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Berliner Potato Soup

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Germany has 16 ‘states’ and each has a very distinct regional cuisine with very distinct flavours.  Since Germans love potatoes there are a myriad of potato dishes in each state too.  Yesterday it was a miserable, rainy day in Brisbane and although it was quite warm it made me crave a very popular German dish from the Berlin region.

Berliner potato soup is a very old recipe said to have been a favourite of the last German emperor, William II. The base of his recipe would have been made from ham bones (just like I usually make) but the man on the street would have made his with whatever was on hand, maybe a sausage on the side.  Berliner soups are not starters.  These are rich, full on stews meant to warm and fill you up.

Here is a brilliant dish that is made from very humble ingredients. This particular soup is enriched with cream, but it really is great without it too. So if you can’t do dairy, leave it out.  If you dont eat meat, use vegetable stock and leave out the bacon. If you feel rustic, leave it chunky, if you like smooth, stick a blender in it.  I go half way and use a potato masher, that way I still have some texture but not a broth with big chunks of potato (husband prefers the semi mushy version).

Ingredients

1 lb/ 500g floury potatoes
soup vegetables – (1 large carrot, 1 large stick of celery, white part of 1 leek, parsley stalks)
1 medium brown onion
1 tbsp clarified butter/oil
4 cups/1 liter hot meat stock
1 tbsp rubbed marjoram
salt & pepper
1/4 cup/65ml cream
1 tbsp chopped parsley

2 pieces of sliced bread diced into croutons
4oz/120g lean bacon, diced

Method

  • Peel potatoes, dice finely.
  • Dice soup vegetables and onion.
  • Heat up butter or oil in a large pan. Fry onions and soup vegetables until onions are transparent.
  • Add potatoes and fry briefly.
  • Pour on meat stock, add marjoram and boil for 20 minutes.
  • Stir in the cream, heat through.
  • This is where I would now mash some of the potatoes with a masher or fork.
  •  Or, blend soup with stick mixer or in blender.
  • Fry diced bacon and diced bread in butter until golden.
  • Sprinkle croutons, bacon and parsley over soup and serve straight away.
  • Serves 2-4

My Observations

I’ve adapted the recipe a little, as I am sure every housewife in Berlin does too. I didnt use the croutons and bacon featured in the ingredient list as my butcher gave me the end bone off his ‘ham off the bone’. This had plenty of meat on it to use in this soup and I kept the bone for another time. As you can see in the final picture, I served up with a cripsy sourdough roll on the side.

If you grow you own herbs like I do, don’t be tempted to use fresh marjoram.  Dried marjoram packs a much bigger punch, no idea why. And you can’t leave it out, it makes ALL the difference to this soup.

We were saying that adding more leek would be really nice too.

In the past I have used beef stock, chicken stock, a bit of both stock, all work well.  If you want to add meat you can grab ham or left over bits you have in the fridge and there are also all manner of sausages you could add. e.g. sliced frankfurts (REAL frankfurts please not those weird red things), knackwurst, cookwurst, smoked mettwurst, all sorts.

Seriously easy, seriously basic ingredients, full on perfect flavour.

 

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5 Comments

  1. Does the bacon add much to the over all flavour? Would it make a huge difference to have this as a veggie dish?

    • That’s a hard question for a meatavore Rhi. You know everything is better with bacon 🙂
      Seriously though, if you made it with a veggie stock I imagine the overall taste would be sweeter. You’d still have that lovely floury texture and marjoram note. Yes, I think it would work.

      If you try it, will you report back your observations?

  2. This is basically how I make potato soup, except, I have never used a beef stock addition, just all milk/cream! lol! I even use the same veggies and herbs:) Will try it your way soon and report back! Sounds delish! xxx

    • I love that we are essentially using the same recipe! Were there a lot of German settlers in your area? Interesting stuff.
      Since it was essentially a poor man’s dish the cream was something that wasnt always around, but they would have had bones to make stock.

  3. Thanks for posting this recipe. I’ve been hunting everywhere for a potato soup recipe that captures that delicious flavour I so miss from Berlin. I made it with chopped bacon added to the onion and soup vegetables and the end result was spot on.

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