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12 September 2011

My German beef fest

Back when I was a young bride, living in what was then West Germany, I was taught to cook two basic meals by Hanno's mum - Kartoffel Puffer or potato pancakes and Fleish Rouladen - stuffed beef rolls. Over the years I've probably made hundreds of Kartoffel Puffers, they're a regular in our house and everyone I serve them to loves them. We went off meat for a long time and ate only vegetarian meals for about eight years but now we're back eating meat and I've re-discovered Beef Rouladen. I think Frau Anni Hetzel would be very pleased. I know her son is.

This is a relatively cheap meal and although it's easy to make and thought to be quite unsophisticated as a main meal, I am standing up to say it's a favourite here and for that reason, I'd like to share it with you. When we get our bulk meat order, I always ask the butcher to thinly slice the round steak for me which I package as two slices per bag. I used two bags for this, four slices, so we could eat it one night and serve it again the next night.

You'll need one slice per person of thinly sliced beef steak. It can be one of the tougher cuts because it will be slowed cooked and will become tender during that process. So if you have blade or topside, or round, they're ideal. If the slice is not so thin, cover it with freezer wrap and thin it out with a meat mallet, making sure you don't belt the living daylights out of it and make holes in the beef. You'll need toothpicks or kitchen string to tie up the rolls and a frying pan with a lid that can go into the oven. If you don't have one, you'll need a frying pan, then an oven proof dish with a lid.

Large onion, chopped
Mushrooms, any kind, sliced
2 rashes/slices bacon
Salt and pepper
Mustard - optional
Plain/all purpose flour
Sour cream - optional


  • Cut the bacon into small pieces and fry in a pan until cooked. Take off the heat and drain. Keep the pan on the stove as you'll cook the meat in it soon.
  • Place your beef on a board and cut off any fat. Thin the slice out with a meat mallet if it needs it. 
  • If you're using the mustard, spread about a teaspoon of it over the meat slice.
  • Place some bacon, onion and mushrooms on the beef slice, add salt and pepper and roll it up tightly. Secure with string or a toothpick.

  • When all the rolls are prepared, place them in the pan you browned the bacon in. If you have any onion or mushrooms left over, put them in the pan too; they'll add more flavour to the sauce.

  • Brown the meat on all sides. Take some time with this step - this is where you add the most flavour to the meat and sauce.  All that caramelisation on the meat and on the bottom of the pan is the flavour. If you don't brown the meat long enough, the meat won't caramelise, if you do it too fast, it will burn and become bitter.   Take your time.

  • When you're happy with the browning of the meat, add two tablespoons of plain/all purpose flour and stir into the pan juices.  Add some salt and pepper then allow the floury juices to develop some colouring.

  • When everything is combined and the flour is brown, add enough water to come half way up the side of the rolls.  Put the lid on, bring it up to the boil, then put the pan in the oven to cook slowly (175C/350F) for 45 - 60 minutes.

Beef Roulladen is traditionally eaten with red cabbage and potatoes so out to the backyard I went and picked some. We had a few small red cabbages that won't grow much now that the warmer weather is here so I picked them all.

  • To cook the red cabbage, place a sliced onion and two rashers/slices of bacon in a frying pan and cook until golden.

  •  Add the chopped red cabbage to the bacon and onion, add  about ½ cup water, salt and pepper to your taste and  cook for five minutes or until the cabbage wilts.  Then add one tablespoon of sugar and one tablespoon of vinegar and stir in. Bring this back to the boil, turn the heat down and simmer slowly for 10 minutes.
  • To thicken the cabbage, mix 1 tablespoon of cornflour with ¼ cup of water and pour it over the red cabbage. Stir it in well, bring back to the boil, slowly, then simmer for a further five minutes.

Check the beef rolls after they've been cooking for ¾ hour. They'll be ready when they're tender and the sauce is brown and nicely thickened. Take them out of the oven and on to the stove top. If the sauce is not as thick as you would like, with the lid off, put it on the heat on the stove top, and let the sauce reduce for a few minutes. Just before serving, I added some sour cream to the sauce but this is optional.

Our beef Rouladen was served with crushed potatoes, with butter and parsley, and the red cabbage. We felt like we were dining in Hamburg. 

Some cooks add dill pickles to the stuffing and although it's delicious, I prefer the mushrooms and it was the way my mother-in-law showed me, so that's what I stick to. If you have no potatoes, you could serve this with dumplings. Please don't add any soup mix or stock cubes to this recipe, it is full flavoured just with the water and the pan juices. The bonus is this meal as no preservatives or artificial colourings and flavours that are usually added to soup mix and stock cubes.

I hope you try it. If you do, let me know and give me your blog link so I can see what you did and if your family enjoyed it.


  1. What a delicious winter dinner.
    A german friend of mine makes rouladen and i always enjoy it. On Friday I took delivery of a pack of organically produced Salers beef. This is a breed of cattle from the Auvergne in France.
    There were some very thin steaks included and now I know what I shall do with them.
    Thanks Rhonda!

  2. Just today, I ate Kartoffelpuffer at my parents'. We call them "Grüne Klitscher" here in Saxony. And one of my favorites from my parents and in-laws are Rouladen. You can also stuff them with eggs, my hubby loves it that way or you can take gherkin (?) cucumber (Saure Gurken).
    I love that you made these german traditional recipes. Your husband must be very happy.

    Warm wishes from Dresden.

  3. It may be an unsophisticated meal, but I have to say Rhonda, that looks absolutely delicious and I'll be trying this soon!
    Thank you so much for sharing such great meal ideas. :)

  4. Mustard optional? I can't imagine Rouladen without it! :)

  5. I love this post, not just because the food looks delicious and I am going to try this, but for another reason(in addition to the tasty food).

    My mother-in-law taught me how to make flour and corn tortillas, enchiladas and salsa...foods I had never really tasted let alone seen when I was a new bride. The time and patience she devoted to me afforded me menus to add comfort to my marriage. It is always nice to be able to have foods from our childhood. Since I married a man that was first generation American, his family still was very much Mexican in all of their living.

    A blessing for sure to read you had a similar experience...and our families both have benefited.

    Thank you for this recipe- I am thinking Monday night for dinner, I am trying this.


  6. Unsophisticated?? They look fantastic, and I bet just about anybody (OK, vegetarians excepted :]) would be thrilled to have someone cook them something so delicious for dinner. My husband lived in Germany as a teenager and developed a real love for the 'meat and potato' dishes; I think I'll make him this for a treat.

    Are you willing to provide your recipe for the kartoffel puffer? I'd love to have it!

    Thanks again for your wonderful blog -- I look at it daily, and it encourages me in my pursuit of the quieter life ... and makes me wish I knew you in person, because you sound so delightful!


  7. We love Rouladen here at our house, and now that I've seen yours, I'll have to make some soon! All of a sudden I'm craving them. :-) Kartoffelpuffer are a favorite here as well. Growing up in Germany, we used to eat them with applesauce. Yum!

  8. I think I'll be off to the butcher today! That sounds beautiful and I think it's a good meal for children. Plenty of flavour but nothing to confront their fussy little taste buds!

  9. We make this too - our family calls them Beef Olives (I presume because they are stuffed as there are no olives involved!) - we fill them with sage and onion stuffing or, my favourite, leftover risotto. We bake them slowly or pop them in the slow cooker and pour over a creamy gravy at the last minute. Can't wait to see the puffers!

  10. Thank you for another recipe to try. It looks very good! Could you include your Puffer recipe? I was just wondering if your recipe and preparation of it are any different than my German grandmother taught us. We love them too. Do you serve yours with sour cream like some do? We seem to serve them with the same meat and side dishes. Maybe you serve yours with different ones. Sarah

  11. Thanks for making me remember a similar dish that I used to make. I had forgotten it over time. Hopefully I will be able to make a version of it soon.

  12. I do something similar with pork. It's funny you say it's an unsophisticated meal, because it's the kind of meal I would do for special occassions! :) I think it's quite sophisticated.

  13. Oh Yum!!! I will definitely be making this in the coming weeks for my Family. Definitely something the kids would eat. Quite happy to be unsophisticated if I can eat this!

  14. Yum, I am just doing up my menu and recipes for the next month and I am going to include this.

  15. That looks really yummy! And I have to agree with Melissa, you may think it's an unsophisticated meal, but I would feel quite proud of serving it as a company meal. ;-)
    The best part is how much of it came right out of your own garden.

  16. How thin is thin?

    Laura H

  17. Laura, it just needs to be big enough to enclose the filling and thin enough to roll - about ½ mm or ¼ inch.

  18. My Austrian MIL called these "beef birds!" I need to make some for hubby - it has been a long time and he will be thrilled :o)

  19. Yes, Rhonda! I grew up eating these! I can remember my mum (who is British but married a German - my dad), using the meat mallet to thin the steaks..we always had mustard, bacon, onion and dill pickles. Delicious! I haven't had them in yonks..must make some. There was always a joke about having to find the missing toothpicks..after years of making them, she knows exactly how many toothpicks are in each one, lol. Thanks for this post - it stirred up some great childhood dinner table memories. Your potato pancakes are made exactly the same way as my hubby's gran showed me how to. Once again, delicious!! Thankyou :)

  20. I think you've just handed me a family favourite, thanks Rhonda.

    When we first moved down here we lived in a flat and our landlords lived above us. About 5pm many evenings we would hear pounding on a chopping board for a few minutes, Mrs Bitte (sp?) would be preparing the beef or veal for their German-style evening meal. We loved that sound, it represented the end of the day and good home cooking.

    And yes, we did sample some of those meals.

  21. Looks wonderful! This will definitely be on our table this winter. Will you also be posting the recipe for the potato pancakes?

  22. Oops Sorry Rhonda! I just saw the link for the potato pancakes. I forgot to say in my last post that when I showed my husband the picture of the complete meal he said it is something he would like to have. Thank you!

  23. This looks AMAZING!

    My husband lived on an air force base in Germany for 7 years, and I can't wait to make this for him!

    I'm drooling!

  24. Oh that made my tummy growl...looks absolutely delishes...thanks for sharing
    Rhonda, also thank you for your kind helpful comment on my blog post about eating on $60.00 month, my husband remembers his Mom making rice pudding and now wants me to make him some:)
    ~~Peace & Love~~

  25. I remember eating Kartoffel Puffer and Fleish Rouladen plenty of times when we lived in Germany for 6 years, many, many years ago. Haven´t had them since, will keep the recipe and give it a try one of these days. Thanks

  26. Thankyou Rhonda, I have made some beef rolls similar to these, a long time ago, but I never knew exactly how to cook the cabbage like that. When I was a single girl, I had dinner at my (then)Dutch boyfriends place and his mother cooked steak, potatoes and the most delicious cabbage I had ever eaten ( we used to just boil it to bits-lol)- anyway I feel that THIS is the recipe and I can't wait to make it. Thanks!!!! Sandy.

  27. Hi Rhonda

    I have nominated you for a Versatile Blogger award cos I love reading your blog. You inspire so many of us everyday with your wisdom, and practical hints and information. Thankyou!
    Come to my blog ( to retrieve your award
    Greenie x

  28. Rhonda, here in Britain we can buy thin beef as beef olive. I have not made thoses Rouladen for years now as that kind of beef is quite expensive here. But my mother would stuff the middle with slivers of onion, some celery, carrot and a few slivers of pickled gurkins. That`s the way we used to cook them in Bavaria. I love Rouladen but the meat is just too expensive for us. I`ve reasantly discovered venicen at a farmers market. That was something I never imagined being able to afford before. Two medium venicen shanks cooked in a slow cooker were upsolutely delishes! I payed just under £10 for those. They were cheaper than lam shanks. Venicen is very difficult to get hold of unless you have a private supplier. I`m so pleased I discovered it at a farmers market. Eating this meal made us feel like kings!

  29. Hello Greenie, thank you for thinking of me but I don't accept awards. Please give the one you would have given to me to someone else. There are so many worthy blogs out there.

  30. dear rhonda,
    my family and I we like kartoffelpuffer with apple
    sauce and in the winter month i make often rouladen,but I filled the beef with biffi.
    have a nice day,
    grüße von deutschland,

  31. Rhonda, another very informative post! As Claire said in her comment, it's very similar to Beef Olives which my MIL taught me to cook when I was a young bride. I'm certainly going to try the German version!

  32. Hi, Patsy here from Connecticut in the USA. I love reading your blog; it has been a great inspiration to me as a retiree. My German mother taught me to make rouladen and it has always been the favorite meal for my two sons. My mom prefers them with just bacon and onion in the stuffing, but my boys demand the pickle in the middle! Yours look delicious too. We eat them with the red cabbage and with knoedel, or German dumplings.

  33. My German sister-in-law made thsese and they were fabulous. So glad to have the recipie. I can't wait to make them and I have a local butcher that can slice that meat very thinly. Going to make this recipie this week!

  34. Rhonda the Rouladen looks divine! I tasted some at a pressure cooking class that I attended and it was indeed delicious. The rolls were browned in a pressure cooker pan then it was lidded and pressure cooked for a few minutes. It was stuffed with dill pickle, but like you, I would prefer the mushrooms :)

    What a beautiful meal - you are an excellent cook and I thank you for the inspiration - I'm going to try this!

  35. I just discovered your blog this past week and I am loving it. There is a great wealth of information here and I can't wait to try some of the recipes and even make some soap. I am a fellow knitter/crocheter who lives just outside of Chicago, IL and hope to visit the land down under in a couple of years. Maybe if you have another dish cloth exchange I can take part.

  36. This looks delicious. Thank you for taking the time to so carefully explain each step, take pictures and share with us the family history of this recipe.

  37. That looks absolutely wonderful! I actually just got on to look up your salmon cake recipe...trying that for dinner tonight. But I was drawn into this delicious-sounding recipe and will have to try it soon as well.

  38. Grüße Regina, welcome freedom rings.

    I'm so pleased many of you will try this dish. I'm sure it will be added to your regular meal rotation during winter.

  39. Hi Rhonda
    I was born in Macedonia and we make something similar. We don't use mustard or flour. We also put tomato in the roll and cook the whole thing on top of the stove in a Besamer dish with a dome lid. Because of the tomato and no flour you end up with a good amount of liquid. Then we add pasta shells/macaroni just enough to absorb the liquid and to cook through and we serve it with that and a tossed salad. Looks yummmmy!! Great blog and I have learned so much about things with common sense from your blogg. Lenka

  40. Wow, that looks amazing!Thank you for the recipe.

  41. Hello Rhonda,
    this looks absolutely delicious - although I'm a German vegetarian! But my husband still enjoys his meat, as do our friends. So I end up cooking meat from time to time. I still like the smell and the texture, although I won't eat it anymore, due to health reasons.
    For a change you can try to add some tomato paste,red wine and some thyme and rosmary to your sauce. The filling is also nice, if you use dried tomatoes, onions und a dash of garlic. Makes it a bit more Italian.
    In Germany we don't eat that much cabbageg any more, although we should, because it's so very healthy.
    For a fine winter meal I add some sultanas, a pinch of ground cinammon and cloves, one or two diced apples to the red cabbage. I always cook a huge pot, bechause it seems to get better when you warm it up the next day.
    Thanks for your wonderful blog. I enjoy reading it so much!
    Best wishes to you and Hanno from the south of Germany (we live near Heidelberg).

  42. Hello Rhonda
    we had your beef fest for dinner this evening, it was delicious! :) Sorry for some reason I can only get anonymous I am a member I think its under jimandkimscountrylife the same as my blog sad to say I am going to have to have my daughter help me again! computers are not my strong point! :) I have tried a lot of your recipes in the past and love love love them!
    Best to you and yours! kim

  43. Thanks for sharing this recipe Rhonda, we had it for dinner last night and it was a hit yummm!!!We will definatley be having this meal again.
    Thanks again Kahler

  44. Looks yummy, we also call them Beef Olives and can buy them in the butchers either with sausage stuffing or haggis. I have made my own in the past, in fact we had them on Wednesday night with mashed potato and white cabbage.

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