I am often asked what my favourite German dish is. Krustenbraten? A strong contender. White asparagus with Hollandaise and ham? Definitely in my top three. But my number one plate of German food, the dish I order most when I’m eating out in Hessen, and the recipe I make most at home? Well, I can’t help thinking that most of the time to a lot of people, my answer’s a bit of a disappointment.
My favorite German dish is a cold green herb sauce from Frankfurt. You read that right: a cold herb sauce. From Frankfurt. It probably couldn’t sound much more boring, especially to those who associate German food with Bavarian classics such as pork knuckle or Nürnberger sausages, but the Germans love their fresh herbs and vegetables as well as their vast plates of meat, and Grüne Soße (“green sauce”), known as Grie Soß in local dialect, is a delightfully fresh sauce made with regionally-grown herbs that’s just one example of how well Germany can do vegetarian food, too.
Frankfurter Grüne Soße is made with seven specific herbs: sorrel, chervil, chives, parsley, burnet, cress and borage. They’ve been grown in Frankfurt’s southern Oberrad district for generations, and are sold in large white paper bundles at regional markets. If you’d like to try making Grüne Soße yourself but don’t have access to the pre-packed herbs, you can use your own mix, but do your best to get hold of as many of these particular ones as you can: the sauce won’t taste quite the same if you sub in other ones. Having said that, since the recipe for and designation of origin of Grüne Soße are protected by the EU, if less than 70% of your herbs have been grown outside Frankfurt-Oberrad then you’re not making real Frankfurter Grüne Soße anyway!
Grüne Soße is most commonly eaten with just boiled potatoes and/or hard-boiled eggs, but it’s also very good with slices of tender boiled beef brisket (Tafelspitz), roast beef, white fish or a chunk of Fleischwurst. Serve with a glass of Riesling or a large Apfelwein.
Frankfurter Grüne Soße (serves 4)
3 medium-sized hard-boiled eggs
1 tbsp medium-hot mustard
2-3 tbsp mild white wine vinegar (to taste)
Sugar (to taste)
Salt and pepper
6 tbsp sunflower oil
1 cup/250g crème fraîche
2 banana shallots, finely diced
1 standard bundle (250g) fresh Grüne Soße herbs
Peel the eggs and then separate the yolks from the whites. Press the yolks through a sieve into a bowl (one large enough to fit everything into) and mix with the vinegar, mustard, salt, pepper, sugar and sunflower oil.
Chop the egg whites finely, add them to the egg yolk mix and then fold in the crème fraîche and shallots.
Wash the herbs, give them a good shake to get rid of as much water as possible and then chop them very finely. Mix with the rest of the ingredients and have a quick taste: if it’s too sharp for your liking, add a little more sugar; if it’s not sharp enough, a splash more vinegar.
If you’d like your Grüne Soße silky smooth, give it all a quick whizz in the blender, but either way, leave it to sit covered for at least an hour before serving in order to let the flavour develop.
This recipe also appeared in The Guardian.