Cooking School: German Lentil and Sausage Stew

 German Lentil Stew (0007) by Meeta K. Wolff 

Sometimes I think German cuisine is very inadequately underestimated. Fact is, there is a lot more to German food that sausages and beer. Until relatively recently the various regions of Germany were independent and autonomous communities. Prior to the national unification in 1871, Germany was divided into many kingdoms and principalities, each with distinct customs, distinct dialects and of course distinct culinary specialities.  

Much of the regional foods are based on the country's favorite staples of beer, pork, potatoes, cabbage, and legumes (lentils, peas). Although there is this common factor throughout, many of the dishes are different in the method of cooking, seasoning, or the way they are served, making the regional cuisines of Germany excitingly varied.

One can divide German cuisine in three main sectors: Central, Northern, and Southern, where each region is essentially influenced by the bordering countries.

The dishes in central Germany are comprised of hearty meals and foods. The famed Westphalian ham and dark heavy pumpernickel bread is well-known around the world. Pork is important in this region and many dishes favor a heavy touch with freshly ground black pepper. Gravies are rich and thickened with dried bread crumbs rather than with flour. Frankfurt is recognized for a special herb-flavored green sauce, grüne sosse, made with several fresh herbs, very similar to Salsa Verde in Italy or Sauce verte in France.

The fluffy dumplings of Thuringia, known as grüne klosse are iconic. These feathery klosse are made only from raw and cooked potatoes, flour and sometimes an egg. Served with meat dishes like Rinderroulade (Beef roulade) they usually make up the perfect Sunday lunch. Although in Saxony the foods are similar, Saxonions however take even more pleasure in their sweet cakes: schnitten, stollen, and fruit kuchen are available in countless and delicious variety.

German Lentil Stew (0017) by Meeta K. Wolff

The Northern region, which is influenced by its proximity to the Scandinavian countries and the Netherlands, is characterized by thick soups, pickled and smoked meats and fish, and dried fruits to name a few.

Berlin is famed for its ground meat dishes or the strammer max, which is a snack of buttered rye bread with a thick slice of ham and two fried eggs resting on top and of course  Berliner pfannkuchen, the luscious plump jam-filled doughnuts.

Southern German cuisine is characteristically lighter. Being a warm region the landscape is defined by viticulture, where wine flows more easily than beer. Some say Germany's finest cooking comes from the state of Baden Wurttemberg, which is influenced by the neighboring French kitchens. This region also supplies delicious plums and plump cherries which are transformed into the famous Kirchwasser and the Schwarzwalder Kirschtorte.

The regional cooking of Bavaria, in southeastern Germany is probably the cuisine most foreigners will identify as “typically German”. Bavarians love their beer and sausage, probably the the reason why many associate beer and sausage with Germany. Weisswurst, Schweinesbraten (roast pork) or Kalbshaxe (veal shank) are the top favorites. But Bavaria is also very well known for it’s cheese. The pastoral region of the Allgäu, known for its dairy farms boasts of a wide variety of acclaimed cheeses and cheese makers.

German Lentil Stew (0001) by Meeta K. Wolff

Personally, I enjoy the incredible variety of German stews and soups. Especially when winter's short days and dreary weather leave our bodies craving for warmth. Coming home to the embracing aroma of a steaming pot of richly flavored soup or stew has got to be one of the most comforting experiences. And there are plenty types of stews and soups to choose from, from the German kitchen.

Simmering the stew slowly is the secret for the perfectly cooked dish. Slow simmering the ingredients in broth gradually extracts and blends the flavors to excellence. The finished dish will perpetually taste a little different every time it is made, depending on the ratio of the ingredients and at what stage of cooking they are added.

For this session of Cooking School I’d like to share with you a homey and simple German lentil stew.  After living here for 17 years, my German lentil stew has evolved over the years, but still keeping it as close to the traditional recipe I cut out from a paper several years ago. I use more vegetables in my stew and throw in some cubed Kassler (smoked pork) for a more robust and smoky flavor. This is really good stuff!

German Lentil and Sausage Stew

Printable version of recipe here

Ingredients

100g smoked bacon, cubed
100g Kassler (smoked pork), cubed
2 small onions, peel left on and halved
300g brown or German lentils, washed 
1 liter vegetable stock
1 tablespoon butter
200g carrots, diced
200g parsnips, diced
100g leeks, sliced
4 smoked bratwurst or Wiener sausages
Pinch of sugar
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley, chopped
 

Method

  1. Heat up a frying pan on medium. Place the onion halves cut side down in the frying pan and allow to blacken gently. Set aside.

  2. Heat the butter in a pot and fry the bacon and Kassler for 2-3 minutes until golden. Add the lentils, vegetables stock and blackened onions and allow to simmer, covered, for 20 minutes.

  3. Add the diced and sliced vegetables and simmer for a further 10-15 minutes, then add the sausages and cook through for the final 5-10 minutes.

  4. Pour in vinegar and season with sugar, salt and pepper to taste. If the consistency of the stew is too thick then pour some more vegetable stock to thin it down according to your liking. I prefer my stew fairly thick.

  5. Sprinkle with flat-leaf parsley and serve piping hot with a dollop of mustard.

 

 


Verdict

German Lentil Stew (0008) by Meeta K. Wolff

Perfect comfort food, especially in this cold and wet weather. The smoky flavors of the bacon, meat and blackened onion adds a great full-bodied flavor. This is a hearty soup and one needs no further condiments other than a nice spoonful of spicy mustard. The touch of vinegar adds a subtly tart note rounding the stew off wonderfully.

From Plate to Page:

Over on the From Plate to Page blog you can now read all the insightful, sincere and helpful articles in a four part series from Ilva, Jeanne, Jamie and myself. In terms of photography and writing, we talk about what moved us and how we achieved our goals in 2010 and share our plans for 2011. Join us!

Ilva: Past and future - some thoughts
Jeanne: Looking back, looking forward
Meeta: Past, Present and Future Tense
Jamie: Writing My World, Then and Now 

You might like these soups and stews from WFLH:

Yellow Bell Pepper and Fava Bean Soup

Carrot and Red Lentil Soup with a Hint of Cumin Tuscan Tomato and Bread Soup

 


All photographs and written content on What's For Lunch, Honey? © 2006-2011 Meeta Khurana Wolff unless otherwise indicated. | All rights reserved | Please Ask First

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39 comments:

  1. Hallo Meeta,
    Ja, you are correct. Eine leckere Linsensuppe mit Wuerstchen ist sehr schwer zu schlagen. Habe ich auch kuerzlich wieder gekocht. Frankfurter Wuerstchen sind auch unsere Fleischbeilage. Mein amerikanischer Mann findet es immer sehr komisch, dass Essig in die Suppe gehoert. Senf ist mir neu dazu. Deine Suppe sieht jedenfalls koestlich aus.
    Gruesse
    Kirsten

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  2. Looks like a realy comfort foor for the cold weather we are having here.

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  3. Oh Meeta, this looks so hearty and delicious. I really know practically nothing about German food; looking forward to more about it.

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  4. I have bags and bags of lentils in my cabinet that need to be used. I think I've found my dish!

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  5. You've done a great job making that dish look beautiful and photogenic! Comforting and delicious. I love such recipes.

    Cheers,

    Rosa

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  6. Isn't funny how we all know all those wonderful dishes yet still don't think of them when someone mentions German cuisine. It's like Italian cuisine. Everyone automatically thinks of pizza and pasta! Fabulous stew and we love this kind of warming, hearty meal in winter. Love lentils, too.

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  7. This sounds so divine but alas I am a veggie...so might have to find veggie alternatives...but will definitely give it a shot..all i crave during these grey days is a steaming bowl of soup/stew

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  8. Oh my, that looks SO good. I actually thought I knew something about German food, but most of what you've mentioned I've never heard of before. I've always enjoyed learning about the food that comes from particular regions, and the influence each has on one another. Very nice, Meeta!

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  9. I didn't know German cuisine was so varied in ingredients and cooking methods. Lentils are my favorite legume and this sounds like a great winter soup. I would love to try it!
    Magda

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  10. A hearty soup... perfect for long winter days, love the red pan ;)

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  11. Thats a yummy and filling dish, love it..

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  12. Oooh stop it, I haven't had my dinner yet and I'm starving! I love sausage and lentil stews, my mother used to make one based on my late German grandmother's recipe. My husband complains when I make it but I love it. I must manage to visit Germany at some point, it's quite ridiculous I haven't.

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  13. What a fab stew! I love making this type of comfort food dishes when there's a foot of snow outside...*sigh*

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  14. Lovely stew... I love this heart warming dish n it's beautifully captured!

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  15. So many cultures offer sausage and lentil type stews and I haven't met one I've disliked! Make a chorizo and lentil one last week, had the leftovers yesterday for lunch - delicious! We will try your version because the men in our house have a weakness for German sausages. x M.

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  16. I have no clue about German food or cuisine and with this stew I'm pretty sure it cdeserves nmore attention!

    P.S. Meeta u did a fab job with photographing it. I dread shooting stews!

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  17. Love the food styling in these shots. Hope you've had a lovely beginning of 2011, Meeta! x

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  18. I adore comfort food even in the hot climate I live in. I agree with Tiinsa's comment about the food styling - you've done a lovely job.

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  19. My gosh.....I never knew stew could look so beautiful. I'm loving your ladle. Thanks for a great recipe and a little glimpse into German food geography!

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  20. Hey,

    Yummy stew...:)

    Dr.Sameena@

    http://www.myeasytocookrecipes.blogspot.com/

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  21. An interesting summary of the regional cuisine. I was in Stuttgart 15 months ago, and the food was varied,delicious and generous. I feel there was quite a large Turkish influence there. You certainly feel like you get your money's worth. And even more. Warm people, generous hospitality, beautiful countryside and the place is steeped with history.

    I also spent a little time in Dusseldorf and Koln. Travelling down the Rhine was majestic. I shall go back one day and spend much more time. Thanks for the history lesson. Mariana

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  22. I close my eyes and dream every time I read one of your posts - Jamie's and Jeanne's too! All of you are wonderful teachers and I always feel like I come away knowing something I didn't before. What's even more interesting Meeta is that I am part German - Yeager (Jager) is my maiden name; I have traced my roots back to the 1700s to a Nicholas Jager - don't remember which part of Germany but I must look that up before heading over in May. The Professor is part German as well and has been searching his family as well. Fantastic stew - the addition of vinegar & mustard is brilliant!

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  23. Whenever I feel like I am loosing the grip, the dish I always turn to is a big, steaming lentil stew. I think I have a little German in me ;o) Wish it was easier to get Kassler here - in South Africa every supermarket stocked Kassler chops, but not here :( As you know I am a huge fan of Bavarian cuisine and I make a mean Schweinesbraten but I am willing to travel north to share this hug-in-a-bowl with you, my sweet sister, particularly when you mentioned that it contains smoky, sizzling BRATWURST ;o)

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  24. I'm sure German cuisine is a lot richer than what most people believe (me included). Thanks for educating us a little bit more on this amazing and underestimated cuisine. I just love lentils.

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  25. That's an absolutely perfect looking stew Meeta and definitely perfect for the current weather!

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  26. Hi Meeta,
    just found your blog and love it. I am a German living in Chicago and love also our good old German stews. Drop by @ freshfromevaskitchen@blogspot.com/ if you have time
    Eva

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  27. Oh my! my little (ok, not so little) sister is coming to Germany in less than 2 months for the Erasmus.. I'm happy you show us something about the German cuisine, it's like.. you know! the more you know about a country the nearer it seems!
    Thank you! I love this dish, lentils are a favourite to me and Claudia!

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  28. Delish! We've been eating tons of soups & lentils lately!
    Cupcake
    Www.thefamily-table.blogspot.com

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  29. I have never cooked lentils other than the vegetarian soup and porridges we make in lebanese kitchen; however, I am tempted now by this meaty version as it looks and sounds excellent, especially with the smoked sausages.

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  30. Meeta, this looks deliciously inviting! Beautiful historical description as well.

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  31. As a stew and casserole type of guy this is right up my alley! So comforting Meeta! And thank you for explaining all the regional differences in Germany regarding local foods and dishes.

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  32. Kassler is hard to find in the US -- it is lean, dry & lightly smoked. I usually use ham (find one not too sweet or smoky) to substitute for both the Kassler & the Bacon. This way it doesn't get too fatty.

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  33. I wish I had more access to German cuisine. The food looks very hearty and delicious.

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  34. Great comfort food, and just right for this wintry spell. Love the window on regional cuisine Meeta, and love the meeting of flavours! lentils? Who would have thought??? This is just Mr PABs kinda stew!

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  35. I absolutely love this post Meeta - the German food history (my great-grandfather came from Germany, so this is pretty interesting to me), the delicious sounding recipe and of course your fantastic photographs. This is a meat lover's dream!

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  36. The best thing I love about cooking is the verdict part... I always find myself very nervous and uneasy when finish cooking worrying that my cook won't fit those who will going to eat. And the best part is that when they start asking who cooked and expressing the impression.

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  37. I'm an American who grew up in Germany and this was one of our winter staples. But with less meat!

    As kids we found the vinegar flavor too strong so we would add ketchup as well.

    Now I make my own varieties with spinach or tomatoes or since I now live in Asia I will use smoked Cantonese sausage sometimes.

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Thank you for visiting What's For Lunch, Honey? and taking time to browse through my recipes, listen to my ramblings and enjoy my photographs. I appreciate all your comments, feedback and input. I will answer your questions to my best knowledge and respond to your comments as soon as possible.

In the meantime I hope you enjoy your stay here and that I was able to make this an experience for your senses.

Hugs
Meeta