Northwest European Cuisine can be loosely lumped in three categories: Scandinavia, the countries in the northern parts of Western Europe (specifically The Netherlands and Belgium), and European countries with their own unique cuisines that influenced cooking around the world (France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Portugal, and Great Britain). You know, the ones with boys with boats in the 16th century that were intent on colonizing faraway countries. These locales all share temperate climates, tough growing conditions, direct access to the sea, and in many cases, Vikings.
The cuisines of the Northwestern European countries are diverse, although there are common characteristics that distinguish them from those of other regions. Compared with traditional cooking of most other cuisines, meat is more prominent and substantial in serving size. Western European cuisines also emphasize grapes and sauces as condiments, seasonings, or accompaniments. Many dairy products are utilized in cooking, with butter the favored cooking medium and hundreds of varieties of cheese and other fermented milk products available. While wheat flour bread has long been the staple starch, people also eat breads, flat cakes, and porridge made from rye, barley, and oats. A variety of pastries are also consumed throughout the region.
This section focuses specifically on the cuisines of The Netherlands (Holland aka “Dutch”), Switzerland, and Belgium, as these cuisines are not as world recognized as those of their French, British, and German counterparts. Whereas the Dutch were also 16th century traders with an outsized role in colonizing other countries, especially South Africa and Indonesia, the Belgians were more landlocked and their cuisine more influenced by their neighbors in France and The Netherlands. In both countries, beer is more prevalent than wine and is used both in cooking and for drinking.
Notable Dishes – Dutch Baby (puffed pancakes with fruit), Appeltaart (Dutch apple pie), Stamppot (roughly mashed potatoes and vegetables), Poffertjes (little buttered pancake puffs with powdered sugar), Asperges met Hollandaisesaus (white asparagus topped with Hollandaise, chopped eggs and ham), Beef Bitterballen (fried meatball snack), Snert (split-pea soup), Gegratineerde Witloof au Gratin (baked endives in cheese sauce), Beef Carbonnade a la Flamande (beer-braised beef stew), Sole Meuniere (sole in butter sauce), Mosselen-Friet (mussels with fried potato sticks), Gaufre de Bruxelles (thin waffles with fruit toppings), Truffles (Belgian Chocolates).
MHT European Recipes:
Although the cuisine is often described as simple and the ingredients for most dishes are fairly basic, the food culture of Scandinavia has been perfected over thousands of years and influenced by shared Nordic and Viking traditions. Modern day Scandinavian cooking is refined, complex, and surprising.
Contrary to popular belief, Scandinavian cuisine isn’t limited strictly to fish. The dishes found across Norway, Sweden, Iceland, Denmark, and Finland are made with a variety of ingredients sourced from the land and sea. Known locally as husmanskost (“farmer’s fare”), many dishes feature beets, potatoes, cabbage, onions, mushrooms, cucumbers, apples, berries and nuts paired with a wide variety of seafood, pork, poultry, game, and beef.
Notable Dishes – Wienerbrød (Danish pastry, “Viennese Bread” or “Danish”), Torsk (Danish cod with mustard sauce and boiled potatoes), Smorrebrod (open-face sandwiches of rye bread topped with various meats, fish, egg), Frøsnappere – (Danish seeded pastry twists), Kransekake (Danish ring-shaped layered marzipan cake), Sill (herring eaten raw, pickled or cooked and marinated in sour cream or mustard sauce), Chicken in Gjetost Sauce (Norwegian chicken in caramelized goat cheese), Lutefisk (Norwegian dried fish in birch ash liquor with bacon, potatoes, and peas), Köttbullar (Swedish meatballs of minced pork and lingonberry sauce), Linstroms (Swedish hamburger with beets), Gravlax (preserved salmon), Raggmunk (Swedish potato pancakes), Pannukakku (Finnish baked pancakes), Kanttarellikastike (Finnish wild mushrooms), Toast Skagen (Swedish toast with shrimp, mayonnaise, and sour cream), Kalops (Swedish meat stew), Humarsupa (Icelandic langoustine bisque), Mustikkakeitto (Finnish chilled blueberry soup), Suksesskake (Norwegian almond layer cake), Kanelbulle (Swedish cinnamon bun).
MHT Scandinavian Recipes:
The Northern European Table
Formal European dinners are served in distinct courses. European presentation evolved from bringing multiple dishes to the table at once, into dishes presented sequentially. Usually, dishes are served separately in this order: hors d’oeuvre (appetizer) or soup, entrée (main course), and then a sweet (dessert). Dishes that are both sweet and savory are fairly uncommon. Breakfast is usually rolls with butter and jam (and Nutella) or pastries, sliced meats and cheese, cereal with milk, and coffee. Lunch is either a sandwich or lighter version of an evening meal.