About Nettle & Quince


A blog about bonds of family and friends woven by food memories past, present, and future

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.

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 easier. 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. Though it has happened that I found myself scouring multiple stores to find an acceptable potato.

My peripatetic life: I grew up in France and England, and lived in Berlin as a student. In 1999 I moved to New York for a couple of years, which turned into fourteen. I was an editor for a publisher of illustrated books for a while. We had three children. A few years ago we moved to London. Now we have four children.


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 house outside Paris on the weekend — a dozen 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 and engaged in deep philosophical discussions on whether to first eat the favorite or least favorite bit on our plates. One cousin was of the school to first eat the best: in the event of an environmental catastrophe striking mid-meal, he would never have to eat the worst. More of an optimist, I always kept the best for last. One of my favorite dishes was nettle soup. It has taken me a while to recreate it  — I could never bring myself to pay money for weeds at the farmer’s market (though 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 wooden ‘spoon’ is broken from the lid of the box to scoop up the 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 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.

Food memories to have and to hold, and to pass on.

— Valerie Vago-Laurer

All content © Valerie Vago-Laurer
Contact: nettleandquince[at]gmail[dot]com
For collaborations please contact me at nettleandquince[at]gmail[dot]com

14 Responses to “About Nettle & Quince”

  1. Elderflower and polenta cake from Lombardy | Nettle and Quince Says:

    […] this very instant it’s the best cake in the world. It is a fairy godmother cake from another time. It belongs in an ancient garden, dappled, overgrown, heaving with ivy and […]

  2. Tesa Conlin Says:

    Dearest Valerie,
    We just received your card, and I admired your blog. As someone who has known you since you were cooking and sewing in middle school (and rearranging my closet), I take great pleasure seeing you are a nourishing Mom. I promise to try out some recipes soon!
    Any chance of you coming to DC?
    Lots of Love,

  3. April Murray Says:

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

    • valerie Says:

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

  4. 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.

    • 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

  5. 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

  6. 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.


  7. 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

    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!

  8. 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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