European Cuisine and Recipes
From the warm waters of the Mediterranean to the frigid Finnish frontier, spanning Spanish plains in the west to the Russian steppes in the east, Europe encompasses a dizzying diversity of geography, history, culture and cuisines.
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European culinary history, as with many things European, got its start in Greece. The Greeks in turn strongly influenced the Romans, whose cooking was a version of what we call today the Mediterranean diet — olive oil, whole grains, olives, wine, cheeses, fresh fruits and vegetables.
In Northern Europe, on the other hand, a settled culture came somewhat later. There the diet centered mainly around cattle and sheep, milk, butter, cabbages and root vegetables. The culinary distinctions between northern and southern Europe remain to this day.
Cuisines of Europe
The food of the Czech Republic is as Central European as it gets. Hearty and filling, Czech cooking centers largely around roast meats, dumplings (knedlíky), sausages (vuřty), potatoes, cabbage and sauerkraut, cheese and a delicious variety of pastries, tortes and cakes. Caraway and marjoram are the most popular seasonings for flavoring dishes, especially roast pork. Czechs have a strong pub culture, and small shops selling beer (pivo) and frankfurters (párky) are found in most towns and cities. This quick meal is eaten standing up at counters. Read more »
The butt of endless jokes over the centuries, English cuisine has a reputation of overcooked vegetables, endlessly boiled meats, stodgy puddings and of generally beating the life out of a dish. Not fair! British cooking has enjoyed a renaissance in the last decade or so, with many world-class chefs reclaiming traditional dishes and leading a return to an artisan-based food culture. Read more »
Widely acknowledged to be one of the world's great cuisines, the food of France is also one of the most well known around the world. The French were the first to codify their repetoire into standard recipes. Butter, cream and cheese are used to luscious results in the north of the country. Southern Provencal cuisine works miracles with olive oil, fresh herbs and abundant seafood. Read more »
When you think of German food, does your mind fill with visions of heavy dumplings, boiled meats and dishes with unpronounceable names like Rinderschmorbraten, Pflaumenkuchen and schwartzwälder Kirschtorte? Then you need to look again! What many people don't realize is that German cooking is incredibly varied, flavorful and, yes, quite often light on its feet. Read more »
The roots of Greek cuisine reach back to Classic times and beyond. Typically Mediterranean, the cooking of Greece is centered around heart breads and whole grains, green vegetables, fresh fruits, olive oil, wine and fresh fish and seafood. Herbs collected from the wild flavor dishes and excellent local honey sweetens desserts. Read more »
The Hungarians, purportedly descendants of the clan of the Attila the Hun, have a fittingly hearty and solid cuisine. Meats, dumplings, noodles and stews are central. Peppers are a popular vegetable and are dried and ground to spectacular effect into Hungarian paprika. The Hungarians are famous for pastries and sweets like palascintak and Dobos torta. Read more »
While Ireland was long known as a country of famine and privation — even as a cautionary tale — this proud and poetic nation has recently turned a new culinary corner. Along with this Celtic culinary renaissance has come a reawakening of interest in historical Irish cuisine and a desire to carry it into the future. Read more »
Italian cuisine is all about the freshest, most flavorful ingredients prepared simply yet exquisitely. The food of Italy places a big emphasis on regional specialties and artisanally produced products. Parmesan cheese, balsamic vinegar, Tuscan olive oil and wines up and down the peninsular boot are famous the world over. Pasta is a staple and is made in innumerable shapes and sizes. Read more »
Both Central European and Slavic in character, Polish cooking centers around braised and roasted meats, homemade noodles and a wide variety of cabbage dishes. Polish food is hearty and filling. Many types of sausages, but especially kielbasa, are popular. Dumplings called pierogi are stuffed with both savory and sweet fillings and are boiled and sometimes fried. Sour and heavy cream enrich soups and stews. Read more »
Russian cuisine is vast and varied, a reflection of the fact that its territory spans thousands of miles and numerous cultures. A large portion of Russian dishes — cabbage soups, black bread, buckwheat porridge — have origins in the peasantry. Still others — chicken Kiev, bef Stroganoff, veal Prince Orloff — reflect French culinary traditions imported to the imperial court by Catherine the Great. Root vegetables, poulty, wild game, fish, hearty breads and noodles are popular, as are never-ending shots of vodka. Read more »
The cuisine of Spain is less well known than that of other Mediterranean countries, but Spanish cooking has the Mediterranean emphasis on fresh local ingredients, strong regional traditions and high quality artisanal products. Seafood is abundant on the long coasts. Hearty cocido stews warm up cold winter nights on central plain. Rice dishes are popular around Valencia. Piquillo peppers flavor food in the Basque region. Small dishes called tapas have become popular around the world. Famous Spanish food includes serrano ham, chorizo sausage, Manchego cheese and rioja wine. Read more »
Swede's enjoy a simple, elegant cuisine based on meats, fish and seafood, potatoes, cabbage, root vegetables and a variety of fresh berries. Hearty and warming meatballs and dumplings are popular, often served with cream-based sauces. Tart lingonberry jam is a beloved condiment and cuts through any heaviness. Pea soup is traditional on Thursdays. The Swedish smörgåsbord, a buffet feast, is world-famous. Read more »
Turkey lies at an ancient crossroads of many cultures and empires — Persian, Greek, Roman, Arab, British. The Anatolian peninsula was the center of its own Ottoman Empire for the best part of 600 years. All these influences come together in Turkish cuisine, which is both Mediterranean and Central Asian in nature. Read more »