Amuse Bouche

3 minute read
Michael Brunton, Anthee Carassava, Angela Leuker and Jan Stojaspal

Cyprus Sheftalia This spicy sausage is wrapped in panna — the precious caul fat from a pig — barbecued and served with salad and pita bread. As an appetizer or a main course, sheftalia is best accompanied by a local dry red wine.

Czech Republic Vepro knedlo zelo Any combination of pork, dumplings and sauerkraut is bound to be filling but, carefully prepared, this classic dish should have some finesse, too. Gently roasted pork is mixed with dumplings made from potatoes rather than the more usual bread, while the sauerkraut’s acidity is cut with a little sugar. Wash down with a glass of Pilsner Urquell beer.

Estonia Vere pannkoogid A challenge even to the heartiest carnivore, these “blood pancakes” are made from a batter of pig’s blood, water or stock, barley flour and marjoram. Often served with sour cream and a whortleberry-and-apple salad.

Hungary Pörkölt A stew made from cubed beef (or poultry, pork, mutton or venison) that is slow-cooked in its own juices along with onions, bell peppers, tomatoes and paprika. Served with dumplings or potato gnocchi, pörkölt can range from mild to fiery, depending on the variety of paprika used.

Latvia Lamprey eels On the evolutionary scale, the boneless lamprey is about as low as fish can go. But since Latvia has an abundance of lamprey, it has learned to make the most of them. Fresh from Riga’s huge fish market, they are fried in a mustard marinade, smoked, or jellied and canned. Latvians export their lamprey delicacies throughout Eastern Europe.

Lithuania Cepelinai A traditional staple for manual laborers, cepelinai is made from a mix of raw and mashed potatoes that is formed into oval patties and stuffed with ground beef, cheese or mushrooms and boiled for 30 minutes. Served with bacon.

Malta Stuffat tal-fenek Back when fenek (rabbits) were wild and plentiful, they were an everyday item of the island’s rustic diet. These days, the butcher usually provides the rabbit for this hearty stew that gives its name to the fenkata, a get-together for large groups. The meat is quickly fried before being simmered for an hour or three with vegetables, tomato puree and red wine. The sauce is served on spaghetti as a first course; the meat follows, with potatoes, for the main.

Poland Bigos A traditional family favorite of cubed pork stewed with smoked bacon, sauerkraut, fresh cabbage and mushrooms. Chopped prunes and red wine add richness to the bigos (mishmash), which is cooked in a huge pot and improves with reheating, unexpected visitors — and vodka.

Slovakia Bryndzové halusky Grated raw potatoes are kneaded with salt, flour and milk (or egg) into a loose dough and dropped in small clumps into boiling water. The resulting gnocchi- like halusky is served with bryndza, a soft sheep cheese, and fried bacon bits to make a hearty meal. Slovenia Potica A sweet, light bread dough, filled with chopped walnuts and spices, then rolled up into a log or shaped into rounds for baking. Variations of potica abound in Central and Eastern Europe, but nowhere is it more delicious than in Slovenia, where it’s traditionally served as a festive dish with coffee.

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