It has to be acknowledged that German cookery is not typically counted among the world's great cuisines. Partly this is because much of German cookery is regionally based and although there are many commonalities across the country the foods do vary greatly from region to region. As such it is difficult to point towards a German national dish as such.
Of course, some dishes (sausages and sauerbraten ['sour beef']) do crop up across the country but even in these dishes there is a reasonable variation. Cakes and gateaux are common in the South and East, heartier fare in the North and West.
In many ways German cookery reflects the country's origins and heritage. This is a country of workers and the food is both quick and reliably easy to prepare. Much of the food stores well and it provides plenty of energy by way of protein and fats to keep what used to be a mainly agrarian population going. This is why, when the German immigrants bought their food to the Americas it was quickly adopted and adapted by the American pioneers.
Indeed, much of what we think of as classic American fare has its origins in Germany. Just think of hamburgers (from Hamburg), frankfurters (from Frankfurt) and even apple pie has its origins in Germany cookery.
German cookery and its influence on world foods should be celebrated and to begin that process, here are two classic German recipes:
Sauerbraten (literally 'sour beef') is a classic German meat dish. Typically the beef is marinated for up to 3 days in a sour wine sauce. However, this recipe only requires a short marinating and can also easily be adapted for the crockpot.
Schneller Sauerbraten (Quick Sour Beef)
1.8kg sirloin steak, cubed
120ml red wine
60ml lemon juice
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly-ground black pepper
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tbsp oil
1 small onion, chopped
Combine the wine and lemon juice in a bowl, season with the salt, black pepper and garlic then add the beef and toss to combine. Cover and set as to marinate for 60 minutes, turning frequently.
At the end of this time remove the beef (but reserve the marinade). Add the oil to a pan and when hot use to fry the onion for about 5 minutes, or until soft. Add the beef and fry, stirring frequently, until well browned (About 15 minutes). Pour the remaining marinade over the beef, bringing to a simmer and cook, covered, for 30 minutes, or until the beef is tender.
Serve hot, accompanied by rice, potatoes or German noodles.
1 sachet active dried yeast
60ml water, warm (about 40 ° C)
180ml milk, scaled
65g butter, softened
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
490g plain flour
180g dark chocolate, finely chopped
75g walnuts, chopped
1 egg, beaten
Whisk together the yeast and warm water in a bowl then set as to activate. In the meantime combine the scaled milk, butter, sugar and salt in a separate bowl. Whisk together until the butter melts then beat in the eggs and vanilla extract.
Stir the yeast into the egg mixture then gradually fold in the flour a little at a time, beating well after each addition. Bring the mixture together as a dough and turn this onto lightly-floured work surface and knead well for 8 minutes. Transfer the dough into a large, lightly-greased bowl then cover with clingfilm and set away in a warm place to rise for about 90 minutes, or until doubled in volume.
Knock the dough back then turn onto a lightly-floured surface and roll into a rectangle about 55 x 35cm in size. Sprinkle the chopped chocolate and the nuts over the top then roll the dough up Swiss-roll (jelly roll) style, beginning from one of the long edges. Seal the open seam then twist to from a ring and seal the ends.
Transfer to a lightly-greased baking tray, placing the dough with the seam side down. Using a sharp knife cut 2/3 of the way through the ring at 2.5cm intervals. Gently twist each section so it stands at a slight angle to the base then cover with a tea towel and set aside in a warm place to rise for about 60 minutes (or until doubled in volume).
Brush the top of the cake with beaten egg then place in an oven pre-heated to 180 ° C and bake for between 25 and 30 minutes, or until cooked through and lightly golden. Remove from the oven and allow to cool then slice and serve either warm or at room temperature. If desired, you can garnish by sprinkling with a mix of ground cinnamon, cocoa powder and icing sugar before serving.