Truly not the wurst
German cuisine is a lot less trend-led than others and is more inclined towards the classics
Ham hock and quick plum chutney. Photograph: Aidan Crawley
For many years, some people have viewed German cuisine with the same sort of derisory chuckle that they used to save for its Irish equivalent. It has been unfairly assumed that both countries probably survived on a diet of spuds, buckets of beer, overcooked everything and plenty of pork.
People may argue that that is still the case in parts of each country, but beige food aside, there’s plenty of exciting regional stuff going on in Germany, as of course there is in Ireland. Organic movements, artisan producers, growing your own veg and celebrating old traditions are what’s de rigueur or, rather, unerlässlich. But all of these shifts feel a lot less trendish and transient and much more natural and classical. And inevitably, as locals return home and new cultures and nationalities arrive, they bring their influences home with them, ensuring restaurants in Galway and Stuttgart can be influenced by things that happen in New Zealand or South Africa.
Two German dishes caught my eye to Paddyize. The first is schweinshaxe, which may have been the inspiration for the name of New York chef Danny Meyer’s gourmet burger joint, “Shake Shack”, which hit London this summer. This is a dish of roasted pork knuckle, or ham hock, as we would call it, and is especially popular in Bavaria (or so the internet told me). Anyway, I am very partial to a ham hock terrine – especially the one in Wild Honey Inn in Lisdoonvarna. But this recipe looks like you gently cook the ham hock for hours on end and then roast the heck out of it so that the fatty skin gets all crisp, before serving it with heaps of cabbage, and either spuds or some sort of dumpling. Nice and delicious, but I wanted to take the idea of making it “crispy” and run with that – instead of the cabbage – and serve it on toasted sourdough with a pungent type of chutney to cut through the rich, fatty and salty meat.
This one seems to hover around Alsace region and is known as a tarte flambée on one side of the border and flammekueche on the other, which may become not only the name of our new home-made pizzas, but also a PC swear word. In short, it’s very thin dough that’s rolled out to fit a rectangular shape and then topped with crème fraiche, some lardons, a little Gruyère and some rosemary, if you fancy.
Needless to say, I decided that German salami may be equally nice and added some thyme and oregano, just to be different.
Bottom line: this is a lovely thin pizza-like dish that would gratefully accept most toppings. Some sautéed mushrooms and Tallegio cheese would also be wondrous and vegetarian, although not very German.