Germany: Mitternachtsuppe / "Midnight Soup"
This soup used to be served to hungry partiers halfway through the all-night balls held in Germany, Austria and Switzerland around the New Year's holiday...
The basic requirements for the soup at that point were that it be a good restorative: something with a major hit of protein and carbs to kickstart the system -- and probably a fair bit of fat to help slow down the absorption of all the alcohol floating around at that time of year.
Now mitternachtsuppe (or sometimes mittenachtsuppe or mitnachtsuppe, if you come across its name in dialect) turns up in all kinds of places and under all kinds of contexts. From a fancy midnight ball dish, it has slid gently down in the world to become something you put together out of those leftover pieces of yummy sausage that tend to pile up in the fridge when you've been shopping at one of the bigger German supermarkets. Most versions of the soup these days seem to be based on a hearty beef stock and chopped tomatoes: after that the ingredients vary widely.
Our favorite take on the theme -- and our favorite mitternachtsuppe recipe -- originally came from the Department of Nuclear Chemistry at the University of Mainz in Germany, where the intelligent students are quick to point out that under certain circumstances, alcohol is used in treatment for radiation poisoning -- and then of course you need something to help you recover from the treatment. Why not a big hot hearty bowl of Midnight Soup? ... Our own recipe takes their basic version and adds some changes in technique and flavoring which have proved to work out well over many simmering potfuls.
For Midnight Soup:
- 1 - 2 kabanossi or similar mildly spicy sausage (and any other sausages you favor: frankfurters, pepperoni, you name it...)
- 100 grams bacon, the smokier, the better
- 2 onions
- 400 grams ground beef (or you can substitute ground turkey or chicken if you prefer, but the soup works better with beef)
- 1 can cannellini or similar white beans
- 2 cans red kidney beans
- 750 ml beef stock or bouillon
- 1 or 2 cans chopped tomatoes, according to your preference
- 1-2 cloves garlic
- To taste: regular chili powder (maybe teaspoon)
- To taste: Paprika (hot paprika if you like, but don't overdo it)
- To taste: Hot chili flakes
- To taste: a shake or two of Tabasco sauce
- To taste: a shake or two of Worcestershire sauce
- To finish: 200 ml yogurt or creme fraiche
Find a large heavy soup pot. Chop up the bacon and sauté it until the fat runs. Chop up the onions and sauté them with the bacon: then add the sausages, also chopped, sauté them briefly, add the garlic and do the same. Finally add the ground beef and sauté it until it colors. Season this mixture with the spices and seasonings and continue to sauté. Meanwhile heat the beef stock to near boiling: add it to the mixture in the pot and stir well. Add the beans and tomatoes. Allow the whole business to boil for a few minutes: then lower the heat, cover, and simmer for at least an hour.
When serving, ladle out the soup and stir a spoonful of yogurt or creme fraiche into each serving.
This recipe doubles well. It can also be extended over several days by adding more beans, more stock, more sauteed sausages, etc., as necessary.