How do you Make a German smile?

Monday 1/11/2004

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Diary and Notes

Before I begin, a big 'kudos' to Marc Timme who gave me a great slice of plum cake that he made yesterday. Even the scientist in Göttingen can rustle up a great cake. Hold your heads in shame you sad English bakers; with your greasy lardy cake and dry iced buns.

I don't quite know why, but when I was growing up, my mother (who was never famous for her great cuisine) had somehow acquired a few recipes from the Eastern part of our continent. I think maybe in her youth someone had bought her a cookery book from Poland or the former East Germany (she was a member of the Communist party, so this may have some bearing). I write this because we were often fed hearty eastern European dishes such as bigos, beef stroganoff and (on a very good day) schnitzel. This empowered me with a love of schnitzel and a distaste for the enforced singing of the red flag and long boring lectures on the decadence of the capitalist hegemony. Needless to say, today was schnitzel day.

I decided to cook schnitzel for a few reasons. Firstly because it's delicious. Secondly, because I am in Germany where schnitzel is ubiquitous and lastly because I wanted to prove to myself that I could do a better job than the canteen here at work. The last point was not really much of a challenge. There's also possibly a touch of homesick nostalgia, not so much for my youth, but for my old university days, when sharing a house with my friends Curtis and Gavin we had the odd schnitzel to steel us against the permadrizzle on those cold Manchester nights.

Schnitzel is easy to make, cheap and excellent. It is one of those things that for some reason the British don't cook but feels inherently British when you eat it. I had some traditional German accompaniments as well, but the krauter salad can't be bought in Britain so use (this sounds odd, but is really good) pickled red cabbage instead. Drain off the vineger and just serve with your dinner, it's a superb vegetable and much underrated by the ever snooty Daily Mail.


  • Schnitzel,
  • Mashed potatoes,
  • Krauter salad,
  • Jager sauce.

  • Paulaner hefe weissbier (dunkel).

  • Cron & Lanz florentine.


  • Schnitzel: Pork steak, egg, breadcrumbs, flour, mixed herbs, black pepper, salt.
  • Mash: Potatoes, butter, cream, black pepper, salt.
  • Cabbage Salad: Bought from shop ("Oh my, the shame." I hear you say).
  • Jager sauce: Bacon, onions, olive oil, beer, beef stock (not a stock cube - it will be horrid), mustard, loads and loads of black pepper, parsley, thickener.


  • Schnitzel: As with all meat that you are planning to cook quickly, take it out of the fridge beforehand and let it get to room temperature. All we are really going to do is egg and breadcrumb the meat and then fry it until golden brown. A tip or two however. Bash out the pork steak with a rolling pin to make it a bit thinner, it will cook quicker, be more tender and gets a greater surface area of crispy breadcrumbs. Season the breadcrumbs with mixed herbs, pepper and salt. One final tip, people normally go: egg, flour, egg, breadcrumbs and get all in a mess. Don't bother, mix a bit of flour in the egg first, this will thicken the egg and the breadcrumbs stick better. When the pork is good and crumby, fry gently in a little oil, turning half way until brown on both sides. Take care not to shuffle them too much or the crumbs will fall off.
  • Mash: You should know how to cook mash.
  • Jager Sauce: I don't actually know what Jager sauce is. It's everywhere here and comes in little packs along with Hollandaise and cream sauce which the German's seem to love. I however really like the name, so made something I'm now calling Jager sauce (Jager means hunter). It was simple and absolutely fantastic. Fry the onions and bacon until brown. Pour on some beef stock and 1/2 bottle of beer. Reduce. Add some mustard, black pepper and parsley and cook for a good while on a low heat. Strain the sauce to remove the bits and then use some proprietary thickener to make your liquid into a sauce. Now I know you'll say "But jon, what are you doing recommending gravy granules to us gourmands." but I firmly believe that just about every fine restaurant is doing the same. You could use cornflour or something similar. It's the stock that is the flavour, don't cheat on the stock but cheat on the thickener, if your stock is good, nobody will care.

    I was so full after eating this that I left my florentine for breakfast, but I had a smile on my face as I finished my beer.