Ferret Food From…Germany Saturday, Oct 24 2015 

It’s not that I have spent a great deal of time in Germany. In fact, right now I’m only in the middle of a work trip to Berlin, meaning a lot more time is spent in conference rooms on laptops than out and about. Before this, I only took one weekend trip to Germany, and passed through it briefly during road trips, so all in all, I’ve barely scratched the surface – hardly helped by my general pursuit of the French language, and subsequent greater interest in Francophone countries. So why a food feature on Germany?

I only studied German for two years at school, before dropping it in favour of French. I’d been exposed to French for much longer, and German just felt harder, with the neuter in particular causing more problems than I felt it was worth. But then I went to university to study Classics, which naturally included Latin – and once you’ve studied Latin intensely for a few years, your openmindedness towards things like the neuter is increased, and it doesn’t seem so tricky anymore. So I feel I owe it to Germany to take more of an interest in its language and culture. Plus, German food seems to have drawn the short straw in terms of international reputation when compared to its nearest rivals: Spain! France! Italy! In the hope of debunking this a little, I hereby list, in the tradition of my Ferret Food From France post, my top 5 savoury and top 5 sweet foods from Germany:

  • currywurst

    Currywurst. It’s stodgy, covered in ketchup, completely unsophisticated, and I love it. It’s basically traditional German sausage, sliced thickly, drenched in spicy tomato sauce, and served with French fries. So bad, and yet so good.

  • Bratkartoffeln. Everyone loves fried potatoes, bacon, and fried onions, right? Well, imagine all three of these IN ONE DISH. That’s Bratkartoffeln. The potatoes soak up all of the bacon fat too, so it’s rich and flavourful (and probably quite unhealthy. BUT SHUSH.).
  • Hendl. Whole grilled chicken, marinated with pepper and other spices. What’s not to like?
  • Hasenpfeffer. A stew made from marinated rabbit.
  • Sauerbraten. A beef pot roast, basically, made with vinegar, water, spices and seasonings. A toss-up between this and Pfefferpothast (a peppered beef stew) for my final entry. It’s true that Germany is not a great place for vegetarians! But it’s the kind of food I like: wholesome, filling, and great for cold days.

And as for the desserts, it gets even better! My top 5:

  • lebkuchenLebküchen! Basically gingerbread, but done up oh so prettily, particularly at Christmas (see image, right). Comes in a variety of regional types – it can be dusted with sugar, covered in chocolate, studded with dried fruits… *drools* Dominostein is a worthy related mention: chocolate covered Lebkuchen with a jam and marzipan filling.
  • Stollen. A spiced, slightly bready cake dough mixed with marzipan and dried fruits, and then rolled into a log shape before being baked. Dusted with sugar before serving.
  • Prinzregententorte. A cake consisting of at least six very thin layers of sponge, alternating with chocolate and cream. Like a French Opéra cake or Hungarian Dobostorte, this one is a regal classic.
  • Zwetschgenkuchen. A plum cake. YUMMY.
  • Bratapfel. Quite simply, baked apples. One of your five a day, and so simple to recreate at home – everyone’s a winner!

Doughnuts also get an honourable mention. They are VERY popular here, whether in the form of the Berliner (a basic jam doughnut), Kreple (traditional doughnuts from the Silesia region), or simply the fact that Dunkin’ Donuts has many outlets in Germany. I popped in out of curiosity yesterday (no Dunkin’ Donuts in France!) and suffice it to say that a showdown post pitting them against Krispy Kremes will be coming shortly.

In short, though, donuts aside, I’m not sure that Germany deserves its slightly lower reputation for its cuisine. And with winter drawing in, it’s a perfect time to try out a few recipes to see you through the colder weather.

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Oatcakes! Thursday, Mar 14 2013 

I’ve talked about Welsh cakes on this blog before, and also several other kinds of cakes (probably). But this morning I got served one I’d never tried before…a NORTH STAFFORDSHIRE OATCAKE. This is because my husband has been reading Seb Emina’s Breakfast Bible and getting ideas.

So what is an oatcake exactly? It actually has more to do with a pancake than a cake, with you making up a batter in a similar way. Mix together water and milk and separately prepare some yeast with sugar and warm water until frothy. Mix the yeast liquid with salt, flour and oatmeal before incorporating the water and milk mixture. Leave to rest for at least an hour in a warm place, so perhaps do this the night before if you plan on an oatcake breakfast the following day. Cook just like pancakes, but take 2-3 minutes for each side.

Sounds simple, doesn’t it? We’d recommend making sure your pan is well-greased, as our first one stuck a bit this morning.

And the verdict? We noted several good things about oatcakes. They are more like savoury crêpes (what the French call “galettes de sarrasin”), so can be served with a variety of savoury crêpe style toppings, such as bacon, cheese, sausage, ham, or egg. I reckon a poached egg is a great idea so that you have a good combination of textures (the runny yolk of a poached egg hitting the crispiness of the oatcake must be a beautiful thing). The fact that oatcakes contain oats (WELL, OBVIOUSLY) also means they are uber-filling, so great for getting you through a busy morning at work while breaking up the monotonous routine of porridge, cereal or normal pancakes. Plus, speaking of busy mornings, the fact that they are so filling means that you only need one each, meaning less time spent at the cooker when you could be chatting at the table. And drinking tea. (Speaking of which…)

So go on – get your oatcake on 🙂  And if you try any new adventurous toppings, be sure to let me know 🙂

Regional specialities Sunday, Jul 25 2010 

I’ve had quite a time of it during my little tour of France this summer. As well as seeing lots of towns and cities that were hitherto unknown to me, it’s also been a great opportunity to add to my knowledge and collection of local gastronomic specialities.

Earlier this summer, before the main holiday, we visited Rouen, which yielded Calvados (read: apple liqueur) chocolates, as well as barley sugar made with apple juice (yummy but messy).

In many places along the west coast of France you travel through some of the most famous wine-making areas in the world (chiefly Bordeaux) so of course the focus is on these. As you move further south, though, things get more interesting. We discovered mogettes, which are nougat chocolates that resemble green stones, and seem reasonably priced even if ordered online (see here). They are similar to the more widely available but still nonetheless different cailloux, which we found in Annecy: sweets made with chocolates or with almonds and then coated with sugar to more authentically resemble stones. Weirdly, though, the chocolate cailloux taste more like sugar than like chocolate. Available at $15/lb from FavorOnline, they are obviously much cheaper actually in France.

On the savoury front, we also went to the region of Savoie (near Annecy and Chambéry), which is very close to Switzerland and Italy and of course is fairly mountainous. This means they specialise in mountain food, which basically means fondue 😀  I had a ‘marmite savoyarde’ one lunchtime, which basically involves layers of melted cheese and meat. Couldn’t finish it all! Very rich but completely worth it.

In the Drôme and Ardèche regions, there is also much to be had in the way of local specialities (going back to sweets this time). Montélimar attracts plenty of foreign tourists not only for its castle but also for its most famous export – its nougat. This means there are nougat shops everywhere, and of course I bought some. It comes in chiefly soft and hard varieties, but also exists in a few other variants too (orange, chocolate…). All traditionally made and very yummy. There is also a nougat museum (!!!) – the Palais de Bonbons et Nougat – but I didn’t get to visit (this time).

I have still a few more days left down here, but also a few stops remaining on my gastronomic tour. I have visited them before, but perhaps this is just testament to their wondrousness. The first is Tain l’Hermitage, which plays host to the Valrhona factory. Valrhona is delicious local chocolate, which is even more delicious than Jeff de Bruges (reviewed in my previous post), and which is deemed to be so good that it is used by Heston Blumenthal (owner and head chef at the Michelin-starred Fat Duck) in his recipes. Despite being known worldwide (as shown by the queues of tourists that flock to the shop attached to the chocolate factory), it is actually not always that easy to find in physical shops, with it being almost easier to buy online. They probably do this to try to maintain their air of exclusivity, but no matter how hard you have to look, it’s always worth it.

Finalement, something even more difficult to find. Like the mogettes, the copeaux are a near-damn impossibility to buy anywhere, even online (they are fragile and don’t always travel well). Originating in the town of St-Péray, the copeaux de malavieille (to give them their full name) are delightful twists of biscuit flavoured with orange flowers. Incredibly moreish, they are rendered somehow even tastier by their secretive aspect. Made nowhere else in the world, the only chance you will have to taste them is if you go there or if someone brings you back some. I go there every chance I get 😀