It is starting to get that time of year again. Autumn is here and for most people, that means sweater weather, football, and comfort food.
Kati and I both love European comfort food, though I have to admit Kati is a fanatic. Being born and raised in Germany, she revels in her family traditions. The wide variety coming from so many countries. And well the “comfort” of eating.
As Americans, we have to admit that we don’t have a big food history, nothing that comes on our plate has been here for centuries. But as Americans we get it, we have adapted and made those foods our own, because we can’t just hop on a plane and fly to Europe, yet we would like to zoom-in on these beautiful foods from all over Europe, and who knows, maybe we inspire you to start cooking (you can find recipes all over the internet) or even better, take an adventure and try them.
European comfort food is the best way to feel you are in country and living like a local:
Swiss Cheese Fondue
We call it Swiss, they will forever state they were the first to come up with it. Although we all know how big the French are on cheese as well (but when you think about the French, you should call it Raclette).
The Swiss Cheese Fondue is the one you’ll find at every ski-resort in the Swiss Alps. It is highly enjoyable and it can easily be re-vamped at home. Just make sure you have Swiss cheese, a big pot to melt the cheese in, add some garlic and dry white wine, cut some bread up, and there you have it, your sharable Swiss Cheese Fondue.
As we said, there is a French version named Raclette, often the French combine it with some nice cold meats as well plus this is the raclette you see on those famous Instagram pictures where the waiter will scrape off the top layer of melted delicious cheese on top of your plate. So now you know how to keep them apart, the Swiss dip in a pot full of cheese, the French scrape it off onto your plate. Kati is nuts when we are in Switzerland to have fondue and it is so sociable it is hardly surprising that it has come to the United States in many locations.
The Belgian waffle
Our next European comfort food is the Belgian waffle.
We plead guilty, we eat the Belgian waffle any time of the year, which the Belgians do too, but it is during those cold autumn months that you smell the amazing scent of warm Belgian waffles in the air all over the country.
Doesn’t matter if you visit the famous square in Brussels, walk around in Ghent or sit on a little boat on the canals of Bruges, you’ll just have to follow your nose to one of the waffle vendors.
Just a quick reminder that they have two different kinds of waffles. First, there is the Brussels waffle, this one is the perfect rectangle squared waffle with this tasty little crunch to it. The second one is the ‘Luikse’ waffle and this one already has sugar clumps in it. Both can be upgraded with toppings, and we know you love you Nutella, but keep it Belgian, just add some melted Belgian chocolate to it, we promise it is worth it to keep it traditional (ok, we admit we add Nutella).
Zwiebelkuchen in Germany
Oh this dish. It might look like a dessert when you get a 1-person portion in front of your nose, but this amazing savory dish will warm you up straight away. It is a one-crust onion cake including diced bacon, cream, and caraway seeds. An easy to find dish all over the country. Another one known around the world is the Bratwürst.
This German sausage is the ideal snack or even dinner and very often offered on a little square in the middle of the town and is the perfect comfort food. Please do combine it with an amazing glass of Glühwein.
We do a little cheat trick here because the Glühwein wasn’t invented in Germany (it was invented by the Romans back in the days), yet the Germans definitely made it their own. Just like it says, it is not a drink for children and gets even spiced up with some rum. The other ingredients are obviously red wine, add some star anise for the specific taste and smell, oranges, and a cinnamon stick. Kati loves it all and I have to say I spent too much time eating Bratwurst at the Christmas markets (still trying to work off the added pounds). Be careful with comfort food. It is not always the best thing for weight conscious people. But it was delicious.
We’ll stay in the drinking game and add the British Eggnog to the list of comfort foods. This drink for sure is a heavy not so healthy one and invented in Britain by the monks in around the 13th century.
Just like the drink’s name states, there are indeed eggs in this one. You have to beat the egg yolks specifically to get them to have a nice light yellow color while gradually adding sugar finish it up with heavy cream, whole milk, and some bourbon. Those ingredients tell us one thing, no need to have multiple glasses if you’re trying to be healthy.
Oh The Netherlands, such a beautiful flat country, old houses, and gorgeous tulips. They do however also provide us with an amazing dessert named Poffertjes. People often make it themselves easy and translate them as tiny pancakes, we get it, but let’s just start calling them for what they really are. Poffertjes, the name if a Dutch word and refers to the fact the dough ‘pops up’ which gives them their boll-like shape and the airy part in the middle. You add some chocolate or keep it plain with some icing sugar. They are to die for.
I believe that when Kati dreams, she is dreaming about Truffles. Oh the delicacy, definitely a product that makes the Italians go wild. And who are we to blame them, truffle flakes on top of home-cooked spaghetti or gnocchi is just amazing.
During the months of October and November, you can join fun expeditions to go and find truffles and cook with this ultimate comfort food. We have not done this yet, but it is on our to-do list the next time in the region.
This accompanied by dogs or even big pigs. It for sure is an adventure before you even get to taste them. We know we talked about Italy, yet French and even England have a big truffle tradition as well. Have a look online and search for your best fit regarding the truffles. We order some and use sparingly (they can be very very expensive).
This is according to any Spaniard the winter food that anyone should have and is a perfect comfort food. And it is not just for the adults, the kids love it as well. Back in the day, it was mainly put on the table of low-income families, yet these days people from all walks of life enjoy this delicious dish.
There are many different versions to be found, yet the classic one is an all-time winner and is supposed to date back to the 1800s. The dish comes with an enormous plate of French fries, topped with the perfect fried eggs, and to keep it Spanish all the way, some thin slices of the best Iberian ham. The quality of ham does have an enormous effect on the quality of the dish. The way to find out if the restaurant is of higher quality is that the waiter should break the fried egg the moment he places your plate in front of you.
Hungary and its Goulash it is like the French and their Eiffel tower, and the perfect comfort food.
Goulash is a stew of meat. That simple, not too many different spices, although usually seasoned with paprika.
The goulash dish originated from medieval Hungary and is still a popular meal predominantly to this day. People mainly eat the dish in Central Europe yet it is spreading to other countries as well. Many countries have their own type of meat stew, yet Goulash made its name. It is also super famous due to the fact that when you order Goulash at a restaurant in Hungary, you’ll get it in a bowl made of bread. An original way to serve and definitely Instagram perfect.
There’re not many secrets around making a delicious Hungarian Goulash. All you have to do is is to throw meat, noodles, vegetables, and stock into a pot, season with paprika, and let it simmer until delicious. We told you it is a simple dish. To serve it the way the Hungarians do it, prepare some potatoes or dumplings, put plenty of them on your plate, and to those who like it: add some sour cream, and even some sauerkraut. You’ll be all warmed up on those fall days.
We eat German-style Goulash all the time. It is wonderful.
Fasolada Bean Soup
Greece is known around the world for its tzatziki and moussaka, yet this dish is one to get to know as well.
This humble yet delicious bean soup is one of Greece’s fall / winter dishes known to all and put on the table easily once a week. It sure is a dish that is still eaten by the family. The great thing about this recipe is that you make it with seasonal ingredients like carrots and celery, onions, and olive oil. Included are of course the white beans. The ingredients also make it a perfect dish for the vegetarians among us (we are not BTW) and is known for its filling and nutritional benefits.
A perfect dish for a no-meat day and a perfect comfort food.
Pea Soup Tradition
We move over to the Scandinavian countries where they have a real pea soup day. On Thursday is the day they eat pea soup. These soups are made by dried peas like the split pea and by looking at the color of the soup you’ll be reminded in which country you are. Pea Soup is a Scandinavian comfort food and continues to this day.
The Finnish people have green pea soup, while in Sweden and Denmark they use yellow peas, how about that. The beginning of this story started in the middle ages. Back then it was the tradition that the people ate pea soup on Thursday because the fasting would start on Friday. This way they would be ready for the sober day to come. I
T definitely is a delicious yet easy dish to make to feel all warmed up, with a completely full stomach. Yet don’t just eat too much of that pea soup, safe some space, because traditions want it that you finish your Thursday with pancakes as dessert. These days, you can find this dish very often presented in restaurants during lunchtime. We just want to say that this is one of the best traditions we’ve encountered so far and are so ready to have lunch in Finland once again.
Mushroom Love Affair
When we talk about mushroom love in Europe, we certainly talk about Latvia. Latvians are crazy head over heels about mushrooms. It’s said to be a national obsession.
Due to vast forests in Latvia, there is a forest close to everyone’s home and Latvians will be found in the forest during late summer and autumn. There are more than 300 cap mushroom species are edible and the average Latvian can find 20 to 30 of those species just on a normal forest walk. Mushrooming really is one of the most popular open-air pastimes among Latvians. One of their most famous winter dishes simply consists of their freshly picked mushrooms and potatoes. To cook the mushrooms, they douse them in cream and throw in some onion ( plus ham for the meat lovers) and pour the sauce over boiled potatoes. Another trick, the leftover mushrooms can be frozen and dried.
Kati and her family have been gathering mushrooms in Germany for most of their lives and are obsessed. For her, it is one of the best parts of going home.
Our Final Word
Overall, wherever you are in the world, you will find different traditions and real nostalgia for there own particular comfort foods. For me, being raised in Pennsylvania, it is beef and potatoes. I still think that my mother makes it the best. These foods differ slightly from area to area, country to country, and even household to household. But the one item that is the same no matter where you go – tradition. It is a true love affair to hear Kati speak about her grandmother’s goulash or picking mushrooms in the forest with her family. Traditions. Memories. And great food. It doesn’t get better than that. What are some fall food traditions that you have?
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