It is not only in lockdown that people crave perfect winter meals which offer comfort and warmth. Munich chef Sven Christ shows us how to make hearty cold-season specialities such as böflamott in a normal home kitchen with commonly available ingredients.
Sundays are for roasting, as are all the public holidays. The English are devoted to their Sunday roast, and here in Munich we indulge in weekly roast pork, right? No – people in Munich don’t necessarily eat roast pork every Sunday – that would be conceivable, but boring. Depending on their mood, they might opt for stuffed breast of veal, roast veal or böflamott.
That last word may be perplexing to those of us who haven’t encountered it before: if you saw it anywhere but on a menu you might assume it was the name of an IKEA folding chair, a cute Irish grazing animal covered in wool, or a particularly precious stone. Given that it does in fact regularly appear on menus, it must be a dish, and presumably one made with “böf” – or beef.
„That word, if you saw it anywhere but on a menu, you might assume it was the name of an IKEA folding chair, a cute Irish grazing animal covered in wool, or a particularly precious stone. “
Böflamott is considered by many to simply be a malapropism of “boeuf à la mode”, but that narrative overlooks the fact that the Bavarians were loyal to Napoleon almost until the end of his reign – when they changed sides and came to the aid of the Austrians. For many years then, there were Napoleonic forces roaming around Bavaria, and those soldiers needed to be fed.
The requisitioning practices this led to were notorious, with farmers forced to give up livestock and crops to supply the French. Even though the Wittelsbach family owed their kingdom to Napoleon’s actions, they saw him as a gambler and had no wish to share in his downfall. Nonetheless, böflamott lives on in the language and life of the area, along with other borrowed words such as fisematenten (shenanigans) and schandarmen (military police).
Anyone studying the ubiquitous blackboards on Munich pavements all over the city will notice a few menu items that come up again and again: a salatbüffet, asparagus with Hollandaise sauce or böflamott, and perhaps a biskuittörtchen gateau for dessert. The Austrians may have saved our bacon, but we still love eating French.
Enough rambling – what makes a böflamott today? Many recipes recommend a three-day marination in red wine for böflamott, but I don’t really see the need. Much more important is the wammerl, or pork belly, which is cooked with it to add depth. Another way to maximise the deliciousness of this dish is to leave the finished böflamott in the fridge overnight, as this gives the flavours a chance to develop.
„Many recipes recommend a three-day marination in red wine for böflamott, but I don’t really see the need. Much more important is the wammerl, or pork belly, which is cooked with it to add depth.“
The risk with the marinating method is that a thriftily chosen cheap red wine can quickly turn your böflamott into pickled beef. In the past, people would marinate beef and horsemeat in order to tenderise it, or to cover slight spoilage caused by improper storage; those conditions are rare these days, so we can leave it behind us. For the wine we should look to Franconia or South Tyrol; what’s needed is a robust red wine, and one bottle should be enough.
The best choice of pan for braising the beef is a cast iron casserole dish with a lid: these enable good steam circulation and make it possible to cook at a low temperature without consuming too much energy. I use a shoulder top blade cut of beef for böflamott, and cook it in one piece. Because I will ideally leave it to develop overnight, I prefer to cut the cooked meat when it’s cold, for nice neat slices and no tearing. Then I reheat the sliced meat.
What do people serve with böflamott in Munich? Just ordinary pasta, or sometimes potato dumplings or spätzle (German noodles). This time I have decided to go fancy and serve it with schupfnudeln (finger-sized potato dumplings) and fried Brussels sprouts. You can make schupfnudeln yourself, but there are also really good ready-made ones. The Brussels sprouts should be market fresh rather than a week old and from the bottom of the fridge – this recipe is not at all forgiving on that score. We will be quickly blanching and then frying the sprouts, all that’s added is butter, salt and pepper. In other dishes I might add a glug of fish sauce for flavour, but we don’t need that here. At the most, I would add some apple cider vinegar – that goes really well with these.
„As böflamott requires a little more elaborate preparation than other dishes, it is a good option for a public holiday. The böflamott can easily be frozen after cooking, but the side dishes should always be served fresh.“
As böflamott requires a little more elaborate preparation than other dishes, it is a good option for a public holiday. With that in mind, this recipe serves six people. The böflamott can easily be frozen after cooking, but the side dishes should always be served fresh. And because the böflamott is better if made the day before, you don’t need to spend ages in the kitchen while you’re entertaining.
Also relevant: if you don’t feel like cooking, you can get böflamott with red cabbage and bread dumplings at the Schwanthaler in Westend.