Bring a taste of Europe back home
There’s no denying that food and travel go hand in hand. Being able to taste local produce and dishes made from recipes that have been handed down through the generations across diverse destinations is a delight and a privilege. The taste of food evokes fond memories of my travels - I could be eating a bowlful of steaming hot spaghetti simply flavoured with garlic and chilli and be taken right back to a little trattoria I discovered in Rome. Every time I flake a piece of seabass infused with lemon and butter, I always remember my time on the Greek islands, sitting at a red and white chequered table cloth and watching the sea roll in and out.
This is why, as a keen home cook, I always like to try and recreate the food that I eat on holiday at home and to share happy memories with family and friends. Europe’s diversity means that the wealth of different cuisine and regional dishes are immense. So where do you even begin? Well, I’ve picked some of my favourite recipes from all across Europe so that you, too, can make some simple meals at home and impress your loved ones. With a mix of savoury and sweet, you’ll be cooking up a storm in no time.
A taste of Austria: Sacher Torte
The Sacher-Torte was conceived when in 1832 a young apprentice chef Franz Sacher had the challenging task of making a dessert that would impress the Austrian State Chancellor, Prince Klemens Wenzel von Metternich’s special guests. He succeeded and the Sacher-Torte soon had a cult following. This is one must-have dessert to try in Austria, what’s not to love? A creamy delectable chocolate cake that is famous the world over and with this recipe, simple to make.
A taste of Greece: Spanikopita
What is essentially a spinach and feta pie, the Greeks have been enjoying Spanikopitas since ancient times and some of their most famous versions come from northern Greece in Epirus which, 400 years ago, was an important trade capital. This super tasty Greek snack can be eaten at any time of the day. Locals enjoy a piece as a quick breakfast or for lunch, or you can dress it up with salad for a simple supper. Having feasted on many slices from local Greek bakeries I can promise that these are so yummy and relatively easy to make at home with this recipe.
A taste of Italy: Aubergine parmigiana
There is some dispute about where this delicious dish comes from - Sicily, Naples and Parma all lay claim to it. However, vegetarian Aubergine parmigiana is made up of pan fried aubergine, tomato sauce and parmesan cheese and is served all over Italy, sometimes as a starter but also as a main meal. It always astounds me how such simple ingredients can create something so spectacular. Cook it in one pot and serve at the dinner table or if you’re entertaining, you can make individual ones to impress. Follow this recipe for great results.
A taste of Norway: Pan fried salmon with mash potatoes
With a long tradition for fishing on one of the world’s longest coastlines, it’s no wonder Norwegians love their fish. And salmon is one of the biggest staples in a Norwegian kitchen and is actually one of the country’s biggest exports after oil. Norway’s salmon is famed for being farmed with strict regulations and because of its natural environment and clear waters, produces superb fish. And this simple recipe really shows off the salmon to its full potential served alongside buttery mash and fresh greens. A winner for dinner.
A taste of Poland: Polish pierogis
One of Poland’s national dishes, pierogis are dumplings filled with a variety of meat, cheese and vegetables. You can even make sweet ones. They do resemble Chinese dumplings and it has been said they came to Poland from China after Marco Polo travelled through Italy. Whatever its origins, pierogis are delicious and you can fill the unleavened dough with countless ingredients. Traditional pierogis are served with sour cream and filled with potato and cheese. Try these really delicious dumplings for yourself here.
A taste of Portugal: Custard tarts (Pasteis de Nata)
In Portugal one of the must have snacks or desserts is a small but perfectly formed Pasteis de Nata. Crumbly pastry filled with not-too sweet custard, it is impossible to have one tart alone. I remember devouring at least two a day when I was in Lisbon. They were invented in the 18th century, by monks at the Jerónimos Monastery in Santa Maria de Belem who needed a way to use up leftover egg yolks once the whites had been taken to starch white garments. If you want to make these as easy as possible, buying shop brought puff pastry is the way to go. And alongside a good cuppa, these custard tarts are just divine.
A taste of Spain: Gambas al ajulo (garlic prawns)
The first meal I like to have when I head to Spain is tapas. And while it is impossible to choose a favourite tapas dish - there are just so many - I would say that gambas al ajillo is always brought to my table. I can never resist the garlicky deliciousness of fresh prawns, lemon, paprika and oil mopped up with crusty warm bread. And it’s so easy to make at home with this recipe. Just make sure you get the best prawns possible, and make plenty - as it will be gone in no time.
A taste of Switzerland: Potato rosti
While Switzerland is famed for its gorgeous Alpine views, it is also well known for its cheese and chocolate. But did you know that one of the country’s most popular dishes is made up of the simple potato? The ultimate comfort food, Swiss potato rostis are eaten all over the country it originates from the canton of Bern, after farmers needing to be fed well after a gruelling day of work. Grated potato is fried in lashings of butter can be adorned with bacon, cheese, or anything else that you’d like to add. The key to a Swiss potato rosti is to get the outside as crispy as possible. Enjoy.
Do you have any recipes from your European travels that you like to cook at home? Or have you tried making one of the recipes above? We’d love to see the results over on our Facebook page. Do share!
Ting has a serious case of wanderlust. Having travelled to over 40 countries, it’s her mission in life to make her way through her ever-growing list. Her two young sons have also caught the travel bug, and recent trips have seen them making snow angels in Iceland while watching the Northern Lights, as well as walking alongside elephants in South Africa.
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