“Grünes Thüringen” – will bring the wide and plentiful thick forests of Thuringia to mind. For me however Thuringia has a more colorful landscape with abundant bounties of vegetables that this fertile state provides. Cauliflower, kohlrabi, broccoli and a wide variety of cabbages are only some of the types of vegetables that are amply found around the capital of the state, Erfurt. Dig a little deeper and one will find that Thuringia also boasts of cultivating fine aromatic asparagus and after Bavaria it is the second largest herb growing region in Germany.
One third of Thuringia is covered in forest providing generous variety of game like deer, wild boar, duck and mouflon, while mushroom variety like chanterelles and porcini can be found in the wooded areas and wild berries like blueberries, cranberries, and blackberries grow abundantly. With such an assortment Thuringia offers a kaleidoscope of produce all year round.
One of Thuringia's signature dishes is the “Schnippelsuppe” a hearty vegetable soup which is very much a full meal in itself. Using freshly harvested vegetables of the season this soup is endlessly versatile and is perfect for any season. In the traditional version however, potatoes, leek and carrots are cubed into a robust homemade stock made of meat while crispy bacon adds a smoky flavor.
Before I started developing my own idea for a hearty vegetable soup I went to visit chef Sten Fischer at Alt Weimar in search of a classic “schnippelsuppe.” Sten invited me into his kitchen at the Alt Weimar, where I had the enjoyment of cooking together with him. He generously shared his grandmother’s recipe, which is hearty and includes copious amounts of vegetables like celeriac along with the more traditional carrots and potatoes. His grandmother obviously liked the soup robust and added thick slices of “blutwürst” and meatballs made of pork.
It is easy to be taken in by Sten’s enthusiasm; he is passionate about his calling and is keen to raise the awareness of Thuringian cuisine across the borders. He adds a regional touch to modern cuisine in his kitchen creating sophisticated dishes using high-level regional products at affordable prices. His aim is to show his guests that Thüringian cuisine is not only about potatoes and cabbage but about combining flavor nuances and a diversity of aromas.
Born in Erfurt, Sten has gathered extensive experience in his career. In the early nineties he travelled throughout Europe and on Aida cruise ships learning his trade in various kitchens of the world. In Bermuda he cooked for Michael Douglas before returning to Germany in 2006 where he supervised the VIP kitchen for the 2006 FIFA World Cup. The call of Thuringian was stronger apparently and in 2007 he came to Weimar and took over the Alt Weimar as Head chef. Innovative and inspirational, he has etched a name for himself which goes beyond the borders of Thuringia.
Back at home I allowed myself to be inspired by Sten, wanting to create a slightly more modern version of the Thüringian classic. I love roasting my root vegetables as this imparts the flavors to the maximum and adds a slightly caramelized note to the vegetables, not to mention the oven does most of the hard work for me! I mostly used regional vegetables like potatoes, carrots, celeriac and herbs like marjoram and thyme but I added pumpkin and sweet potatoes, which are currently in season. Pearl barley adds body and soaks up all the fragrant flavors of this thick, hearty and warming soup.
Recipe: Roasted Root Vegetable and Pearl Barley SoupMeeta K. Wolff
- 5 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large yellow onion, chopped
- ½ celeriac, peeled and cubed
- 3 parsnips, peeled and cubed
- 1 sweet potato, peeled and cubed
- ½ pumpkin, peeled and cubed
- 2 potatoes, peeled and cubed
- 250 ml dry white wine
- 1.5 l vegetable broth – homemade is always best
- 125g pearl barley soaked and cooked according to packet instructions. Keep warm
- 10g marjoram
- Several sprigs thyme
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat oven to 200 degrees C. Lightly oil a baking tray. In a large bowl toss all the vegetables except the onion, with about 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add a few sprigs of thyme and marjoram, then scatter on the tray. Roast in the oven for 25-30 minutes or until the vegetables are slightly soft and caramelized.
- Set about ¼ of the cubed vegetables aside and keep warm. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a heavy pot over a medium heat and sauté the onions until fragrant and translucent. Add the remaining ¾ of the vegetables to the pot making sure they do not stick to the bottom of the pot. Pour in the wine, scraping up any browned bits on the bottom of the pot. Allow to simmer for 2-3 minutes until the wine has reduced, then pour the stock. Bring to the boil. Remove from the heat and using a hand-held blender purée the vegetables and stock until the mixture is thick, creamy and smooth. Adjust seasoning accordingly.
- Divide the thick soup into bowls, adding a few spoonfuls of pearl barley and the cubed vegetables to the top. Garnish with remaining herbs and serve.
- Optional: small spiced lamb or beef meatballs will make this a great non-vegetarian option.
- 350g ground lamb or beef
- ½ teaspoon ground cumin
- ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
- salt and pepper
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- Mix all the ingredients in a clean bowl. Pick off small amounts from the meat and roll small, bite-sized balls. Heat the olive oil in a frying and brown the meatballs in portions until cooked through. They should be crispy on the outside and still soft and moist on the inside.
Serve these meatballs to your guests separately with the soup. Non-vegetarians can help themselves adding to the soup as desired, while your vegetarian guests can enjoy the basic vegetarian version.
This classic Thuringian soup was the second reportage for the Kulinarik project I am working on for the Thuringian Tourism Board Thüringen Entdecken. The project comprises of exciting segments and has me traveling around the region meeting some awesome food professionals in their field. I cook and talk with them about the traditional Thuringian cuisine. They kindly open their doors to me and the team, giving me a unique insight and taking me on an awesome culinary journey through the region I have lived in for 10 years. The highlight of the project is coming back and developing a totally new recipe based on the traditional one - modern and easy with my own twist. Last month I took the iconic Bratwurst and created this Whole-wheat Flammkuchen with Bratwürst on Caramelized Cabbage and Pear.
My roasted root vegetable and pearl barley soup is another creation incorporating great flavors and aromas based on Sten’s grandmother’s recipe. On cold, damp November days there is nothing better than sinking into a thick creamy soup that shouts comfort at every spoonful. The article and my images first appeared on the Thüringer Entdecken food blog "Herzenwärmer" here.
Props: Five Senses plate and soup bowl; salt and pepper containers courtesy of Kahla - Porcelain for the Senses.
You might like these warming soups from What’s For Lunch, Honey?
|Mushroom Cream Soup with Thyme Parmesan Chips||Roasted Beet Parsnip Apple Soup with Hazelnuts and Sage||Roasted Fennel Soup with Pernod and Smoked Salmon|
All photographs and written content on What's For Lunch, Honey? © 2006-2014 Meeta Khurana Wolff unless otherwise indicated. | All rights reserved | Please Ask First