September 09, 2016 by
The VRG Blog Editor
By Alicia Hückmann, VRG intern visiting from Germany
Although Germany is a comparatively small country, travelling to the North (if you only know the South) and vice versa can be a bit of a cultural shock. The further down you go, the more rural and traditional it gets (and the more difficult it is to understand dialects). The north on the other hand is very urban and modern: It is no coincidence that eight of the biggest German cities are located here. But this does not mean that our Nordlichter (“polar lights,” which is how we call our northern neighbors jokingly) lack a traditional culture or a traditional cuisine as you are about to find out.
Kale-potato soup – a healthy starter from northern Germany (original recipe)
If I had to name the most iconic ingredient of German cuisine, I would go for potatoes. Originally cultivated by the native inhabitants of South America, they were brought to Europe in the 16th century by Spanish Conquistadors. In the following centuries, these tough tubers would manage to feed millions in years of bad harvest and war when all other crops had failed. As a result, potatoes have remained an immensely popular, substantial food up to this day.
Kale on the other hand is a vegetable that is enjoyed by people in one specific German region in particular: The north. In fact, our Nordlichter seem to love their kale so much that the cities of Bremen and Oldenburg have an ongoing argument about it – they both claim that they are responsible for sparking kale’s popularity in Northern Germany.
The starter of my northern German meal is a tasty combination of both ingredients. Enjoy!
¾ pound (12 oz) kale
¼ stalk celery
2 tsp oil
2 tsp organic sugar
7 oz silken tofu (blended)
Salt, pepper, and parsley, to taste
Peel the potatoes and chop them into chunks. Chop kale into bite-size pieces. Dice the onion and the leek. Cut the carrot and the celery into small pieces and sear them in 2 tsp oil for a minute. Add the sugar to the seared carrots and celery to caramelize the ingredients, then add the onion and the leek and fry until translucent. Mix with potatoes and kale. Add enough water in a pot so that the ingredients float on top and let everything simmer until the potatoes’ and kale’s texture is soft (about 20 minutes).
Briefly blend the soup (leaving some vegetable chunks) before mixing it with the blended silken tofu. Flavor with salt, pepper, and parsley.
Reibekuchen (Original recipe by Dominik at veganerezepte.eu)
Ready for some more potatoes? The following recipe, Reibekuchen, is a simple dish that can be prepared in no time. Their name literally translates to “grated cake,” so be careful if you ever order a “Kuchen” in central or northern Germany – you might end up with savory potato pancakes instead of actual cake! As they are particularly popular in the mid-western area, the Rhineland, make sure you order the right kind of cake! By the way, in some parts of Germany like in the (South), we like to call them “Kartoffelpuffer” (potato poof – because they sometimes make funny sounds when being fried) rather than Reibekuchen.
1 lb potatoes
¾ tsp salt
1 tsp nutmeg
2 tbsp soy flour [or other flour can be substituted]
Peel and rinse, coarsely grate, and salt the potatoes. Leave them in a bowl for 2-3 minutes before you proceed. In the meantime, peel and dice the shallots. Wrap the potatoes in a kitchen towel and squeeze as much water out as possible into a bowl. Do not pour the water away. Place the potatoes in a clean bowl to flavor them using pepper and nutmeg. Combine the soy flour with 5 tbsp of the potato water and mix everything with the potatoes.
Pour enough oil into a frying pan to cover its bottom and warm it. As soon as the pan is hot, put some mashed potatoes into the pan. Flatten them by using a spoon and remember to do the edges as well. Lift the mixture every 30 seconds to make sure it does not stick to the bottom and turn it over after 2-3 minutes, and cook 1-2 minutes longer until golden on both sides. Repeat until you run out of potatoes. Serve with apple sauce.
Frankfurter Kranz Cupcakes (original recipe)
Makes 12 cupcakes
Although Frankfurter Kranz (or Frankfurt Crown) might be not as famous as the black forest cake that was featured in the Southern German menu (see: http://www.vrg.org/blog/2016/08/19/southern-german-vegan-menu/), this heavenly butter cream cake from central Germany is certainly one of the most exquisite delicacies Germany has to offer. Traditionally, it consists of multiple layers of biscuit rings, cream, and red jam and is topped with cherries and brittle – so quite the opposite of a healthy dessert! For this reason, I decided to come up with a less fatty and sugary cupcake version.
2 cups flour
1 cup organic sugar
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
5 tsp vegan vanilla pudding powder
1½ cups vanilla or plain vegan milk
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups organic powdered sugar
1 cup vegan margarine
1 tsp vegan vanilla pudding powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
filling, brittle, and decoration:
3 tbsp organic sugar
1 tsp vegan margarine
1/3 cup chopped almonds
Red jam (for example, strawberry, cherry, etc.)
12 small cherries or strawberries
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Mix the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and pudding powder) and gradually add plant milk while stirring. If you use plain vegan milk, you might want to add an additional ½ tsp vanilla extract. Pour the dough in muffin liners and bake for about 20 minutes.
For the frosting, blend the powdered sugar, the margarine, the pudding powder, and the vanilla extract. Let both the frosting and the muffins cool down in the fridge.
In the meantime, prepare brittle for decoration. Put 3 tbsp sugar and the margarine into a pan and wait until melted. Add the almonds and fully cover them in caramelized sugar as quickly as possible. Remove the mixture from the heat, spread it on a sheet of baking paper, and let it harden, then crumble.
Remove the muffins from the fridge and cut about 1-2 tsp out of each top. Fill with an equal amount of jam. Spread the frosting using an icing bag, then decorate with brittle and fruit.