I don’t really need an excuse to go to Berlin. I love the city; its atmosphere, its extremely recent and vivid history, its people and, importantly for me, its food. The Germans, I feel, are a much undervalued culinary force in the world (much like the UK, I hasten to add); and, just like the UK, a lot of the strength in German cuisine comes from a combination of steadfast, traditional dishes and an exploration of world cuisine that comes from being a vibrant, multi-cultural metropolitan centre in the 21st century.
For instance, while I was staying with my in-laws they were generous enough to obtain a couple of possibly the finest sausages that I have ever eaten. These particular sausages were obtained from a young butcher called Ulrika Piwonka in Neukölln. The photo at the top of this page shows them in all their “Wursty” goodness.
One was a Blutwurst, a blood-sausage much like a black pudding that some English have with their fry-ups. This was an intensely powerful and flavoursome pudding that comes in a membrane, which allows you to boil it rather than fry it. You then cut open the membrane and rather satisfyingly spill onto the plate the goodness that resides therein. Alongside this behemoth was another monster, a Leberwurst, a sausage made from liver. This manages to, somehow, be a little richer and smoother than its compatriot. We consumed the two (actually only I had one of each, everyone else was sensible to only have one half of each) with some sauerkraut (made with Sekt and Juniper berries) and some pommes puree (or mashed potato, if you will). The tartness of the sauerkraut and the creaminess of the mashed potato really work well in conjunction with the richness of these two fine sausages. All finished off with a glass of fine German beer. Lecker!
In contrast to these more traditional sausages, no trip to Berlin can be really considered complete without a Currywurst or three. This is a dish that was brought to life by Herta Heuwer in Charlottenberg in 1949. It is essentially the familiar German Bratwurst served in a curry sauce (made from ketchup, Worcester Sauce and curry powder) and accompanied by chips. This simple dish will set you back only about €3 and can be bought in many, many locations all around the city. They are the staple of any traveller to this city as they provide an excellent and affordable lunch. It should go without saying that it is obligatory to drink at least one beer whilst you consume your Currywurst.
However, if you think that a trip through German cuisine is only about sausages then think again. Germans are also incredibly serious about their breakfasts (Frühstück). Breakfast (particularly at the weekend) becomes a monumental affair, with a serious amount of food. In fact, I have a theory that they aim for breakfast to start about 10 and segue directly into lunch at about 1. German breakfasts could be made of any of the following: salamis and cold cuts (of varying sorts), cheeses ( of varying sorts), a selection of fruits, fish, eggs, preserves, and, of course, bread.
German bread is a wonderful thing. You may think that the British and the French have some fine breads (which they do), but neither of these great bread-making countries (in my humble opinion) can hold a candle to the variety and skill apparent in German bread-making. German bakeries (Bäckerei) appear to be continually chock-full of people. I recently made a Kartoffelbröt (Potato bread) from a recipe that I found in the Hairy Bikers’ Book on Bread; it was a revelation. It may sound bizarre but the mashed potato added to the dough gives it an altogether more light and bouncy texture. For some pictorial evidence as to the might of a German breakfast, here is a platter that I shared with my wife over a particularly epic breakfast in Prenzlauer Berg:
I told you that it was epic!