Culina Europe: Dine with Europe’s Master Chefs brings together more than 250 recipes from over 100 award-winning chefs in Italy, Greece, Spain, France, Belgium, Germany, Netherlands, Switzerland, Sweden, Denmark, Luxembourg, Great Britain, Portugal, Norway, and Austria. I will be sharing a recipe for Encharcada, a Portuguese egg dessert from Chef Maria Santos Gomes, and other highlights in the book include the Cheese Terrine with Ham and Artichokes from France, Chocolate Soufflé with Walnut Liqueur from Belgium, Quark Strudel with Vanilla Sauce from Austria, Red Beets in Beer Batter with Horseradish Sauce from Germany, Grandmother’s Stinging Nettle Soup from Sweden, and Small Potato Gnocchi with Mushrooms from Italy.
Disclaimer: I received this book from H.F.Ullmann in exchange for my honest review. All comments and opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links.
Chapters are divided based on course: Cold Appetizers, Hot Appetizers, Fish & Seafood, Meat & Poultry, Desserts, Pastries, Basic Recipes, The Chefs, and The Pastry Chefs.
This massive collection in 608 pages showcases creations meant to impress. The recipes are the star with two pages devoted to each, step-by-step photos, and not much fluff in-between. At the end of the book, you will find profiles of the featured chefs with photos and background information along with a glossary of specific techniques.
The photography is provided by Studio Lucien Loeb, Maren Detering. Every single recipe includes a photo of the finished dish along with step-by-step photos to help with the technique and another smaller photo of the ingredients. The name of each dish is listed in English or the original language. Headnotes are included with historical information and tips. There is a label with 1-3 stars to indicate the level of difficulty and the name of the chef and the country of origin are listed in the bottom left corner. Measurements are provided in US Customary and Metric, though the use of a kitchen scale is strongly encouraged.
This book is a great pick for those looking to improve their skills with an assortment of impressive European dishes and desserts. The difficulty level listed at the top of each recipe is particularly helpful as guidance. The methods aren’t always written in the clearest manner and assume that the reader already has a basic knowledge of the kitchen. Some dishes use minimum ingredients created in a way to highlight their natural flavors while others have long lists of ingredients with even longer preparations. I particularly loved the pastry section with the stunning cakes and garnishes. I am looking forward to working my way through the chocolate art and other decorations in particular. For a few of the recipes, especially the desserts, you may have to flip to the basics section to complete some of the foundations to complete the dish. Many of the ingredients can be found in the average American grocery store, but a few may require further searching such as crème fraîche, Périgold truffles, certain cuts of meat and seafood, hop shoots, quail eggs, Naoussa Boutari, star anise, hazelnut oil, sour cherry jam, currants, and more.
Encharcada is a Portuguese dessert consisting of beaten egg yolks cooked in a sugar syrup lightly flavored with cinnamon. This incredibly rich and sweet dish was provided by Chef Maria Santos Gomes. She set up her restaurant Conventual, The Convent, in a former monastery and highlights this dish (invented by religious orders in the 17th-18th centuries) as a specialty.
Overall, this is an easy dessert to make with only 4 ingredients. It does use a whopping 15 egg yolks, so this would be the perfect recipe to make when you have yolks leftover after making a meringue or something else requiring a lot of egg whites. Since the eggs are the star, try to use the freshest eggs you can find- particularly local and pasture-raised.
I also made the Sheep’s Milk Cheese Ravioli with Yellow Pepper Cream, Tomato Soup Alentejo, Gramigna with Mild Bacon and Balsamic Vinegar, and Tiramisù Bianco. I didn’t realize until I was typing up this review that I stuck to two countries out of fifteen. Apparently I was in an Italian and Portuguese mood over the past couple of weeks.
The Sheep’s Milk Cheese Ravioli with Yellow Pepper Cream Sauce comes from Marco Cavalucci of Italy. A basic pasta dough is filled with a mixture of seasoned ricotta and aged sheep’s milk cheese. It is topped with a blended yellow pepper cream sauce and strips of red pepper. I loved the combination of cheese-filled pasta with the mild and slightly sweet peppers.
The Tomato Soup Alentejo comes from Maria Santos Gomes of Portugal. This thick tomato soup is seasoned with peppers, onions, and garlic. It is served over slices of country bread and poached eggs for a light summer-time lunch.
The Gramigna with Mild Bacon and Balsamic Vinegar comes from Romano Tamani of Italy. This one was one of my favorites. Gramigna is a type of pasta, sold fresh or dried, that is hollow and shaped like couch grass with a little twirl at the end. The dried version is not available here and I don’t have the machine to make my own, so the kids and I formed the plain and spinach pastas into little short pieces. If you don’t wish to make your own pasta, Romano Tamani also states that you can substitute with durum wheat spaghetti that has been broken into pieces. The pasta is tossed with bacon that has been braised in a reduced balsamic vinegar sauce and topped of with grated Parmesan cheese.
Tiramisu Bianco comes from Flavio Perbellini in Italy. A Savoy sponge cake base is cut into three layers and soaked in a coffee syrup. The cakes are layered with a light mascarpone cream and topped with flaked, toasted almonds. This cake was light and decadent all in one. I loved the addition of the toasted almonds to add a bit of texture and nuttiness.
Encharcada (Portuguese Soaked Eggs)
Adapted from Culina Europe
2 cups (500 grams) granulated sugar
2 cups (500 ml) water
1 small cinnamon stick
15 egg yolks
In a wide pot, heat the sugar, water, and cinnamon stick over medium heat.
In a large bowl, beat together the egg yolks until smooth.
Once the sugar has dissolved into the water and small bubbles start to appear, remove and discard the cinnamon stick. Pour the beaten egg yolks through a fine mesh sieve into the hot syrup.
Reduce the heat to low/medium-low and simmer the mixture, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon and scraping the edges to prevent a crust from forming, until the eggs are cooked through and only a little syrup remains.
Transfer the Encharcada among 4 broil-safe bowls and broil briefly over low heat until the tops are golden.
Serve immediately garnished with ground cinnamon.