Nettle and quince

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Nettles and quinces represent my fondest childhood food memories. They are my (Proustian) madeleine.

Nettles remind me of big family lunches at my grandfather’s country house outside Paris on the weekend — some ten adults and at least as many cousins all seated together at a coveted children’s table where we re-imagined the food on our plates as elaborate culinary experiences. One of my favorite dishes was nettle soup. I have yet to recreate it here in NY — I still can’t bring myself to pay money for weeds at the farmer’s market (in the end I did, and didn’t make soup).

I love quince in all its forms: as jelly, membrillo, stewed, or in crumbles. But nothing epitomizes quince quite like cotignac from Orléans. It’s a very dense quince jelly served in little pots made of pine wood. Eating it is a ritual. A small wooden spoon is broken from the lid of the box to scoop up the delicate paste. My father’s fairy godmother brought cotignac every time she came to visit. And every time I think of cotignac, I remember her pulling up in front of our apartment in her navy blue Renault 4L. Unloading cases of homemade jams and sugar-sprinkled biscuit, earthen jars full of yogurt. Maybe she didn’t bring yogurt. Yogurt reminds me of her house on the banks of the Loire, its old, old kitchen and huge, shallow stone sink.

It is what this blog is about. Bonds of family and friends woven by food memories past, present, and future.

I live in New York since 1999 but grew up in France and England, and lived in Berlin for a few years as a student. I have three children and have since stopped my day job as editor for a publisher of illustrated books.

I make it a point of eating something delicious every time I want to feed myself. I eat with the seasons. It’s not so much a political statement as a habit, a matter of taste, and it makes choosing what to make for dinner so much more interesting. I am fairly obsessive about ingredients, so I spend an inordinate amount of time handpicking fruits and vegetables and I try not to set the menu before going shopping. However, it has happened that I found myself scouring multiple stores to find an acceptable potato.

What I love most about cooking is inviting people over for dinner, or brunch, or lunch (how civilized — but we rarely do that). Friends sometimes ask me for the recipe of something they have eaten at our house and I always promise to send it but never do. This blog should remedy that.

— Valerie Vago-Laurer

All content © Valerie Vago-Laurer
Contact: nettleandquince[at]gmail[dot]com
 
 

12 Responses to “Nettle and quince”

  1. April Murray Says:

    Valerie your recipes look delicious :) I look forward to following your blog.
    -April

    • valerie Says:

      Hi April – thanks very much for stopping by and for the kind words! Valerie

  2. Gisela Says:

    Dear Valerie,
    I cant beleive I just now realized that you DID realized your dream of sharing your amazing recipies!!!
    I just LOVE LOVE LOVE your food!!! Just last night I cooked for our friends The onion Tarte recipe that brought with me from NY when we moved back to Argentina and it was an instant success!
    Thanks for sharing your amazing recipies and a huge guy from down here.
    LOVE
    Gisela

    • valerie Says:

      Hi Gisela! It’s so great to hear from you! Oh I can’t believe I had forgotten that onion tarte – thanks for reminding me I must make it again very soon. Thanks so much for leaving a message here, I will get in touch via email. Hope you’re all well. Love, Valerie

  3. Imen McDonnell Says:

    Valerie, I am swooning over your beautifully blog. Thank you for finding me and taking an interest…I have been rewarded by meeting you! xx
    PS I love membrillo!

    • valerie Says:

      Thank you so much Imen, it’s really nice of you to say. I just discovered your blog and I’m inspired by and want to make practically every single recipe! (Waiting for marmalade to set as I write, crossing my fingers that it will work out…). Great to meet you! Valerie

  4. Megan Says:

    Hi Valerie,

    Finally subscribed to your blog, and now I’ve stolen an hour from work just perusing the wonderful entries and enjoying a beautifully designed and photographed site! Your recipes are great, especially so in this gray season when I run out of ideas for parsnips and cauliflower. Congratulations! I’m inspired.

    Megan

  5. malou Says:

    the mohn-kuchen looks YUMMY. I’ll make it this weekend. My personal favorite at the moment – havent found anything quite as good for 4 years – is this:

    Orange almond cake (no flour) – you know it? Otherwise you have to try it …
    2 große Orangen (möglichst Bio-Qualität, weil auch die Schale verwendet wird)
    6 große Eier
    250 g Zucker
    250 g gemahlene Mandeln
    2 TL Backpulver (evtl. nur 1,5 TL)
    Puderzucker zum Bestäuben

    Zubereitung:
    Die Orangen in einnm kleinen Topf geben und mit Wasser bedecken. Zum Kochen bringen und bei geschlossenem Deckel 2 Stunden leise köcheln lassen, bei Bedarf etwas Wasser nachfüllen. Die Orangen dann aus dem Wasser nehmen und auskühlen lassen. Dann halbieren und eventuelle Kerne entfernen.

    Die Orangen pürieren (Mixstab oder Food Prozessor). (Das kann man übrigens auch schon am Vortag machen)

    Den Ofen auf 175°C vorheizen.

    In einer Schüssel die Eier und den Zucker schaumig rühren. Ich habe dazu den gleichen Pürierstab genommen, der auch schon die Orangen püriert hatte. Dann die pürierten Orangen, Mandeln und Backpulver zufügen und rühren bzw. mixen bis eine homogene Masse entstanden ist.

    Eine 24-cm-Springform am Rand mit Backpapier auskleiden, Boden gut einbuttern oder mit einem anderen Fett bzw. Öl einpinseln – oder ebenfalls mit Backpapier auslegen. Wie Sie da verfahren, hängt auch von Ihrer Springform ab, neigt sie zur Teighaftung, dann am besten auch den Boden auskleiden. Den Teig in die Form geben und glattstreichen.

    60 Minuten backen. Auskühlen lassen und nach Belieben mit Puderzucker bestäuben.

    Der Kuchen hält sich sehr gut im Kühlschrank frisch – da kein Mehl drin ist hält er sich gut. Ich denke, eine Woche sollte der Kuchen aushalten können.

    • valerie Says:

      Oooh, this sounds so good. I will have to make it soon. Thanks very much for the recipe!

  6. malou Says:

    a blog of my dreams!!! Thank you for sharing this wonderful and vital information, Valerie. Honestly, I’m really happy to be a subscriberin, as the Germans would say, which I now am. I really like your approach to food, and I’m thirsty for some new inspiration, because my repetoire is becoming worn.
    I am now sorry for my derogatory remarks about nettles – didn’t we talk about that on a walk? You might have to try to make us nettle soup in Caputh, so I can reshape my prejudice perhaps just based on sad cooking.
    We’ll have more than enough fresh supplies there. Please make sure you have some days in Berlin in late summer.
    Lots of love to you and yours. Malou

    • valerie Says:

      Thank you very much, Malou.

      I didn’t take offense re your comments about nettles, but to set things straight I think I will have to make nettle soup when I come to Caputh… hopefully this summer. The plan is taking shape and it looks good – can’t wait! Love Valerie.

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