How have you been? Ready to start another week? Ready to start another month? Can you believe it’s March already?
One of my favorite eateries here in Cologne used to be Freddy Schilling’s. A couple of years ago, Mom & Pop style burger joints sprouted up all around the city, a sudden trend pretty much everyone wanted to be a part of. Newspapers in Cologne published reviews, rankings and soon after the internet community repeated the process, two of my former colleagues made a point of visiting a different joint every weekend, eagerly discussing their experiences with the rest of us.
As a fan of the old burger and fries, I obviously joined in. I tried four places in total, but I needn’t have bothered. Freddy Schilling was my first, and the only one I ever went back to for more. They just have the best concept, the highest quality food, the tastiest vegetarian burger and the quirkiest people behind the grills.
They’ve long opened a second store on Eigelstein, but they started out with just on tiny shop on Kyffhäuserstrasse. An early arrival was necessary to be able to eat while sitting. There was one table seating four and six more seats at a narrow counter along the shop window inside the store. Sitting behind the shop window, you could look onto the orders of the guests sitting at the three Paris-Café-style tables on the pavement right in front of the store. Freddy Schilling’s didn’t even have a toilet, so sufferers of the frequent-drinker-small-bladder-syndrome (a.k.a. me) would hop over to the still-closed pub across the street in hopes that the cleaning staff would answer your doubt-implying-knock and allow you to use their facilities in exchange for a large-ish tip. Adjacent to Freddy Schilling’s shop entrance, the owners installed a high table. Crowds would eat their meals there while standing.
Freddy Schilling obtain their organic meat (not that I would eat any of it) from butchers/farms they are personally acquainted with, their sauces are handmade according to secret recipes and contain regional ingredients. For fries, they cut up freshly peeled potatoes and they sell soft drinks from hip alternative companies instead of buying from Coca Cola, Nestlé or Pepsi.
Like any burger joint worth their reputation, they offer vegetarian burgers, even two! This place, serving fast food made with love, used to be right up my alley – and everyone else’s. The husband made me turn around on my heels and find a different place to eat more than once, because it was too full for him. He did not want to wait in line behind thirty other people and then fight someone for a seat. “We’re too old for that”, he would say. “And if we’d be younger, we’d be too sensible to endure THAT!”
If we did arrive early for a seat, I would always eat the Vicky Veggie Burger: a Celery Schnitzel (made out of celery root), topped with fried eggplant, tomato and pepper ribbons and copious amounts of parmesan and jalapenos (which I would always talk them out of, asking them to place a mere one on the burger, a quirk that would owe me a laugh every time!) and mango chutney. Of course, they served the whole thing in a bun with all of the regular salad garnish you’d expect from a burger. I probably needn’t tell you, but it was a BIG burger, the cook would poke with a long wooden stick through its middle to keep the construction together. I probably also needn’t tell you, but the burger was challenging to eat and enough to fill you up on its down. I couldn’t help myself, I always asked for a side of Rosie’s. These are small, pre-cooked potatoes, which are then cut in half and fried with rosemary, salt and pepper and served with a side of sour cream. Vegetarian fast food heaven!
Of course, visits at Freddy Schilling’s are now a thing of the past, but I’ve been meaning to recreate their Celery Schnitzel at home for a while. Here, you can currently buy celery root cheaply all over the place. So, I finally dared and ended up with a huge supply of celery schnitzel that will probably last me through spring.
While re-creating this recipe, I thought that this is an ideal dish for children who are being raised vegetarian and who have to eat gluten-free to boot. I’ve received inquiries from mothers who feed their family a vegetarian and gluten-free diet, asking for advice on combining both diets, and what my thoughts on the subject were. (Do I really have to tell you that I’m absolutely convinced that this is no problem at all?)
I thought of them in particular while writing up this recipe as I’m convinced kids will eat these happily. They don’t taste very strongly of celery or vegetable, the inside of the patty has a very mild, smooth taste, they are soft, but also somewhat chewy on the inside with an incredibly crispy, lush crust. I think they definitely compare to Chicken McNuggets in terms of guilty pleasure and in being a not particularly healthy thing to eat. Also, it’s such a simple endeavor in which they can help – except for maybe the frying.
On the celiac forums I’ve found a high degree of frustration, because eating at McDonald’s/Burger King, etc. is not possible here in Germany. I was never a frequent visitor of the franchises, and never a fan either, so I’m glad for one less reason to pump money into their questionable business practices. But I’m also realistic. I understand why children want to go. I used to love McDonald’s as a child, and it was always a huge deal when my parents or grandparents would take my brother and me there. We would swoon at the prospect of a Happy Meal, even when we had outgrown them and needed to order a second burger or another side of Chicken McNuggets in order to be full.
Eating at places where everyone else eats is part of feeling like everyone else. When your friend has a birthday party at a fast food restaurant, it’s not corporate greed or animal rights that matter, it just really sucks when you can only eat ice-cream (or not even that, many celiacs are also lactose-intolerant). Many parents of celiac children work with what they have. They bring their own burger patties and hope the staff gives them the burger without the bun and assemble the burger themselves. Some restaurants won’t ignore the company policy prohibiting serving burgers without the bun though. Others therefore go for a second solution: they fry up gluten-free chicken nuggets at home and bring those for their celiac children to eat (cold).
For children on a vegetarian diet, this recipe for Celery Schnitzel might be a good alternative. You can easily cut the celery slices into bite-size nuggets (or use a cookie cutter to make any shape that you fancy, e.g. stars) and serve those with fries. I don’t have any kids to function as test eaters, so if you do make this recipe for your children, please let me know if they liked it. I’m highly curious!
1 medium celery root (peeled and cut into slices)
4 eggs, beaten (for a vegan version: replace with water and cornstarch)
50 ml milk (ommit for the vegan version)
salt and pepper to taste
gluten-free breadcrumbs (you will need quite a bit)
Vegetable oil (for frying)
Place the breadcrumbs into a large bowl, add salt and pepper to taste. Beat the eggs into a second bowl. I did this in batches, and replenished breadcrumbs and eggs as needed. For a vegan option, I’ve asked for advice from experienced vegans. They have suggested to prepare one dish with breadcrumbs and one dish with cornstarch to which you have added water. First dip the celery slices into the cornstarch-water-mix, then cover with breadcrumbs and repeat. I haven’t had a chance to try this yet, but I trust the person who gave me this advice and will try it soon, because as I’ve said before, I’m not a big fan of the ol’ egg.
Dip one celery root slice into the egg, then turn to the second bowl and cover the slices entirely with breadcrumbs. Dip (the already coated) slice into the egg again, and then cover with more breadcrumbs. Set aside onto a third plate.
Repeat with the remaining slices until all of them have been coated with breadcrumbs.
Heat up a generous amount of oil in a pan, and fry the Cerely Schnitzel on both sides until golden brown. Set them aside on a plate lined with a kitchen towel, allowing the fat to drain off the Schnitzel. You can work these into a proper burger like the people at Freddy Schilling, or eat them with oven-baked parsnip fries and a large salad, like my husband and I did.
These can be easily frozen once they have cooled down, wrapping each schnitzel/nugget individually in plastic foil. They can be easily defrosted in your oven, baking them for about ten minutes at 200 °C, turning them over half way through is a good idea, so they defrost and roast evenly.