Steen Hanssen once again guides us through the wonders of German cuisine – this time, the classic Knödel.
By Steen Hanssen – Photo By Urs Kuckertz
Der Knödel, also called Klöße or Klöpse, is a general German term used to describe a widely differentiated family of (usually) cooked snowball shaped dumplings. The many versions of Knödel include the Semmelknödel & Breznknödel (bread dough), Grießklößchen (dough made of Semolina grain), Kartoffel Klöße (potato dough), Dampfnudeln (wheat flour), Klöpse (may include veal or pork to form a kind of meatball), a sweet desert version based on quark called the Topfenknödel or the Marillenknödel, and many more, even a mixture of some of the above….. So the Knödel is indeed different dishes depending on what goes into the dough.
My own Knödel dough recipe would resemble the Semmelknödel. I use two day old Laugenbrezel (prezel) and Brötchen (white bread rolls) chopped into small squares and soaked in warm milk for a couple of hours, I then add one or two eggs, chopped white onion, garlic and parsley, some organic lemon zest, a pinch of nutmeg and season with salt (alternatively I sometimes through in an anchovy) and pepper. The dough must be moist but not too sticky, when you roll the dough into round balls they must stay in shape (I usually adjust the texture with flour and milk). Knödel balls cook in hot salted water (70-80C or 170F) for 15 minutes. Never ever boil the water or your Knödle will disintegrate and become porridge, the dumplings must gently float in the hot water without falling apart. Knödel is mostly served as a side dish but may also function as a main course with a delicious sauce and some pork or chicken on the side, add to that a premium Weizenbier and you’re set to go.
Perhaps the most famous member of the Knödel family is the Königsberger Klöpse from the doomed capital of East Prussia. Königsberger Klöpse is essentially boiled meatballs made from veal or pork and served with white sauce, capers and cooked potatoes. Following WW2, Königsberg got nearly obliterated by Bomber Harris’s RAF and what little was left then got demolished by the Russians in their successful and thorough annexation of East Prussia. I mention this because in former East Germany (DDR) the name Königsberger Klöpse became an outright taboo. Any reference to the vanished German city of Königsberg (today Kaliningrad) was not welcomed by the party line and the dish was therefore officially renamed Kochklöpse, in response and with bitter irony people then began to call the dish Revanchistenklöpse (revisionistic meatballs). I find it quite compelling that the story of what happened to East Prussia and Königsberg lives on through the Königsberger Klöpse dish.
Steen Hanssen is a Berlin based food writer who loves to eat, drink, cook, read, write and think about good food and beverages. Though Kierkegaard argues it'll lead to failure and despair, Steen embraces the aesthetic sphere of existences striving for novelty, pleasure seeking while edging towards the perfect asparagus experience. Steen is also a contributor to Serious Eats.