Here at Helsing’s kitchen we have been discussing lunch. Before we abandoned a camping trip yesterday – the mosquitos, the horseflies, the heat, the kayaking teenagers! – we stopped at a traditional Brandenburg place to eat. On the lunch menu were some delicious dishes. Two of the best were ferryman’s schnitzel filled with cucumber and horseradish served with fried potatoes and the other was stuffed beef rolls with dumplings like grandma used to make. There was also a venison goulash as a special of the week. This kind of solid, traditional home-cooking is called “Hausmannskost” in German.
But this kind of food is also a very traditional kind of lunch in Germany. And not in small portions. Eating a huge plate of piping hot venison goulash for lunch in 30 degrees plus is nothing out of the ordinary here. One of us – the butty for lunch fan – wonders how anyone gets through the afternoon after a lunch like that. Or even finishes a lunch like that, given the enormous portion size. Perhaps that’s why some of the lunchers were at the bar for a schnapps to help it on its way as soon as the plates were cleared. The other one of us – the fan of the cooked lunch – kind of gets the appeal, but finds that kind of food too solid for lunch on a hot summer’s day.
That lunch is the main meal of the day in Germany got us thinking about the German words for meals. Breakfast – or “Frühstück” – means, literally, “early piece”. It’s usually a small thing – a piece of rye bread with a topping, either jam, cheese or some kind of ham. Coffee is the favourite hot drink. The evening meal – or “Abendbrot” – literally means “evening bread”. Cooking in the evening is not traditional in Germany, and the evening bread is literally a loaf of bread sliced at the table and topped with meat or cheese. Lunch – or “Mittagessen” – is literally “midday food”. The clue to those beloved big lunches has to be in the name.
But there is a middle way for the cooked lunch fan. And it is a traditional German meal that is up on those boards as proudly as any venison goulash. It’s potatoes with herb quark and linseed oil. The potatoes are boiled, and are called either “Salzkartoffeln” – “salt potatoes” or Petersilienkartoffeln – “parsley potatoes”, if they are sprinkled with parsley. It’s a lovely hot and cold, creamy, savoury plate of comfort food. And, with a modest portion, just right for a summer’s day.
Herb quark with potatoes and linseed oil.
Again, this is barely a recipe, just a happy assemblage of coordinating ingredients. Adjust quantities for the number you need to serve. Quark is available everywhere in Germany, either low fat, 20% fat or 40% fat. It has a sour taste already, so go easy on the salt. If you can’t get quark, skyr would be a good alternative. Here, fresh home-grown herbs went into the quark and they were: chives, sage, Moroccan mint, Swiss mint, parsley and oregano. Serve beer as the traditional drink.
waxy potatoes, peeled
herbs (any combination)
a sweet, white onion
Harvest the herbs and pick them over and finely chop the leaves.
Sir the herbs into the quark and add salt if necessary. Leave the herb quark in the fridge to let the flavours infuse.
Peel and boil the potatoes until tender.
Serve with half a shot glass of linseed oil (to pour over the potatoes) and parsley sprinkled on the potatoes.
Cucumber is a traditional extra. You can also cut the cumber into small chunks and mix it into the herb quark and then serve.