An early Christmas dinner - Goose and Schwarzbier

"I wouldn't cook goose dear, it's very fatty!" were the words of wisdom my grandmother imparted on coming to stay for Christmas one year. We weren't planning on having goose, but still she felt it worth saying, repeating "Very fatty, dear" even after she'd been assured we weren't having it.

It was only when I was living in Germany that, invited by colleagues to a Gänseessen (goose dinner), I discovered the truth about goose. In place of the plate of blubber that my grandmother's remarks had led me to expect was a plate of a dark, tender and flavoursome meat. I was hooked.

You'll see goose starting to appear on the menus in restaurants from about November onwards (having a Gänseessen is traditional for St Martin's Day on November 11th) and of course it's a popular choice for Christmas dinner too. It's often served with red cabbage (Rotkohl), but sometimes you'll get offered a choice between that and Kale (Grünkohl)...and in the particular restaurant where I took the photo, it came with leeks (Porreegemüse, in this context - a leek is a Porree, or a Lauch).

This is a goose breast (Gänsebrust) but you'll sometimes see the leg (Gänsekeule) on sale instead...or you might get both (Brust und Keule von der Gans)!

You'll notice two big round yellow-ish things behind it. They're not, as you might fear, school-dinner-style mashed potato served with an ice cream scoop, but potato dumplings (Kartoffelknödel, or Kartoffelklöße). They are made with mashed potato, but usually together with flour and eggs (and sometimes semolina). They often have some toasted breadcrumbs in the middle.

And what to drink with all of this? I'm rather partial to a Schwarzbier (black beer) myself. While it might look like a stout, it's actually made like a lager. The character's somewhere in between - packed with toasty malt flavours, but not quite as heavy.

This particular one is Köstritzer from Bad Köstritz in Thuringia. It's been brewed there since 1543 and it's said that even Goethe was a fan. There's also a Schwarzbier brewed in Berlin, Märkischer Landmann, but that one is unfortunately going to have to wait for another time.

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