Austrians love eating soups as a starter to their main meal. Most of the time these are made from beef stock to which is added one main ingredient. The most popular soups are certainly Frittatensuppe (made with sliced pancakes) and Leberknödelsuppe (containing liver dumplings), but they can also contain strudel1, different kinds of pasta, Backerbsen (little pearls of baked dough) and many more.
The third most popular soup ingredient after Frittaten and Leberknödel is certainly Grießnockerl. In culinary respects 'Nockerl' can probably be seen as the smaller siblings of Knödel (dumplings). While dumplings are formed to balls with your hands most Nockerl are shaped with spoons. Sometimes 'Nockerl' in Austria is also synonymous with Spätzle, which are .pressed through a spätzle-sieve from where the batter dribbles into boiling water.
The word 'Nockerl' derives from 'Nock', which often appears in place names and describes a hill or mountain with a rounded top. There are various mountains with names like Nockberge, Nockspitze or Nockstein in the alpine regions of Austria. The ending '-erl' in Austria is what '-chen' is in Germany, a diminutive suffix. 'Nockerl' therefore are basically little mountains made from dough. This is also where the Italian word 'gnocchi' comes from, but Nockerl are much easier to make. Another similar dish are French quenelles, which usually contain fish.
for a starter soup for 4 people
the weight of 1 egg (with shell) in margarine or unsalted butter
the weight of 1 egg (with shell) in wheat semolina
Mix all the ingredients, the result will be a soft masse in a bowl. Let it fest for about 10-20 minutes so the semolina can soak up some fluids. Meanwhile get the beef stock to a boil, if you like also add sliced carrots and wait with the next step until they are almost done.
Take two tea spoons2 and take some batter from the bowl with one of them, then scoop it from the first sppon with your second spoon. The result will be an oblong portion of dough which you can drop into your boiling soup. Do this with all your batter and then let it boil for about 10 minutes. Your Grießnockerl are done wenn they swim on the surface and are soft all the way through.
Many people boil their nockerl in salt water instead of the beef stock, take them out when they are done, put them in soup bowls and pour over with the stock. This method will keep the stock clearer than it is when you boil the Nockerl direcly in it.
Serve in soup bowls and sprinkle some chopped chives on the top if you like.
Nockerl come in many different tastes, savoury and sweet. Depending on the kind of Nockerl you have you can eat them with cheese, eggs, different sweet or savoury sauces, sauerkraut and bacon or as a side dish.
Butternockerl for instance are made from eggs, butter, flour and salt. They can be eaten in beef stock like Grießnockerl but also make a great side dish for goulash, paprikas3 and similar dishes.
Topfennockerl are made from curd cheese, eggs, semolina or flour and salt. The finished Nockerl are covered in bread crumbs which were roasted in a pan with butter and caster sugar. They are usually eaten with a fruit sauce.
One of the most famous Nockerl are Salzburger Nockerl, a sweet soufflé. They are made mainly from eggs and sugar with a little bit of flour as well as vanilla. They are a warm dessert, sprinkled with caster sugar. The Nockerl with their white sugar tops are said to remind of snowy mountains.