Saturday, 31 May 2014

Nordrhein-Westfalen - How I made Rheinischer Sauerbraten

I visited Japan recently and, whilst I was there, I noticed that the Japanese are very fond of European cooking and that there are a plethora of European-style restaurants in every major Japanese town or city. Of course, by European cooking, I mean French and Italian and it's interesting how other European cuisines, like the cuisines of Germany, Britain, Poland etc aren't that well known or valued around the world.

I must admit that I'd never heard of Sauerbraten (Sour Roast) before I started looking around for a dish I could make which would represent Nordrhein-Westfalen.  Sauerbraten is one of Germany's most famous dishes and I had lots of fun (and made a big mess in the kitchen) preparing the Rhineland version, Rheinischer Sauerbraten.

Sauerbraten ingredients 
I've spent a lot of time preparing stew-type dishes for this blog; whether's it Jèrriais Pais au Fou, Liberian Palava or Cambodian Somla Machou, I guess there's a basic principle in world cuisine which makes 'bunging it all in one pot' very easy!  Interestingly, my experience preparing Rheinischer Sauerbraten reminded me more of the dish I made when blogging about Korea.  It was all about cooking/preparing parts of the dish separately, then arranging them together at the end.  

Also, I must admit that this isn't actually the first time I have prepared German food for this blog - the dishes I prepared for both Indiana and Wisconsin, were basically German ones that have been exported to the United States.  I guess German cuisine is more familiar to us in terms of what we'd usually think of as American fast food?

I used a recipe from the Food network, as the inspiration for my Rheinischer Sauerbraten.  

There were four main parts to this dish:

1. The meat - Das Fleisch

Topside, after almost three days of marinating
Traditionally horse meat, but I opted for beef (Aberdeen Angus topside) - because of the nature of the dish, it's important to have a tougher cut of meat, like the topside, top rump or even silverside.  I've used this opportunity to learn a little more about the different cuts of beef and I came across a really useful guide from Delicious Magazine, which shows where the different cuts of beef are taken from.  Interestingly, cuts of beef are different in British and American English.  

The really interesting part of this recipe is that the beef should be marinated for at least three days before cooking.  I didn't have three days, as it happens, but I managed to marinate the beef for about 60 hours and it was fairly tender after I'd cooked it.  

The meat is also the 'sauer' part of the recipe, as it's marinated in red wine vinegar and pickling spices, so the beef is basically pickled for three days.  

Here is a list of the ingredients that I used:

500g Beef Topside - Rindfleisch (Huftsteak)
275ml red wine vinegar - Rottweinessig
200ml water - Wasser
Salt - Salz
Pickling spices - Beizen Gewürze
200g brown sugar - brauner Zucker

Beef topside after 45 minutes in the oven
I think Sauerbraten is traditionally a pot roast, so the beef would be roasted in a pot with vegetables for several hours.  I followed the recipe, which recommended oven roasting and so, after marinating for almost three days, I put the meat in a cake tin, sprinkled some brown sugar on top and roasted it in the oven for forty-five minutes at 180 degrees Celsius (350F).  I guess you could also braise the meat before roasting, but the method I used gave the meat a slightly cooked exterior with a succulent medium-rare interior.  

The sugar melted on the top to give the meat a really lovely glaze.  I used a lot of sugar in this dish and, I guess, the overall effect of all of that sweetness was to balance the sour elements of the dish - a clever combination!

2. The sauce - Die Sauce

Ginger snaps
Perhaps one of the most fascinating things I've learned from making this dish is the fact that you can make a really nice sauce from biscuits/cookies!  I must admit, I was a little bit doubtful, when I first read the recipe, but it worked!  And I guess it makes sense, what are biscuits after all but flour and butter?

Reserved stock from the roasted meat - Brühe aus dem Rindfleisch
500ml water - Wasser
8 crushed Ginger snap cookies - zerkleinerten Lebkuchen
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar - Rottweinessig
Sugar - Zucker
150ml sour cream - Saure Sahne
150ml raisins - Rosinen

Add sour cream and raisins to change the texture
I should say at this point that I didn't cook these parts of the dish in linear order and was doing bits and pieces simultaneously.  I've ordered them for your benefit, so it's easier to understand the various components and how to make them.  

To make the sauce, I simply crushed the Gingerbread biscuits in a saucepan, then added the stock from the beef, which had been baking in the oven for forty-five minutes and two cups of water (around 500ml). I then added the red wine vinegar and sugar, brought everything to the boil, then simmered until other parts of the meal were ready.

A few minutes before I was ready to serve the meal, I poured the contents of the saucepan into a plastic mixing bowl, added the sour cream and raisins and stirred.  As you can see from the photo, the sour cream does change the texture and colour of the sauce.  

3. The Cabbage - Der Kohl

Chopped apples
I cheated slightly in this part, buying cabbage that was ready for cooking.  You might have noticed that I've used a lot of Waitrose ingredients with this particular dish and this is mostly due to time constraints and the fact that I've recently discovered online grocery shopping!  

300g red cabbage - Rotkohl
2 apples - Äpfel
150g apple sauce - Apfelmus
Sugar - Zucker
200ml red wine vinegar - Rottweinessig

Apples and red cabbage go really well together
I'm not a massive fan of red cabbage, but combining red cabbage with apples is a great idea!  I guess the first rule of German cooking should be 'don't run out of red wine vinegar' - which is exactly what happened to me by the time I got to the cabbage.  I substituted with some of the liquid that was left over from the marinade, although the cabbage was very vinegary as a result.  

Making this part of the meal was quite straight forward.  I first added the apples to a large saucepan, then the marinade liquid/red vinegar, followed by the red cabbage and apple sauce.  I brought everything to the boil, then simmered until the whole meal was ready.  It's important to keep stirring these ingredients, as the apple softens and mixes in with the cabbage.

4. The Noodles - Die Spätzle

Spätzle mix
Making the Spätzle (little sparrows) was really good fun and very messy!  I've made noodles before, when I cooked Mongolian Tsuivan, however, this time was a bit different, as Spätzle are something like a cross between noodles and gnocchi.  

4 eggs - Eier
175ml milk - Milch
Salt - Salz
Black pepper - schwarzer Pfeffer
Nutmeg - Muskat
450g flour - Mehl

Frying the Spätzle
The recipe said 450g of flour, but I didn't trust it and only put in 350g, which I now regret, as my mixture was too liquidy and my Spätzle didn't turn out exactly the way I wanted - still, we live and learn.  So, definitely use 450g flour and mix in the eggs, milk, pepper and nutmeg.  

I brought a large saucepan of water to the boil, then used my potato ricer to separate the Spätzle mixture into long strings which dropped into the boiling water.  You can make quite a lot of Spätzle with the amounts suggested above and I did three batches in the boiling water, removing the Spätzle batches after a few minutes of boiling.  

The best bit is frying the Spätzle in butter, which gives them a crispier texture.  This was the very last thing I did, before assembling all four elements together; meat, sauce, cabbage and Spätzle to make Rheinischer Sauerbraten!  It was immense!!

Rheinischer Sauerbraten

Meat, sauce, cabbage and Spätzle


Image credits:

All images were taken by me on my trusty Canon EOS 1100D.  Feel free to use these images with the Creative commons license:

- Attribution
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