Monday, January 21, 2019

Strudel, Noodles & Dumplings - Anja Dunk

After mentioning this book yesterday I wanted to say a bit more about it - because it's excellent and I'm feeling particularly enthusiastic about it.

I waited a long time for an inspiring looking German Cookbook to turn up, 2018 rewarded my patience with two, which between them cover a fairly broad spectrum, and which along with 2016's 'Classic German Baking' by Luisa Weiss, make me feel I've got this covered now. The baking book is excellent too, and a good companion for 'Strudel, Noodles & Dumplings' which is light on baking.

Part of the reason for my interest is that my grandmother was German. She wasn't a particularly good cook (we remember salads of cheap ham slices, iceberg lettuce, and salad cream, and Brains faggots) and didn't seem to enjoy it, but her marriage wasn't happy and she had seven children so it's not surprising if she saw it as an unending chore. My mother basically taught herself to cook after she was married, and has no particular food memories from childhood at all, so it's not nostalgia as such that I'm chasing, but I suppose there is an element of curiosity about a woman who only rarely talked about her past.

There's also a more general curiosity about any cuisine I'm broadly unfamiliar with, although there's something comfortingly familiar about Northern European cooking that I find more appealing than the traditional British habit of looking south for inspiration.

My sister gave me 'The German Cookbook' by Alfons Schuhbeck (published by Phaidon) for my birthday. It's massive, traditional, and I'm told full of treasures. I've browsed through it a bit and am looking forward to getting to grips with it properly.

'Strudel, Noodles & Dumplings' is something else. It's sub titled 'The new taste of German cooking' and reflects an altogether more contemporary attitude. The flavours might be more or less traditional, but the feel is fresher and lighter than in the Schuhbeck book. It also covers newer traditions with Turkish flavours creeping in (curiously Leicester now has a German Kebab shop - which always looks busy) reflecting how they've been assimilated since the 1960's (much as curry has in the U.K.).

Because this is a much less dense book than the Phaidon doorstop it's very easy to jump straight into it, and there are so many things in it that sound good. Especially the vegetables - cabbage, sprouts, and beetroot have never seemed so appealing. I didn't think this would be the book I'd want to turn to, to help me cut down on the amount of meat I eat - but it looks like it's going to be. Beyond that it's full of things which sound fresh, offer different flavour combinations to the ones I'm used too, and is altogether tempting.


  1. I'm so looking forward to this one! I have some very old German cookbooks of varying quality but have been relying mostly on German magazines for recipes suited for modern sensibilities. It's helped my language skills no end but I will be delighted to switch over to this!

    1. It's a really nice book. I'm finding a lot in it I want to cook, but more than that, it's a book that's good company (which is what I mean by nice). I'm really enjoying it.

  2. If you’re interested, there’s a really delightful interview with Anja on the “Honey and Co” podcast where she talks, amongst other things, about the dichotomy between the meat-heavy parts of German cuisine and the cultural emphasis on health and moderation. I’m making it sound far more worthy than it is, and it was an interview that made me keen to take a punt on this book.

    1. That sounds great, I am interested, and will look for it tomorrow. If you got the book you'll know how good it is. What I'm finding so inspiring about it is that it's obviously rooted in German traditions but doesn't feel bound by them, so the flavour combinations feel fresh to me, but the influence of her own life brings a lot to it as well. Altogether it's a book I'm really taken with.