As a family, we love to explore as much of a country’s culture as possible, which includes the local dishes. Being French, I am proud of my culinary heritage, and as a mother, I try to encourage my kids to try as many new things as possible. Generally, my children aren’t particularly fussy, but there have been a couple of occasions on our driving tours of Europe where we have come across some slightly more unusual delicacies. Never known to shy away from the unknown, however, we all gave them a go and found them to be really quite tasty. Here are some of our highlights from our gastronomic tour of the continent, where frogs’ legs and snails are by no means the strangest things on the menu.
Tripe rarely appears on the menu in the UK, but in certain parts of Europe, it’s incredibly common.
Tripe in a European butcher's shop
In Florence, for one, it’s a real favourite amongst the locals, but it is most popular in the city of Porto; so much so, in fact, that the residents have earned themselves the nickname of ‘tripeiros’. This all started in the 14th and 15th centuries, when Portugal was expanding its power from the shipyards of Porto, so the majority of meat produced in the city went to supplying the sailors. All that was left for the inhabitants of the city were scraps of meat, offcuts and by-products. Tripe has since become a culturally important dish, and is most often enjoyed in a type of tomato stew, which is both nutritious and delicious.
The drive to Portugal cuts through some of the most beautiful regions of France and Spain, and is well worth the extra mileage. Why not plan a tour through these three countries for your next driving holiday?
Goose Barnacles, Spain
Goose barnacles are small crustaceans that only live in exposed areas of coastline, where the increased movement of the sea allows them to feed. This means, therefore, that getting hold of them can be quite tricky.
Goose barnacles for sale
Goose barnacle fishermen have to don wet suits and full kit, before diving into the freezing cold Atlantic ocean along the rugged shores of Northern Spain, which can often be quite dangerous. The harvest they reap is, unsurprisingly, on the pricey side, but well worth it. These little morsels are delicious, bursting with the subtle flavours of the ocean.
Goose barnacles are most commonly found along the Costa da Morte region of Spain, which can be reached through France and along the scenic Northern Spanish coastline.
Baby Eels, Spain
Another Spanish delicacy is that of baby eels, known locally as angulas, which is particularly popular in the Basque Country.
Fresh angulas at a market
Similarly to goose barnacles, angulas are somewhat difficult to catch; they tend to only come out after dark and during bad weather. Once they do end up on your plate, all the effort that goes in to getting them there seems worth it. At first glance, you’d be forgiven for thinking you had just been given a plate of plain noodles, but on closer inspection, you’ll notice their tiny black eyes. Angulas are best prepared simply by quick-frying them in olive oil with some garlic and chilli in order to really bring out their delicate flavour.
The Basque Country isn’t far from the French border, and is well worth the drive to sample the delicious food that the region has to offer.
Cock’s Combs, Italy
This has to be one of the most unusual things I have ever come across on a menu. Rarely seen outside of specific areas of Tuscany and the Piedmont region of Italy, cock’s combs are an old, traditional delicacy. There are a number of ways to serve this up, with some of them more appetising than others. Look out for la finanziera, which is a dish of cock’s combs prepared with veal brains, bull’s sweetbreads and various other offal treats.
Cock's comb prepared in a soup
You can drive to Piedmont from Calais in a day, making it incredibly accessible from the UK with Eurotunnel Le Shuttle. Once there, why not explore further afield in Italy, and enjoy the country's rich culture.
No matter where you travel, it’s always fun to try the local food and experience the culture. With Eurotunnel Le Shuttle, it has never been easier to travel over to the continent. It takes just 35 minutes to get from the UK to France, where you’re in the perfect position to explore the country and further afield.