(35) Bosnia and Herzegovina – Kvrgusa

Bosnia and Herzegovina is a country located on the Balkan Peninsula in southeastern Europe. Its name translates to water, earned for its density of lakes, rivers and waterfalls. It also contains what is considered Europe’s last remaining rain forest know as the Perućica that houses trees over 300 years old.

The Perućica- https://thesrpskatimes.com

The dish I decided to cook is called Kvrgusa. It’s similar to a chicken pot pie, but instead of the crust surrounding the filling, the batter is first laid down and then the filling is added which bakes as more of a single layer. The recipe referenced is here. The process was simple, I started by mixing the few ingredients for the batter until it was a pancake mix consistency.

The recipe called for a small amount of vegeta seasoning. I didn’t have this, but a quick search online gave a common list of ingredients for vegeta such as turmeric, salt and garlic. I used quite a bit more seasoning than what the recipe called for. Chicken was then placed into the batter and then popped into the oven. Off note- the traditional recipes often call for a whole chicken being parted or at least bone-in chicken. We had boneless chicken breasts so this is what I used. You need to be careful not to overcook the chicken when substituting boneless pieces.

After the dish had cooked to a browned crust an additional layer of sour cream and milk is added and the dish is then returned to the oven for another 5-10 minutes.

The verdict: Even with the additional milk and sour cream the dish was dense and lacked the creaminess of the chicken pot pies I’ve grown up with. This may have been due to the pan not being big enough, resulting in a thicker pie. Despite adding more seasoning than what the recipe called for I still found the dish rather bland.

Final score 4.5/10

(34) Czech Republic – Vepřo Knedlo Zelo

Konopiste Castle. Source: RoadAffair.com/Martin Mecnarowski / shutterstock.com

To start off this week we will be cooking a dish from The Czech Republic, a country where beer is cheaper than water! Yes you heard that right, beer is a biiiig deal here. It is consumed more by the Czech people than any other place in the world. Czechia is located in Central Europe bordered by Austria, Poland, Germany, and Slovakia. Its capital, Prague is well known for its history and medieval beauty complete with cobblestone streets and gothic churches. It is home to the most castles in Europe topping 2,000!

To honor this historic country I made their national dish- Vepro Knedlo Zelo. This literally translates to its ingredients- roasted pork, bread dumplings and sauerkraut. In the Czech culture meals are often served in several courses. First you start with a soup, then you get your main course, and afterwards either more commentary sides or a dessert. The recipe I followed had a stewed sauerkraut which made it sweeter and less potent smelling (thank goodness).

It took me several hours to complete this dish, however most of the work was done by my stove and the heat of my apartment. It can be done in a way that allows for you to go from one thing to the next seamlessly, that means something coming from me! The pork was able to roast while the sauerkraut and onions cooked and the dumpling dough was rising. It was an apartment full of wonderful smells!

I used this recipe to make the bread dumplings and ended up buying gluten flour for the first time ever.. my stomach has been getting more tolerant to my gluten-eating ways. Back to the dumplings- the proving is an important part of this process and gave me enough to make three large dumplings (they almost double in size when in the boiling water). I decided to freeze one for later since European dishes can often have these accompany the entrée to soak up all of the wonderful sauce!

I will admit the sauerkraut tasted much better after the cooking process, better than I had expected. I was also pleasantly surprised by the dumplings and how large they had become by the end of all the proving and cooking. The meat was slightly dry, but that was probably due to an error on my part.

The flavors worked well together, and we quickly discovered stacking each element on top of each other was an effective way to eat the dish. I still think cabbage is not my thing, sorry fellow Czechs! We rated this dish 6.25/10.

(30) Switzerland – Cheese and Onion Pie

Lake Geneva Source: Family Traveler

Welcome to our 30th country Switzerland! Switzerland is situated between Italy, France, Germany, Austria, and Liechtenstein. Here you can find 7,000 lakes, Lake Geneva being the largest at 45 miles max length and 8.7 miles max width. Surprisingly all of those mountains and lakes fit into a country that is roughly the size of New Hampshire and Vermont combined. This country is like much of Europe- stunning landscape and mouth-watering food. This dish is just that!

I found an incredible recipe for this cheesy masterpiece and I could not pass it up. This dish is a combination of caramelized onions that are sautéed in butter and light beer, Swiss and cheddar cheeses, eggs, Dijon mustard, Worchester sauce, and sour cream that is encased in pastry crust.

You might be thinking yikes this is a heavy dish, but don’t worry a side of soup or salad helps brighten and lighten it up. I was thankful for my very efficient Kitchenaid shredding attachment that made prepping a breeze! I highly recommend this if you don’t already own it.

I ended up opting out of making a homemade crust and used the Pillsbury pre-made crusts to save time. I thought it was fairly straight forward and we couldn’t wait to try it!

So as you may have predicted this recipe was a success and very savory. It has a rich, creamy texture and reminded us of French Onion soup in pie form. It was so good that we both went for seconds (which I never do). We rated highly at 8.75/10.

(28) Bulgaria – Kebapcheta and Shopska Salata

Bolata beach along the Black Sea. Source: Eff it I’m on Holiday

Onto our 28th country- Bulgaria! This Balkan country is known for having the second richest natural mineral springs, producing 85% of the world’s rose oil, and bordering the Black Sea. Bulgaria is also one of the oldest European countries estimated to by established in 681 A.D. This country has Greek, Ottoman, Persian, and Slavic influence that definitely impacts their cooking style and flavors.

For Bulgaria I made two smaller dishes that worked well together and are very traditional to the country. The first part of this meal is kebapcheta a minced beef sausage that is well seasoned with paprika, cumin, and a little bit of clove. The name kebapcheta is derived from the word kebab, -che meaning small aka small kebab! Typically they are served as three with a side of chips (fries).

The traditional way to cook these little guys in on a grill, but I decided to put my new air fryer to use! 8 minutes later and some flipping mid way they were done!

The second part of the meal was shopska salata, an easy to assemble salad that is made up of the three colors of the Bulgarian flag (I accidently grabbed an orange pepper, silly me) – red, green, and white! Chopped cucumber, tomatoes, pepper, and onion are the base of the meal. Parsley and a good amount of feta is mixed throughout. Vinaigrettes are great to use as a dressing, but any light dressing will work!

Together it makes a beautiful spread! We thought the meat was well seasoned, the salad was refreshing and crisp, and the fries obviously did not take away from the meal. It was quick and simple so this is another great option for week night cooking. We rated it 7/10.

France Day 4 – Cognac Shrimp With Beurre Blanc Sauce

🧈🧈🧈WARNING, this recipe contains A LOT of butter!🧈🧈🧈

Recipe can be found here

Bonjour! We are ending the week with a lesser known dish that honors the mighty shrimp. This incredibly easy and flavorful dish can be whipped up in less than 45 minutes. All you need is shrimp, shallots, white wine, cognac (or similar brandy), lemon juice, heavy cream and LOTS of butter!

The beurre blanc sauce originates along the Loire Valley region of France. It’s comprised of a wonderful balance of acidic and rich flavors that transforms the simple shrimp to a creamy decadence.

As you probably guessed the cooking of shrimp in cognac brandy originated in Cognac, France. This added a nice sharpness to help contrast the sauce. I served this with toasted baguette and salad. Ian discovered leftover risotto paired well also.

We rated this final dish 7/10, although it left we feeling surprisingly full! We enjoyed the buttery sauce and found it was essential to dip the baguette in leftover sauce on the plate. This is a nice, straight forward meal that can be made during the week or a lazy weekend!

France Day 2 – Ratatouille

Day 2 of French cooking brings us to Ratatouille, a vegan dish that reminds me think of the Disney Pixar movie. In the movie, this was the dish that was served to Ego the harsh food critic and ultimately thawed his ice cold heart. I will admit I did play this movie while I was prepping the vegetables and it made me feel like a kid again!

Ratatouille hails from the providential region of Nice dating back to the 18th century. The name ratatouille is made up of the two French words rata (chunky stew) and touiller (toss up food). This is yet another modest peasant dish that has been elevated to a fine dinning experience. This meal often consisted of the farmers leftover harvest and can be made from using various different vegetables. I went by this recipe which used the more typical eggplant, zucchini, summer squash, potato, and red pepper. This is then placed on top of a tomato sauce and can be served with fish, meat, or rice.

After you have used your mandolin or sliced each vegetable very finely you start to assemble your ratatouille.

Voila! What a piece of art! I topped it off with salt and pepper before covering it to cook in the oven for almost an hour. When it was done cooking I served it with risotto!

We thought it was a nice vegetarian option and liked how with every bite you could taste each vegetable. Next time I would use more sauce. We rated the dish 6.5/10, a nice healthy option for dinner 😋

(26) France Day 1 – Boeuf Bourguignon (Julia Child Recipe)

It is an exciting week here at The Messy Aprons- we have arrived in France! I absolutely love French food (and wine) and can not wait to try cooking some classic French dishes. Before I dive into today’s meal I want to talk about a little more about France.

Chateau des Ducs de Bretagne- Nantes, France. Source: Trip.com

France is part of Western Europe and actually is the largest European country. It also is the most popular place to travel in the world, Paris being a top destination. France is well known for its top notch wine and cuisine along with incredible historic museums and culture. There are several French inventions that we use on a daily basis such as the stethoscope, braille, pasteurization, food preservation/tin cans, and sewing machines to name a few. Above is a picture of a medieval castle complete with water mote in Nantes, France. Nantes is were my ancestors originate from and I have a special dish dedicated to that region to finish our week!

Calling Julie and Julia fans- I channeled my inner Julia Child today when making her adored Beef Bourguignon! I definitely watched the movie the night prior to get me in the right spirit! This hearty beef stew originates in the province of Bourgogne, France where wine and beef are high quality. This dish dates back to medieval times as a common peasant food. They would combine tougher pieces of beef with vegetables cooking for long periods of time in order to save meat that may had gone to waste. Fast forward to the 1960s when Julia Child put her own spin on the dish. This recipe can be found here and to watch Julia make it herself you can find the video here. Since I don’t own a Dutch oven I opted to slow cook mine on high (this is around 300 degrees depending on your model/make) for the same amount of time.

Boeuf Bourguignon is a timely process that consists of slow cooking dried beef (key step!) that has been browned in butter then bathed in a red wine sauce.

Shallots and mushrooms are prepared separately and added into the dish once the slow cooking is complete. The red wine is an important element which brings a rich flavor to the meal. You better believe your kitchen is going to smell like a slice of French heaven by the time you’re done!

I referenced Julia’s video and recipe to get a better understanding of how to process each aspect of the meal. Julia suggests slitting the bottom of each shallot of making a small “x” prior to cooking them so they will stay whole. I simmered mine in beef stock as the recipe suggested.

Watching Julia Child for reference

As for the mushrooms I followed Julia’s video once again, taking care to wash and dry the mushrooms as she does. I will admit I am not a mushroom fan, but I was hopeful that the lovely wine sauce would help distract me from the texture.

I served my stew with a French baguette, side salad, and a glass of that red wine (obviously!). It was so savory and delicious, each part of the stew melting in our mouths!

The red wine brought a unique yet very appreciated flavor and it was well seasoned. I have to admit I did not like mushrooms, but after having this meal my mind has been changed. I mean how could something taste bad after being sautéed in butter?

We rated this dish 8.25/10 and I would definitely make it again! Next we will try another peasant dish.. the well known ratatouille!

(23) Norway – Creamy Salmon Bake

Trollstigen Road Source: Photophique – Natalia Eriksson

Here we are back in Europe with a salmon dish. Similar to its neighbor, Norway traditionally has salmon dishes to represent their nation. Interestingly, Japan did not use salmon when making sushi until it was suggested in 1980s by Norwegian delegation- this not only created a popular sushi, but helped out the overwhelming amount of farmed salmon. Norway is a part of Scandinavia and has a dramatic landscape that I wish I could place myself in.

To represent Norway and its famous salmon aquaculture I made a creamy salmon bake. In Norway, salmon is a true staple in their diet which could be eaten for any meal of the day. For this dish salmon lies on top of potatoes, onions, dill and cream cheese and is bathed in eggs and milk. I was unable to use true Norwegian salmon, but made up for it with wild caught Maine salmon- the next best thing!

Once again salmon and dill make a wonderful pair. We liked the creamy texture the dish had and how well all the aspects of the dish played together. It did not blow either one of us away, however it was an easy meal to prepare during the week and was tasty! We rated it 6.5/10.

(20) Finland – Lohikeitto

Finland is a northern European country and it’s known for more than just polar plunges and saunas. Recently Finland has been repeatedly rated as the happiest country in the world. We think it may have something to do with this soup!

Helsinki Finland Tech
Finland’s capital Helsinki. Credit www.pymnts.com

Lohikeitto is a traditional Finnish salmon soup that is packed full of flavor. This soup reminded me a lot of the Greek Avgolemono soup. It was creamy and hearty, but not too heavy. Enough rambling, here is how simple this recipe is.

Start by sautéing the sliced leek in butter.

Add fish stock or water to the leeks once they become translucent. Bring this to a boil and add potatoes and carrots. Once the potatoes are almost fully cooked add your salmon and heavy cream.

Finally, the addition of fresh dill transforms the dish into something more bright and refreshing. You can find the recipe here.

In nontraditional fashion I chose to add a splash of lemon juice, because I love how it compliments fish.

There is no doubt we will be making this soup again. Simple and delicious!

Score 8/10

(19) Kosovo -Tavë Kosi

Welcome to another day in Europe! Today we are in Kosovo, the second youngest country in the world. It gained independence from Serbia in 2008 (although not all countries view it this way). This little Balkan country is roughly the size of Delaware. The name Kosovo is derived from Serbia meaning “field of black birds.” Below is a picture of the stone bridge of Prizren which sits in the center of this very historical city.

Prizren, Kosovo. Source: Chasing the Donkey

To honor this little known country I will be making tavë kosi. This dish is a national dish of Albania technically, but due to recent independence it was hard to find a truly authentic Kosovan dish. The dish is thought to have been created back in the 14th century when lamb was being marinated in yogurt in preparation to feed the sultan. Leftover grilled lamb was then baked with yogurt and voila the dish was born!

I used this recipe from a fellow international food blogger and it was very easy to follow! I personally added extra oregano and nutmeg because I enjoy those flavors. The four cups of yogurt equaled an entire large container for this recipe. I also substituted stewing beef for lamb which I thought worked well.

Layer one
Layer two
Done!

We were surprised with how good this dish tasted! It was well seasoned, rich and creamy with slight sourness on top and the beef was tender and had a wonderful flavor from the garlic and butter. I did not prepare this meal with any side dishes, but I would recommend a side dish of salad or cooked vegetables to balance it out. We rated the dish 7.5/10 👍👍