I don’t really ever cook traditional German dishes at home, or go to traditional restaurants in Munich – with good reason. Braised pork and heavy side dishes swamped in meat gravy aren’t really my style, so to speak. There are a few German dishes I’ve come to love since living here, though: one is Rotkraut (braised red cabbage), and the other is the Knödel (rhymes with “noodle” (sort of) and the “k” is not silent: kuh-noooudel!).
My Knödel conversion experience took place at a restaurant called the Kaiserkron in South Tyrol, where I ordered a duo of one pumpkin and one red beet Knödel. The pumpkin Knödel was transformative: creamy, rich, savory, and smoky. Just try to imagine a densely textured, savory pumpkin pie topped with smoked Gouda… actually, stop, no, don’t think that, that sounds weird and unappetizing. Just think delicious, and keep meditating on delicious until you’ve arrived in Bozen (South Tyrol) and ordered your own.
A Knödel is nothing more than a dumpling, which can come in many guises, not all of them healthy. I find most traditional Knödel a bit bland and extremely heavy, but with some creative ingenuity, these unassuming little dumplings can be turned into a vehicle for some lighter, fresher, more vibrant flavors.
Here’s a recipe for lentil Knödel inspired by a recipe from the German vegetarian quasi-celebrity chef Gabriele Kurz. Her recipe is served with very simple shiitake mushroom sauce (just shiitakes simmered in broth until soft)- so lovely. We served these at a recent dinner party together with the roasted root vegetables. They are certainly more than hearty enough to stand alone as a vegetarian main course. Enjoy!
1.5 cups lentils (brown or green)
3 cups vegetable broth
1 onion stuck with a few cloves
1 onion, finely chopped
1 cup whole wheat breadcrumbs
1/2 bunch marjoram
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1 egg (or vegan egg replacement if you’re hard-core)
1 TBSP soy sauce
Salt & pepper
1. Cook the lentils in the veggie broth, together with the clove-onion, until soft (ca. 40 minutes). Drain any excess broth.
2. Roast the sunflower seeds in a dry pan until brown. Finely grind in a food processor.
3. Saute the chopped onion. When soft, add the breadcrumbs and marjoram and saute for another few minutes, until lightly browned and fragrant.
4. Add the hot lentils, onion-breadcrumb mixture, sunflower seeds and remaining ingredients to the food processor and pulse until ground.
The dough should be damp and gluey at this point. Mine looked like this:
5. With damp hands, form 10-12 evenly sized dumplings.
6. Steam the dumplings ca. 10 minutes. Garnish with a few more majoram leaves and serve with the shiitake mushroom broth.