Potatoes play a fairly important role in German cuisine. Spring, Summer, Fall, or Winter, there’s a potato dish (or several to choose from) for every season, every occasion. At the very least, the humble “Salzkartoffeln” (often manifested as a simple, peeled, boiled potato) is an all-purpose and upstanding accompaniment in a land that has not fallen prey to the fear of carbohydrates.
Potato soup and potato stew are stalwarts of the restaurant menus around the Rhine, especially in Fall and Winter. They come together quickly, don’t take a laundry list of ingredients (and can often be made entirely with items already in the German pantry), and are satisfying for lunch or dinner, or as a first course.
There are a ton of recipes out there, and a zillion (roughly) variations. With or without meat, and with or without dairy are the biggest party lines to be drawn, and quite frankly, I see merits to all of these. Here is my recipe for Kartoffel Eintopf (with ham, without dairy) which can be on the table in less than 30 minutes any day of the week.
Serves 2 – 4
3 large potatoes (Yukon Gold or similar)
3 large carrots
1 large onion
3 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 bay leaves
75 grams ham
2 cups vegetable broth or stock
celery salt to taste
white pepper to taste
pinch marjoram or thyme
1 tablespoon flour
water as needed
1 stalk of celery or 1/4 celeriac
(technically, the ham is also optional)
Coarsely dice the potatoes, carrot and onion. Finely dice the garlic, celery or celeriac and leek (if using), and ham.
In a moderately large soup pot, heat the olive oil. Add the onions, garlic, and bay leaves, and saute until the onions start to turn translucent. Add the ham, celery salt, white pepper, and marjoram, and stir through. Add the potatoes and carrots and stir about until everything is lightly coated with the oil. Add the vegetable broth, and if necessary, enough water to 3/4 cover the vegetables. Bring up to a simmer.
Make a slurry of cold water and the flour (I shake mine together in a plastic lidded container until smooth), and add to the soup. Bring up to a simmer, reduce the heat, cover, and let cook for about 20 minutes. Remove lid, and if necessary, continue to cook until the liquid thickens into a light gravy.
If you are using ham and vegetable broth, you probably will not need much more if anything in the way of salt, but do taste and add a little if necessary. Serve with a hearty, crusty bread, and maybe a nice salad.