Of all the ingredients used in Siegerland cuisine, it is the ‘Duffel’ (potato) that takes centre stage. Potatoes are the main element in numerous traditional dishes, whether savoury, sweet or both at the same time. However, ‘Broart’ (bread) plays a key secondary role. Try ‘Dong’ or ‘Knifte’ for a ready-buttered takeaway, traditional Schanzenbrot from a Backes (bakehouse) or ‘Riewekooche’, a loaf of bread made with potatoes, which dominate the local dishes.
One thing is certain: nobody should visit Siegen without sampling a genuine ‘Sejerlänner Krüstchen’ (escalope on toast or rye bread topped with a fried egg) or a slice of fresh ‘Sejerlänner Riewekooche’ (loaf of potato bread) with butter. For a regional dessert, treat yourself to ‘Aijjerkaes’ (Siegerland custard), a typical sweet made with milk and eggs and served with either a cream sauce or simply cinnamon and sugar.
A tradition of baking: Riewekooche, Groffbroart and Schanzebroart
Locals meet at the Backes in the centre of the village to bake bread together – a tradition that was once a big part of community life at a time when not every house had an oven. Today, the tradition lives on in many rural areas in and around Siegen. The preparation method is noteworthy, being closely associated with the forest management characteristic of the region (a specialist form of forest exploitation, traditionally of coppiced woodland of oak and birch). ‘Schanzen’ – bunches of birch, oak or hazelnut twigs ‘left over’ in the copse, as it were – are used in bakehouses to produce the embers. The result is tasty Schanzenbroart, a dark sourdough bread with a high rye content.
Somewhat heavier, but just as palatable, is Siegerland rye bread (also known as ‘Groffbroart’). The dark delicacy consists largely of crushed rye and sourdough, making it ideal for a filling snack. Last but not least, Sejerlänner Riewekooche – the ‘Siegerland potato bread’ – rides high in the popularity stakes. Careful though: it is easily confused with potato pancakes or potato fritters which, like rösti, are traditionally served with stewed apple or plum jam.
Brief glossary of food terms
Koache = Cake
Teilchen = Small, sweet pastry
Doffelsobb = Potato soup
Aawersersobb = Pea soup
Middagesse = Lunch
Quellmänner = Potatoes boiled in the skin
Suur Moos = Sauerkraut
Schnuck = Sweets
Wollwern = Blueberries/wild berries
Gequallde Gestalde = potatoes boiled in the skin, sliced or chopped and fried in a stock sauce with onions and bacon; often eaten with Broathering = marinated fried herring)
Gelöng = Mixed offal (heart, lungs, etc.), finely chopped and prepared in similar fashion to goulash