Monday, April 8, 2013

Cooking in the Trenches: Part 2, German Army 1915

I've been MIA for a bit, just a bit overwhelmed by everything going on at one time. But I have also been working on a number of projects which are coming to fruition, and will soon be published in this blog.
In this post we'll take a look at more recipes from the German trenches of WWI: rice, vegetables, sauces, and more potatoes. But first I thought it might be helpful for those unfamiliar with equipment of that era to give a brief overview of individual German mess gear in the First World War.

  The German Kochgeschirr M.1887 was rather massive for an individual mess kit. With a 2.5 liter capacity, it had nearly 1.5 times the volume of the later M.31 Kochgeschirr. Some M.1887s were still in use at the outbreak of the First World War.

Kochgeschirr M.1887
It was replaced by the Kochgeschirr M.1910 model, with a reduced capacity of 2 liters. An interesting development at that time was a folding spoon and fork eating utensil (the Essbesteck ,German for cutlery) and perhaps the first mass-produced spork. The M.1910 Kochgeschirr had a small metal lug on the inside the body to hold the Essbesteck neatly for transport (see illustration below). 

Kochgeschirr M.1910

Reichswehr soldiers in 1932 chowing down.
 This photo gives one a good idea of the size of the M.1910-type mess kit.  

Here are a few more recipes from Kochbuch für den Schützengraben (Cookbook for the Trenches). If you are striving for authenticity, when a recipe calls for bread crumbs it would normally have been a coarse 100% rye bread. 

As mentioned in an earlier post, the potato daily ration was 1,500 grams, which of course could vary greatly due to disruptions in the supply chain. As with most of the recipes in Kochbuch für den Schützengraben, no amounts were given for potato recipes. 

Mashed Potatoes
Force boiled potatoes through a sieve. Add a little milk and salt.

Mashed Potatoes (Baked)
Mix plenty of fat and grated cheese into mashed potatoes.
If eggs are available, separate the eggs and beat the egg whites until they form soft peaks.
Mix the egg yolks, fat and grated cheese into the warm mashed potatoes, then fold in the egg whites.
Sprinkle cheese and butter on top.
If baking in an oven, bake uncovered like a casserole in a 350°F/205°C oven.
If cooking on an open fire, use a heavy lidded container such as a Dutch oven. Cook over hot coals with more coals on top.
Cook until heated through and lightly browned on top.

Instead of the cheese add sugar to taste to about half a pound of potatoes per serving.
Add fruit sauce, apple sauce, stewed fruit or other cooked fruits.
Bake as for the baked mashed potatoes.

Mashed Potatoes (Croquettes)
Form cooled mashed potatoes in balls the size of an egg, roll in beaten egg then in bread crumbs. Fry in hot fat.

Apple Potatoes:
Peel and cut up or grate the potatoes.
Cooked until the potatoes are slightly undercooked.
Add an apple that has been peeled and cut into small pieces.
Add some fried bacon bits.
Cook until the apple and potatoes are soft.

Sauces were an accompaniment to many of the recipes in Kochbuch für den Schützengraben. Roux was made with a tablespoon of butter or other fat, such as lard, oil, or bacon grease. The fat was heated until melted, a spoonful of flour added, mixed into a smooth paste, and then the other ingredients were added to it. If flour was not available, a handful of crumbled bread was substituted.
Béchamel Sauce:

sliced ​​ham, pepper, onion.
broth or water
cream or milk.
bread crumbs
salt (if needed)
grated cheese, if available.

Chop the ham, peppers and onion into small pieces.
Heat the fat and add the sliced ​​ham, pepper and onion.
Cook over low to medium heat until softened.
Add a little broth or water and cream or milk.
Add bread crumbs, salt (if needed), and a little grated cheese, if available.

Tomato Sauce
fresh tomatoes
butter or water

Cut up the tomatoes into large pieces.
Place tomatoes in a pan with a little butter or water.
Cook over low to medium heat,
Once the tomatoes have softened, force them through a sieve to remove the seeds and skin.
Boil the tomatoes (stirring constantly) until they have thickened into a paste.
To the cooked tomato paste add a little water or broth, butter and bread crumbs.

This tomato paste (or canned tomato paste) is excellent with eggs, beef, mutton, meatballs, or the like. It also makes a very tasty addition to rice, pasta or macaroni.
Tomato soup can be made by adding broth to the tomato paste.
Mustard sauce:
butter or other fat
meat stock (use fish broth if serving sauce with fish)
2-3 tbsp mustard
bread crumbs
egg yolk

Bring the stock or broth to a boil.
Remove from heat and add a little bit at a time to the egg yolk while stirring (to temper the egg yolk and prevent it from curdling).
Place butter, stock, mustard and bread crumbs in the pan.
Over low heat, bring the sauce to a simmer while stirring constantly.
Remove from heat, allow sauce to cool slightly; add the egg yolk while stirring vigorously.
Optional: add a little sugar and vinegar, to taste.

     The rice recipes are scaled for one portion. According to WWI German Army daily ration tables, 125 grams or rice or 250 grams of pulses (peas, beans, or lentils) could be substituted for 1500 grams of potatoes. Buckwheat, oat groats, or other grains can be used in the same way as rice in any of the following recipes.

     Of course this is not the “proper” method of cooking risotto, but classic risotto made with Arborio rice could hardly have been expected to be prepared in a trench under combat conditions. Any type of rice may be used, but preferably it should be a short-grained, starchy variety. You will need to use a sufficient amount of meat stock so that the cooked rice is a bit more wet and sticky than steamed rice.

US                               Metric              Ingredients
4.4 oz/5 fl oz               125 g/150 ml      short-grained rice
10-12 fl oz                   300-360 ml        meat stock (amount depends on the type of rice)
to taste                        to taste               grated cheese
to taste                        to taste               salt

½ fl oz/1 tbsp              15 ml               tomato paste
to taste                        to taste            meat scraps, chicken liver or mushrooms (canned or                                                                  
Heat fat in a saucepan and add the dry rice.
Stir until the rice grains are coated with fat.
Add the meat broth, bring to a boil, lower heat and cook for twenty minutes.
When it is nearly cooked, add plenty of grated cheese.
At this point, also add the tomato paste, meat scraps, chicken liver or mushrooms.

Rice can also be baked in a covered pan that has been greased with butter or other fat, as in the potato dishes.

Apple Rice 
4.4 oz/5 fl oz               125 g/150 ml   rice
8-10 fl oz                     120-300 ml      meat stock (amount depends on the type of rice)
½ - 1 tbsp                    15-30 ml          butter

Put the rice, water and butter in a covered pan.
Boil or steam the rice until soft, about 20-25 minutes.
While the rice is cooking, chop the apples into 3/8 inch (1 cm) pieces.
Add the chopped apples to the cooked rice.


Brassicas (cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts) can be cooked until soft in boiling water, drained, and then simmered with a little meat broth or water, fat, and salt to taste.
Young green beans, peppers, cabbage, carrots, asparagus, chicory, Brussels sprouts, etc. can be cooked until soft with a little water and salt. Drain, serve, dot with pieces of butter.
Asparagus: serve with melted butter.
Chicory:  pour over with melted butter, sprinkle with grated cheese.
Spinach: bring one or two spoonfuls of water to boil, add the spinach and heat until boiling. Remove from heat and add a little butter or anchovy paste.
Kale: boil, drain, then chop up and cook in a little fat until soft.
Red or white cabbage: Cut into thin strips. Bring a little water to a boil and steam the cabbage until soft. Add a little fat and some finely chopped apples. Cook until the apples are soft.
Cauliflower: boil until soft and serve with Hollandaise sauce.
Beets (all varieties): boil until soft, broth with fat and bread crumbs made ​​creamy.
Dried peas, beans, and lentils: boil until tender. Add tangy sweet bacon gravy (refer to my earlier post for the recipe).

Kochbuch für den Schützengraben, Hans Werder, Otto Janke Publisher, Berlin, 1915