When traveling overseas, what is it that you most look forward to — the sights, the culture, or the food? If your answer is the food, you’re not alone and we don’t blame you. Many countries specialize in a certain dish or cuisine, and indulging in that treat while in a foreign country just feels sweet, even if that food item happens to be savory.
But still, what many people don’t realize is that while crepes taste best in Paris, pizza tastes most authentic in Italy, and shephard’s pie tastes especially comforting in Ireland, it is possible to make those foreign treats at home and enjoy them, too. They won’t even cost you a plane ticket. Thankfully, a whole lot less.
Before you book your trip for Europe next year, or rather than booking your trip next year, consider enjoying one of these six foreign delicacies in your very own kitchen. Take your mouth on an European culinary tour from France to Italy to Ireland to Amsterdam to Spain to Germany, and then determine what cuisine is really your specialty.
1. Stroopwafel — Amsterdam
If you’ve ever been to the Venice of the North, there’s a good chance you’ve tried their famous stroopwafels. If you haven’t, think of a dessert that consists of two thin, crispy wafers sandwiched together with a caramel-like syrup. The Dutch have the sweet treat down pat, and you can, too, with this recipe from Food.com. As long as you have a pizzelle iron, you can bring Amsterdam to your kitchen, and after that, you can start working on your poffertjes.
- 4 cups all-purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- 1 cup unsalted butter
- 2 large eggs
- 1 (¼ ounce) package active dry yeast
- ½ cup warm water
- 1½ cups packed brown sugar
- 1 cup unsalted butter
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 6 tablespoons dark corn syrup
Directions: Preheat a pizzelle iron. To make the waffles, dissolve the yeast in the warm water. Cut butter into the flour. Mix in the sugar, cinnamon, eggs, and yeast mixture. Mix well and set aside to rise for 30 to 60 minutes. Roll dough into 12 small balls; squeeze each ball into the preheated pizzelle iron and bake for about 30 seconds. Cut the waffles into two thin waffles and spread with filling.
To make the filling, in a saucepan boil the brown sugar, the remaining one cup of the butter, cinnamon, and dark corn syrup until it reaches the soft ball stage (234-240 degrees Fahrenheit), stirring constantly.
To assemble, cut each waffle into 2 thin waffles and spread with filling. Repeat this process until all the filling is used. If using store bought, simply spread about 1 tablespoon of filling on one waffle cookie, let it cool about 1 minute, and squeeze a second cookie on top. Makes 12 servings.
2. Nutella Crepes — France
We’ve already waxed eloquently about how easy crepes can come together at home, but in honor of giving a nod to the French for the delicacy tourists flock to their country for, we’ll revisit the subject. Crepes are just as simple — if not simpler — than pancakes to make, and they can be filled with whatever you desire, whether you want to go savory or sweet. If you’re interesting in filling your French cake with nutella, follow this recipe from The Yellow Table. The recipe developer breaks down the process, showing you just how easy it really is to make simple crepes, and now, you’ll never have to stare longingly at your friends’ travel pictures ever again.
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup milk
- ¼ cup water
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 2 tablespoons melted butter, plus more for pan
Directions: Place all the ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. If you don’t have a blender, whisk the eggs, milk, water, and vanilla together in a bowl until smooth. Add the flour and sugar and whisk to combine. Whisk in 2 tablespoons of the melted butter. Strain the batter into another bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for at least an hour to allow all the air bubbles to settle.
Heat a small crepe pan (or nonstick skillet) over medium-high heat. Swirl 1 teaspoon of butter in the pan and add a small amount of batter to the pan — swirl the pan so that the batter evenly and thinly coats the bottom. Cook for about 30 seconds (until lightly browned) and flip. Cook for another 10-15 seconds and remove to a plate. Continue cooking the rest of the batter, adding additional butter every third crepe or so. Place the crepes on a sheet tray, cover with aluminum foil, and keep warm in a 225 degree Fahrenheit oven until ready to serve.
To serve, spread each crepe with your desired topping: Nutella, warm chocolate sauce, jam, butter and sugar, lemon, etc., and then fold in half, then into fourths, like a napkin. Dust with powdered sugar and serve warm.
3. Margherita Pizza — Italy
On to some more savory fare, we come to Italy’s most iconic dish: Margherita Pizza. Grazi, Italia! Chances are you probably aren’t foreign to the concept of making your own pizza, but what many don’t realize is that they can actually style their crust the exact same way the Italians do, facilitating the feeling that one really is eating in a piazza in Florence. Take this recipe from The Kitchn and get to work. There’s pizza to eat and Italian to learn.
- 1 pound pizza dough, storebought or homemade
- 1 pound (2 large) ripe summer tomatoes or 1 16-oz can whole or diced tomatoes
- 1 clove garlic
- ¼ cup loosely packed basil, sliced into ribbons
- 8 ounces mozzarella cheese, sliced
- Salt and pepper
Directions: Heat the oven to 550 degrees Fahrenheit or as hot as it can go. Place a baking stone or baking sheet in the oven as it heats. Divide the dough in half and shape each half into 10-inch rounds. Set aside.
Cut the tomatoes into wedges and trim away the stem area. Gently squeeze the wedges over a bowl to remove the excess juices and seeds. Combine the tomatoes with the garlic and half of the basil in the bowl of a food processor or blender. Process until the tomatoes break down into a sauce, scraping down the sides as needed. If desired, strain to make a thicker sauce.
Spread a light layer of the sauce over one of the rounds of pizza. Top with half of the slices of mozzarella. Leave some space between the pieces of mozzarella. Transfer the pizzas to the preheated baking stone or baking sheet. Bake for 5-10 minutes — exact cooking time will vary depending on your oven temperature. Pizzas are finished when the crust is deep brown with charred spots and the cheese is bubbling. Top and bake the second pizza. Sprinkle each pizza with basil as it comes out of the oven. Let them cool briefly before slicing and serving.
4. Shepherd’s Pie — Ireland
Jumping ship, we move over to Ireland – the land of shepherd’s pie. Talk about comfort food. If you’ve never sunk your teeth into layer upon layer of meat and vegetables, all encased in a crispy carby crust, then you’re really missing out. But luckily you can fix the situation without even buying a ticket to Dublin, and all it takes is 30 minutes in the kitchen. Don’t believe us? Trust Rachael Ray. She has a fool-proof recipe for traditional shepherd’s pie, and once you take one bite out of this carby goodness, you’ll never question anything the Irish do ever again.
- 2 pounds potatoes, such as russet, peeled and cubed
- 2 tablespoons sour cream or softened cream cheese
- 1 large egg yolk
- ½ cup cream, for a lighter version substitute vegetable or chicken broth
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, 1 turn of the pan
- 1¾ pounds ground beef or ground lamb
- 1 carrot, peeled and chopped
- 1 onion, chopped
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 cup beef stock or broth
- 2 teaspoons Worcestershire, eyeball it
- ½ cup frozen peas, a couple of handfuls
- 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
Directions: Boil potatoes in salted water until tender, about 12 minutes. Drain potatoes and pour them into a bowl. Combine sour cream, egg yolk, and cream. Add the cream mixture into potatoes and mash until potatoes are almost smooth.
While potatoes boil, preheat a large skillet over medium high heat. Add oil to hot pan with beef or lamb. Season meat with salt and pepper. Brown and crumble meat for 3 or 4 minutes. If you are using lamb and the pan is fatty, spoon away some of the drippings. Add chopped carrot and onion to the meat. Cook veggies with meat 5 minutes, stirring frequently. In a second small skillet over medium heat cook butter and flour together 2 minutes. Whisk in broth and Worcestershire sauce. Thicken gravy 1 minute. Add gravy to meat and vegetables. Stir in peas.
Preheat broiler to high. Fill a small rectangular casserole with meat and vegetable mixture. Spoon potatoes over meat evenly. Top potatoes with paprika and broil 6 to 8 inches from the heat until potatoes are evenly browned. Top casserole dish with chopped parsley and serve.
5. Paella — Spain
Over to the lands of the Spanish, we come to a dish Spain is widely known for: paella. Hopefully you like your rice. Try this dish from Chow.com and see for yourself. Incorporating seafood, meat, rice, vegetables, spices, and herbs, you really can’t go wrong with this authentic Spanish meal, but we’ll let the food speak for itself.
- 2 medium, ripe tomatoes (about 12 ounces)
- 16 large shrimp (about 12 ounces), peeled and deveined
- 1 teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika (pimentón dulce)
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 8 ounces Spanish chorizo, cut into ¼-inch-thick rounds
- 1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil, as needed
- 1 medium yellow onion, small dice
- 2 medium garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 1 large pinch saffron threads
- 2 cups paella rice (about 1 pound), sometimes labeled bomba or Valencia
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for seasoning the shrimp and chicken
- 4 cups (1 quart) low-sodium chicken broth
- 16 mussels, Manila clams, or a combination, scrubbed
- 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
- 2 medium lemons, cut into 8 wedges each, for serving
Directions: Core and halve the tomatoes. Grate the flesh side of each half on the large holes of a box grater set over a medium bowl, stopping when you get to the skin. Discard the skins; set aside. Place the shrimp in a medium bowl, add ¼ teaspoon of the paprika, and season with salt and pepper. Toss to combine and refrigerate.
Place the chicken in a medium bowl and season generously with salt and pepper; set aside. Heat an outdoor grill to high (about 450 degrees Fahrenheit to 550 degrees Fahrenheit.) Place a 15-inch paella pan on the grill, cover, and heat until hot, about 2 minutes. Add the chorizo to the pan, close the grill, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the sausage is starting to brown and the fat is rendered, about 2 to 3 minutes. Using tongs or a slotted spoon, transfer the chorizo to a large bowl; set aside. There should be a thin layer of rendered fat in the pan. If there’s not enough, add 1 to 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the seasoned chicken to the pan in a single layer, close the grill, and sear, stirring occasionally, until both sides of the chicken pieces are golden brown, about 6 minutes total. (Rotate the pan occasionally on the grill to evenly distribute the heat.) Using tongs or a slotted spoon, transfer the chicken to the bowl with the chorizo; set aside.
Add the onion to the pan, season with salt and pepper, close the grill, and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes, adjusting the heat as needed on a gas grill or moving the paella pan to a cooler part of a charcoal grill so that the onions don’t burn. Add the garlic, remaining ¾ teaspoon paprika, and saffron, stir to combine, and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
Add the reserved tomato pulp and juice and cook until the mixture has slightly darkened in color, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan, about 3 minutes. Add the rice and measured salt and stir to coat in the tomato mixture. Add the broth and stir to combine. Arrange the rice mixture in an even layer. Distribute the reserved chorizo and chicken over the rice, adding any accumulated juices from the bowl. (Do not stir the rice from this point on.)
Close the grill and bring the mixture to a lively simmer. Continue to simmer, checking occasionally, until the rice grains have swelled, most of the liquid has been absorbed, and the rice begins to make a crackling sound, about 12 minutes. Arrange the reserved shrimp and the shellfish (hinge-side down) in the rice, nestling them slightly. Close the grill and cook until the shellfish have opened, the shrimp are just cooked through, and the rice is tender but still al dente, about 10 to 12 minutes. Remove the pan from the grill, cover with foil, and let stand for 5 minutes. Before serving the paella, discard any unopened shellfish and sprinkle the dish with the parsley. Serve with the lemon wedges.
6. Kirsch Streuselkuchen (Streusel Cake With Cherries) — Germany
Ending on a sweet note, we tie things up with a streusel recipe straight from Germany. No need to take a jet plane over to Europe to enjoy this sweet delicacy — just whip it up yourself via this recipe from About.com. The streusel cake with fruit filling will blow your mind, and as a dessert that pairs well with coffee, tea, or a post-dinner cocktail, you can enjoy it at any time.
- 1½ cups washed and pitted cherries (or 2, 14 ounce cans; sweet or sour)
- 1½ cups cherry juice from cherries or cans
- 1 (3 ounce) package of vanilla pudding
- 3⅓ cups all-purpose flour (400 grams)
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 tablespoon vanilla sugar (or 1 teaspoon extract)
- ¼ teaspoon double acting baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 2 whole eggs
- 14 tablespoon butter
Directions: For the filling, wash and pit fresh cherries to make about 1½ cups (about 1 pound) and save any juice that comes off the fruit. If you are using canned cherries, drain, reserving juice, and set aside. Measure juice from cherries and add water or juice to make 1½ cups. Prepare pudding according to the directions, but with juice, not milk. If you do not have pudding, mix 3 tablespoons of cornstarch, 4 tablespoons of sugar, and some vanilla extract and cook into a pudding. After pudding thickens, stir in cherries and cook for one minute. Remove from heat and set aside while you prepare the streusel. You may also use canned pie filling to make this cake even easier. You will probably need 2 (14 ounce) cans of filling.
For the streusel, mix the flour, sugar, vanilla sugar, salt, and baking powder together in a bowl. Add cold butter chunks and the eggs. Mix by either rubbing the ingredients with your hands, or use a mixer on low speed. Mix until crumbs are formed.
To assemble, press ⅔ of the crumbs into the bottom and up the sides of a buttered, 9-inch springform pan. Make the sides at least 1-inch tall. Make sure the dough is packed and no holes remain. Use a 9-inch deep dish pie pan or maybe 2 (8-inch) pie pans if you do not have a springform pan. Pour the fruit on top of the unbaked crust. Do not fill above your crust, even if you have filling left over. Using the rest of the dough, crumble streusel over the top. Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 45 – 55 minutes. Cool completely before serving or the filling will be runny.