Bratkartoffeln….or German fried potatoes
“Peel and cut them small, simmer them in water and press it well out through a fine cloth; chop them small and fry them in bacon that is cut small; take a little milk there under and let it simmer therewith so it is good and well tasting.”Marx Rumpolt, translated from Ein new Kochbuch, written in 1581
I have to watch out when I get ill! The unexpected is prone to happen. On this occasion it was flu that laid me out. The Chief Taster was forced into a shopping expedition, and as he moseyed around the local Migros he saw sacks of small waxy potatoes. A vague memory stirred.
The Chief Taster has been travelling backwards and forwards from Germany for decades, and enjoying Bratkartoffeln. And more recently (months not decades) we’d been in an Italian pizzeria in Nordheim, and enjoyed them, implausibly paired with beef carpaccio.
The people of Germany have been enjoying these potatoes now for some centuries. The quote at the top of this post comes from a recipe book, A New Cookbook, not very accurately named currently since it’s over four hundred years old, and written by Marx Rumbolt, the head chef to the Elector of Mainz. He’d worked in other European countries (Bohemia and Hungary) but it seems likely that this recipe was local to where he ended up in Germany. In spite of consisting of potatoes though, it was intended for aristocratic consumers.
But, back to the present. I’d recovered somewhat, and now I was on my feet again, well enough for a mountain stroll, and the CT was musing about dinner. “I think we should have Bratkartoffeln with the chicken and tarragon tonight,” he concluded. And half an hour later, as we were on our way back down, he disappeared into a grocers and emerged with a bag of raclette potatoes, “I volunteer our daughter to cook them” he said firmly, handing them over to me, “I have to go out.”
Luckily our daughter helpfully fell in with the idea, and these German potatoes were a great success. And not just on that evening, but on a couple of occasions later on in the week too. Ideally, in any case, they are made the day before, which is a disadvantage (requires planning and forethought), and at the very least you need to allow time for them to cool before frying; on the other hand they keep for almost a week – a great advantage. But the cooling process is essential – one of the secrets.
Leftovers are fantastic with all sorts of things – fried eggs for starters.
Here is what to do.
Recipe for Bratkartoffeln
• 200g/7 oz lardons – or of course, more authentically, you can use bacon
• 1 kg/2 lbs 3 oz small waxy potatoes
• Couple of stock cubes
• 1 onion
• Smoked salt, freshly ground black pepper
• Possibly some butter
Then there are also the herbs and spices. If you are in Germany you can buy ready-made Bratkartoffeln spice which will include cumin (ideally, dry fry the seeds, and crush in a pestle and mortar), mustard, marjoram, turmeric, and pepper.
1. Boil a full kettle. Cut any super-sized potatoes in two. Wash the potatoes if necessary. Put into a large saucepan, and cover with boiling water…top up with more water if necessary. Add the stock cubes. Boil for about 20 minutes until they are just cooked through. Drain. Allow to cool. Ideally cover and leave them in the fridge until the following day. Otherwise, just wait until they have cooled.
2. Slice the potatoes (wipe off any loose peel – a prep-a-lot is particularly helpful for this).
3. Fry the lardons in a big frying pan. As the fat seeps out of them, add the potatoes.
4. Meanwhile peel and chop the onion. Add to the potato and lardons. If the whole starts to look a bit dry, add butter. Season generously (although be careful with the salt, as there is already a lot in the lardons). Add herbs and spices, as suggested above.
5. Once the potato has turned golden, it is ready to serve.