Good, raw (i.e. organic and unpasteurised) sauerkraut is one of those ingredients that a well stocked kitchen shouldn’t be long without. Particularly at this immune draining time of year. I admit, it took me a while to get into it, but living with a German (in Germany for quite a while) meant get into it I did and I haven’t looked back.
Unbelievable as it may sound, sauerkraut and other fermented vegetables (think kimchi) are fantastically good for you. Years ago, when I was first married and had just moved over to Germany, speaking very basic German, I laughed my head off when my in laws told me that sauerkraut was “sehr gesund” (very healthy). “Yeah right”, I said, “Taking cabbage, a vegetable that requires very little cooking to seriously upset it’s nutritional benefits, slicing it thinly, salting it and leaving it for weeks on end in a closed container actually makes it better for you?” Ha ha. Surely I had misunderstood? (Misunderstandings were really quite common in those days. Actually, they still are but I’m digressing) Obviously I was wrong, and it is now clearly common knowledge as recently sauerkraut has been elevated from the ranks of pickled type stuff you smother a hot dog in to a much trendier ingredient. And for good reason. It’s full of probiotics as the levels of naturally occurring lactobacilli bacteria are increased during the fermenting procedure and along with the high levels of fibre in the cabbage, this will help the good bacteria in your intestines to flourish and so promote good digestion and a healthy immune system. This isn’t ground breaking news; it is said that the Romans carted barrels of the stuff around with them to avoid upset tummies. If this isn’t reason enough to develop a taste for the stuff, just think about those high levels of iron, vitamin C and K as well as the cancer fighting isothiocyanates and you’ll see why it has such a superfood reputation nowadays. Or think of the fact that you can keep jars of it for for ages in the cupboard and knock up a quick and super healthy meal for a few pennies. Your choice, but either way a bit of a no brainer really. But if the slighty sour taste still bothers you (or more probably your children) try this gorgeous recipe, the other flavours help mellow those sharper notes and it is such a quick and easy meal to get on the table anyone would be converted. I used a couple of beef bones to make my stock up this time, simply because I had some leftover from the Sunday roast but I wouldn’t think twice about making this with entirely vegetable stock and neither should you; it would make a perfect mid week vegan/ vegetarian supper.
Store Cupboard Sauerkraut Recipe.
For the potato pancakes:
1.5 kg mix of potatoes and Jerusalem artichokes (if you haven’t got any, just use potatoes)
3 tbsp flour (I used white teff flour as I’m always trying to up that nutrition but use whatever takes your fancy)
A small knob of butter
Peel the potatoes and scrub the Jerusalem artichokes then put them in a pan of salted boiling water and simmer until they are cooked, around 15 minutes. Strain them, and mash with the butter. Stir in the flour whilst still warm and make sure everything is well combined.
When the dough is cool enough to handle, form it into potato cakes. Leave to chill if you have the time for half an hour or so, then fry in a little rapeseed oil so that the outside gets nice and golden.
Drain on kitchen paper then keep warm in a low oven until you are ready to eat.
For the sauerkraut stew:
2 sticks of celery
3 cloves of garlic
2 tbsp caraway
2 tbsp paprika
Salt and pepper
3 bay leaves
400g White beans (I used haricots)
650 g jar of raw sauerkraut
600 ml of vegetable stock
6 or 12 (depending on your appetite- you have 12 potato cakes after all!) large portobello mushrooms to top off.
Crush your garlic and leave to one side, then often the onion and celery in a little olive or rapeseed oil.
After around ten minutes, add the garlic , bay leaves and the spices. Mash the beans roughly together then throw them into the pan as well. Pour in the vegetable stock and bring to the boil.
Simmer for around 15 minutes, or until the sauce is slightly reduced and thickened.
Meanwhile, drizzle some oil over the mushrooms and season with salt and pepper. Roast in a reheated oven for about 15 minutes.
When you are almost ready, throw in your sauerkraut. Do not do it any sooner as too much heat will totally destroy all the benefits of eating it in the first place. Just heat it until the kraut is warmed through, no more.
Serve a potato cake topped with a spoonful of the sauerkraut stew and crowned with the roasted mushroom. Delicious.