I am often asked what my favourite German dish is. Krustenbraten? (Roast pork with crackling.) 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 favourite 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, and Frankfurt with business folk in suits. However, 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 technically not making real Frankfurter Grüne Soße anyway. (I’ve written much more about it in its own “Regional German Specialties” post.)
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 (Tafelspitz or Ochsenbrust), thinly sliced cold roast beef, white fish or even 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
2-3 tbsp mild white wine vinegar
1 tbsp medium-hot mustard
Large pinch of sugar, plus more 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
Put 2 tbsp of the vinegar with the mustard, sunflower oil, sugar, salt and pepper into a bowl large enough to hold all the ingredients (including the chopped herbs) and whisk until smooth. Peel the eggs, separate the white from yolk and chop both finely. Add the yolk to the mixture first and whisk again till blended, then add the whites, and stir. Fold in the crème fraîche and shallots.
Chop the herbs very finely, removing any dirt or dead leaves as you go. (You can wash them if you prefer, just give them a good shake afterwards to remove as much water as possible.) Add to the bowl with the rest of the ingredients, mix together and taste: if it’s too sharp for your liking, add a little more sugar; if it’s not sharp enough, a splash more vinegar.
Give your Grüne Soße a quick whizz with a stick blender (or in a standard blender – I just find it easier, and less messy to keep it in the bowl). Your sauce will be pale green and fairly smooth, but should still have some texture. Leave it to sit covered for at least an hour in order to let the flavours develop, then serve.
This recipe also appeared in The Guardian.