Recipes to whet your appetite for travel, from Italian Tagliatelle al Ragu to Moroccan lamb tagine


Over the years, the likes of Keith Floyd, Nigel Slater, Nigella Lawson and Rick Stein have never been far from our television screens, often after foreign jaunts.

Like them, we have become accustomed to returning home hoping to recreate that life-altering Colosseum-side bowl of cacio e pepe in Rome.

With recipe-inspiring holidays on hold, how about cooking up a taste of abroad? Here’s a selection of classic dishes to revive your wanderlust in the lockdown… 

GOOD MORNING VIETNAM: BUN CHA

Bun Cha – grilled minced pork accompanied by rice noodles, herbs and pickled vegetables – is light, spicy and easy to put together

Bun Cha originated in Vietnam and Barack Obama enjoyed the dish on a visit to the country in 2016. Pictured is the Thu Bon River in Hoi An

Bun Cha originated in Vietnam and Barack Obama enjoyed the dish on a visit to the country in 2016. Pictured is the Thu Bon River in Hoi An 

This dish might as well be called Vietnamese meatballs as grilled minced pork is accompanied by rice noodles, herbs and pickled vegetables.

The make or break element is a dipping sauce made from fish sauce, vinegar, sugar, garlic and chilli. Bun Cha is light, spicy, easy to put together and comes from the northern capital Hanoi.

WHERE TO GO: The dish’s most famous appearance came in 2016, when the late chef Anthony Bourdain and then U.S. President Barack Obama shared a meal at Bun Cha Huong Lien in Hanoi — as featured on the television series Parts Unknown.

PRIDE OF ITALY: TAGLIATELLE AL RAGU

Most Italians turn their noses up at spaghetti Bolognese, so how about trying the Italian classic Tagliatelle al Ragu from Bologna? Recipes vary but a base of finely chopped carrots, celery and onion is essential, as is the inclusion of wine (red or white).

Many also swear by a dash of milk or cream — Mary Berry provoked outrage in 2017 by doing so but her recipe, to be found online, is a good one.

WHERE TO GO: Near the Piazza Maggiore, Osteria dell’Orsa (osteriadellorsa.it) has been serving ragu (£8) since 1979.

FRENCH HEAVYWEIGHT: CASSOULET

Cassoulet is a herb-filled, meat and bean stew that is said originally to come from the small town of Castelnaudry - near Toulouse and Carcassone in France

Cassoulet is a herb-filled, meat and bean stew that is said originally to come from the small town of Castelnaudry – near Toulouse and Carcassone in France

Head to southern France and you’re likely to find many versions of cassoulet. But the herb-filled, meat and bean stew is said originally to come from the small town of Castelnaudry — near Toulouse and Carcassone — which serves its cassoulet with duck confit.

Recipes are debated but consensus is that the key is the beans (haricot or cannellini) which should be tender but not falling apart and full of herby aromas.

Raymond Blanc’s recipe can be found online and is a good starting point.

WHERE TO GO: Le Tirou (tirou.fr) in Castelnaudry which serves a three-course menu, centered on cassoulet, for £35.

JAPANESE COMFORT FOOD: KATSU DON

Katsu Don, a favourite in Tokyo, consists of a breaded pork cutlet simmered with onions, egg and served over rice. The key component is the sauce made from soy, mirin and dashi (fish stock) which gives the balance of sharp and salty with the rich eggs and pork.

There’s a great recipe in Tokyo Stories by Tim Anderson (waterstones.co.uk £26.99).

WHERE TO GO: Head to Katsukichi in the Shibuya district, where the dish is about £10 (bodaijyu.co.jp/en/). 

SPICED UP MOROCCO: LAMB TAGINE

Lamb is the base for most tagines and other ingredients include turmeric, paprika, ginger, cinnamon as well as dried fruits such as apricots, sultanas and dates

Lamb is the base for most tagines and other ingredients include turmeric, paprika, ginger, cinnamon as well as dried fruits such as apricots, sultanas and dates

Punchy spices, fresh herbs and strong citrus notes could be just the tonic to brighten up a lockdown evening. Tagines take their name from the earthenware pot used for cooking, but any casserole dish will do. Lamb is the most famous base, or you can try a vegetarian version.

Ingredients include turmeric, paprika, ginger, cinnamon as well as dried fruits such as apricots, sultanas and dates. Rick Stein, Nigella Lawson and Nigel Slater all have versions.

WHERE TO GO: Try The Henna Art Café in Marrakech (marrakechhennaartcafe.com), which has dishes from £2.50 and is a short walk from Jemaa el-Fna square.

THE MEXICAN DARK HORSE: MOLE

In the 15th century at the Convent of Santa Clara in Puebla, Mexico, a group of nuns cobbled together a sauce from chilies, spices, nuts and chocolate that they served to a visiting archbishop.

Mole means mix and there are hundreds of variations, but the crucial ingredients are chocolate and chili. Look out for a recipe (Wahaca founder Thomasina Miers has a few) featuring dark chocolate and smoky ancho chilies.

WHERE TO GO: Sample mole and buy pre-made pastes at Oaxaca City’s central Mercado de Bentio Juarez. Dishes £1-£5.

ARGENTINIAN WILDERNESS: EMPANADAS

The fillings for empanadas, pictured, range from beef to lamb, chicken, seafood and vegetables

The fillings for empanadas, pictured, range from beef to lamb, chicken, seafood and vegetables

Resembling the Cornish pasty, the Argentinian empanada is the perfect food for the cold winter months. 

In Britain we’re perhaps not so well acquainted with this South American country’s cuisine but The Food of Argentina (blackwells.co.uk, £25.64) is an excellent introduction.

Fillings vary from beef to lamb, chicken, seafood and vegetables. The empanadas of Patagonia’s Tierra del Fuego are shortcrust pastry packed with lamb, spices, chopped hard-boiled eggs and olives: warm, comforting and lovely.

WHERE TO GO: Ten-table La Salamandra Pulperia in Andean tourism hot-spot Bariloche’s Centro Civico serves tasty empanadas from a few pounds.

BRITISH SEASIDE CLASSIC: FISH AND CHIPS

The UK is so fond of fish and chips that it was one of the few foods safeguarded from rationing during the world wars.

Try making your own with mushy peas and tartare sauce. Light batter is the key and very hot oil when frying will ensure everything is crisp. Tom Kerridge is a good start for a recipe.

WHERE TO GO: St Andrew’s (standrewsrestaurant.co.uk) has been at Portobello Beach, Edinburgh, for 100 years. A haddock fish supper is £7.80. 

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