4 years, 15 days ago
A guide to cooking and eating like a European foodie in 1000s of Housetrip kitchens this summer.
Working in someone else’s kitchen when they’re hanging around with the ‘I wouldn’t do it like that’ face on, has to be top of the passionate cook’s hate list – along with blunt knives and garlic presses. Cooking in a kitchen on holiday and left to your own devices, on the other hand, should be one of life’s great pleasures. The trick is to lay a few ground rules, accept all will not be as you know it and remember you’re relaxed, so bend like a reed in the culinary breeze – or pour some wine and turn up the music.
It wouldn’t be going too far to say that HouseTrip has 1000s of keen foodie hosts with serious kitchens to prove it. So take a close look at profiles. If the kitchen has pride of place, it’s pretty safe to assume that host knows their way around a local market, understands counter space and probably has a decent stove to play with too. Everything else is down to you and these five fast cheats to owning any holiday kitchen.
We’ll take it for granted you’re not travelling with your own knives and even the best host might not supply a set of super-sharp, professional blades. So first on your supermarket shopping list is a little, multi-purpose knife and a small steel or whetstone to bring any other knives up to standard. If you’re in France, find the preserve making section in any supermarket (miles of empty jars are the usual hint). You want a L’Econome wooden handled knife. They cost about 4 euros, are lethally sharp and do everything from slicing and peeling to chopping and paring. Treat one of these babies with care, never put them in the dishwasher, sharpen regularly and they’ll last for years, promise.
You might not be planning to make all your own bread or rustle up soufflés relentlessly, but any stove that isn’t your stove is worth getting to know. Work out the ways of the burners and try something robust first in the oven to get used to hot spots – stew always has plenty of wriggle room.
The kitchen might be one person’s territory at home, but on holiday you can ease up on that and let everyone join you in. This is only the perfect time for passing on some skills to your kids, making a few mistakes or learning new tricks yourself. And don’t just keep it in the kitchen. Part of the fun of holiday cooking is trying new things. Make local markets part of the experience – if you want to convince a picky five year old ‘weird looking can taste wonderful’, let them choose their own weird.
Have a look at Lavender and Lovage’s website where Karen stores some brilliant ideas on how you can enjoy local food with family or friends on holiday.
Stranger in a strange kitchen? Don’t be shy. If you come across a t-shaped crepe ‘rake’ in a French cutlery drawer, chances are a seasoned crepe pan’s nearby. Chatting, raking and producing professionally filled and folded crepes is very impressive (and really easy). Traditional two handled paella pans are as common as teaspoons in Spanish kitchens and Paella is much simpler to make than anyone ever lets on – masses of room for error, or improv as we like to call it. Try different herbs and spices in marinades – some European cuts of meat need the work. And even the lowliest supermarket will have a decent selection of tempting oil and vinegar, so experiment. We’re prepared to bet good money you’ll find a measure-marked dressing bottle in most European kitchens.
Eating later is easy if you embrace l’apéritif or aperitivo and add snacks. Crudités with simple dips are brilliant for introducing kids to new tastes without a fight. Add a traditional late afternoon goûter into your day to keep things calm until dinner. Go with the custom of seasonal eating – okay, you won’t get strawberries in December but when you do get them in summer you’ll never have tasted anything so good. And don’t forget to save your 5L plastic water bottles, take them to the local cave or bodega and buy wine in bulk – it’s a lot cheaper, more responsible than bottles and calms all new kitchen nerves.
We’ve shared our top tips, now it’s your turn. Get in touch and let us know what holiday cooking cheats you’ll be swearing by this summer.