How to Cook your Favourite @_DiningCar Dishes At Home

By Edward | Dining Cars

Apr 23

How to Cook your Favourite @_DiningCar Classics at Home

When I started my blog two years ago, I didn't see us all trapped at home and all European borders closed. On my Corona page I have been cataloguing the carnage on the European railways.

The dining cars were the first services that bit the dust. In sidings all over Europe, dining cars are standing empty, their cooking ranges cold.

Now. As we are all mostly at home and have lots of time on our hands, how say we do some cooking? Perhaps bring that dining car magic (and I don't mean the microwave) home to our own tables?

With the help of my great friend @_DiningCar I am now starting a series on how to cook your favourite dining car classics while #StayingAtHome.

If you haven't met @_DiningCar yet, check out his Twitter channel. You can also find pictures from his exploits on Flickr.

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The things I do for you

Now more than ever, I go to great lengths for you, my reader. I could have easily slapped together any old recipe and video and thrown them at you. It would have taken me two days, tops. Instead I painstakingly sought out workable recipes, tried them out myself and took my own photos. It took more than three weeks.

Polish Dining Car at Home. WARS: Żurek (sour rye and sausage soup)

Polish Dining Car

Polish WARS dining car. Courtesy of @_DiningCar.

Poland has one of the best dining cars in Europe. Most of the cooking is still done to order.

Żurek is fermented rye soup and one of the signature dishes in the WARS restaurant car, as found on Polish trains and the Moscow-Paris and Moscow-Nice expresses.

If you want to do it properly, you'll need to go to a Polish food shop and get a bottle of Żurek sourdough. Or ferment some rye flour with water and garlic for 4 days beforehand.

Zurek in WARS Dining Car

One of WARS's signature soups, Żurek. Coutesy of Martin Pavlík.

Żurek recipe

Żurek is so ubiquitous in Poland that everyone has their own way of making it. I have tried quite a few recipes before arriving at this one by Polish food blogger Magda from   

I made this for Żurek for Easter Sunday lunch and fed it to my Polish parents-in-law. I know the difference between polite praise and genuine, and their praise was genuine and profuse. So this recipe is proven.

Cooking time: 30 minutes (apparently. It took me 90 minutes). Makes 2 litres

Żurek ingredients

For the recipe in Polish, click here. Below, find my English translation.

  • 500 ml żurek sourdough (you can get this in East European shops in bottles, or make it yourself. 
east european shop

Polish shop in Scarborough

To make 1 litre of your own Żurek sourdough, mix well six spoons of rye flour with boiled, lukewarm water. Add three crushed cloves of garlic. If you have a crust of sourdough bread, put this in too. It helps the fermentation get going. Leave to stand in a warm place (not direct sunlight) for 3-4 days. Stir once again on the first evening. (I had only two days. Here is what I did: I made it all as described, but added a tablespoon of rye sourdough starter {don't judge me}. This kickstarted the fermentation. Then I kept the liquid in warm intensive care. It was ready just in time.)
Dining Car at Home Zurek Sourdough

Home made Żurek sourdough

  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3-4 grains of allspice
  • 4-5 grains of black pepper
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 l water
  • 2-3 ​dried mushrooms.
    (can be left out, but they do enrich the flavour somewhat)
  • 400 g sausage:
    – 250-300 g Polish white sausages ("biała kiełbasa" (white sausage) is the original Polish word. If you can't get Polish, see if you can get something German.)
    – 100-150 g smoked, cured sausages ("swojska, wiejska kiełbasa" in the original Polish, which means home-made, country sausages. These are usually quite coarse and smoked. Even if you use simply 400g of white sausages you'll be fine) 
Sausage comment: Poland has a rich sausage culture and myriad varieties available nowhere else. I have browsed UK-Polish cooking fora. Polish people cooking żurek in England use either very good cumberland sausages or German bratwurst obtainable in Lidl and Aldi. Bangers won't do. In the USA, I really don't know what would be best, but I would aim for high quality and high meat content. I was cooking this in Germany. It goes without saying that my Polish shop was sold out of both ready-made żurek sourdough and biała kiełbasa just before easter. I used Munich White Sausages (Münchner Weisswurst)
  • 100 g smoked bacon
  • 1 medium onion
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1-2 tsp of majoram
  • 1/2 glass of sour cream or śmietana. You want something between 10-25% fat. The best stuff is available in East European shops.
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • salt and pepper
  • hard boiled egg (one per bowl of soup is good)
  • optional:
    – 2 tbsp of horseradish, either freshly grated or from a jar.
    – potatoes (diced)
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sausages boiling for zurek

First make the broth by boiling sausages

Żurek method

1. Put the white sausages into a saucepan. Add the bay leaf, allspice, peppercorns and salt. Add water, bring to the boil and leave on a small flame with the lid on.
Let cook while you dice the onions, country sausages and bacon and fry them.

2. Now prepare the fried ingredients.
Peel and dice the onion. Cut the bacon into strips or dice. Chop the country sausage into fattish half-moons or dice.

Dining Car at Home Polish

bacon and onions ready to go

3. Heat frying pan, add the bacon and wait till it starts to render fat. If using dried mushrooms, travel back in time to half an hour before you started cooking and soak them. Add mushrooms. Stir frequently until the pieces start to colour. 

4. Add the onions and fry until they become translucent. Then add majoram and crushed garlic. Stir and fry for a few moments, until the smell of garlic starts to waft up. Turn off the heat.

Dining Car at Home Polish

Bacon, onions and sausage frying

5. Revisit the saucepan with the boiling sausages. These should be ready by now. Take out the sausages and pour the contents of the frying pan into the sausage-broth in the saucepan. Let boil with the lid on for 10 minutes.

6. Peel the boiled white sausages and cut into bite-size chunks. 

7. Mix the sour cream with the flour. Make sure there are no lumps.

8. Now put it all together. Add the żurek sourdough liquid to the boiling broth (before adding give the liquid a good shake). Add the sour cream - first take a few spoons of broth and mix it into the cream, then pour this mixture into the boiling broth. Stir carefully and boil until the flour thickens the soup. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Dining Car at Home Polish

Finishing up

9. At this stage you can add some freshly grated horseradish, if you are that way inclined. I did, and I recommend it. 

Serve hot with bits of sausage in it and hard boiled egg. Fresh bread goes nicely with it.

Dining Car at Home Polish

Żurek ready to eat

Żurek Video

Here is the video of Magda at work making żurek. 

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Slovak Dining Car at Home. Wagon Slovakia: Čiernohorský rezeň ("Čierna Hora Cutlet") 

Wagon Slovakia Dining Car

Wagon Slovakia dining car. Courtesy of @_DiningCar

Čierna Hora is a low mountain range in eastern Slovakia. The Čierna Hora cutlet was invented in Czechoslovak times by Ondrej Antovszký, the chef at the Slovak Writers' Club in Bratislava. His invention has become a signature dish of Slovak cuisine.

Ciernohorsky rezen

Čiernohorský rezeň in its natural habitat, courtesy of @_DiningCar

Everyone coming back from a rail trip in Slovakia will gush about the sounds and smells of real cooking emanating from Wagon Slovakia's restaurant cars. The clatter of pans and the pummelling of schnitzels. It goes without saying that Wagon Slovakia serve the Čiernohorský rezeň.

Čiernohorský rezeň recipe

This recipe is by Marcel Ihnačák, who is a famous Slovak chef. In the video you can see him at work. Kudos to Lidl Slovakia for making such great cooking videos.

Meta comment: The video recipe has you make mashed potato as a side. The Wagon Slovakia menu lets you choose between various sides, and so do I. As the Čiernohorský rezeň is fried, I'd recommend mashed or boiled potatoes. 

Serves 6. Cooking time: 30 mins

Čiernohorský rezeň ingredients

piece of meat

I got a piece of loin

  • 1 kg of pork loin or leg (or steaks if you're buying it ready cut. You don't want anything with bones in it)
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 1 - 2 large potatoes
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tsp of majoram
  • 3 tbsp of plain flour, plus extra for dusting
  • sunflower oil (I prefer lard or clarified butter) for frying
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Čiernohorský rezeň method

1. cut the pork into 1 1/2 to 2 cm slices. Lay out the slices on a chopping board. Cover with cling film and pound them with a meat tenderiser. Salt and pepper them on one side

Slovak Dining Car at Home

Be sure to bash the slices nice and thin

2. Now make the batter: In a bowl, grate the potatoes on the fine side of the grater, followed by the garlic. Crack the eggs over the grated potato. Season with salt, pepper and majoram. Add the 3 tbsp of plain flour. 

3. Mix well. If necessary, add a little milk or water. You are aiming for quite a thick batter, so don't go overboard.

4. Press the cutlet into the flour so it is nicely coated. Then move it on to the batter. Again, ensure that as much batter as possible coats the meat. This is why you don't want the batter too runny.

Slovak Dining Car at Home

Put the cutlets first through the flour, then the batter. Fry immediately.

5. Fry on a medium heat in ample oil. I like lard or clarified butter for this job, but sunflower is fine. 2-3 minutes each side should do it, but use your senses. You want the batter nice and golden and the cutlet to feel springy rather than squishy.

Slovak Dining Car at Home

Fry in plenty of oil

6. Take out of the pan and pat dry with kitchen roll. Serve with mashed or boiled potatoes.

Slovak Dining Car at Home

Serve with mashed potato and grate cheese over it.

Čiernohorský rezeň video

Obviously I'm not expecting you to understand Slovak. What matters is that you see how it is all supposed to look. I love the sound of Slovak. 

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French Dining Car at Home. TGV.INOUI Bar: Croque Monsieur


The TGV bar. Picture courtesy of @_DiningCar

I wasn't looking forward to this. France has led the way in bad train food. However, the ever-positive @_DiningCar took me by the hand and showed me that SNCF does in fact have some edible fare. He told me about SNCF's Croque Monsieur

SNCF Croque monsieur

This is a beautiful, sliiiiightly edgy picture of the SNCF croque monsieur by @_DiningCar. I love it.

Croque monsieur recipe

So I went and looked for a croque monsieur recipe. Recipes abound, in English too, ranging from the BBC Good Food cardiac arrest to grim prison food. Some involve béchamel, some don't.

I wanted something with béchamel on top, but no faffing around with bay leaves and nutmeg (Nutmeg! FFS). In the end I decided on the following recipe as it is simple, yet authentic. 

The amounts differ from those in the video. The proportions in the video are simply wrong. Some intern must have hastily googled them. You can't make roux with 100 flour/40 butter - they need to be about 1:1. I ended up with a mountain of unused béchamel, too.

Makes 4 croques monsieurs. Duration: 40 mins.

Croque monsieur ingredients

  • Bread. Rustic French stuff would be nice. But white sliced is fine. 
  • Ham (the better, the better)
  • Cheese (Comté, Gruyère or Bergkäse would be best, Emmental OK. I don't recommend cheddar - it is too heavy)
  • 30 g butter
  • 1/2 a red onion (I used a shallot)
  • 30 g plain flour
  • 300 ml milk
  • salt and pepper.
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Croque monsieur method

1. Make béchamel. Dice the onion and fry in the melted butter on a medium flame. You want the onions to become soft and golden, not burnt. Add the flour and mix. Let the flour fry for a bit in the butter. Slowly add the milk. That's your béchamel done. Let it simmer for a few minutes.

French Dining Car at Home

My béchamel in the making. Let the flour fry for a little bit..

2. Take your bread and wipe each slice on one side with olive oil. Pop under the grill to toast.

French Dining Car at Home

First a dollop of béchamel, then a slice of ham.

3. When the bread is nicely toasted on the one side, take it out. Lay out the slices on a board (toasted side DOWN) and start to fill them. 

  • First comes a generous dollop of béchamel
  • then a thick slice of ham
  • then some grated cheese

Top each mound with another slice of bread. Top it with another helping of béchamel, then grate more cheese over the béchamel. My croque monsieurs looked like this:

French Dining Car at Home

Ready to go under the grill

4. Grill for 5 minutes. Be careful here: if the grill is too hot your sandwiches will be blasted on the outside and cold on the inside. I had my grill on level 3 out of 5 and the tray with the sandwiches on the second highest level in the oven. 

Mine came out like this. They probably could have had a minute more, but I left it at that.

French Dining Car at Home

Ready to eat

5. Serve. A bit of salad with vinaigrette would go well. And wine, obviously.

French Dining Car at Home

Buon appetito

Croque monsieur video

The video starts at 3'23" because the first three minutes bang on about Jambon de Paris. I like the attitude with which the croque monsieur is made in the bar setting. Low-key and matter-of-factly, not with food-for-the-gods pomposity.

Vegetarian Crocque Monsieur: Introducing the Ed Monsieur

To say I invented this is overstating. I've taken the Turkish pide filling and slapped it into a croque monsieur.

Click here to go to my vegetarian section.

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German Dining Car at Home. Deutsche Bahn Bordrestaurant: Curry Wurst.

DB Intercity BordBistro in the original Interregio design. A rare jewel.

Curry wurst is a German snack eaten everywhere except Southern Bavaria. It is a sausage (a bratwurst) fried, sliced and served in a spicy tomatoey sauce along with a roll or chips/fries.

DB made a lot of people very happy when they re-introduced the curry wurst last year.

Curry wurst recipe

This recipe is straight from DB's website. While I was still working on my Żurek, DB actually came out with a recipe for cooking their curry wurst at home. I tried it out for you and it is supremely delicious and workable. Here is my translation.

Makes 4-6 curry wursts. Takes 30 minutes.

DB Curry wurst peeping out from a pile of microwave chips

Curry wurst ingredients

  • 4 tbsp oil (any cooking oil. I used olive)
  • 2 tbsp concentrated tomato paste
  • 1 tin (ca. 500 ml) tomatoes (my tin was 400ml. Turned out fine)
  • 3 tbsp ketchup
  • 4 Bratwursts (depending on how much sauce you like, the amount will easily stretch to 6 curry wursts. I froze the rest)
Sausage comment: For the sausages, I don't recommend anything cured. Frankfurters are not nice with this. I can just about imagine bangers working, provided they've got at least 70% meat. But German Bratwurst would be best.
  • 30 ml lemon juice (that's roughly half a lemon)
  • 2 tbsp vinegar (I used balsamico)
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 3 tsp curry powder (didn't have German curry powder. I substituted this with garam masala)
  • handful of nachos (I left these out)
  • Secret ingredient if you live in Germany: 1 tbsp Munich sweet mustard. Here I departed from the recipe. Some sort of honey-mustard concoction would work too.
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Curry wurst method

1. Heat 2 tbsp oil in small saucepan. Add tomato paste and curry powder/garam masala. Let sizzle on medium for a few moments.

German Dining Car at Home

At the beginning, fry curry powder or garam masala with tomato paste

2. Throw in the tinned tomatoes, ketchup, lemon juice and vinegar. Bring to the boil and let bubble gently on lowish heat. Try and get the tomatoes nice and small with a wooden spoon (I got bored of this and wheeled on the blender). Season with sugar to your liking. Ditto salt and pepper. 

German Dining Car at Home

Sauce is ready. I whizzed it with a blender to get closer to the real thing

3. Fry your sausages in a frying pan for 5-7 minutes (depends on what sausages you've got, doesn't it?). Let them cool down a little bit, then slice. Arrange the slices on a plate and slop a generous sloosh of your sauce over them. Dust it with curry powder ( I used more garam masala and English mustard powder). Scrunch up the nachos and sprinkle over the curry wurst.

German Dining Car at Home

Some might say my bratwurst is too thin. It was all I could get. Flavour was good though.

Serve with chips or a squidgy white roll. And beer.

German Dining Car at Home

Here we go

Curry wurst video

Here is an entertaining and detailed video about how to make your own curry wurst. It is a bit more hardcore than DB's method.

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Where do we go from here?

Well, I hope these recipes go a little way to soothe your lockdown and help you keep your sanity. I realise that they all contain meat, but vegetarians, I've got something in the pipeline for you as well.

If you cook one of these dishes, Let me know in the comments how it goes. Also, if there is a @_DiningCar dish that you would like me to consider, please put it in the comments.

And if you haven't joined my free Rail Guide Europe club yet, consider doing it now. It is absolutely free and gives you access to all sorts of exquisite goodies.

About the Author

After crisscrossing Europe for 6 years as a train conductor, I guide intrepid travellers roaming Europe by rail.

  • Nicolas says:

    Hello Edward,

    I much enjoyed your dining car post, and thank you for the good idea… I hope we get back to normal soon. When we do, I’m headed for Slovakia!

    I met Amtrak’s Executive Chef a couple of years back, and complimented him on a salmon in a Thai red curry sauce, on offer in Amtrak’s dining cars that autumn. He graciously offered to send me the recipe for the sauce, and did, and I made if for a dinner party in Chicago, 18 friends. It was a big success (both on the car, and in my version).

    I don’t think that there is a way to attach a photo here, but I’ll send the recipe card to you by e.mail, to use or post as you please.

    Best Wishes,


    • Edward says:

      Hi Nicolas,

      Thank you so much for your comment and your kind offer. Your email has already come, thank you very much! I shall look at it straight away.

      Thanks for reading and stay safe


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