It’s been a while since I have cooked in foreign parts for ITV’s This Morning show. So, when they asked me to go to Austria and Switzerland to cover Christmas food, I jumped at the chance. My boss wanted Christmas food and snow, so off we went in search of both. First stop, Innsbruck in Austria, to have a look at 6, yes 6 Christmas markets all in a town half the size of High Wycombe. Sadly, no snow when we go there. Normally it arrives around Christmas; nevertheless, the markets were in full swing and all doing great business. The array of goods on offer astounded me, from wooden toys and tree decorations to Glühwein stalls selling not only red wine Glühwein but also a white wine version, which I have never tasted before.
Preserved meats and cheeses are also big business here, plus a stall that sells Kaiserschmarrn a cross between a sweet thick pancake and a waffle. It is served with applesauce, fruit compote of cranberry sauce then sprinkled with icing sugar and melted butter. It’s quite an unusual taste and texture, but strangely nice (see the recipe click here). As the evening progressed, we finished filming and went to the best Wiener Schnitzel restaurant in town. It was excellent, with salad and fries, two large thin slices of veal breaded and fried, served with Webb’s lettuce (yep, you can still get them). That just about finished me off, especially as I had been up since 3 am, to get the early flight from Gatwick.
We set off on an early train to Switzerland the next day, heading for Grindelwald, high up in the mountains. It was a long trip, some 6 hours on two trains and a long taxi ride. The only problem really is loading the filming kit on and off different trains. We all dozed until rudely woken up by border guards as we entered Swiss soil. We arrived early evening, and the small skiing town was deserted, with only 2 hotels open and a handful of shops and restaurants. It seemed strangely eerie, as their only a few Japanese tourists, but our hotel was fine and warm. That evening the chef cooked us a five-course menu, starting with smoked salmon and Weiner Schnitzel, again served with Webb’s lettuce salad and fries. This was better than the previous evening’s. I was knackered, so I turned in early.
We descended back to base camp at Grindelwald, picked up a large taxi and headed for Visp to pick up the train to Zermatt, our final filming destination. We arrived at 9 pm and dumped off the bags; again, it was like a ghost town. It just happened that a bar across the road was serving food and a well-earned beer. I slept well that night.
The next day the mist had descended, and it was a very grey start. Our guide assured us that above the cloud, it was going to be a brilliant sunny day. We boarded a small mountain train, similar to a roller coaster, with ratchets in the middle of the tracks. and set off down the valley. The incline got steeper and steeper. We then headed up the mountain to about 5,000 feet to another small station. Here it was very dark and snowing. Filming in the snow, our guide constantly told us the sun would come out soon. I was starting to not believe a word she said. However, as we set off on our final train ride through the north face of the Eiger, the sun was starting to peek over the top of the mountain range. Halfway up, we stopped for pieces to camera. The view was stunning, then eventually arriving at the Jungfraujoch observation station at the top in full sunshine. The view was breathtaking, literally, at nearly 12,000 feet, I struggled to breathe, plus it was -14, plus wind chill. After a coffee, we set about cooking a Rusti (famous Swiss potato dish) with caraway, vodka and apple vinegar cured salmon with creme fraiche dill and sour cream dressing (See recipe if you want to cook yourself) After my pieces to camera and a spectacular piece of camera work from Sam Berrido and his drone. The filming was moved inside to finish off in the ice cave—good job as I had a splitting headache from the altitude.
Early start on another roller coaster train up to the base of the Matterhorn, the famous mountain on the Toblerone packet. The weather was stunning and clear, a balmy -9 compared to the previous day. We filmed tobogganing, making snowmen (not my idea!), and Sam again worked his magic with the drone. After coffee, we headed back into Zermatt village and filmed an authentic beef and veal fondue, which was nice, but at over 50 quid, it bloody well should be.
Next, we head off to find our chalet overlooking Zermatt village for the final cooking sequence. Cherry Kirsch glazed smoked ham with cranberry, cherry, kirsch, speck (fatty cured pork) compote. (see recipe if you want to try yourself) The filming takes a bit of time as the kitchen has to be set, but it was well worth it in the end. After we wrap, we head off for a shower, head out to Zermatt’s live music pub, and wind down with a few beers and some grub.
The next day we get the train to Geneva and fly back to good old Heathrow. Another lovely trip, full of great scenery, great food and lots of snow, just what the boss wanted.