We may not be able to roam the world right now, but our taste buds can still transport us to exciting places. Fill your senses with the smells and flavours of food markets, tapas bars and tavernas by bringing some culinary magic from across the continent into your own home. If you love to taste the local cuisine when you’re travelling, these six foodie destinations should go straight on your must-visit list. But for now, whet your appetite with these do-it-yourself recipes - plus regional cooking tips from our lastminute.com team, to give a truly authentic taste of each city.
San Sebastián, or Donostia as the Basques call it, is the new foodie stronghold. The city has the second highest density of Michelin-star restaurants, with three venues adorned with three stars each: Arzak, Akelarre and Restaurante Martín Berasategui. Meanwhile, the well-known Mugaritz is number nine on the list of best restaurants in the world. But you can also find top-quality Basque cuisine in the many tapas bars. The famous Pintxos de Donostia with seafood from the Atlantic, bought fresh from the lively markets of San Martin and La Brexta, are highly recommended. Be sure to try bacalao al pil pil (spicy cod with homemade mayo), brocheta de gambas (tender prawns on a skewer) and pastel vasco (cake filled with vanilla cream).
Home recipe: Tortilla
(1 tortilla, serves 6-8):
Peel and slice 400g potatoes and 1 large onion.
Heat 3 tbsp olive oil and 25g butter in a non-stick pan on low heat. Cook the onion and potatoes for about 20-30 minutes, until soft. Crush a couple of cloves of garlic and add to the pan. Throw in any other vegetables, meat, fish or cheese you’d like in the tortilla. Strain away any excess oil.
Beat 6 large eggs in a separate bowl, season with salt and pepper and chopped flat-leaf parsley, if you have it.
Pour the egg into the pan and cover with a lid. Leave to cook, checking after 20 minutes to see if the egg on top is set, and the bottom is golden. Shake the pan or use a fish slice to ease the tortilla away from the edges.
When ready, place a plate over the pan, making sure it’s totally covered. Then, using oven gloves or a tea towel, flip the pan over and turn the tortilla out onto the plate.
Return the tortilla to the pan, upside down, to cook the other side for a further few minutes.
Turn out onto the plate and cut into slices. The tortilla can be served hot or cold.
This charming city offers everything a foodie heart could wish for: from the typical bouchons with traditionally simple cuisine, to famed restaurants from celebrity chefs and trendy new spots from up-and-coming gastronomers. At the markets in Saint-Antoine and Les Halles de Lyon, not only the locals, but also the chefs de cuisine buy regional specialties: Bresse chicken, carp from the Dombes, mushrooms from Saint-Bonnet-Le-Froid, saucisson brioche or the fragrant Saint-Marcellin cheese. As you’d expect in France, the sweet pastries are also to be tried - don’t miss the tarte aux pralines (almond tart). The Cité de la Gastronomie food museum, which opened at the end of 2019, gives food lovers one more reason to visit Lyon.
Try it at home: Quiche Lorraine
La Grassa, or ‘the fat one’, is Bologna’s nickname, giving you an idea of why the city is loved by foodies! Indeed, gourmands flock to the medieval town in Emilia-Romagna, northern Italy. There is even a food theme park, FICO Eataly World. But for a real taste of the regional cuisine, explore the city centre to discover hidden trattorias and tiny pizzerias between historical facades in Mediterranean tones. There are organised tours, leading you to the best gelato and cheese dairies (in neighboring Modena, they produce the world-famous Parmigiano-Reggiano) or you can just follow your nose. At around 6pm, the traditional aperitivo beckons. Regional delicacies, such as cheese, Parma ham, mortadella and olives, are served with your drink. This is the best way to experience the Bologna cuisine and culture.
Home recipe: Ragù alla Bolognese
Cut 100g pancetta into small cubes and finely chop the vegetables: 1 onion, 2 carrots and 2 stalks of celery.
Put a saucepan on medium heat and first cook the pancetta, using a little olive oil if needed. Add onion to the pan, stirring until it starts to soften. Then, add the carrots and celery.
Add 400g beef or veal mince and turn up the heat, stirring until the meat is brown.
Pour in 125ml wine (white or red), cooking until the liquid has evaporated. Add 150ml beef stock and 30g tomato purée and season with salt and pepper.
Turn down the heat so the sauce is simmering slowly.
Leave for at least 1 hour, then add 125ml milk to the mix, a little at a time. Taste and season as needed.
Boil salted water to cook your pasta. Combine with the sauce before serving.
The relaxed city by the sea with equally relaxed residents has blossomed into a culinary destination. Chef René Redzepi's exclusive restaurant Noma is considered a pioneer of new Nordic cuisine. Cooking is strictly seasonal: from February to June, seafood is served, then vegetables (purely vegetarian and vegan) and from early autumn, game, mushrooms, nuts and berries are served under the title ‘Game and Forest’.
Just as tasty and colourful, are the hip street food markets like Reffen on Refshaleøen. Countless stands offer dishes from all corners of the world: from gourmet hot dogs with crispy onions, or smørrebrød with caramelised pears and cress, to Nepalese vegetable dumplings and Hawaiian shave ice in rainbow colors. There is a party outside in summer, and a friendly atmosphere in the cosy halls during winter.
Home recipe: Remoulade
Finely chop 1 tbsp capers, 2 tbsp pickled gherkin, 1 small onion, a handful of chives, 3 sprigs fresh tarragon.
Mix these together in a bowl with 120ml mayonnaise, 2 tsp Dijon mustard and a squeeze of lemon juice.
Lightly whip 50g cream (or if you'd prefer, use greek yoghurt instead) and fold this into the other ingredients.
Kraków has become a cracking culinary hot spot in Eastern Europe. Quaint taverns with Polish specialties such as pierogi fill the winding alleys of the medieval old town. Try everything from the classic variant with cheese, potatoes, mushrooms and sauerkraut to new creations with game or salmon. There’s even an annual festival dedicated to these delicious dumplings. Fine dining lovers make a pilgrimage to Qrudo Food & Wine in Wąska, where classic Polish dishes are reinterpreted: goat cheese and potato pierogi in truffle butter, guinea fowl breast with millet and cabbage roulade. While you’re there, you should also try bigos: a stew made from sauerkraut, mushrooms, meat and sausage.
Home recipe: Pierogi
(Makes approximately 20 pierogi)
To make the dough, add 250g plain flour to a bowl and make a well in the centre.
Add 1 egg, 1/2 tbsp olive oil and a little warm water, then beat together with the flour. If the mixture feels dry, add more water a little at a time to get the right consistency. If the dough is sticky, add some more flour.
Knead the dough by hand for a few minutes, until smooth and elastic. Roll into a ball and drizzle with some olive oil. Cover, and set aside to rest (preferably for at least 30 minutes).
Choose a filling, combining your favourite flavours - or whatever you have at home - and fry together the vegetables or meat with a little oil or butter, until soft. Season to taste.
Flour your work surface and roll out the dough, to about 3mm thick. Using a cutter or upturned glass, cut out circles approximately 8cm in diameter, saving any excess dough to reuse.
Take a spoonful of your filling and place in the centre of a circle. Fold the dough over from one side to the other, creating a half-moon shape. Pinch the edges together to seal. Place the folded pierogi on a floured tray and cover with a damp cloth while you do the rest.
Once you have filled all the dumplings, bring a pan of salted water to boil. Add the pierogi in batches, boiling for a few minutes each. When they are ready, the dumplings will float to the top. You can also shallow fry the pierogi in a little butter, to reheat them for eating later, or to get a crispy outside.
Extra tip from a local
Maria says: A traditional filling is sauerkraut or cabbage and mushrooms, especially for Christmas. I also recommend trying Pierogi Ruskie (yes, they’re called Russian dumplings!) filled with potato and cottage cheese and served with melted butter. They take a while to prepare but it’s worth doing
Cold-pressed, locally-made olive oil, juicy feta and fresh fish (which pair excellently with Aegean wines!) - the Mediterranean diet is healthy, simple and yet very tasty. No wonder that Greece is experiencing a renaissance among gourmets. The island of Santorini in the South Aegean is particularly gastronomic, as well as eye-catching. The iconic white houses with cobalt-blue domed roofs and magnificent pink bougainvillea shine on steep slopes, overlooking small bays with emerald-colored water. Tavernas line the narrow, winding streets of the small towns - Oia in the north and Fira in the south. Dine al fresco and feast on grilled calamari in garlic oil, lamb marinated with mint, fried sardines or salty sheep's cheese wrapped in spinach.
Home recipe: Fava (split pea dip)
Place 200g of yellow split peas in a bowl (if you can’t find them, substitute lentils or broad beans for a similar texture). Cover with boiling water and stir to rehydrate the peas. Drain and rinse, then set to one side.
Chop 1 red onion and 1 clove of garlic. Place in a pan with 2 tbsp olive oil, a pinch of salt & pepper and 2 bay leaves. Sauté on a high heat for a few minutes until the vegetables soften. Add the split peas to the pan and stir through.
Make up 1 litre of vegetable stock and pour into the pan. Bring to the boil and then turn heat down and allow to simmer, until the excess liquid evaporates.
Remove from the heat and pour into a food processor (or use a hand blender), adding 4 tbsp olive oil, lemon zest and juice of 1-2 lemons. Pulse until smooth and creamy. Taste, adding any more seasoning you need, and leave to cool.
To serve, drizzle with olive oil and top with red onion or roasted tomatoes.