Meet Herb

You know, I chat regularly with a transplanted Scotsman. I say transplanted because while he is a Scot, he lives in Germany, in a place called Celle. We chat about many things since we have a lot in common, but one of our main topics of conversation is food -- its preparation, its enjoyment, what goes into it and how much one can get out of it. We quite often compare notes and exchange recipes. He's VERY good. Remind me some time to give you his special Christmas duck recipe. With his permission, of course, and presupposing that one of us actually can find it!!

When I was starting to research this month's column, he and I were chatting and got onto the topic of German cooking. I think I mentioned a sauerbraten I was marinating and we went from there. Looking for a spice or herb that was a common thread in German cuisine, he suggested kummel -- which with a bit of effort I translated to caraway. Et voila'!! We had this column. The recipes are Steven's. The general info research is mine. Together I think we've got a dynamite column!!

The plant itself is rather weedy looking. It has thread-like bright green leaves that look a bit like carrot tops but in flavour are sort of a cross between dill and parsley. The stems can be anywhere from 18 - 30 inches high and are topped with clusters of small white flowers. It's these flowers which will eventually produce the tiny ribbed seeds we are familiar with.

To harvest caraway, cut the heads when the seeds first start to turn brown. Turn them upside down a newspaper and shake the seeds loose. Make sure they are completely dry then store them in an airtight container.

The early Greeks used a caraway tisane to calm upset stomach and flatulence and the seeds themselves were used to season foods that were hard to digest. Today we still do this, although perhaps unknowingly, by adding it to rye breads, cabbage dishes, pork, cheese sauces, cream soups such as split pea or lentil and duck, or add it to dumplings, noodle dishes, goulashes and salads. In fact, it is among the very few spices that successfully bridge the gap between sweet and savoury so that you can find it in recipes for sweets and cakes as well.

The following recipes are all from my friend Steven, reproduced here exactly the way he sent them to me. Where there are references that I think are particular to Europe, I have tried to give the equivalent. With the exception of the odd recipe which will indicate otherwise, these recipes serve four people. In some recipes powdered caraway is called for and while it's not readily available everywhere, it can be easily made just by grinding caraway seed in a coffee grinder as you would with other spices. Or, alternatively you can try one of the many mail order sources that are on the Web such as Penzey's and The American Spice Company.

Puff Pastry Cheese Sticks

For the Pastry
  • 1 packet of frozen puff pastry
  • Some plain flour
  • 1 egg yolk
  • Caraway seeds
For the Filling
  • 40 g grated emmentaler cheese or some similar cheese
  • 40 g grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 level teaspoon sweet paprika powder
  • Some fresh ground pepper

Heat the oven to 220° C - 425° F.

Thaw the Puff Pastry and roll on the flour to about 20cm x 40cm.

Brush the Pastry with the egg yolk.

Spread the grated Cheese over one half of the Pasty and season with the Paprika and Pepper.

Fold the other half over the Cheese and roll over it a few times with the Rolling pin.

Cut into 1/2" strips.

Twirl the strips into Spirals and lay on the (with cold water doused) baking sheet.

Brush them with egg yolk, sprinkle with Caraway seeds and bake till they are golden brown.

Check the colour after about 6 - 8 min.

Serve cold or hot with a spicy dip, and a good chilled wine.

Potato Omelette

  • 800g potatoes
  • 3-4 tablespoons of vegetable fat (I prefer to use Sunflower margarine)
  • 1/2 teaspoonful of salt
  • 1/2 teaspoonful of white pepper
  • 1 tablespoonful of caraway powder
  • 3 eggs

Peel, slice and wash the potatoes, then leave to drain.

Heat the fat, and the potatoes and season with salt pepper and caraway.

Beat the eggs and stir into the potatoes, allow to set.

Turn the omelette and fry the other side.

As a variation add in some chopped bacon or roast leftovers.

Fried Raw Potatoes

  • 800g potatoes
  • 1 onion
  • Fresh chopped parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoonful of salt
  • Fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 tablespoonfuls of caraway
  • 3-4 tablespoonfuls of vegetable fat

Peel, wash and slice the Potatoes, leave to drain.

Heat the fat, dice the Onion and fry for a about a minute till they are glassy.

Add the Potatoes and salt, cover and leave to fry for about 10 min.

Remove the lid add the Caraway season with black pepper and fry for a further 5 min turning often.

Dress with the Parsley and serve.


This recipe is for 2 people -- or 1 if it is for me!
  • 2 tablespoonfuls of red paprika strips
  • 1 small pickled gherkin
  • 2 pork chops (about 200g each)
  • a pinch of black pepper
  • a pinch of dried marjoram
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 teaspoon of caraway powder
  • 1 cup of precooked cabbage
  • 1 tablespoon of vegetable fat
  • 1/2 cup of beer (preferably a good German Beer)

Drain the paprika strips, rinse the chops with cold water and dab dry, and cut into the fat at the edge, cut the gherkin into slim strips, rub the pepper and marjoram into the meat. Heat the fat to a high temperature and fry the chops each side for about 1 min. Reduce the heat by about half and let them fry for about another 5min. each side adding the Beer bit by bit. Remove the chops from the frying pan, salt them both sides and keep warm. Add the cabbage, paprika strips, gherkin and caraway to the pan, heat well and serve over the chops. Serve with freshly baked Ciabatta and a Glass of chilled Beer. (Original Budweiser [Budwar] is the best)

Ham Tagliatelle

  • 300g freshly cooked Tagliatelle (raw weight)
  • 4 tablespoons of butter
  • 1 diced onion
  • 300g boiled ham (diced)
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon of black pepper
  • 1 heaped teaspoon of caraway powder
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup of sour cream

Heat the butter and glaze the Onions in it, add the ham and while stirring fry for a couple of minutes. Add the Tagliatelle, sprinkle the salt, pepper and caraway powder, mix thoroughly and let it get really hot for a few minutes. Beat the eggs with the sour cream, pour into the pan and fold well into the contents, let it set.

Serve with a green or tomato-mozzarella salad.

Farmers Breakfast

  • 600g potatoes (ready cooked) [preferably without peeling, peel them after they have cooled a bit]
  • 3 tablespoonfuls of vegetable fat
  • 300g bacon or ham
  • 1 diced onion
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon of black pepper
  • 1 teaspoonfuls of caraway seeds
  • 3 eggs

Slice the Potatoes, heat the fat, add the potatoes, the meat, the onions, salt and pepper. Fry turning regularly. Beat the eggs with the caraway and fold into the pan, let it set and serve with hot strong coffee.

Goulash Soup

  • 5 medium sized onions
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 2 large peppers, 1 red and 1 green
  • 3 medium sized tomatoes
  • 400g lean stewing beef
  • 3 tablespoonfuls vegetable fat
  • 3 tablespoonfuls tomato puree
  • salt to taste
  • freshly ground mixed pepper
  • paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon caraway seeds
  • chopped marjoram
  • Tabasco sauce
  • 1 litre beef stock

Peel and slice the onions. Peel and finely chop the garlic. Cut the peppers in half remove the stalks seeds and white ribs, rinse and slice into thin strips. Blanche the tomatoes for about a min. in boiling water. Rinse under cold water, remove the skin, the cores and cut into small cubes. Heat the fat and brown the meat well all over. Add the stock and let it simmer for about half an hour. Add the vegetables and tomato puree´ and season with the salt, ground pepper, and paprika. Add the caraway and marjoram then let it all simmer for about 1/4 of an hour. Then season to taste with salt ground pepper, paprika and Tabasco.

Meat and Vegetable Casserole

  • 250g of lamb/ cut into cubes
  • 250g of lean pork/ also cubed
  • 250g of carrots
  • 400g of potatoes
  • 250g of leeks
  • 250g of white cabbage
  • 40g of butter
  • 2 medium onions
  • salt
  • chopped marjoram
  • chopped lovage
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon of caraway seeds
  • 2 tablespoonfuls of chopped parsley
  • 1/2 litre of beef stock

Dice the carrots and potatoes, prepare the leeks and cut into slices, Remove the core from the cabbage and chop into small squares. Heat the butter and lightly brown the meat, slice the onions and add to the meat before it gets too brown. Season the meat with salt marjoram, lovage, and ground pepper. Add the vegetables potatoes and beef stock, simmer for about an hour until cooked after about 30 minutes add the caraway seedy. Sprinkle with chopped Parsley just before serving.

Lamb and Cabbage Casserole

This is served as a main meal in Germany with fresh baked rye bread.
  • 500g lean lamb (cut into cubes)
  • 300g of potatoes (cut into cubes)
  • 1 medium sized cabbage (chopped)
  • 1 teaspoon of caraway
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Cook the lamb in about 1litre of water for about 30 min. skimming regularly, then add the cabbage.

After a further 20 min. add the potatoes and season with salt and pepper.

Add the caraway and cook until the potatoes are soft but not too soft.

Saxon Beef and Onions

This is also served as a main meal with freshly baked rye bread.
  • 600g boneless stewing steak (cut into cubes)
  • 3 medium onions (sliced)
  • 1 cucumber (about 500g) [peeled and diced]
  • a pinch of caraway seeds
  • 100g of pumpernickel
  • freshly ground black Pepper
  • Salt

Place the beef in about a litre of hot water, season with salt and pepper and bring to the boil.

Add the onions and simmer for about 3/4 of an hour.

Chop the pumpernickel very finely and add to the meat.

Add the cucumber and a few caraway seeds, cook for another 1/4 of an hour.

Season to taste with salt and pepper.

These last two are real favourites of mine, and I think you might like them too, especially the last one.

Caraway Potatoes with Quark

For the potatoes
  • 1 kg of potatoes
  • Caraway seeds
  • Course salt
  • 2 tablespoonfuls of sunflower oil
For the quark
  • 250g of low fat soft cheese
  • 3 tablespoonfuls of milk
  • 2 tablespoonfuls of sunflower oil
  • 1 spring onion
  • a small bunch of parsley
  • salt

Preheat the oven to 180° C - 350°F.

Wash the unpeeled potatoes and cut them in half. Press the cut sides into the coarse salt and caraway seeds.

Place the potatoes on a greased baking tray and brush them with oil.

Bake the Potatoes for about 40 min. (depends on the size of the spuds *smile*)

While they are baking, wash and finely chop the spring onion and parsley, (the amount of Parsley you use is a matter of taste).

Fold the soft Cheese, milk and oil into another and add the spring onion and parsley.

Season with salt and place in the fridge

Serve the hot potatoes with the quark on the side, (I usually grind a little Black Pepper over each portion of quark before serving.) and a large glass of chilled German beer.

Quail with Savoy Cabbage

For the Savoy Cabbage
  • 750 g savoy cabbage
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 tablespoonful of sunflower oil
  • 150 ml of crème fraiche
  • Caraway seeds
  • Freshly ground black pepper
For the Quail
  • 4 quail (I buy oven ready quail, it's easier)
  • 3 tablespoonfuls of sunflower oil
  • 100g of bacon rashers (remove the rinds)

Preheat the oven to 180°C - 350°F.

Clean and cut the cabbage into strips. Blanche in boiling salted water, then drain. Peel and dice the onion. Heat the oil and lightly braze the onion. Add the cabbage and crème fraiche. Season with the caraway seeds and ground pepper. Place it into a shallow oven proof dish.

Rinse the Quail and pat them dry. Tie the wings under the body, and tie the legs together. Heat the oil in a frying pan and brown the birds all over. Season them with salt and pepper, place them on top of the cabbage and bake for about 15 to 20 min.

Serve with boiled new potatoes. ( I find it looks better, when the Potatoes are small and all the same size) and a glass of chilled, medium to dry, red wine.

Guten Appetit

So there we have it for another month. I expect to hear that all of you are speaking with a decided German accent next month. And remember to keep those emails coming.