cold water over the eggs. This stops the cooking process and will help to peel the shells off the egg later.


Assemble the salad: Put the lambs lettuce into a big bowl, sprinkle with a few spoons of the vinaigrette and toss gently. Arrange onto 2 large plates. Slice the unpeeled potatoes, then toss with a little vinaigrette. Arrange them neatly around the salad. Add the bacon and mushrooms to the salad, arranging them between the leaves and potatoes. At the end, peel and cut the egg in half, and add it into the middle of the salad. Season the egg with a little salt and black pepper. Finish the salad by drizzling a little more vinaigrette on top.


Serve immediately while the ingredients are still warm, and to avoid that they start to wilt the lambs lettuce. 



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AUSTRIAN AUTUMN LAMBS LETTUCE SALAD WITH A STYRIAN PUMPKIN SEED OIL VINAIGRETTE





Serves 2: 

For the salad:
2 big handfuls/portions lambs lettuce, cleaned and washed
6 small new potatoes, unpeeled and thoroughly washed
80-100g smoked bacon, diced
2 eggs
2 large brown button mushrooms, or several smaller

For the Vinaigrette: (quantities are approximates, depending on the strength of your ingredients)
8 tsp Kürbiskernöl/Styrian Pumpkin Seed Oil
app. 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
app. 2 tsp shallots, finely diced
app. ¼ tsp honey
app. ⅛ tsp sea salt
app. ⅛ tsp pepper

1) Wash and dry the Lambs lettuce: Clean and wash (make sure to remove all the sand!) and thoroughly dry the lambs lettuce. 

2) Make the vinaigrette: put the oil into a small glass jar, the season to taste with salt. Add a little cider vinegar at the time, until you have the right acidity. Add the honey, shallots and pepper bit by bit, making sure that the vinaigrette does not get too sweet or spicy, and most of all not overpowers the beautiful nutty taste of the oil. 

3) Pre-heat the oven to 50°C

4) Boil the unpeeled potatoes: thoroughly wash the potatoes, then place them with their skin into cold water. Boil gently until soft. A knife should slide into the potato easily, but the potato should also slide off the knife easily. Drain the potatoes, then leave to dry completely. Place into the pre-heated oven to keep warm. 

5) Fry the bacon: Meanwhile, fry the bacon in a small pan, starting on low heat, until it starts to release some of its fat. Increase the heat to medium-high and fry until golden brown. Remove from the pan and drain on kitchen paper. Place the bacon into the pre-heated oven to keep it warm. 

6) Fry the mushrooms in the bacon fat: Clean the mushrooms, lay on the cap and cut into slices. Fry at high heat in the pan used to fry the bacon. Season with a little salt and freshly milled black pepper. Once fried, add to the other ingredients in the oven to keep warm. 

7) Hard-boil the eggs: At the end, boil the eggs: to do so, put the eggs in a small saucepan and cover with plenty of cold water. Bring the water to a boil, then remove the pot from the heat and leave to stand for 10 minutes. Drain the water off and pour a little cold water over the eggs. This stops the cooking process and will help to peel the shells off the egg later.

8) Assemble the salad: Put the lambs lettuce into a big bowl, sprinkle with a few spoons of the vinaigrette and toss gently. Arrange onto 2 large plates. Slice the unpeeled potatoes, then toss with a little vinaigrette. Arrange them neatly around the salad. Add the bacon and mushrooms to the salad, arranging them between the leaves and potatoes. At the end, peel and cut the egg in half, and add it into the middle of the salad. Season the egg with a little salt and black pepper. Finish the salad by drizzling a little more vinaigrette on top.

9) Serve: Serve immediately while the ingredients are still warm, and to avoid that they start to wilt the lambs lettuce. 

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