Tag Archives: seasonal produce in Germany

Seasonal eating in Germany

I have to say Germany and Kiel were quite unexpected. I’ve been there before, but last time I didn’t really go looking for culinary uniqueness, it was a flying visit but this time was different. I was staying for nine days so consequently I had plenty of time to soak up the traditions, hunt for the unusual and generally eat the way the Germans do.

I’m not saying I ate out much, with five kids between us, four of them under nine and both families fairly skint, plans for expensive and elaborate dining were shelved, so we did what we always do best, cook at home, sharing ideas and preparation until we came up with a variety of hearty, wholesome home cooked dinners, using lots and  lots of local produce. I suppose it was a busman’s holiday really, lots of cooking for lots of people, interspersed during the week with three days English language teaching at Kiel University, but the experience, even the work bit, was totally enjoyable all the same. Some of my students had even googled me before I arrived and discovered my alternative foodie occupation so we spent a great time discussing that as well.

Following our trip to the market on Saturday we were well stocked for the weekend. Easter Sunday began with the obligatory Easter egg hunt followed by a late and lazy breakfast which consisted of lots of different German cheeses, meats and salami, fruit, fresh bread and coffee. This was our friends usual continental routine. During the week muesli, fruit and yogurt started the day, but of course while we were staying there were much more lazy breakfasts like this. While the sun blazed we simply sat, relaxed, ate and even managed a glass of Easter Sunday champagne. Lunch was unnecessary since breakfast ran on forever, in fact it probably only finished a couple of hours before we began to think about the barbecue we were having that evening.

In between this we drank what became known as ‘girly beer’ (basically beer, such as Becks, ready mixed with lemon or lime, or grapefruit) and the occasional cup of tea accompanied by a traditional German afternoon tea cake (cherry and chocolate).

Annette’s secret recipe chocolate and cherry cake…delicious and I’m determined to get that recipe!!

Later more friends arrived; we barbecued trout with herbs, wild garlic and lemon, some extremely phallic looking white asparagus marinated with olive oil and basil, chicken sate, ribs with a honey dressing and German sausages. For pudding the kids made Eton mess, a household favourite, with strawberries, cream and meringues.

traditional Easter bonfire...they seem to have them everywhere!

I feel almost guilty to admit that every day was much the same; fresh rolls, fruit, cheese and salami, followed by cake and a large late dinner. We tried various specialities. At the coast we had Fischbrochen basically freshly caught fish either marinated, with herbs or smoked and served in a bun with mayonnaise or a sauce and salad. I had smoked mackerel with horseradish, particularly yummy. Another night we took the kids bowling. I’ve never seen as classy a restaurant attached to a bowling alley anywhere else, ever. After a couple of games we sat down to eat. Sean decided to try another speciality currywurst. Our local friends did warn him not to choose this but he opted to ignore advice. Currywurst is basically German sausage in a tomato ketchup kind of curry sauce. It’s very popular there although Sean did proclaim that he chose unwisely, I had a taste and it was absolutely foul. Probably the kind of thing you would pick up after the pub when drunk! The kids chose a hearty portion of sausage or fish and chips, whilst the sensible adults that chose wisely went for steak, local white asparagus and a sauce of some kind. Mine came with a generous helping of light, buttery Hollandaise sauce, while one of my companions went for an unusual sounding strawberry chilli chutney. It was certainly different but unexpectedly lovely. A little hint of a chilli kick, but not too much, and still with the distinctive strawberry taste and sweetness. It accompanied the asparagus beautifully. The decent sized steak came with a generous portion of garlicky herb butter and was fantastic, succulent, full of flavour and cooked perfectly medium rare. The asparagus was tender and cooked to perfection. I couldn’t have asked for more.

the bowling alley which adjoined the restaurantThe specials board…this was definitely the list to choose from

Currywurst…the most disgusting thing eversteak with roasted vegetables and chips

white asparagus with strawberry chilli chutney

my steak and asparagus with hollandaise

We ate so much yummy stuff it’s hard to pick a favourite …spiced pork roasts with apple sauce; lasagne made with smoked speck as well as mince; a variety of cheeses and salami and of course a mountain of apple cake, lemon cake, local marzipan and beer. Of course all of that means that my souvenir from Kiel is an extra half a stone, but hey it was worth it.

All of those tastes are still running through my head, but I keep coming back to that white asparagus and hollandaise. My lasting impression that there is more to German food than meets the eye, it’s not overtly elaborate but with so many unexpected high points, discoveries of tastes and flavours, I now know that there is definitely more to German food than just beer and Bratwurst.

Leave a comment

Filed under baking, family budget cooking, German food, travel, Travelling with kids, Uncategorized

An Easter postcard from Kiel

coloured eggs on Easter Saturday

Easter in Germany is a far different experience from the one back home. One of the traditions I like the most is the dying and painting of eggs, an activity carried out by children all over Germany in the run up to Easter.  Common in schools, kindergartens and at home, the eggs they create end up decorating the house for Easter Sunday. I think it’s a shame that these kind of activities have died out in Britain and that there is very little creativity left. These days consumerism has taken over and everyone has fallen into the trap of buying large quantities of huge expensive branded eggs. Here in Germany however there is great excitement, but without much of this consumerist obsession; the Easter egg hunt is the thing, with lots of little eggs and chocolate treats being hidden around the house or garden. The children love the search, running off in eager anticipation clutching their baskets determined to find as many as they can. I liked this a lot and although secretly I wondered if my kids would miss their large trashy Easter eggs, I don’t think they did since both rushed around with mad enthusiasm, scrabbling through plants trying cramming their baskets to the brim before bringing them back to add to the stack ready for sharing at the end of the hunt. As well as chocolate eggs, each child had their own papier-mache egg filled with a special gift just for them. In the case of the teen it was jewellery and a leopard print belt, while the kids had a wealth of lego and toys.

home painted eggs

Easter traditions were in abundance at the local produce market in Kiel on Easter Saturday. Coloured eggs adorned stalls, Easter baskets for sale everywhere, as well as the usual range of predominantly local produce. The farmers markets in the UK are a quarter of the size of these places and sell a tiny choice of produce in comparison. Here local farmers sell their own goods as well as buying and selling produce from their close European neighbours. Local German cheeses share a counter with those from France, Holland, Switzerland and Austria; Dutch tulips sold along with those grown closer to home. It was a great start to the Easter weekend, providing an opportunity to discover the tastes and specialities of Northern Germany and shopping with friends who are locals, gave an even greater insight into the amazing seasonal produce available.

In some ways it’s not that different to Britain particularly the kind of produce on sale, although everything seems ready a little earlier. This may just be a fluke due to the particularly hot weather, (since Kiel probably has the same kind of climate to Britain, especially North Wales), but there certainly were things in greater abundance than in Wales. White asparagus for example was well and truly in season and we bought a big bunch for barbecuing on Sunday. There was also lots of rhubarb, Feldsalat (or field salad in English) which looked pretty much like lambs lettuce to me, Baerlauch or ramsons (wild garlic in English which has been in for some weeks back home) and a variety of early salad leaves. We got a bit carried away stocking up ready for our alternative Easter Sunday celebrations. We bought not only fresh salads but also a variety of cheeses, meats, german bread, sweets and even meringues for dessert.

I love markets in Europe and it was a brilliant way to spend Saturday morning. Laden with produce and chocolate we headed back home in preparation for a trip to the beach.


1 Comment

Filed under local produce, travel, Travelling with kids, Uncategorized