a plate of food

Discover the Danube in Five Recipes

One of the absolute joys of exploring new countries, cities and cultures is experiencing the local delicacies and famed culinary creations of the region. Delicious dishes using time-honoured techniques and indigenous flavours give almost as good an insight into the traditions and customs of local life as a museum – all whilst pleasing and surprising the palate.

Eating has always been a celebrated and social occasion, and is an indulgence we all enjoy on our trips around the globe. At Emerald Waterways, we understand the importance of dining and fine food and go to great lengths to ensure that our guests have delightful, delicious meals to energise them through every day. Our skilled kitchen team replicate the flavours and techniques of the regions we cruise through, giving our guests a taste of local life. So whether on-board or on-shore, Emerald Waterways guests can enjoy the very best local delicacies and dishes.

After cruising the rivers of Europe for many years, we’ve found some truly wonderful delicacies on the banks of the waters, and want to share these with you, regardless of whether you’re currently on our fleet, or just on our website. So, we are compiling a series of recipes from our favourite European destinations, sorted by the rivers on which they can be found. Here we discover the Danube in five delightful recipes.   

Goulash in Budapest

Although eaten all around the world in innumerate variations, goulash is traditionally and symbolically Hungarian. The stew/soup of meat, vegetables, paprika and spices can trace its history back well over 1,000 years to the 9th century, when it was prepared and eaten by Hungarian shepherds and cattle herders. Prepared under the baking sun by herdsmen, the name goulash literally means ‘cowboy’.

Hungarian Goulash Recipe 

The rich stew of goulash can be prepared with beef, veal, pork or lamb, cooked with onion, paprika, garlic, caraway seed and vegetables. Variations of goulash also include chili pepper and potato, the latter helping to thicken the soup into a hearty stew.

Many additions to goulash are modern evolutions of the recipe, not least tomatoes which many people now consider a staple. But throw tomatoes into an authentic goulash and you risk upsetting the locals.

Here’s a recipe for a far more traditional Hungarian goulash.

Serves: 6. Prep Time: 20 Mins. Cook Time: 3 Hours 30 Mins.


2tbsp butter
2 large onions, diced
4 large potatoes, peeled and cubed
900g/32oz braising steak
1/8tsp caraway seed
1/4tsp dried marjoram
1 clove garlic, minced
5tbsp paprika
Pinch of salt
Pinch of pepper
500ml water


Step One: Melt butter in a large pot at a medium high heat.

Step Two: Sauté onions until soft and then add the beef, sauté until brown.

Step Three: Add the caraway seed, marjoram, garlic and paprika, and stir until mixed.

Step Four: Add the water, turn the heat to low and simmer for 2 hours, 30 minutes.

Step Five: Add potatoes and simmer for another hour. Season with salt and pepper, then serve.

Sachertorte in Vienna

With marvellously regal beginnings, the story of the Sachertorte begins in 1832 in Austria’s romantic capital, Vienna. Franz Sacher was a 16-year-old kitchen apprentice working for royalty and diplomats when Austria’s minister of foreign affairs, Prince Metternich, demanded a special dessert to finish a meal he was hosting for high-ranking officials. Sacher’s master, the head chef of Metternich’s household, was unfortunately taken ill, leaving his teenage protégé in charge of the dessert.

Sachertorte food vienna danube 

Sacher created the now-eponymous chocolate torte, which was said to have absolutely delighted Metternich’s guests and, potentially, spared a diplomatic nightmare. The young confectioner completed his studies and continued to perfect the Sachertorte. His son, Eduard continued this legacy, serving the delightful chocolate dessert at the Demel bakery, then the Hotel Sacher, turning the Sachertorte into one of Vienna’s culinary treasures.

Here’s a recipe paying tribute to Franz Sacher’s masterpiece.

Serves: 12. Prep Time: 1 Hour. Cook Time: 2 Hours.



140g/5oz plain chocolate
140g/5oz unsalted butter, softened
115g/4oz caster sugar
½ tsp vanilla extract
5 free-range eggs, separated
85g/3oz ground almonds
55g/2oz plain flour, sieved

For the topping and the icing:
6tbsp apricot jam, sieved
140g/5oz plain chocolate
200ml/7fl oz double cream
25g/1oz milk chocolate


Step One: After pre-heating the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4, grease a deep 23cm/9in round cake tin and line the base, using greaseproof paper.

Step Two: Break the chocolate into small pieces and slowly melt them over a pan of hot water. Stir the chocolate occasionally, then allow to cool slightly.

Step Three:
Beat the butter in a bowl until very soft, then gradually beat in the sugar until the mixture becomes light and fluffy.

Step Four: Add the chocolate and vanilla extract to the butter and sugar mixture, then beat again

Step Five: Add the egg yolks to the mixture, then fold in the ground almonds and sieved flour.

Step Six:
In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites until stiff. Make sure the egg whites don’t dry out and then add one-third to the chocolate mixture and stir vigorously. Then gently fold in the remaining egg whites.

Step Seven: Pour the mixture into the tin, level out and bake for 50 minutes. The cake should spring back when pressed.

Step Eight:
Leave to cool in the tin for a few minutes, then remove from the tin and paper before leaving to cool on a wire rack.

Step Nine:
Make the topping by heating apricot jam in a small pan, before brushing evenly over the top and sides of the cooled cake, and allow to set.

Step Ten:
Make the icing by heating the cream until piping hot. Remove the cream from the heat and break plain chocolate up, adding into the cream. Stir until the chocolate has melted and then cool. Spread gently over the cake, then leave to cool.

Step Eleven:
For the Viennese effect, make a little extra icing and pipe the word ‘Sacher’ across the top of the cake.  

Pljeskavica in Belgrade

Authentic Serbian street food, the best pljeskavica can be found served from Belgrade’s fast food kiosks. A Serbian burger, real pljeskavica is a spiced patty made of a mixture of ground pork, beef and/or lamb. It can be served in a flatbread bun or (as traditionalists would prefer) on a plate with onions, milk cream, relish and a spicy cheese salad.

 Pljeskavica street food serbia

Pljeskavica is far from the most sophisticated culinary treat to be found on the Danube, but it is real old-fashioned rural cooking which has been delighting Serbians for generations. Found throughout Belgrade, a pljeskavica is best enjoyed from one of the many fast food kiosks after exploring the city on foot.

Or if you can’t wait, follow this recipe here.

Serves: 4. Prep Time: Overnight. Cook Time: 30 Mins.



For the meat patties:

450g/16oz ground beef
450g/16oz ground pork
2tsp salt
1tsp sweet paprika
½tsp black pepper
½ cup sparkling water
2tbsp olive oil
2 medium onions, finely chopped
Vegetable oil, for frying

For the burger assembly:

4 flatbreads
Red pepper relish
Clotted cream


Step One: 
Mix the ground beef, ground pork, salt, paprika, pepper and sparkling water in a bowl. Combine into a bowl and brush with olive oil.

Step Two: Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Step Three: Add the onions to the meat mixture and divide into four balls, then pound into a flat patty.

Step Four: Grill or fry the patties for three to four minutes on each side. Assemble the patties inside flatbreads with the suggested toppings, or your own choices.

Bryndzové Halušky in Bratislava

The hearty national dish of Slovakia, bryndzové halušky combines boiled lumps of potato dough (the halušky) with a soft sheep’s cheese (bryndza) to form a dish not dissimilar to Gnocchi. Sometimes topped with fried bacon to offer a salty compromise to the tangy taste of the quintessentially Slovakian cheese.

Bryndzové Halušky bratislava food 

Bryndzové halušky can be found in many forms in Slovakia’s capital, sometimes topped with cabbage or eggs, or even served as a side dish to many a meaty main. However they’re served, bryndzové halušky is a wonderfully warming and humble treat to enjoy in Bratislava or at home.

Here is our recipe for making bryndzové halušky at home.

Serves: 4. Prep Time: 30 Mins. Cook Time: 10 Mins.


4 medium potatoes
2 cup flour
2tsp salt
300g/12oz smoked or regular bacon (block)
1tbsp vegetable oil
250g/9oz bryndza (other soft cheese like feta, goat or cottage if bryndza is not available)
100ml cream (optional)


Step One: Grate the potatoes into a bowl, and mix with flour and salt until you get a thick, sticky dough.

Step Two: Chop the bacon into cubes and fry on low heat until crisp and brown.

Step Three: Chop the potato mixture (halušky) into small 1x2cm dumplings.

Step Four: Bring a pot of water to the boil, and add one or two dumplings at a time. Cook the dumplings until they float to the top and change colour.

Step Five:
 Drain the cooked halušky in a colander, adding more dumplings until the entire batch is cooked.

Step Six: Let all the halušky drain for three minutes, the transfer to a large bowl and add the cream until evenly coated.

Step Seven: Serve the bryndzové halušky, topped with the fried bacon.  

Knödel in Bavaria

Quick and easy to whip up, knödel gives you an authentic taste of Bavaria and a chance to use bread which has started to go hard. Great as a side dish to everything from the goulash recipe mentioned above to a hearty coq au vin, knödel are traditional bread dumplings which have been delighting the Bavarian locals for hundreds of years.

Knödel bavaria food

Although there are variations of knödel to be found throughout Europe and beyond (they are particularly popular in Brazil, where a large population of Germans settled and shared their culinary skills); we believe the Bavarian version is best. That is why we’ve picked the Bavaria knödel to share with you.

Serves: 4 (8 dumplings). Prep Time: 20 Mins. Cook Time: 15 Mins.


5 hard French rolls
2tbsp chopped fresh parsley
1 cup warm milk
2 large eggs
Pinch of salt
Pinch of pepper
Pinch of grated nutmeg


Step One: Slice the rolls into ¼ inch thick slices, place in a large bowl and cover with the warm milk. Leave these to soak for 10 minutes.

Step Two: In a separate bowl, whisk the egg with the parsley, salt, pepper and nutmeg.

Step Three:
 Pour the egg mixture over the bread and milk, and knead together.

Step Four: Bring a pot of water to the boil.

Step Five: Roll the kneaded mixture into eight round balls, and place carefully into the boiling water. Simmer (not boil) the balls for 15 minutes.

Step Six: Carefully remove the dumplings from the water with a slotted spoon and serve with the stew, goulash, soup, casserole (or almost anything) of your choice.

If these recipes have whetted your appetite for a river cruise on the amazing Danube, Emerald Cruises can help. For a full selection of our amazing Danube river cruise deals, visit our dedicated page here, or call our helpful sales team on +44 161 236 2537.     

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Image credits: Pixabay, Flickr Creative Commons 
Darren Birch
Darren Birch
Darren is Emerald Waterways' Marketing Exec. He's done a lot of traveling over the years, having once worked as an air steward. Darren's favorite river cruise destination is Vienna because of the rich culture and beautiful architecture.