European goodies

European goodies

Charles de Gaulle, the erstwhile leader of Free France once famously said, “How can I govern a country which has 246 varieties of cheese?” His apprehensions weren’t silly. Europe is a blessed continent in terms of food. Its cuisine is as varied as the many countries that make Europe. While every cuisine is distinctively different and unique, there are many underlying flavours that bind them together.

European cuisine employs meat as a central ingredient in many of its dishes. Not only is it used in almost all dishes, its portions are also bigger.

Potatoes satiate their need for starch in all the meaty dishes. While Europe has gifted the world delectable pizzas, it has also showcased its innate love for food through traditional dishes like sauerbraten and stews. And who can forget that Europe is the hub of beer? Sausages, pretzels, cheeses, pasta, borscht, Yorkshire pudding, fish and chips – the list is endless. Let’s take the food route to Europe; look at some of the traditional dishes of the countries in the continent.

Regional wonders
Poland’s national dish, flaki is a traditional Polish stew, that was the favourite of one of its kings. Hard liquor is synonymous with Russian vodka and any gourmand will vouch for their chicken kiev and beef stroganoff. In Slovakia, you can find bryndzové halušky, a dish of potato dumplings served with sheep cheese and bacon. Moussaka is the national dish of Greece, and in Albania the national dish is a beautiful combination of fried meat, liver, eggs and tomatoes. If you love experimenting with your food, you should try the horse meat in Slovenia.

Northern Europe is known as the melting pot of a variety of cuisines. On one hand, you can find authentic Dutch dishes in Netherlands, while on the other you can indulge in dishes like haggis and Irish stew from Scotland and Ireland. Fish and chips is arguably England’s national dish, with Yorkshire pudding coming a close second. Seafood is also a major part of the cuisine, with Iceland, Finland and Norway relying heavily on seafood. But the most well-known cuisine comes from the Western part of Europe; Germany’s national dish of sauerbraten and bratwurst, with a tall glass of beer, makes for a perfect meal.

For all those sweet tooths out there, Belgium offers fine chocolates and waffles, that melt in your mouth. If beer isn’t you cup of tea, then you should head to Vienna, the wine capital of Austria. Lyon city in east-central France is the food capital of the country and also known for its cassoulet, Lyonnais sausage and tripe. Some of the famous chefs hail from Lyon, including Chef Daniel Boulud. Coming to Southern Europe, it is home to some of the world’s best-loved cuisines and the best place on the planet for pasta. Italy’s
Modena and Parma are equally loved for their balsamic vinegar and hams, prosciutto and cheeses. Sunny Spain is identified by tapas and paella. No matter where you travel in Europe, you’re never really far from great cuisine, great beer and wine. The resplendent history of Europe can be tasted in its food.

(The author is executive chef, Grand Mercure, Bengaluru)

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