How about throwing an Oktoberfest party this weekend?
Or at least making this fabulously buttery Oktoberfest chicken . . .
And yes, I do know it’s September, not October but that’s when Oktoberfest takes place, oddly, kicking off in Munich this weekend.
I still remember my visit there and being overwhelmed by the sheer size and scale of the event. Although there is a fair amount of drunkeness (mainly at night), during the day it’s very much a family affair with Müncheners of every age and occupation dressing up in the traditional dress of dirndl and lederhosen. The whole thing is incredibly joyous and good-humoured.
There’s plenty to drink (obviously) and eat too, not least the brilliant butter-slathered roast chicken they serve in the tents (some of which hold literally thousands of people) and one of the best potato salads I’ve ever eaten.
If you can’t make it to Munich it’s a really fun way to entertain at home. You can easily buy Oktoberfest beers which tend to be brewed in the traditional Märzen style, so called because they are brewed in March but not released till September. They’re strong golden lagers with a sweet malt character - as opposed to the helles beers (light lagers) that are served in the tents.
You could serve a choice of both with a big platter of German-style cold meats and sausage and the potato salad below. Finish with a Black Forest gateau (or this chocolate and cherry roulade and a cherry beer and you’ll have treated your friends to a great evening.
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This recipe which I edited slightly from the version in the Oktoberfest Insider Guide by Sabine Kafer, comes from my beer and food book An Appetite for Ale. The secret is the lavish last minute slathering with butter. You can obviously scale it up for a crowd.
2 small chickens (about 1 - 1.1kg each)
Salt and pepper
A good handful of fresh parsley with the stalks
110g (4 oz) unsalted butter at room temperature
An hour before roasting season the chickens generously with salt and pepper. Wash the parsley, shake dry, chop roughly and stuff inside the birds. If you have a rotisserie attachment in your oven preheat the oven to 220°C/425° F/Gas 7, skewer the chickens on the spit and roast for about 45 minutes to an hour. (Or follow the instructions in your instruction book)
Alternatively preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan/Gas 6 and put the birds breast side downwards in a roasting tin. Roast for about 30 minutes then turn the birds breast upwards and finish cooking (allow 45 minutes per kilo plus an extra 15-20 minutes - just over an hour for birds of this size.)
Either way - and this is crucial - 15 minutes before the end of the cooking time the chickens should be coated with fresh, soft but not runny butter. Repeat this process 4-5 times. To check if the birds are ready stick a skewer or the point of a sharp knife into the thickest part of the leg. The juices should run clear. Rest the chickens for 10 minutes then cut them in half down the breastbone and serve half a chicken each with either the potato salad below or with chips.
Oktoberfest potato salad
The key element to this typically Bavarian recipe, which also comes from An Appetite for Ale, is the addition of hot stock which gives it a consistency half way between a conventional potato salad and mashed potato. It also has the most delicious sweet-sour flavour.
1 kg (2.2lb) of waxy new potatoes, peeled and cut into even-sized pieces
1 tsp vegetable bouillon powder
4 tbsp white malt vinegar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp caster sugar
1/4 tsp white pepper
2 tbsp sunflower or grapeseed oil
1 medium-sized mild or sweet onion, peeled and finely chopped
40g (1 1/2 oz) butter
Fresh chives or dill
Put the potatoes in a pan, cover with cold water and bring to the boil. Simmer until tender - about 12-15 minutes. Drain, reserving the cooking water. Pour 150ml of the cooking water over the vegetable bouillon powder and stir. When the potatoes are cool enough to handle (about 5 minutes), slice them roughly into a bowl.
Put the vinegar in a small saucepan. Add the salt, caster sugar and pepper and stir to dissolve. Add the oil, onion and most of the stock, bring to the boil then pour the hot dressing over the sliced potatoes and stir vigorously.
Melt the butter, add to the salad and stir again. Add a little more of the potato cooking water to give you a slightly sloppy consistency, a bit like lumpy mashed potato. Leave to cool and stand for about 2 hours for the flavours to develop. Sprinkle with snipped chives or finely chopped dill
Sometimes the locals add cucumber. Take half a cucumber, peel it, halve it and scoop out the seeds with the tip of a teaspoon. Cut into slices, put in a shallow plate, sprinkle with salt and put another weighted plate on the top. Leave for about 20 minutes then rinse the cucumber and pat dry. Dress with a little white vinegar seasoned with salt and sugar and a splash of sunflower oil and mix in with the potato. (Or you could serve it on its own sprinkled with a little fresh dill)
Have you ever been to the Oktoberfest - or thrown an Oktoberfest party? If so tell us all about it!