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Copyright Laura Valvanne
Tuesday 9/3/13 time 7:07 PM - Laura Valvanne
My cousin Simon, the veggie
We had a beautiful sunny evening this summer in our summer house. What made the evening even more pleasure full was that my cousin Simon promised to cook for us. We just enjoyed … and took pictures to add Simons stress…
Simon has been veggie all his life, so he knows a lot of vegetable only recipes. This evening we had the change to taste his Portobello burgers.
For 4 people you need:
2 Portobello mushrooms per person
2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar
6 tablespoons of olive oil
2 teaspoons of Dijon mustard
½ teaspoon of fleur de sel –sea salt and some pepper
Mix the marinade well, first vinegar, mustard and spices and the add oil.
Clean the mushrooms with a wet paper towel and remove the stalks.
Put the mushrooms into a plastic bag (freezer bag) and add the marinade. Mix well until the marinade is on all the mushrooms.
Leave to marinate for at least an hour.
Then you need:
4 burger buns
mayonnaise –Stokes real mayonnaise
Barbecue the mushrooms well turning them around several times so that the excess water drips away. Portobello is a very meaty mushroom that barbecues well. Add the marinade sauce left in the bag once or twice on the mushrooms.
At the end add inside each mushroom cap a slice of mozzarella. Let it melt and then they are ready.
Prepare the buns, cut them in half, and add mayonnaise, lettuce and tomatoes. Then add the mushrooms and close the bun. Enjoy with nice beer or fruity white wine, we did! Thank you Simon!
(burgers were served with sweet potato ships)
Here is my winter vegetable stew for you:
4 big potatoes
2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar
some thyme, rosmary, oregano, persley
as much garlic as you can handle
2 dl of tomato paste, preferably Spanish (fried) tomato sauce
olive oil, salt and water
Slice the onion and fry it in olive oil and spices in a saucepan. Add the balsamic and leave simmer for a minute or two.
Cut the zucchini in small cubes and add to the saucepan. Add 5 dl of water and let it simmer while you cut the potatoes and carrots. Use different shapes for carrots and leave potato slices big so they will keep their form during cooking.
Add them, garlic and the tomato sauce and some salt.
Leave simmer for about an hour, but not too long. The carrots can be a little hard and the potatoes have to keep their form.
This is good as it is as a stew but goes together as a side dish with a lot of things.
Friday 8/16/13 time 1:07 PM - Laura Valvanne
Chicken & porcini mushroom pasta
For 4 people:
2 large chicken breasts
1 can of Chambon&Marrel porcini mushrooms in oil (www.delideli.fi)
3 gloves of garlic
2 dl double cream
20 g butter
1 tablespoon of wheat flour
½ teaspoon of fleur de sel -salt and a bit less of pepper
good pasta of your choice for 4 persons
Slice the onion and garlic. Open the jar of mushrooms and pour the oil from the can to your frying pan. Add the onion and slowly cook soft.
Cut the chicken breasts into big pieces and add to frying pan with garlic. Add some salt and pepper and cook slowly the chicken on one side for about 3 minutes. When you turn the pieces add flower and butter. Mix well and stop cooking before they start to have color. Then add the mushrooms and some water, about 2 -3 dl. Mix and let simmer.
Cook you pasta and when pasta is getting ready add the cream to you chicken sauce. When the sauce starts to boil it is ready. Taste for salt.
Friday 8/9/13 time 4:28 PM - Laura Valvanne
So popular Borough Market
London. Always a pleasure. This time we had the chance to see the Royal Family as well but that was not the main reason for our visit. I would say one of the highlights was our lunch date at Borough Market. As a market shopkeeper myself, I always visit the market places where ever I go. I have always said it is the heart of town. If the market place is boring or dying it says a lot about the people. A vibrant market place, inside or outside, is a sign of a vibrant, colorful town. People interested in the origin of their food, restaurants using them instead of wholesale halls, social meeting place for many, the lunch place of the town…
Elliot’s is in Borough Market. Small window, small restaurant, even smaller terrace with 3 -4 tables, but seems like it’s always full, at least during lunch.
I have always liked food served simple. I often have gravy for something and at the same time for something totally different. For example I would love to have beetroot and at the same time asparagus or sausages. If I wanted to eat that for lunch in Finland, and I am sure not only Finland, I would have to make it myself. It is always a fully though plate of something with something that goes with it. A dish that feels it has already been eaten.
Finally I found what I was looking for. Elliot’s offered me this pleasure! Their menu is simple. I can choose my asparagus with egg salad then the beetroot and then the sausages and then… All these are different plates, with affordable price so that one can choose 1 or several plates to share. Kind of a meze philosophy but maybe simpler? Just perfect for me. I think this is why we spend there more time than we should have…choosing more and more plates… Good business?
Elliot’s is saying on their website that they are: “sourcing its ingredients directly from the Market and offering a menu which directly reflects the range of produce found you will find available on any particular day. “ Simple but it works and it tastes. Good for Elliot’s! I am not surprised for their Bib gourmand 2012 (Michelin)
Monday 3/25/13 time 4:47 PM - Laura Valvanne
The other day I had the pleasure to eat such a good Thai-salad in a restaurant that I just had to try and make as similar as possible right as we got home.
Here's how I made it
Sweet chili sauce
Mix in a blender 2-3 red chillies without the seeds, 4 gloves of garlic, 1/2 teaspoon of fleur de sel-salt, 1/4 dl of white balsamic vinegar, 1/2 dl of sugar and 1 dl of water. Then pour the mixture in a saucepan and cook slowly for about 5 minutes.
Mix 1/2 tablespoon of potatoflour and 2 tablespoons of water together and add to mixture. If sauce is too thick add a little more water. Mix and then let the sauce cool completely.
Lemongrass and cashew
Mix in a blender 2 finely chopped lemongrass and 100g of cashew nuts. Add 3 tablespoons of water and let it be for an hour.
6 leaves of green salad
1 grated green apple
5 spring onions
1/4 grated cucumber
1/2 sweet salad onion finely cut
mix these ingredients together in a bowl, add 5-6 tablespoons of sweet chili sauce and 4 tablespoons of cashew-lemongrass mixture.
Serve with grilled prawns or chicken.
The end result did not taste exactly the same but I was very happy with the one I made.
To add hotness to your salad, you can add the chili seeds to sweet chili sauce.
Friday 11/18/11 time 5:05 PM - Laura Valvanne
I was at the shooting of the new, second season of “Top Chef” last Tuesday (this blog was written a while ago, but I could not publish it before). This was very exciting since I have always been a big fan of the show. One thing lacking on the show is that the viewers aren’t able to taste the food. Sometimes it looks really, really, really good and I can almost taste it... “klonk” ... the TV screen definitely does not taste good, too dry...
I have always wondered how much the judges have to act when tasting. It could be that some or even most of the food that is made is not edible at all, but they can’t really do Gordon Ramsey on this show. They might have to use “positive negative” words like needs a bit more flavour or could be cooked a little more instead of “crap” or “rubbish”. More conservative show for adult viewers...what do you think?
The contestants had only had their first elimination when I arrived and one of the chefs was sent home. This is a TV-competition but surely it is hard for the contestants to remember this at all times. It is harsh when in the middle of all the attention and hassle, when you have just got to know so many new people, and especially in the middle of doing something you really love - cooking, all of the sudden someone comes to you and says that you are not continuing anymore and have to leave the show, you are not good enough. After one day one can only imagine the feeling of failure, and especially the burning will to go on and show one more time... It is cruel business this show business.
The rest of the chefs came out of the studio exited, red cheeks glowing and eyes sparkling. They still had the rush of first day’s excitement but that the competition had been hard and consuming showed on their tired faces. Only the winner of this round was more relaxed and seemingly proud.
Why was I there, waiting in a hot office for hours when everyone was looking at me wondering the same? I was there of course to tell the contestants about our products. For the second time we had an opportunity to offer our wide range of speciality products to the competition and this year decided to do it with great enthusiasm: of course we would like to be there, no question!
In the studio kitchen for this season there is one entire shelf full of DeliDeli’s quality oils, vinegars, spices and for example truffle products, just waiting for the chefs to create amazing dishes with them. A 5 minute slot opened and I quickly went through the products with the chefs so that during the competition, when they have a few minutes to decide what to do, they would know what we can offer to help them. They did have a little time to taste few oils and balsamic vinegar and then, before I noticed, the chefs were gone to learn about the kitchen equipment, ovens and stuff.
All this time the film crew was waiting anxiously for interviews with each one....what a stress. I give credits to all the contestants for keeping up with the pace and being able to create good food during this pressure! Good luck for all!
I can’t wait for the season to start!
Wednesday 10/12/11 time 5:47 PM - Laura Valvanne
Food & Wine expo coming in 2 weeks. I hope everyone can come and visit us in 6n139. (27.-30.10.2011)
I am also cooking with vinegars or more so making vinaigrettes on friday the 28th at 10.30. I am trying to make as many vinaigrettes as I can in that little time given...Just to show how easy they are to make and how litte time it takes to make one. Just get a good oil and a good vinegar...
I have difficulty to understand the "ready to eat" ones that people buy. Reason being that they don't know how to make? I think the lack of good quality ingredients in supermarket shelfs is a big reason. Have you tried to make a dressing with "crap"? It is not possible, only for the industry it is possible because they can add so many things to make it work.
See you there!
Monday 10/3/11 time 9:17 AM - Laura Valvanne
I make a dinner at home, some fish or meat with vegetables. We eat but not all so we have some leftovers.
I put them in the fridge.
For how long would you keep the leftovers in the fridge? If I have not eaten the leftovers in a weeks’ time I throw it away. It’s not really edible anymore, is it?
So here’s my problem: why do the supermarkets have tons and tons of readymade meals, tonight’s dinners that are good for weeks and weeks?
Why would anyone want to eat 2 month old meat casserole or a month old cooked fish filet with a creamy sauce???
And yet this is something the food industry is pouring money into:
How to make today’s dinners last forever.
I don’t know...
Tuesday 9/6/11 time 4:37 PM - Laura Valvanne
People have many ideas of what is balsamic vinegar. This sweet product from Italy in my opinion is so good that I would say it’s even better than wine...and that’s said a lot!
Unfortunately there are as many products on the market as there are clients. Some of my clients want syrupy balsamic but are not willing to pay much for it because they have previously bought some from the supermarket for only a few Euros a bottle. Then there are clients who had to pay huge amounts on products that are not really worth that much. The prices are high merely because of an ignorant shop keeper.
Here’s how it really goes:
Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena DOP
Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Reggio Emilia DOP
These are the two areas that can officially produce and name the product aceto balsamico tradizionale, the real deal. Both Modena and Reggio Emilia are situated in Northern Italy in the region of Emilia-Romagna.
The story starts with the grapes grown it these areas. Reggio Emilia; Trebbiano, Occhio, Spergola, Berzemino, Marani, Salamino, Maestri, Montericco, Sorbara, Ancellotta. Modena: white Trebbiano. Other varieties such as the white Occio du Gatto, white Spergola, red Berzemino and Lambrusco grapes are also permitted. These grapes are pressed, put into vats, the seeds and stalks are taken out and the must is drawn off. Then the juice is filtered and boiled over low heat until it is reduced in half and becomes a sweet concentrate.
This unfermented juice is put into”batteria”, a series of different size wooden barrels that are made out of different wood. Each wood gives the vinegar its characteristic taste. The woods used are oak, juniper and for ex. chestnut t to enhance the dark colour, cherry wood to sweeten the flavour and mulberry to make the vinegar more concentrated. The juice goes through fermentation and ageing in the ”batteria”. It is moved from one barrel to another and the barrel size is smaller every time, from 100 litres to a last small barrel of 10 litres.
These barrels are kept in the attic where they are exposed to different weather conditions; hot summers and cold winters. Unlike wine this is beneficial for balsamico. The barrels loose by evaporation and concentration 15-30 % of its volume each year and have to be topped up. This is done by a professional Master Vinegar Maker, who follows the flavours and aromas of each barrel. The vinegar can stay on these barrels and oldest barrels in the best houses can be over 100 years old. According to Italian law it requires a minimum of 12 years of ageing before considered for approval and sold as Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale.
These houses make also a bit more affordable product: aceto balsamico di Modena IGP. The difference between these products with the tradizionale is that there around 40 % vinegar mixed with the concentrated grape juice. It goes through, like tradizionale, ageing in the “batteria” barrels. These vinegars you can find from very young, but I would personally take from 5 years old on. They have great flavours to everyday use: at the same time the acidity of the vinegar with the sweetness of the juice and strong flavours from all the different wood given to it through the ageing.
This is clearly not a business for impatient people. It could be the reason why they build the fastest cars in the world in this same region. The Ferrari factory is only a few steps away...
Comparing to this extremely long and caring process of making the real aceto balsamico, the products we can find in the supermarkets, also called balsamic vinegars, are far from the original product.
These vinegars can be made hundreds of thousands of litres per day by mixing into vine vinegar some colorings, sugar or caramel and thickeners to imitate the sweet and syrupy texture of the real thing. These imitations can of course be sold with a much lower price tag...
Maybe these imitation products are needed in this modern world, I don’t know? We can definitely agree that if a very long time ago the balsamic vinegar was so respected that it was used as medicine for sore throats, for breathing difficulties, for indigestion and even to cure bites by poisonous animals...or as a powerful aphrodisiac, today we would not use the coloured imitation for any of that and surely not as aphrodisiac if we had romance in mind!
Today the balsamic vinegar is loved by the chefs in all the best restaurants as well as home kitchens all over the world. I fell in love in the product when I had the chance to visit ”La Bonissima” The house of De Pietri family 2 years back.
Franco and Donatella Di Pietri
We had the possibility to go through the process of making and after saw all the attics with old...older ...and really, really old barrels. At the end of the visit we had the extreme pleasure to taste the difference what the ageing does to the vinegar. When we went on and had even older ones in our spoons Donatella went and got the oldest one, the treasure, the “Il Centenario” on the table. It was over 100 years old. Imagine the life in 1909 and someone putting the juice in the barrels. Did they think that someone in 100-years time would taste it?
I did, I was sold and I was “afrodisitized”, totally!
Excellent lunch in La Bonissima, with the real thing of cource
Monday 8/22/11 time 9:39 PM - Laura Valvanne
I went to see Mont Saint Michel in Normandy, France too long ago. I have to get there again soon. I had at that time a really crappy camera so no good pictures came out of the trip and the island is after all one of Unescos masterpiece of the world heritage of the humanity! I remember driving towards the island on a fairly flat region of Normandy and suddenly this mystical small island appeared in the horizon with a castle looking building on top reaching the sky.
They say that Archangel Saint Michel appeared to bishop Aubert and ordered him to build a sanctuary on this rocky island. This happened in the year 708 and so started the history of this island surrounded by the highest tides in Europe.
Entering the island it is like entering into a Harry Potter story. Small shops, restaurants, narrow cobblestone roads going up the hill and all the ancient buildings surrounding you telling a story of life in the village since the middle ages. Bear in mind that this might be hard to see when visiting the island during the highest season in August. It is neither that educational nor pleasant to follow the flow of tourists from A to B and not being able to stop and feel the history. There are apparently over 3,5 million visitors every year.
In Paris the 14th of January 1873 Annette Boutiait was married to a baker’s sun from Mont Saint Michel, Victor Poulard. They soon after in 1888 leased a hotel “Saint Michel Tête d’Or” in Le Grande-Rue du Mont Saint Michel. The “Hostess” Annette Poulard was an intelligent woman and saw the opportunity in all the travelers that came in to town. She greeted them with a big smile an apron and a shirt with puffed shirtsleeves and gave the impression that she was the head of this family business, everyone’s mother.
“Have you had a good trip? She would ask. “Quickly come in and sit on the table. You must be starving. Give me your coat, Madame, I will dry it and iron it for you. It would be good as new when you go visit the castle. Sit down and eat well and when you are finished we will show you the way.”
At this point she was cleaver to think what to offer to these busy visitors who were hungry but eager to continue their business. It couldn’t be something that took long to prepare so she would have to improvise. The famous omelet of Madame Poulard was invented.
This very thick and more of a soufflé like omelet was something everyone had to have and everyone also wanted to know the recipe. Even some theories were made that some wine were added or creme fraishe, but here is the simple recepy according Madame Poulard. She was asked the recepy by Monsieur Robert Viel from Académie des Gastronomes in 1922.
I break good eggs in a bowl and I wisk them well. I put a good peace of fresh butter on a frying pan but don’t let it turn brown. I add the eggs and stir them all the time. I don’t cook the omelet too much the I turn it, roll it and put in on a plate. The omelet must be served hot.
This recepy according to Madame Poulard needs good eggs and fresh butter and has no secret ingredients... of course the butter from Normandy is excellent.
The Auberge de Mère Poulard is still in Mont Saint Michel and they still serve the omelette. I wonder if it tastes as good as when the Madame made it herself?
From book: La ”Mère Poulard” by E. Gouillard
Mère Poulard cookies and cookiejars : www.delideli.fi
Wednesday 8/3/11 time 5:38 PM - Laura ValvanneI had an opportunity to visit Toulouse this June. It was my fourth time and I was exited since I have always liked the town of Violets, its red brick architecture, hot weather, lively town centre but especially its situation on a map. All this wine around and only an hour or two away from cities like Carcassonne, Cahors, Bordeaux, and direct train to Paris and Nice.
When walking in the town centre I love watching people sitting in cafés and bars passing time and eating delicious looking food. There’s a sandwich bar in every corner and smell of croissants is luring you in to buy 1 of each pastry from the counter since it is too hard to decide. But there are also shops after shops of clothes, old historical buildings to visit and a beautiful town square with le Capitole.
One of the must see is the market place Victor Hugo. It is on the ground floor of a parking building and It looks awful from the outside but once you go in you are surrounded by fresh seafood, duck liver, pâtés, cheese and dry-cured hams and sausages, all the specialities of this area.
To see: Maison Garcia - to take home their pata negra and Xavier, a cheese shop outside the market place - to take home all the cheeses you can carry.
I stayed right on the other side of the entrance to the market place and I was amused when the poor delivery guys brought cases after cases of products each morning and had to leave their van right in the middle of the 1-lane, 1-way street. Just as the first guy was ready to leave, the next one arrived and those poor drivers who just wanted to drive through this street were stuck for a very long time.
Every time I go to Toulouse I find something new and I like it a bit more. One thing bothering is massive traffic and I guess the only thing missing from it is the sea, the river does not really do the trick for me.
This time around I had the possibility to dine on my own. Not that I like to eat alone, not at all! When I arrived to the Hotel from the airport I was so tired that I just was not able to go around the town and try to find something new so I just entered the nearest Bistro, J ‘Go , on the opposite of my hotel. Their roof terrace was so close that I could see from my hotel window what people ate.
Amusing was following the waiters’ faces when I arrived and wanted table just for me. Not so common in France at night to eat alone, there must be something wrong with me? And I came so early, it was only 7pm.
I got the smallest table on the furthest corner of the terrace so that no one could see and a few minutes later they, I guess felt sorry for me, brought a fellow ”dining alone tourist”, a man, right next to my tiny table, so close that we almost touched. There we were on the darkest corner of an empty terrace, two poor things...
The menu was extremely appetizing. I could have, if not so tired, eaten everything on it.
The restaurant states that seasonal vegetables and meat they offered was from specific local farms they work with exclusively and that the restaurant wanted by doing so support the hard work of the profession of farming and agriculture. Good thing I think and nice marketing factor. One of the specialities of the house, dry-cured ham ”Noir de Bigorre” was simply excellent and with it I just had to take: Méli mélo de jeunes pousses et légumes de printemps, copeaux de vieux brebis Azkorria et vinaigrette à la betterave. This sounded so delicious and good to the ear, I could just imagined a straw hat farmer picking some tiny beetroots and carrots on his little farm, the sun is shining, goats and chickens are running around and birds look like from a Disney cartoon....blob! Sorry, I went too far... This salad was nice mix of these”jaunes pousses” meaning young, miniature root vegetables, with good brebis sheep’s milk cheese and beetroot vinaigrette. The next door neighbour , I could not help but notice, had a huge juicy looking steak and not at all bad looking tray with a selection of cheese for dessert. By the time I left the restaurant quite full, it was also full.
Next night I didn’t think twice, I went again. This time I was there little later, more normal time for the French, but again alone. Nice thing was that the waiter new me and before saying a thing he already said”pour une personne?” and offered me a table on the roof terrace. I found myself sitting again at the other end of the terrace at the last table but this time didn’t mind. The restaurant was full and I had a good view on all the tables and saw what people ate. A 10 person business dinner took place right next to me and I found it very ”homey ” that big salad bowls, baskets of bread and pate in a glass jars was put on the table as a starter and everyone dug in. Not so official eating, like home, but with shirts and ties.
I was eager to try a bit more than the night before. Starter was the best foie gras salad I’ve had since long time. Nothing extraordinary but here again was proven that good ingredients are the key. This would have been quite enough for my dinner, but since I was here... The duck breast I had was nothing special and a bit chewy but fries cooked in duck fat were excellent, just a bit too much fat for my liking. Another successful dinner and I left the restaurant happy.
I found out later that J ‘Go is one of the most appreciated Bistro in Toulouse, what a chance!
Here is the address: www.lejgo.com
Next day a visit to Cahors...
Saturday 7/23/11 - Laura Valvanne
This first time I want to write about Vin Santo. This holy wine is my absolute personal favourite not just because it is excellent just as it is but it makes me dream of all the possible desserts that can be created with it.
This summer I have been trying Vin Santo in meat sauces as well. Excellent flavour combination was shrimp with Vin Santo.
Vin Santo is made out of grapes which have been dried on straw mats. This make the grapes sweeter since the sugar is more concentrated. The wine is aged in barrels for at least 3 years.
My favourite Organic Toscan producer ”Il Cipresso” age their wine 10 years in barrels and it gives the wonderful oaky flavour to this nectar. I just purchased several cases of their Vin Santo di Caratello Riserva 1999 and I couldn’t be happier. I am glad I met the family in Formigine workshop in March this year. I have not yet had the chance of testing the farm holidays they offer. but if you would like to do so, go and visit: www.ilcipresso.com
Thursday 7/21/11 - Laura Valvanne
Welcome to this page, I am glad you have found it!
I work for a company called DeliDeli (www.delideli.fi) which imports high quality foods from Europe, mostly from France but also from Italy, Spain, Greece, UK and Belgium.
To be able to find the best products I have to travel quite often to these countries.
I am in pursuit of an experience, the greatest combination of food and wine, the mind blowing experience of flavors put together. Will I find it?
In this page I want to share with you the excuisite experienses from my travels.
There are good as well as bad trips and you can be assured that I will write about them all.
One of my hobbies is photography. I try to catch an image of feelings, emotions, people and landscapes, but my favourite subject is food. I walk around with my camera ready at all times. I might not talk too much but my fellow travellers know where I am by listening to the klicking sound of my Sony or Canon...
Hope you will enjoy these journeys too!
a palpable is the antidote for civilization.