Location: Western Europe, between France and Germany
Capital: Luxembourg City
Geography: A hilly, forested nation and one of the smallest in Europe
Language: Luxembourgish, French, German
Signature flavours: Dairy, pork, beef, apple, potato, cabbage, Riesling, strawberry, stone fruit, savory
On a warm June day (not so many days ago at the time of writing this), Eric and I ducked our heads as we entered an ancient limestone sea cave. A painted sign on the rock proclaimed it to be called Hohllay. We were in Berdorf, a region in Luxembourg just a stone’s throw from the German border.
Our short trip to Luxembourg was punctuated with many delicious meals, but not one of them was Luxembourgish. Foreign nationals make up roughly fifty percent of the population, so it’s hardly surprising that we found excellent Portuguese, Thai, and Turkish food. The reason for our missing the local fare was down to my not eating meat — the traditional dishes are almost entirely that. When Eric took on the Luxembourg assignment (weeks before we ever set foot in the country), he had to work hard to build a menu that was Luxembourgish and pescatarian friendly.
Because of where it is situated, Luxembourg has a cuisine influenced by both France and Germany. Eric’s menu aimed to showcase both sides of that culinary history.
Bouneschlupp: A creamy soup loaded with potatoes, (vegan) sausage, French beans, and plenty of savory.
Prep and cooking time: 40 min
Friture de la Moselle with Riesling sauce: Deep fried river perch drizzled with a tarragon, shallot, butter, and Riesling cream sauce.
Prep and cooking time: 30 min
Rhinelander Sauerkraut: Red cabbage lightly pickled in vinegar with Riesling wine and apples.
Prep and cooking time: 10 min
Boiled Potato: A staple of much of the region, boiled potatoes were a must as part of our Luxembourg experience.
Prep and cooking time: 20 min
Apfelmus: Applesauce (Golden Delicious apples were the recommended variety) spiced generously with cinnamon and nutmeg, served warm.
Prep and cooking time: 60 min
Stäerzelen: Literally “spoonful”, these little buckwheat dumplings are pan fried in butter and served alongside (soy) bacon and heavy cream.
Prep and cooking time: 30 min
Quetschentaart: An elegant plum tart topped with a sweet crumble. Luxembourg boasts a plethora of fruit tarts, but Eric liked the look of this one in particular (and our dog Plum may have influenced his decision).
Prep and cooking time: 2 hours
The Shopping List
Eric struggled to find Damson plums for his tart, which are blue-purple on the outside and yellow on the inside. Plums are grown seasonally in Canada, but not when Eric was cooking in Early April, so he made his tart with another variety. His other ingredients came from a local grocery store.
Usually a Wooden Spoon Wanderer assignment calls for utmost discretion — whoever is doing the cooking is sworn to menu secrecy until the table is set. Every now and then, however, a recipe may call for a second pair of hands, a second pair of eyes, or just a bit of moral support. Eric asked me to take on the plum tart for this particular assignment. I don’t know if he was intimidated by the recipe, or he just wanted to help get me out of the funk I was in, but he called me into the kitchen, put a mound of plums in front of me, and put me to work. It did make me feel better.
We cooked together off and on for the rest of the evening and then sat down at a beautifully laid table.
Everything was incredible — rich, flavourful, and satisfying. The soup was decadently creamy, loaded with tender French beans and juicy sausage. The flavours on our plates, each one served with sauerkraut, fish, apfelmus, and a potato, complemented one another, the sour with the sweet, the salty with the starchy.
The dumplings were one of our favourite dishes. Each spoonful was buttery and nutty, and the bacon and heavy cream made each bite all the richer.
The grand finale was the beautiful plum tart. It crumbled apart and melted in our mouths.
We left behind both our Luxembourgish feast and our Luxembourgish journey with a good feeling, eager to return one day.
Disclaimer: I’m not a professional chef. I’m just a passionate cook with a curiosity for flavours I’ve never tried. For great recipes from gifted local cooks, follow the links above.