With the barbecue season upon us, it’s the season to check out some salads – after all, we need to offset all that meat by eating a couple of spoonfuls of healthy stuff on the side. And this cabbage salad does just the trick: cabbage is so incredibly healthy and nutritious, especially when eaten raw. Without mayonnaise or sour cream, this little number becomes so virtuous that you’ll forgive it the fact that it’s full of bacon.
I know this salad as a ‘Bavarian’ salad, Bavaria being our neighbouring ‘Land’ or region. Bavaria is perhaps the most famous German region, with its capital Munich. the October beer festival and the Disney-inspiring Neuschwanstein castle, this is little wonder. Basically, whenever you see people wearing Lederhosen and having large beers for breakfast, chances are that they are either from or in Bavaria, like these guys here.
The relationship between my region, Württemberg, and Bavaria has never been a particularly good one: whereas Bavaria has always been Catholic, Württemberg was reformed. As a result, in most conflicts (and there were many!), Bavaria tended to side with their fellow Catholics, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, fighting against Prussia, whereas we Swabians fought for whoever paid them the most. Although many took this as a sign of opportunism, I’d like to think of it as ‘enterprise spirit’. We consider Bavarians to be sausage-consuming little sinners (claiming that because they can go to confession they end up leading lives of debauchery, like, drinking beer and eating sausages all the time), whereas they (like the rest of Germany) take us for pious little spoil-sports who work and tidy up all the time, in case God catches us out on something.
This is not true. Since the 15th century we have had a special ‘cleanliness’ law in Württemberg that allows the state to take away your property if it is not deemed clean enough, which clearly proves that we are NOT constantly worried about God catching us out, it’s the authorities that might get us. But more of that in my next post.
On the upside, whereas Bavaria only has BMWs (produced in Munich), Württemberg is the home not just of the modern car itself (Daimler and Benz, who invented the high-speed petrol engine, both hail from here) as well as of both Mercedes and Porsche. But that’s about it, in every other aspect we are really just the less good-looking little sibling to the charming Bavaria. In fact, just like between siblings, this whole idea of a rivalry between the two states might, after all, just exist in our (Swabian) heads – similar to the much-fêted football rivalry between England and Germany, which is completely unheard-of in Germany because we are far too busy getting even with Holland.
Anyways, to get back to the food, this little salad is delicious enough to forget about all those petty little squabbles for a moment. Unlike coleslaw, it’s not smothered in mayonnaise – but before you even begin to assume that this is a healthy alternative, think no further. Smoked bacon, similar to Italian pancetta, is included in nearly every vegetable dish in Germany. No wonder vegetarians dread visiting this country: whereas everywhere else in the world you can survive on side dishes, in Germany these, too, are contaminated by generous amounts of bacon or similar, which we use to enhance the vegetable dishes’ ‘flavour’. Clearly ‘flavour’ means ‘meat flavour’ here.
Another typical ingredient are caraway seeds: a distant relative of cumin, they give southern German dishes a very distinctive aroma. They also aide digestion, which is always helpful. So, if you are looking for something almost healthy but hearty, effortless to prepare but pretty to look at, look no further: this Bavarian cabbage salad fulfils all your bbq-related requirements.
Bavarian Cabbage Salad (Krautsalat) (serves 6)
- 1/2 cabbage
- 20g pancetta or similar
- 2 tbs vegetable oil
- 1/2 onion
- 6 tbs white wine vinegar
- salt, pepper
- 1-2 tsp caraway seeds
Cut the cabbage into very fine strips. Dice the onion and cut the pancetta into very fine cubes.
Heat the oil in a medium frying pan, then add the pancetta. Keep the heat fairy low as you don’t want the pancetta to brown, merely to release the fat. After a few minutes, add the onion and keep stirring it until it becomes translucent.
Add the cabbage and stir in all through, then add the vinegar. Once the vinegar is bubbling up remove the pan from the hob and place the salad into a bowl. Season with salt and pepper and the caraway seeds, then cover it and leave it to stand for about an hour.