Region: Northern Germany
Here is indeed a special dish. People who see it for the first time often have a repulsive reaction, questioning if this “food” can actually be eaten. Admittedly, even well prepared and arranged Labskaus looks hardly appealing. And yet, Labskaus is currently experiencing a true renaissance in Germany and is now again served even in finer German restaurants. Enough reason for me to include it in this collection and adding my own twist.
Labskaus is a sailor’s dish, and thus popular in northern Germany’s harbor cities. In the old days, when sail ships left on a long journey, there was limited ability to preserve foods.
Thus the ship’s cook (called the Smutje in northern German dialect) had to be creative and revert to foods which could be stored for a long time. This has led to the creation of a mash consisting of corned beef, pickled red beetroots, potatoes and onions. If the kitchen had it in stock, the sailor would add a pickled herring and a fried egg.
Got you scared yet? Well don’t be. It will never be Nouvelle Cuisine, but well prepared it actually tastes great.
As with all traditional recipes there are many variations, no one being the only right one. Here is my version:
Serves: 4 Difficulty: Easy Preparation time: 60 minutes
- 1 can (340g; 12 oz) of Corned Beef
- 2 medium onions
- 500g (17.5 oz) peeled potatoes cut into quarters.
- ½ cup of milk
- 1 glass of pickled red beetroots
- 1 glass of pickled gherkin
- 3-5 TBS pickled red beet roots liquid
- 3-5 TBS pickled gherkin liquid
- 1 Bay Leave
- 2 Cloves
- ½ TS of instant beef bouillon
- freshly ground salt and pepper
- 2 TBS pork lard or clarified butter
- 4 whole eggs
- 4 Rollmops (pickled herring wrapped around a gherkin pickle or similar)
- 1 medium apple, finely grated
- 2 TBS fresh parsley finely chopped.
- ground allspice
- freshly ground salt and pepper
Peel one onion and stick two cloves and 1 bay leaf into it. In a large cooking pot bring salted water to a boil, add the prepared onion and 500g (17.5 oz) potatoes cut into quarters, and reduce heat to a soft boil. Cook for 20 minutes or until soft.
In the meantime, brown 1 finely chopped onion, and the finely grated apple apple in a frying pan with 2 TBS of pork lard or clarified butter. Add corned beef and brown until warmed through. Finely chop 5 slices of the red beet root and two medium sized gherkins and add to mixtureAdd 3-5 TBS of pickled red beetroot liquid and 3-5 TBS pickled gherkin liquid. Stir well and set aside. Drain potatoes, keeping one cup of the potato water adding ½ TS of instant beef bouillon to it. Remove the onion, cloves and bay leaf from potatoes. Mash potatoes well, using a potato masher. Add corned beef / onion / apple mixture to potatoes. You are aiming for a mash that is moist and soft with some structure remaining, it should never be runny. Add milk and /or potato water / bouillon mix until the desired consistency has been achieved. Season with freshly ground allspice, salt and pepper as needed.
Fry 4 eggs sunny side up and season as appropriate. Arrange the mash on a warm plate, place fried egg on top of the mash. Arrange Rollmops, 1 pickled gherkin, and beet root on plate around the mash. Sprinkle with parsley and serve immediately.