Lobscouse - Labskaus | Green Eel Soup
Pears, French Beans and Bacon | Rich Sweet Dishes
The traditional cuisine of northern Germany is renowned for its richness, and the sweet dishes are no exception. Although you'll find some light desserts such as the famous red fruit jelly1, or just some fresh strawberries with milk or cream to be enjoyed on a hot summer day, there are those sweet dishes which are rich enough to be had as the main dish. The following recipes reflect the north German preference of combining sweet with salty.
Dithmarscher2 Mehlbüddel3, also known a Großer Hans (Big Jack), would probably best be translated as 'bag of flour', and that's exactly what it is. It is not easy to achieve the desired effect of a huge, fluffy 'dumpling' (for lack of a better word), so cooking novices may want to wait until they are a little more experienced before trying this, or just be prepared to experiment a bit.
Even if you manage to get a fluffy 'dumpling', the dish will be like a lump in your stomach if you eat too much of it. However, you have to eat a lot because it's such a pain to cook – if you only ate a little the whole effort wouldn't be worthwhile. The Dithmarschers are said to have been grumpy after having had their traditional dish, and some claim the locals even tended towards manslaughter, such was the effect of a stomach filled with Mehlbeutel.
Ingredients (Serves Four to Six)
- 4 eggs
- 500g flour
- 500ml milk
- 500g bacon or gammon
- 50g sugar
- cherry compote (or a compote of a fruit of your choice)
- Two large bowls, one for mixing
- A hand mixer
- A large tea towel
- A large pot
- A plate (not your best China) or a long wooden spoon
- A length of cord
Break the eggs into the bowl, taking care not to let any shell slip into the mix. Whisk the eggs until they are frothy. Add flour and milk alternately to create a thick batter. Season with salt. Dampen the towel and lay it in the second bowl. Pour the batter on the towel, then take the towel and tie it around the batter either by using some cord or by making a knot. Leave some space for the batter to expand a little, ie don't bind too tight.
Place the plate upside down in the large pot. Add about 3 litres of water and bring to boil. Put the towel containing the batter into the water and lightly boil for about two hours. If you don't like the plate variant, stick a wooden spoon through the towel's knot and hang the bag into the pot, with the spoon's ends resting on the pot's brim. Whichever way you choose, make sure the 'bag' doesn't touch the bottom of the pot. After about an hour, add the bacon and let boil for the remaining hour. Once the towel has been removed from the water, untie the knot (or cut the cord) and let dry for about five minutes. Cut the 'dumpling' into slices and serve with the bacon and mustard and the compote. Any leftovers can be deep-fried the next day.
You can also add 100g of raisins or dried fruit to the batter, in which case it is called bunter ('variegated') Mehlbüddel. If you substitute ox blood for three quarters of the milk, it produces swatter Mehlbüddel (schwarzer means 'black').
This dish is much easier to cook than the one above. Like the pears, French beans and bacon dish, it combines pears with bacon, but the ingredients differ, so you'll get a sweet soup.
Ingredients (Serves Four)
- 400g smoked bacon
- 500ml water
- 500g pears
- 100g raisins
- 500ml buttermilk
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 3 tablespoons sugar
Bring the water with the bacon to boil, cover and cook for two hours. Peel the pears and remove their cores, then slice them into rings. Remove the bacon from the water, add the pears and raisins and let them cook for about ten minutes. Meanwhile, mix the buttermilk, flour and sugar. Pour into a pot and heat while stirring, then add to the pears and raisins and let them steep for another ten minutes. Cut the bacon into four pieces, put them on four bowls and pour the hot pear soup on top.