Lake Neusiedl (Neusiedlersee), the largest lake in Austria, is less than an hour’s drive southeast of Vienna. It is one of the few lakes in Europe that is not connected by waterways to any sea. Only 1.8 meters deep at most, nearly 80% of its water comes from precipitation. A few weeks ago when most of eastern Austria was experiencing drought conditions, the water level of the lake was so low that there started to be talk of diverting water to it. Thankfully there has been a fair amount of rain since then. The climate around the lake is dry and sunny. Most of its perimeter is covered in reeds (der Schilfgürtel), making it a haven for a myriad of birds.
When I came to Austria years ago, I was shocked to find out that access to the water of most lakes is not free. In my hometown on Lake Michigan, the great majority of the shore is owned by the city and accessible to the general public. On Lake Neusiedl, bathing areas all charge a fee. There is a lone pier at the northern tip of the lake at Neusiedl am See where you can walk out and greet the lake for free. On the eastern shore, a bike path goes through National Park Neusiedlersee-Seewinkel. There are observation towers along the path from which there is a good view of the lake and many birds. The area we were at is one where greylag geese (Anser anser) breed. With the exception of two great white egrets (Ardea alba), most of the birds I saw were greylag geese families.
The silver lining to not being able to visit family and friends in the U.S. now is that not only do I have time to explore Austria during the summer months but I also can savor all the fresh fruit that is coming into season. Like gooseberries.
I associate gooseberries with British cuisine, something I know very little about. Gooseberry fool seems to be the most common recipe out there: ripe gooseberries mixed with sugar and cream. Before today, the only thing I had ever made with gooseberries was jam. This afternoon I made gooseberry clafoutis. If you want to be technical, it was actually a flaugnarde since real clafoutis only has cherries as the fruit, but clafoutis is easier to pronounce (kla-FOO-tee) than flaugnarde (flow-knee-YARD). Call it whatever you like since the taste is not affected by the name.
Top and tail 250 g gooseberries and place in a greased baking form. In a bowl, whisk two eggs with 3 Tbsp sugar and a pinch of salt. Add 4 Tbsp whole wheat spelt flour and mix well. Add 50 g sheep’s milk yogurt and 50 ml water and stir until smooth. Pour the batter over the gooseberries and bake in a 200° C oven for 30 minutes unti the top is brown.
What do you like to make with gooseberries? Are there any traditional recipes with gooseberries where you come from?
I debuted my pigeon blue linen top on my outing to Lake Neusiedl. It fits perfectly and is exactly what I had hoped for: a lightweight shirt that is cooling despite long sleeves and will let the air through on hot days. The cranberry v-neck is also done, though I hope I don’t need to wear anything that warm for at least three months. After three v-neck projects, it’s time to shift my focus to other design elements.
May you find a silver lining or two in your current situation!