When I talk about potato salad I have to talk about Christmas as there is no other day I so closely connect with it. For many families in Germany it is traditional to eat potato salad and fish (or sausages) on Christmas Eve. This is because the 24.12 is considered a Christian fasting day and the food should be simple and vegetarian. I know, I know.. fish and sausages are not exactly vegetarian, but I believe that this is what traditions are, we follow certain rituals, they give us comfort and a sense of belonging, but we actually do not know how it all started or how they were meant.
And so my family ate potato salad on Christmas Eve, year after year. And not just any, it was made by my grandmother and it was incredibly good. Apart from gherkins and onions it also had apples, chives, pickled herring, cabanossi and eggs. It was a wild mixture of flavours, which nevertheless came together effortlessly. Grandma said it is a Berliner Potato Salad and for the better part of my life I did believe that Berliners eat that kind of funky potato salad.
Only much later it struck me that potato salad is actually a poor man’s food and never included such costly ingredients like fish and sausages. There is a Berliner Potato Salad though, but it is only made with onions, gherkins and apples, which probably was the base for my grandmothers salad.
When my mother was a child my grandparents, being exiles from Czech, were quite poor. They already ate potato salad on Christmas Eve that time, but a much simpler version. With the growing German economy my grandmothers potato salad also grew and she added more and more things to it. As ingredients were suddenly affordable her approach to cooking changed from bringing through her family to creating dishes. In my childhood I cherished her food but never thought much about it. Now I regret that we didn’t speak more about potato salad.
As I live in India and many ingredients are not available, I followed my grandma in spirit and adapted her potato salad to what is available. I kept the eggs, added coriander (good with almost everything), turmeric (more for color than taste) and sprouts, as sprouts and potatoes are simply meant to be together and my very clever husband always says they are so healthy. It doesn’t taste like her salad, but it is so good that I had it for lunch now five days in a row!
You will have to start at least 1 – 2 days before with growing the sprouts. Don’t let that discourage you, it is hardly any work and feels a bit like growing your own vegetables. I’ll explain you how to do it.
Apart from swopping ingredients I also tested different ways of making it and figured that, when I eat it as a full meal, I actually prefer to add the dressing just before I eat it. If I have it as a side I prefer the traditional way of mixing it up ahead of time and giving the ingredients time to mingle.
Potato and Sprouts Salad
For 2 - 3 people as a main dish.
- A handful of whole mung dal and/or chickpeas (white or black are both fine)
- 500 gram potatoes
- 5 gherkins
- 1 onion
- 1 apple
- a small bunch coriander
- 2 handful sprouts
- 3 eggs
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 - 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- 2 tablespoon pickling liquid (from the gherkins)
- 1 tablespoon mustard
- 1 teaspoon salt (or more)
- 1 teaspoon sugar (or honey)
- 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
Start 1 or 2 days ahead with soaking the dal/chickpeas in a sufficient amount of water for about 8 hours or overnight.
Strain off the water and wash them in fresh water. Take a clean cotton kitchen towel, dip it in water and wring it out. Layer a colander with the towel.
Add the drained dal/chickpeas into the colander and fold the corners of the towel over them. Keep the colander on a plate at a relatively warm place in your kitchen.
Sprouts need a humid and slightly warm environment to grow. Check from time to time if the towel is still moist. In Indian climate my sprouts are normally ready after 10 hours. Depending on the temperature of your kitchen it might take a bit longer. It doesn’t matter how long the sprouts are, the dal/chickpeas are eatable as soon as you have soaked them. Keep the sprouts in the fridge, they will keep growing at a very slow pace and keep fresh for about a week.
Boil the potatoes in generously salted water. Boil the eggs in another pot.
While eggs and potatoes are boiling cut the gherkins, onions and apple in small cubes (you could peel the apple, but I don’t). Clean and chop the coriander (leaves and stem, it’s all tasty).Add all the dressing ingredients in a glass jar. Close the lid and shake vigorously till it emulsifies.
When the eggs are ready, peel them and set aside.
Once the potatoes are boiled, drain the water and wait till they have just cooled enough to be peeled. Peel and cut in slices (or whatever shape you prefer). Layer with all other ingredients and add the dressing. You can now either eat it immediately or mix everything well and let it soak for a few hours.
Whenever you are ready to eat, cut the eggs in half and serve on top.