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.
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.
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 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 fondue pot at home
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.
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.
Tarte Flambee from Strasbourg
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 bowl of French Onion soup enjoyed in Arbois
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.
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.
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.
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.
our travelling toolkit
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.
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.
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.
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
Aachener Printen for sale at the Dom Christmas Market, 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 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.
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.
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.
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Inspired to by the cuisine in France?
Pack your overnight bag and let’s indulge in a fondue.