Few dishes conjur up such strong emotions in Tirol as dumplings. We asked four chefs to let us in on their recipes for this classic Tirolean dish. They were all kind enough to oblige – and also told us a bit about what makes "Knödel" so special to them.
Agnes Kreidl, 65, lives on the Pirchnerhof farmstead near Schwaz. She is a specialist when it comes to making "Fastenknödel".
I learned how to cook from my grandmother. Mum was always out in the fields or in the stables or with the guests staying on our farm. But grandma always had time for me. That was great, although there was always work to do like peeling apples or potatos.
Making dumplings was really hard work because the wood-burning stove we had kept going out. Things are much easier these days.
We used to have dumplings very often. Sometimes I got really sick of them. Today we eat dumplings maybe once every two weeks. I appreciate them much more: they are easy to make, filling – and you almost always have all the ingredients at home, especially if you live on a farm like I do. We are 80 percent self-sufficient here.
I can still remember a song from my childhood: "Wos is heit für a Tog?" ("What Day Is It Today?"). Monday was Dumpling Day, Tuesday was Pasta Day and Friday was Fasting Day.
"Fastenknödel" are made from bread, milk, eggs and lots of fresh herbs from the garden, parsley and chives. And you also need onions, which should be fried in the pan first. My secret ingredient is nutmeg – I don't think there are that many people who put that into their "Fastenknödel". One of my favourite side dishes to go with these dumplings are brown beans.
Our farm is a family affair. I have five children and twelve grandchildren. It is a pleasure to pass on the knowledge we have accumulated to the next generation.
My granmother taught me to always make one dumpling first as a test to see if everything works out okay before you start making a large batch. If the test dumplings falls apart in the water you need to add some flour for consistency. But to be honest her dumplings were always perfect. Nothing ever went wrong with her dumplings.
Elisabeth Bosak, 72, from Lake Achensee. She is a specialist when it comes to making "Kaspressknödel".
I grew up with four brothers and sisters on a mountain farm in the Stubai Valley. We didn't have much. I am still impressed today how my mum nevertheless managed to conjur up such delicious dishes. She also taught me how to make dumplings, always saying: 'You can't get married until you can make dumplings'. One type I didn't really eat much of when I was young was 'Kaspressknödel', cheese dumplings. People in the west of Tirol just don't seem to make them as well as people in the east.
Later I moved to Lake Achensee to be with my husband, and in this region you simply have to make Kaspressknödel. For me, these are the best dumplings. In the beginning I often did something wrong. The mixture was too soft and they fell apart. The problem is that no one can tell you exactly how to make them. You have to feel it with your hands. It used to annoy me when people couldn't tell me how to do it. But today I know what they meant.
My secret tip for making Kaspressknödel? I always put in quite a lot of Graukas. My mum always made this cheese herself. I can still see her putting the curd cheese with the spices into the bowl. Graukas is important in the Stubai Valley, so I guess I brought a part of my old home region with me when I moved to Lake Achensee. I also add eggs and potatos. I think that makes the dumplings much juicier.
To be on the safe side, I still have an some Graukas cheese in the fridge - its called Zieger - in case the other one I buy here is too mild. It has to be really tangy. Some people have a second cooker down in the cellar where they make their dumplings so that the whole house doesn't smell of cheese. But I'm not like that - I think it is a smell you can be proud of.
Anna Werlberger, 59, from Kitzbühel. She is a specialist when it comes to making "Tiroler Speckknödel".
When I was a child, we used to always have dumplings on Tuesday and Thursday. That was something special. As we lived on a farm we had dried bacon and sausage a bit more often than the average family. The dumplings were always really filling. On dumpling days we didn't take the cows to the mountain pasture. That was an old superstition - people were afraid that the animals would not all come back in one piece and end up as dumpling meat too soon.
My mother taught me early on how to make Tiroler Speckknöde, or Tyrolean bacon dumplings. I made the dish on my own for the whole family, seven siblings, grandfather and aunt when I was just 10 years old. That's why I don't need a cookbook. I do everything by feel: the quantities, the ingredients. First I fry a lot of bacon and sausage in the pan. A little tip of mine is to always pour water into the pan afterwards and then add the broth to the dumpling mixture. That keeps the flavour.
Otherwise, I just add salt and finely chopped spring onions. Now in summer I get fresh herbs from the garden like parsley and chives. I love to open up the dumplings on the plate - those colours! In winter the dumplings are a bit paler, but taste almost as good. We still have dumplings quite often. The last time was about a week ago.
We eat hot meals twice a day. Don't snack,' my husband always says. There's also an Austrian saying: 'A lunch without dumplings is nothing, because if you don't eat dumplings, you'll be hungry all day'. I think that's why I'm so slim. If you don't eat anything good, you snack in the evening. And I rarely do that.
Waltraud "Wally" Rofner from Weerberg. She is a special when it comes to making "Leberknödel" and "Zwetschgenknödel".
I made my first dumplings when I was 15. They didn't look that good to be honest. Since then I have made countless dumplings. Practice makes perfect. I still remember how I used to stand in the kitchen with my mum. I also learned the recipe for liver dumplings from her - served with beef soup, of course. I always make my liver dumplings using dried spelt bread.
I add fresh marjoram and lots of chives. My mum taught me to cook a lot with lard and fat. Today I cook healthier dishes. It's important to order 'minced' liver from the butcher, then it has the right consistency. I also add spring onions and garlic, a little lemon zest for a fresh taste - and baking powder so that the dumplings rise easily.
I got the trick with the lemon peel from a book. I love that about cooking. It never gets boring.
Before I shape the dumplings, I add two spoonfuls of breadcrumbs. That's also a secret tip to make them stick together better. But be careful you don't add too much! The trick is to get the perfect firmness. If you put too much flour in, you can throw them away and start again.
Get your hands nice and wet when you shape the dumplings. The dumpling mixture should feel really slippery. I am always very curious to see how they taste. So far they have always tasted good.
I don't do the work for myself alone. I prefer to put a huge pot with lots of dumplings in the middle, because I also associate dumplings with eating together with friends and family. And if there's time, there are plum dumplings for dessert.