A large bowl of French Onion soup served in a cast iron cooking pot with a ladle to help yourself.

Delicious dishes and snacks from our travels – Part 1

In Food, Life, Our Journeys, Sense, Senses by JanisLeave a Comment

Cuisine that brings back fond memories

One of the reasons Gary and I love to travel is to experience the culture and cuisine through other countries. We are very much of ‘When in Rome’ type of people when it comes to food and drink. Although if anything looks slightly dodgy, I’ll let Gary take one for the team.

A lagoon just outside Sète in France filled with raised wooden oyster frames from which the seafood is cultivated

The Oyster beds just outside Sète in France

It is incredible that you can visit one part of a nation and sample a particular dish or ingredient. Then you’ll head to another region of the same country, and the cuisine has all changed.
 
Take France, for instance in the northeast its crêpe/galettes, seafood and cider. In the east, it’s tarte flambée and fondue. In the very south-west, you have the Basque influences like Espelette pepper.
 
Although across all of France there is always delicious cheese and good wine to be found.

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France

Well, while we are on the subject, let’s start with France. Living in the southeast of the UK, it’s so easy for us to pop across to this charming nation. As we’re keen road trip fans, we are regularly passing through, and no excuse is needed to make a stopover.

A bubbling pot of cheese fondue served in a cast-iron saucepan over a low heat.

A fondue typical of the Arbois region

A dish that Gary loves is fondue, he would have it every week come rain or shine given half a chance. I believe it is more of a winter dish myself, but what do I know. I would say, and I think Gary would agree the most delicious and traditional ones that we have had, have been from Arbois and Annecy in eastern France.

We’ve recreated this at home a few times, using the recipe from Rick Stein’s latest book, Secret France.

Our cast iron fondue pot, half-filled with a bubbling cheese fondue, with a pots of chopped celery & cubed french bread

Our fondue pot at home

A cube of bread, on a skewer, dipped in melted cheese from our fondue.

A cube of bread dipped in cheese fondue

Low and slow is the key

Another of our cook at home winter dishes is beef bourguignon. With the beef soaked overnight in red wine and then slowly braised for a few hours with lardons, thyme and mushrooms. It is delicious and be sure to grab a baguette to soak up the juices.
 
We actually make a large pot of this, as it is even better left to mature.

More French Fancies

Perhaps this is not a dish, and actually, more of an experience and that is cheese, bread and wine. In my opinion, I think we would struggle to replicate the absolute pleasure of sitting in the Provence sunshine, sipping on one of their light, crisp rosé wines and indulging in the luxurious local cheeses.
 
Ok, so I may have tried to recreate it a few times.

2 glasses of rose a wine and I cheese board with a selection of local produce  and fresh bread with the chutney in the center.

Rose & fromage in St Remy-de-Provence

Another French favourite is tarte flambée, this dish can also be found in Germany. Mainly around the regions that border Alsace and is known as Flammkuchen.
 
The base is made out of bread dough and rolled incredibly thin, it’s then covered in crème fraiche, and sprinkled with lardons and thinly sliced onions. I’d say for best results bake in a woodfired oven, although we don’t have one, so a very hot regular oven will do.

The traditional Alsatian dish of Tarte flambée, served on a wooden serving slice to be shared.

Tarte Flambee from Strasbourg

This is another dish we recreated at home from Rick Stein’s ‘Secret France’.

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Too many to mention

As revealed, we are frequent visitors to France, and here are just a few more dishes that always evoke memories for us. Keep a lookout for some of these they are delicious.
 
Coq au vin, steak tartare, ficelle Picarde, soupe de poisson, Soupe à l'oignon, a newfound favourite is oeuf cocotte. Of course, profiteroles go without saying and Gary’s favourite French dessert, îles flottantes. Ohh don’t forget the specialty from Montélimar, nougat.

A large bowl of French Onion soup served in a cast iron cooking pot with a ladle to help yourself.

A bowl of French Onion soup enjoyed in Arbois

Menu fixe

In France, you will always see a set menu option to choose from in addition to the standard menu. These are usually pretty good value and worth checking out.

Portugal

Ahh, the joy of Portugal, I know that people have been visiting Portugal for decades; however, I still feel that parts of this charming country remain in the grasp of the locals.
 
I mean, how often do you see ladies dressed in day coats washing their garments in a communal washstand. Or a farmer on a horse and cart transporting his bit and bobs around tiny streets.
 
So, then it’s a delight when you find little restaurants, mainly serving locals.

Bifanas, Pregos and Francesinha

Oh, I couldn’t wait to try a bifana when we arrived in Portugal. These tasty little pork sandwich can be found in many places throughout Portugal and often just served as snacks or street food. The spicy pork inside is delicious, I did try to reconstruct this at home, but it wasn’t a patch on the original.

A prego, a Portuguese steak sandwich, served with a side order of potato wedges, at a table outside a cafe in Guimarães

Prego, a steak sandwich in Guimarães

A prego is similar to a bifana; however, the steak used is beef. While we were visiting Guimarães in the north of Portugal, we came across a little eatery Pregaria de Guimarães. The choice of their pregos was amazing, they offered so many twists on the original recipe we were spoilt for choice.

Arrive as early as possible, it was pretty popular.

If you’re visiting Porto be sure to keep an eye out for the Francesinha sandwich, oh, and make sure you are feeling hungry, this is a monster sandwich.

Inside is ham, smoked sausage, regular sausage, steak, cheese then a tomato & beer sauce. If that isn’t quite enough, you can also add an egg on top and a side order of chips, if you wish.

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My friend’s Portuguese husband recommended Café Santiago, so that’s where we headed.

A reference guide

Our recent new found love is Portugal, it is such a beautiful country. While planning our trip, I used the DK Eyewitness books. I find them extremely informative, easy to follow and the pictures and maps tempt you into discovering more.

We used a previous version of this book to plan our north to south Portuguese road trip, now you can grab the revised copy.


On a sweeter note

While we were visiting Aveiro, a colourful town just off of the Atlantic Ocean, we came across some delightful little cabins selling Ovos Moles. Curiosity got the better of me, and we purchased a few in different shapes.

These small local delicacies are bite-size sweets wrapped in rice paper, with a rich egg yolk and sugar filling. They were delicious, and a lovely treat while strolling along the canals.

Now, if you have a sweet tooth or not, I urge you to try Pastel de Nata.
 
They can be found in plenty of bakeries in and around Lisbon; however, the best is produced at Pastéis de Belém in Belém. They have been nurturing these little delicacies since 1837. They are based on the original recipe created by monks from the nearby monastery.

A plate of four Portuguese custard tarts at Pastéis de Belém in Lisbon, Portugal

Our Gadgets

our travelling toolkit

  • 6-Port Desktop USB Charging Station

  • Mini Dual USB Car Adapter

  • Portable Charger 2 USB Ports Power Bank

  • Bose SoundLink Revolve, Portable Bluetooth Speaker

  • USB rechargeable LED Flashlight

  • Collapsible Water Bottle

Other firm Portuguese favourites

Here are some additional dishes that we chose during our visits to Portugal. Some of which are regional, some are national, and some perhaps may not be to everyone’s taste.

A plate of suckling pig, with its crispy skin, served with potato crisps and a twist of orange, in Porto

The first is Bacalhau or Portuguese codfish, then traditionally cooked Piri-piri chicken (not from that well-known food chain). Freshly grilled sardines, especially if you’re sitting along the shores of the Atlantic coast. Last but by no means least is suckling pig, as I said, not quite everyone’s favourite; however, this is a speciality in Porto. Head to Casa Ribeiro if you’d like to try it.

Discover more

If you’re touring Portugal on a road trip, take a look at our post on the UNESCO sites in Portugal. All of them are incredible, I really don’t think I could choose a favourite.

Germany

We’ve regularly visited Germany, though often it is during cooler months. Therefore, the lovely hearty meals of pork knuckle, sauerkraut and potato dumplings are usually a winner. Although I reserve judgement on the potato dumplings.

Sausages

Now I don’t want to be stereotypical here, about Germans and their sausages. However, Regensburg has a ‘Sausage Kitchen’ Historische Wurstküche, which dates from 17th-century. Well, I knew Germans enjoyed their sausages, I didn’t realise they had dedicated kitchens.
A mother and young girl at a sausage stall at the Cologne Christmas market

Saying that we have been visiting various German Christmas markets for over a decade, and the choice and sheer amount available is incredible.

Gingerbread and Pretzels

When I think of Germany and its snacks, gingerbread and pretzels always spring to mind. Every year we have visited the Cologne Christmas market there is a Klein stall selling Aachener Printen gingerbread. Oh, my it is delicious and made from their own recipe.
The Aachener Printen gingerbread stall in Cologne.  It's stacked his with all the different styles of gingerbread biscuits.  The lady behind the counter is handing Janis back her change after we've bought another bag load.

Aachener Printen for sale at the Dom Christmas Market, Cologne

The same ladies are there each year from Aachen, with smiling faces offering a sample of this moreish delight. And every year we can’t resist buying some to bring home.
The Klein Aachener Printen gingerbread shop.  There are many gingerbread shops in town, each selling there own Aachener Printen but Klein is the one we've always brought back from Cologne

A reference guide

I love nothing more than planning a trip and so often I use the DK Eyewitness books.  I find them  extremely informative, easy to follow and the pictures and maps tempt you into discovering more.

We used a previous version of this book to plan our Germany road trips, now you can grab the revised copy.


Schneeballen

Schneeballen is a Franconian delicacy principally found in Rothenburg-ob-der-Tauber in Bavaria. Don’t underestimate these sweet treats they are so filling.
 
It is made from a biscuit short-crust pastry, that is rolled out and cut into strips. Then each strip is twisted around and around and until a ball is created, roughly the size of a tennis ball. It’s then deep-fried until golden brown.

Two cups of hot chocolate to accompany the two chocolate covered schneeballen biscuit balls the size of a snow ball.

To make the schneeball even tastier, it is rolled in a variety of flavours, such as sugar, chocolate and nuts or all three, if you wish. If that isn’t quite enough, you can even have it stuffed.

Tempted to?

Discover the incredible dishes and flavours throughout Europe. Why not jump in a car and tour the country at your own pace. You can do it all on a road trip, Rental Cars cover all budgets and allow you to pick up and drop off at different destinations.

United Kingdom

I couldn’t write a post on traditional dishes and not include the UK. Once again it depends on which part of the UK you are from, to which you would choose. A roast dinner is always popular along with a good’ol pie.

A small portion of Fish 'n' Chips in a cardboard container by the sea at Margate, Kent
However, as we live not too far from the seaside, fish and chips in is most definitely catch of the day, with lashings of salt and vinegar. Oh yes, all the while trying to dodge the incoming seagulls.

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Inspired to by the cuisine in France?

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