Hi guys! Sarah here. After many requests, Pat finally got around to sharing the recipes behind all the fabulous dishes you’ve been seeing on our Facebook Page. So without further ado, here are our favorite European recipes, straight from the chef himself!
So, as you’ve probably put together by now, we LOVE to eat.
One of my favorite parts of this whole ‘nomad lifestyle’ thing has been going all-in on the local dishes in each place we visit. Whenever we get to a new spot, I love to interact with other chefs and locals at the markets and talk to them about their favorite traditional recipes and, hopefully, convince them to share some of those elusive ‘special ingredients’. Easier said than done, but with a little luck, and some good old-fashioned awkwardness due to language barriers, I’ve been able to come up with a few recipes of my own for some of our favorite European meals and snacks.
Although we’re a few steps above backpacking, our apartments are a few steps below ‘luxurious,’ so in reading the recipes below, keep in mind our kitchens and supplies have been limited (i.e. I’ve had to improvise!).
First up, our favorite snack from Portugal: “Croquetas”
I’m well aware that the origins of croquettes came from a couple countries east of Portugal, but still, the Portuguese take and variations on this famous French snack got us hooked. We haven’t found croquettes like the ones they make in Portugal anywhere else, so I had to make them from scratch because we were craving them so much. My particular favorite flavor of ‘croqueta’ is wild boar and rapini (a wild combination, I agree), but those weren’t available in Croatia (where I made them) so after talking with a few local pastry shop owners and a little help from the Google machine, I came up with a solid recipe for ‘croquetas de carne’ (beef croquettes).
1/2 lb ground beef
3 oz sausage (any type)
1 bunch parsley (finely chopped)
1/2 onion (minced)
2 cloves garlic (mined)
4 oz bread
1 1/2 cup milk
3 eggs (1 yolk, 2 whole eggs, for egg wash)
Chicken or beef stock (reduced to broth for more flavor)
Boil milk and pour over chopped bread to soak. Process meat and sausage in a food processor until smooth paste forms. Set aside.
Process minced onions and garlic to paste-like texture, then cook in large sauté pan. Once cooked through, add meat “paste” and brown throughout.
Add in parsley soaked bread (that has also been blended until smooth), salt and pepper to taste, and chicken/beef broth. Mix well.
Simmer on low heat for 3 to 5 minutes. Add butter and flour and mix well. Let this cook for a few more minutes, and continue mixing to maintain the smooth/paste texture. Transfer the mix into a dish and place in the fridge to cool (the paste should look white in color).
Once cooled, set up your breading station with one bowl for flour, one bowl for egg wash and one bowl for panko breadcrumbs. Take small portions of your mixture, form into a ball, and dip into each bowl (first flour, then egg, then breadcrumbs). Once all are breaded, place on another dish and freeze them for 25 minutes.
Heat up oil in a pot or large pan. Take the croquettes from the freezer and fry them until golden brown. Enjoy!
Spain – ‘Tortilla de Patata”
Ahhhhhh, glorious slices of potato heaven. These bad boys are incredible, and super easy to make. They can be as plain as potatoes and eggs, but I like to jazz things up a bit by adding cured ham (we’ve already gone over the whole Spain/ham obsession), tomato and paprika (and whatever else happens to be in our fridge that’s edible at the time). Have fun!
3 potatoes (medium size)
1/2 onion (finely chopped)
Salt & Pepper (to taste)
1/2 tomato (finely chopped)
1/4 cup chorizo
3 tbsp chopped cheese (whatever your preference)
Garlic powder (a few pinches)
Paprika (one pinch)
Parsley (fresh or dried)
Slice potatoes into thin pieces and boil them until they are cooked, but not mushy. Take your chorizo, chopped onions and tomatoes, and sauté them in a pan. Whisk your eggs thoroughly in a separate bowl.
When the potatoes are done, strain them and put them in a bowl that’s large enough to hold all of the ingredients. Add your sautéed chorizo, onions and tomatoes, and your whisked eggs all into the bowl with the potatoes. Mix them thoroughly.
Have a sauté pan well-buttered so nothing sticks to the sides, then add your mixture to the pan. Cook for a few minutes, turn the heat down to semi-low, and cover the pan. If the “top” of the tortilla (see image) doesn’t fully cook, place a large plate over the top of the pan, and CAREFULLY flip it quickly so the tortilla falls onto the plate. Then, slide it back into the pan to cook the other side for a few more minutes.
Finally, ‘flip’ it back out of the pan and slice it like a pie. We love this as a breakfast dish, but honestly, you could eat it anytime of day!
Croatia – “Sarma”
Considering how small Croatia is, geographically speaking, it’s incredible how many different cultural influences there are on its cuisine. Every region sticks to its distinct specialties, but there are some country-wide traditions and holidays where everyone eats the same dish. Sarma is one of those.
Traditionally served on Christmas Day, these delicious rolls of pickled cabbage leaves contain veal and pork, cooked in a tomato sauce with onions, carrots, speck and sauerkraut. The smell is interesting, to say the least, but it tastes delicious.
As to what to serve them with, I’ve seen a few different things ranging from mashed potatoes to polenta, and even an herbed yogurt with arugula (amazing). Give Sarma a whirl for your next gathering, but make sure you cook it the night before, as more flavor develops the longer they sit!
1 head of pickled cabbage (best ones are 1kg (2lbs)
2 lbs minced meat (1 lb pork, 1 lb veal)
1 medium onion (minced)
4 garlic cloves (minced)
7 oz pancetta (finely diced)
1 bunch parsley (finely chopped)
1 cup rice (uncooked)
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp pepper (or to taste)
2 tsp salt (or to taste)
1 tsp celery seed
1 tsp fennel seed (ground)
1 tbsp sweet smoked paprika
1 tbsp chili powder
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp breadcrumbs
3 oz pancetta
2 medium onions (chopped)
1 bunch parsley (chopped)
14 oz tomato puree
2 large carrots (finely diced)
1/2 lb sauerkraut (rinse thoroughly)
2 tbsp salt
2 tbsp pepper
Peel the leaves of the pickled cabbage and rinse thoroughly. Pat to dry.
Add all ingredients for the filling (minus the uncooked rice and egg), mix it all together and quickly cook it in a pan. Add any additional seasonings to taste, then mix in the egg and rice. Grab a small amount of the mixture and roll it into the cabbage leaf (tightly). Keep rolling until all the meat or cabbage leaves are gone. If you have extra meat mix, just add it to the sauce.
Coat a large pot with olive oil and turn on medium heat. Add pancetta and cook until fat starts to come out. Add your onions and carrots and sweat them in the fat/oil. Add sauerkraut and mix everything together.
Form a layer on the bottom of the pan, then begin stacking your rolled cabbage. Note, this recipe is for a large amount of rolls, so if you don’t have a large enough pot, either split them up into two pots or adjust the recipe for a lesser quantity.
Once the rolls are stacked in the pot, add the tomato puree and water to fill until all rolls are covered. Cover the pot and leave it on low heat. Do not stir, but give the pot a little shake periodically while cooking to gently move the rolls without breaking them.
Cook in the pot for about three hours. Once finished, remove the rolls very gently and place them in another pot to rest before eating. Personally, I recommend letting them rest overnight, then reheating them the next day.
As I mentioned above, this recipe is for a large amount of Sarma, as this dish is traditionally for large gatherings and parties. Adjust your portions for smaller amounts if need be, or make them for your next party and impress your friends with your worldly cuisine knowledge!
Croatia – Pašticada
We have two Croatian dishes here because we’ve been in Croatia the longest, so it’s fresh in my mind. Also, I heard so much about this dish from everyone I talked to in Split, so I had to try it out for myself and see what all the fuss was about.
A husband/wife duo who own a restaurant in Split’s Old Town recommended a marination time of at least 12 hours, but really insisted that I let the beef marinate for a full 24 hours if possible. Also, the lowest of heats is always recommended when braising, but it’s very much insisted upon by Croatian locals. I followed their lead, and so should you. Have fun with this one!
2 cups red wine
1 1/2 cups red wine vinegar
1 cup olive oil
2 tbsp salt
2 tbsp pepper
4 bay leaves
1 bunch thyme
4 garlic cloves (crushed)
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp cloves
2 tsp juniper berries
1 cinnamon stick
1 1/2 – 2 kg top round, rump or flank steak (it really doesn’t matter, it’s being braised for hours)
2 large onions (rough chop)
2 medium/large carrots (rough chop)
4 garlic cloves (rough chop)
2 stocks celery (finely diced)
1 leek (finely diced)
1 can of tomato (small can)
1 oz tomato paste
6 dried figs (finely diced)
2 tbsp mustard
1 apple (chopped)
1 tsp cooking chocolate (75%)
2 tbsp sugar
Salt & Pepper (to taste)
.3 oz cloves
1 bunch parsley
1 bunch thyme
2 bay leaves
3 sprigs rosemary
Mix all ingredients for marinade into a large bowl. Add steak and let it sit for 24 hours.
After the meat has marinated, take it out and rinse off the seasonings. Get a wide pot, turn on heat to medium/high and brown meat with oil. Once it’s browned on all sides, take the meat out and toss in the veggies to sweat thoroughly. Deglaze with red wine and allow it to reduce by one-third.
Place the meat on top of the veggies and fill with water, adding your figs, apples and spices along with it. Bring it all to a boil, then reduce to low heat and cover (the lower the heat, the better). Braise for 3 to 5 hours.
Once the meat is tender (falling apart), take it out and find all the bay leaves, rosemary and thyme and discard (making a sachet speeds up this process). You can leave the parsley in if you want to. Add the sugar and chocolate.
Transfer the liquid into a blender until its chunky but smooth. Return the sauce to the pan and taste. It should have a little heat, sweet and sour taste to it. Add additional flavors/spices as needed or preferred, and turn the heat to low.
While the meat/sauce is cooking, go ahead and get started on your side dish: gnocchi. This is what it is typically served with, but you could substitute for what ever you’d like.
2 lbs potatoes (peeled and roughly chopped)
2 egg yolks per pound of cooked potato
Parsley, thyme and rosemary (finely diced)
2 tsp truffle shavings (optional)
Flour (to feel)
This is a delicate process that requires some attention. Boil your potatoes to slightly past the “medium-rare point” (edible, but still firm). Run the potato through a ricer until smooth and add egg yolks. Start with one cup of flour (you’ll need more eventually) and mix it all together thoroughly. Continue adding flour until it forms a dough-like texture, but is still delicate to where it could fall apart. Cut the ‘dough’ into sections, roll into ‘ropes’ and cut into bite-sized pieces.
Bring a pot of water to a boil, and try to time it right so there isn’t a lot of waiting time for the dough. Boil a small handful at a time. When the pieces rise to the top, wait 15 seconds, remove from the boiling water and place them into a bowl of ice water. Once all are cooked and chilled, set them on a cookie sheet / pan to dry. Get a large pan, brown a little bit of butter and sauté the gnocchi until they are crisp. Set aside and finish the meat.
When plating, place your gnocchi on first, and put the meat and sauce on top. Sprinkle a little parmesan cheese and dig in!
So there you have it – some of our favorite dishes from our European travels (thus far). We are heading to Italy and France this summer, so there will be another recipe blog coming soon. Until then, give these a try and let me know what you think! Feel free to reach out with any questions, and we’d love to see your finished creations in the comments section below!
Cheers (and bon appétit!)