Good cars, efficient football teams, and the oompah band. Germany boasts plenty of great exports (notice how we didn’t mention the lederhosen), but none are more fun than Oktoberfest. As its name suggests, the festival takes place in the 10th month of the Gregorian calendar and involves drinking plenty of hop-based beverages. But other than celebrating the produce of Bavaria’s breweries, the festival also celebrates the country’s cuisine, and while the words ‘bratwurst’ and ‘sauerkraut’ are familiar to us all, not a great deal of people know exactly what these Teutonic treats are.
To fill you in and get you into the Oktoberfest spirit, we met Hofbrauhaus’s new German speciality chef Robert Chlopinski to take us through a few of his homeland’s specialities. We even persuaded him to share his favourite recipes, so you can try them for yourself at home.
‘Bread dumplings are made from bread soaked in water, herbs and egg,’ says Chlopinski. ‘Potato dumplings are made from raw grated potatoes mixed with flour, egg and stuffed with bread. They’re eaten with all kinds of German foods, especially goulash and duck.’
‘This is made from fermented white cabbage. It has a sour, pickled taste [see recipe to better understand how to prepare it]. Like dumplings, sauerkraut is eaten with many dishes from Germany, especially with pork chops or bratwurst. There’s one thing I’l say about preparing sauerkraut: the longer you cook it, the better the taste!’
‘Sausages can be eaten at all times of the day. Weisswurst (white sausage) is traditionally eaten in the morning and is well-known as an integral part of a Bavarian breakfast, accompanied by sweet German mustard. ‘Sausages can be eaten in many ways: as a main course with side dishes, as in sauerkraut or sautéed potatoes (bratkartoffeln), or as a classic of the Oktoberfest, served in a Kaiser bread roll with mustard or ketchup. This is the most common way of eating bratwurst in Germany. You could call it a hot dog, but don’t say this to a German unless you want to offend them! There are different kind of sausages made out of various meats – turkey, lamb, blood, liver, wild boar, pork and beef. Every butchery uses different herbs and spices for their sausages, which is the main secret of the great taste of German bratwurst. The classic herbs used include caraway, marjoram and garlic; some even include beer.’
German beef goulash (serves four)
1kg beef shoulder, diced
200g shallots, finely diced
80g tomato purée
Grated lemon peel
1 litre vegetable stock
200ml red wine
1 Sear the beef cubes in a very hot pan until they have a shiny brown colour, then remove from the pan and put to one side.
2 Add shallots and chopped garlic to the empty pan and fry until soft. Dust with some flour and a pinch of paprika and then add tomato purée. Stir attentively to make sure the mixture doesn’t burn.
3 Glaze with red wine and pour in the stock. Add four bay leaves and 10 juniper berries, then bring slowly to boil.
4 Add the meat to the sauce and slowly boil until the meat becomes tender. If the sauce reduces too much before the meat is tender, top up with water from time to time. Season with salt and pepper.
600g fermented cabbage
200ml vegetable stock
50g shallots, finely diced
1 Fry the shallots and finely chopped bacon in a pan with some butter.
2 Dust with a little flour and stir attentively so that the flour doesn’t burn.
3 Add the stock slowly to the pan and bring to a simmer until the flour and stock combine.
4 Stir in the cabbage, four bay leaves, eight juniper berries and a pinch of sugar, then bring back to a simmer.
5 Season with a pinch of salt and pepper.