For those who can recall my second blog (https://timmilford.com/2013/03/27/german-cuisine-part-one-wurst-and-beyond/) it will be very apparent that I have a close bond with Germany. To start with, my wife is German and as result I tend to find myself spending a fair amount of time in Germany. I am also learning German, which is truly fascinating (and will inevitably become the subject of a future blog-posting). To go with this I am also developing a strong interest in two of Germany’s vastly under-rated cultural exports – its wine and its food.
My wife has family that live in what is known as Schwabia in southern Germany and for rather sad reasons we had to go there this weekend. However, it is always nice to spend time with family – even on solemn occasions. Schwabia is not a distinct geographical area; in fact, the Bundesland (Germany is made up of sixteen of these Bundesländer, which are the administrative districts within the country) that I was in during my trip was Baden-Wüttenberg. However, the family members and people that I talked to would often refer to themselves, their characteristics, their language, or the food that was being served as “Schwäbisch” – which I suppose is understandable in what is still (by international standards) a relatively young country, with Germany only being unified in 1871.
I learnt a few simple lessons about Schwabisch food:
- Don’t wear your tightest trousers to a Schwabisch dinner. The food is big and bold and you will need plenty of room to fit in.
- You will never have too little sauce with your food. A Schwabisch contestant on Masterchef would never have Gregg or John moaning about a paucity of sauce on their dishes.
- This is not the easiest place in the world to be a vegetarian – which fortunately, I am not.
Now, I don’t want you to think that there is a lack of craft in their food or that they pack quantity in instead of quality. Quite the opposite, the quality is great and the focus is on thoroughly satisfying flavours and well-cooked food.
During the trip, here are a couple of my culinary highlights:
Spargel (Asparagus – white)
I was fortunate that the timing of our visit coincided very nicely with the Spargel season. White Asparagus has a very distinct and different taste to its green cousin. Now, I am very partial to both and will not be drawn in to an argument over which (if any) is better; however, I am very glad that we have both. The White Asparagus is often boiled and served with a hollandaise sauce, however I had it served as a soup. The soup itself is deep and flavoursome and enriched by the addition of a fair amount of butter and cream (see point one above). It came with bitesize morsels of the Spargel, which were nice and crunchy.
In fact, we liked the Spargel so much that we brought some back with us (shown in the feature picture at the top of the page) and are eating it for dinner with a nice Riesling (infact in a moment of lovely symmetry I was able to serve a Riesling from Pfalz, which was also where the Spargel came from):
We had dinner at a charming restaurant called Die Alte Post in Kuchen and when it came to main courses there was an amazing array of well prepared and well cooked meat dishes to choose from (see point three above). I ordered the Rinderrückensteak “Kasimir” mit Camembert, überbacken mit Nudeln und bunten Salaten (Sirloin Steak “Kasimir” with Camembert, accompanied by Noodles and a Salad). When I was asked how I would like my steak cooked I had a momentary failing in my German and couldn’t remember what the German for “rare” was. The waitress asked if I wanted it “medium” and I told her that I wanted it less than that, “blutig” (bloody), if possible. “Ah”, she answered “Englisch?” So it turns out that in order to ask for a steak rare you have to ask for it English. Bizarre… When the steak came it was cooked just perfectly, the meat was gorgeously red and oozing blood as I cut into it; just how it should be. It was bathed in a plentiful supply of lovely thick sauce (see point two above).
What was even more impressive is that it came with a lovely said salad featuring (of course) potato salad, grated carrot, some radish, lettuce and tomato; and a whole plate of noodles (see point one above). These were great and a welcome accompaniment to the meat, but there was a lot. However, as with any intrepid gastronome, this didn’t stop me trying various elements from other people’s plates: gorgeously succulent veal, breaded chicken cutlets and pork medallions all made their way to my plate.
These have to be one of my favourite little discoveries in German cuisine. They are like a form of ravioli, but they are much bigger and contain a lot more flavour. We had them in a market in Stuttgart and here is a photo of the ones that I had.
They may not look particularly appetising, but I can assure you that they were. Mine were cooked in a pan with some butter after being boiled briefly. Other varieties of these dishes will see them cooked in “der Brühe” (which I think seems to be like a meaty broth). These not-so-little parcels of goodness make for excellent lunches or dinners. The filling can be meaty (and it very often is, see point three above), but it can also be vegetarian with cheese and/or herb fillings.