Few things personify Germany quite like the Rhine, flowing through some of the most beautiful, historic and quintessentially German stretches of the country. Passing medieval castles and fairy tale villages, the Rhine cuts a course which is a world away from the modern mega city, Munich, or the fashionable centre of Berlin.
And here in the heart of the Rhineland, we can trace the origins of much of Germany’s culinary heritage. Hearty feasts and decadent desserts are found in abundance as you navigate the meandering flow of the Rhine, thanks to unique agricultural practices and geographical features which have long provided the region with incredible ingredients to create the dishes for which Germany is celebrated. During an Emerald Waterways cruise, our guests are given the chance to sample the delicacies of the regions we navigate, during the extensive port calls or direct from our skilled kitchen team.
At Emerald Waterways, our journey planners are tasked with discovering the best and brightest of the local culture found surrounding the waterways our fleet follows. And much of the culture and traditions of the Rhine region of Germany is centred around food, with villages gathering for local feasts and celebrating their native fare. So, to celebrate the culture of the region, we are taking you on a little tour to discover the Rhine in five wonderful recipes.
Himmel un Ääd
Literally translating to ‘Heaven and Earth’ in tribute to its main elements, Himmel un Ääd is a hearty potato and apple-based dish which dates back to the 1700s. Popular throughout the Rhineland, this traditional dish has barely changed since its earliest entries in 18th-century cookbooks. The apple sauce (heaven) and mashed potatoes (earth) are complemented by Rhineland staples, black pudding and fried onions.
Like so many classic European dishes, Himmel un Ääd has roots in the food of peasantry, using traditionally inexpensive ingredients to create strong, bold flavours and a filling dish. In modern Germany, Himmel un Ääd is still hugely popular as both a main meal and a side dish.
Although most eateries serving Himmel un Ääd have stayed true to the original recipe, fried bacon strips are sometimes served with the dish, and we’re going to include them in ours.
Here’s a recipe for traditional Rhineland Himmel un Ääd:
Serves: 4. Prep Time: 20 Mins. Cook Time: 50 Mins.
- 1kg potatoes, peeled and cubed
- 1kg Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and quartered
- 1tbsp sugar
- 50g butter
- 2 large onions, finely sliced
- 200g smoked, streaky bacon, diced
- 4 slices black pudding
Step One: Bring a pan of salted water to boil over a high heat. Add the potatoes and boil until tender.
Step Two: Place the apples in a separate pan with a little water and the sugar, and simmer. Stir gently until soft.
Step Three: Drain the potatoes and mash. Add the apples and the juices to the potatoes and stir until the apples start to disintegrate. Do not let the mixture become a purée, and keep it warm.
Step Four: Melt half the butter in a frying pan, and fry off the onions and the bacon for 5 minutes. Melt the remaining butter in a separate pan and fry through the black pudding slices.
Step Five: Equally divide up the potato and apple mixture, then the bacon and onions onto four plates. Top each with a slice of black pudding and a drizzle of the buttery mixture left in the black pudding pan.
Sauerbraten in Cologne
It’s claimed that Julius Caesar had a hand in the creation of Sauerbraten, one of the most popular dishes of the Rhineland. Apparently, Caesar imported beef marinated in wine to a new Roman settlement on the site where modern-day Cologne sits, capturing the imagination of the locals. After Caesar died in 44BC, the Cologne locals, still besotted by the delightful taste of the wine-soaked beef, looked to imitate the recipe.
Like all the best historic dishes, there’s a huge variation in Sauerbraten recipes, with Cologne locals, almost to the man, all claiming their mothers make the city’s best. The basis of the dish is wonderfully vague – a roasted meat marinated in a wine-based mixture. From here, the locals and chefs of Cologne, and the further reaches of the Rhine, have almost limitless freedom to pick their ingredients.
But for the most decadent and the richest sauerbraten, we’d always go for a beef and red wine recipe, and that’s what we’re going to share with you.
Serves: 4. Prep Time: 2 days. Cook Time: 40 Mins.
- 1kg beef joint
- 2 large onions, diced
- 1 cup red wine
- 1tbsp salt
- 1tbsp black pepper
- 1tbsp white sugar
- 10 cloves
- 2 bay leaves
- 2tbsp all-purpose flour
- 2tbsp vegetable oil
- 10 gingersnap cookies, crumbled
- Salt and black pepper to taste
Step One: Place the beef joint, onions, wine, water, salt, black pepper, sugar, cloves, and bay leaves in a large pot. Cover the pot and refrigerate for 2 days, turning the meat once a day.
Step Two: Remove the beef from the marinade, coat with flour and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.
Step Three: Heat oil in a large casserole dish over medium heat and seal the beef until brown on all sides. Pour the marinade over the beef, reduce the heat to low and simmer until beef is tender.
Step Four: Slice beef and serve with choice of vegetables or sides.
Step Five: Strain the solids from the marinade, and add the gingersnap cookies to the latter, before simmering until a thick gravy is produced. Pour over the meat and veg.
Döppekooche in the Rhine Gorge
With modest ingredients and a full, hearty taste; döppekooche is the wonderfully-named peasant dish of the Rhine. Traditionally eaten by the poor to celebrate St Martin’s Day in the region, döppekooche is an egg and potato cake which would have been much more affordable than the goose favoured by the affluent on this special day.
Not dissimilar to a Spanish omelette, the döppekooche should be wonderfully fluffy inside but have a nice crunch on the outside. Today, döppekooche is served as a light lunch, a dinner time favourite or even as a side in a feast – its hearty flavours are perfect for almost any occasion.
Here’s our recipe for döppekooche, perfect for celebrating St Martin’s Day on 11 November every year.
Serves: 4. Prep Time: 30 Mins. Cook Time: 2 Hours.
- 1.5kg floury potatoes
- 100g bacon
- 2 onions, sliced
- 8 stalks marjoram
- 2 eggs
- 1 pinch grated nutmeg
- 500g apples, peeled, cored and diced
- 2tbsp caster sugar
Step One: Grease a 25cm diameter baking dish and cover the base with bacon slices.
Step Two: Press out the sliced potatoes in a colander, and drain the excess liquid into a bowl. Drain for roughly 10 minutes.
Step Three: Preheat the oven to 170°C/150°C fan/gas 3. Mix the potatoes, eggs, onion slices, nutmeg and 6 marjoram stalks (chopped) and pour into the baking dish and bake for 1¾ hours.
Step Four: Caramelise the sugar in a saucepan, before adding the apple. Cover and simmer for 15 mins, creating an apple compote. Remove the döppekooche from the oven, remove from baking dish and serve with the apple compote and remaining marjoram for garnish.
Black Forest Gateau
A nation with a significant sweet tooth, one of Germany’s most famous culinary exports is the Black Forest gateau. Perhaps best known as the dessert of choice during 1970s dinner parties, the Black Forest gateau combines that unbeatable combination of chocolate sponge, cherries and whipped cream.
Unfortunately, a wave of frozen imposters and poor imitations somewhat marred the reputation of the Black Forest gateau among British pudding lovers. But find yourself an authentic slice of black-cherry-topped Black Forest gateau, and you’ve got a truly delicious treat coming your way.
So, if you want to impress guests next time you host a dinner party with more than a little 70s flair, here’s our favourite recipe for an authentic gateau, straight from the beautiful Black Forest region itself.
Serves: 8. Prep Time: 3 Days. Cook Time: 20 mins.
- 12/3 cups all-purpose flour
- 2/3 cup cocoa powder
- 1½tsp baking soda
- 1tsp salt
- ½ cup shortening
- 1½ cups sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1tsp vanilla
- 1½ cups buttermilk
- ½ cup kirsch
- ½ cup unsalted butter
- 3 cups icing sugar
- 1 pinch salt
- ¼ cup espresso
- 680g fresh black cherries
- 1/8 cup kirsch
- ½tsp vanilla
- 2 cups heavy whipping cream
- 2tbsp dry milk
- 2tbsp icing sugar
- ½ cup dark chocolate, shaved
Step One: Pit most of the cherries (leaving about 10 for decoration) and soak them overnight in the ½ cup of kirsch.
Step Two: Sift the dry cake ingredients together and preheat the oven to 170°C/150°C fan/gas 3. Line the bottom of three 9-inch, round cake pans with parchment.
Step Three: Cream the shortening and sugar before adding the eggs and vanilla, thoroughly mixing it all together. Add the dry ingredients to this mixture, alternately with the buttermilk.
Step Four: Pour the cake batter into the three cake pans and bake until a toothpick comes out clean – about 20 minutes. Remove the cakes and leave to cool.
Step Five: Prick the top of the cakes with a toothpick multiple times apiece and pour in the kirsch (which the cherries soaked in) over the top.
Step Six: In a bowl, beat the butter until creaming and then add the icing sugar, salt and espresso, and mix well. Add a little kirsch if the mixture is too thick.
Step Seven: Cut the pitted cherries in halves.
Step Eight: Build the cake by placing one layer of the sponge onto a cake tray, spread ½ of the filling over the top, cover with cherries and then another sponge layer. Repeat with another ½ of filling and more cherries before topping with the third sponge.
Step Nine: Cover the cake and place in the fridge for two days, allowing the kirsch to get into the sponge and create a moist texture.
Step Ten: When you’re ready to serve, prepare the icing. Whip the cream until it forms stiff peaks, and then gently fold in the dry milk and icing sugar. Add the vanilla and pour in the kirsch.
Step Eleven: Remove the cake from the fridge, spread the icing over the cake and place the intact cherries on top, and decorate with the chocolate shavings.
Recipe from http://www.food.com/recipe/authentic-black-forest-cake-schwarzwald-kirsch-kuchen-343698
Lebkuchen in Nuremberg
Baking lebkuchen is one of the Rhine region’s most loved and longest-standing Christmas traditions. Not dissimilar to gingerbread, lebkuchen has been prepared in Germany since the 13th century, when it was invented by Franconian monks. One of the earliest records of lebkuchen was found in Nuremberg, the city which remains the most famous exporter of the Christmas treat.
Although lebkuchen can be commonly found on the German Christmas markets dotted throughout the UK, we believe that baking a fresh batch with the family gives the best taste and the most authentic experience. So, here is a wonderfully simple recipe for delicious, authentic lebkuchen.
Makes: 30 Biscuits. Prep Time: 15 Mins. Cook Time: 15 Mins.
- 250g plain flour
- 85g ground almond
- 2tsp ground ginger
- 1tsp ground cinnamon
- ½tsp bicarbonate of soda
- 200ml clear honey
- 1 lemon, finely grated zest
- 85g butter
- Pinch of ground cloves, grated nutmeg and black pepper
- 1tsp baking powder
- 100g icing sugar
- 1 egg white, beaten
Step One: Mix all dry ingredients in a large bowl.
Step Two: Heat the honey and butter in a pan over a low heat until the butter melts, and then pour in the dry mixture and the lemon zest. Mix until thoroughly combined, and then cover and leave to cool.
Step Three: Preheat the oven to 180°C/160°C fan/gas 4. Roll the dough into 30 equal balls and then flatten each into a disc.
Step Four: Divide the dough discs between two baking trays lined with parchment, leaving gaps for expansion. Bake the biscuits for 15 minutes then leave to cool.
Step Five: Mix the icing ingredients and 1-2tbsp of water to create a smooth icing sugar. Dip each biscuit in the icing and then spread with the back of a knife. Leave the biscuits to dry in a warm place, then share amongst the family.
If you enjoyed this foodie exploration, why not check out Discover the Danube in Five Recipes?
Have these five recipes whetted your taste buds and inspired you to visit the amazing Rhineland? At Emerald Waterways, we can help you navigate the beautiful Rhine in absolute luxury. For a full selection of Emerald Waterways river cruises on the Rhine, click here, or call our helpful sales team on 0808 301 4705.
Image credits: Wikimedia Creative Commons, onoola, Maja Dumat