Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Frau Dietz Eats: Frankfurter Grüne Soße

I first made Frankfurter Grüne Soße (Frankfurt green sauce) - and in fact wrote a draft of this post - just over a year ago.  I refuse to be embarrassed, however, since it just so happens that, thanks to the seasonality of eating here in Germany, it simply means that just over a year later is precisely the right time to get around to sharing it. Be warned, however: the main ingredients for this dish - a great big bundle of lovely fresh herbs - occupy a particularly small window in the German culinary calendar, so if you're inspired to give it a go (which as usual, I thoroughly recommend) then you need get onto it pronto. Or, of course, just wait another year.

Grüne Soße is a very much a specialty of this region, so round this way at this time of year it’s all the rage in kitchens of German homes and restaurants alike. Grüne Soße is a green sauce that, if one makes it in season, takes advantage of the first crop of seven specific herbs: sorrel, chervil, chives, parsley, burnet, cress and borage. As I write, the markets, supermarkets and farmers shops of Hessen (and Rhineland-Pfalz, actually) are bursting with paper bags stuffed with all seven types of leafy green stalks, neatly bundled together and ready for action. What I discovered last Spring, however, was that purchasing one of those is the easy part: it was knowing what to do with them next that was the challenge.
Despite the fact that I appear to have arranged these into six bundles, I absolutely promise you there are seven different herbs in there.
I say that, of course, as someone who's not happy to merely google "Frankfurter Grüne Soße" and go with the first recipe I come across. Every German household has their favourite way of making their regional fare, and so I like to nose about a bit till I find a recipe that I think will suit me. However, with most regional dishes I've found there’s general agreement on the main ingredients: not so, it seems, with the green stuff. The only other ingredient consistently mentioned in my four German cookery books and the recipes I perused online were hard boiled eggs. Those and the greenery aside, all the recipes listed a selection of alternative ingredients, albeit all on the dairy theme. There were recommendations for using cream, yoghurt, buttermilk, Schmand (a sort of sour cream - more on that in my Spundekäse post), crème fraiche or mayonnaise - or even a mixture or any or all of the above.

Sitting disillusioned before my pile of books and the whole of the internet, my slowly wilting bag of herbs on my knee, I thought to myself, what would Nigella do? Well, Nigella would probably lie down on her sideboard and lather herself in as many different types of cream as possible, thus I moved over to Twitter, where the response to my plea for help was fantastic.  Amongst tweets of sympathy, support and, for some reason, ridicule, Country Skipper suggested a mixture of sour cream and cream cheese and Le Charcutier Anglais proposed blending spinach with a roux and herbed butter (I'm not sure what Oma would have thought of that!). Anne suggested a natural yoghurt/mayonnaise mix; I was none the wiser. But then came a flash of inspiration from Harvey Morell: why not have a green sauce tasting evening and pick the one I liked best?  My herbs and I hurtled to the kitchen.
Cooking with Frau Dietz: organised chaos and a large glass of Riesling.
Based on the ingredients I had to hand following a slightly confused trip to the supermarket in which I had purchased pretty much every dairy product on offer, I chose one recipe from Saucen & Dips, decided to make use of the yoghurt/mayonnaise suggestion for Grüne Soße number 2, and picked a third recipe from my trusty copy of Culinaria Germany. After 45 minutes of finely chopping boiled eggs and leafy green stalks and wildly mixing this, that and the other, my kitchen looked (and smelt) as if I’d emptied a lawnmower all over it and then tried to hose all the cuttings away with cream. I did, however, also have three bowls of herby goodness to show for all my work, and with the other parts of the meal ready to go, B and I sat down to try out my three green creations.
The first two sauces weren't, for either of us, terribly exciting - to the point, in fact, where my husband suddenly announced that he wasn't "actually all that bothered by green sauce" (I nearly covered him in it).  I was beginning to feel a bit despondent about the whole affair when sauce number three, the one curtesy of Culinaria Germany, passed my lips. It was, quite simply, fantastic, with a lovely depth of flavour and a perfect balance of sweet and sour that didn't overwhelm the sausage and potatoes, instead bringing a wonderfully fresh and all-round marvellous flavour to an otherwise rather heavy plate of food.

And so to the recipe, which I wholeheartedly recommend. It's incredibly straightforward, and probably less time consuming when you're not making two other different sauces at the same time.  And presumably also if you remember you have a blender before you start chopping.  Though we demolished our Grüne Soße slathered all over warm Fleischwurst and boiled potatoes, this regional specialty is often served instead with boiled eggs, beef, white fish or asparagus.  I imagine it sits perfectly alongside all of those flavours but remember, whichever accompaniment you choose... you'd better get on with it!

Top tip: slashing the length of your Fleischwurst as above helps you peel the skin off with minimal fuss.

3 hard boiled eggs
3 tbsp mild white wine vinegar
1 tbsp medium hot mustard
Salt and pepper
6 tbsp sunflower oil
1 cup/250g crème fraîche (which I suspect, since my copy is in English, is a translation of Schmand)
2 small shallots, finely diced
1 large bunch fresh Grüne Soße herbs (ideally sorrel, chervil, chives, parsley, burnet, cress and borage)


Press the egg yolks through a sieve and chop the egg whites finely.  Mix them with the vinegar, mustard, salt, pepper, sugar and sunflower oil, then fold in the crème fraîche, shallots and chopped egg whites.  Wash the herbs, shake them dry and chop finely; mix them into the sauce and leave to stand for 1 hour.


C N Heidelberg said...

OMG! It's that time of year again already!? I better make some this weekend...Green Sauce is one of my favorite German recipes!!

Sabrina said...

Hmmmm, that actually looks really good!!

Frau Dietz said...

@C N Heidelberg: I KNOW!! I had a small timewarp panic when I saw it in the supermarket... that and the wild garlic and the rhubarb!

@Sabrina: It was good :)

Anonymous said...

Looks very good!

Frau Dietz said...

It was!! :)

BavarianSojourn said...

Fabulous pics, love all the lovely fresh greens! Will be trying Sauce No.3 on your recommendation, looks good to me! :)

Harvey Morrell said...

I agree with BavarianSojourn - great pictures. I shall also be trying #3, over some Spätzle. I wonder how well this sauce freezes, if it's like pesto?

Frau Dietz said...

@BavarianSojourn: Thank you - it's all down to the subject ;) Let me know what you think of it... I absolutely LOVE Grüne Soße :)

@HarveyMorrell: Thanks! It's only really like pesto in that it's herby - I'm not sure how well all the creamy eggless would fare in the freezer... but then I don't have a freezer ;)

C N Heidelberg said...

@Harvey: it freezes well except for the egg whites - so if you plan to freeze some leave that out of the part you will freeze!

Frau Dietz said...

Oh thanks for the tip Ms Heidelberg :) ...and I meant eggless, obviously, not eggless :S

Harvey Morrell said...

@Ms. Heidelberg - thanks for the tip, although I ended up not making enough to freeze.

@Frau Dietz - it goes okay with Spätzle. I used a combination of sour cream (Schmand) & yoghurt, which another cookbook of mine called for since I couldn't find any crème fraîche